Ahh, the South of France: beachside cafes, Mediterranean waters, and a sense of style that seems so effortless it’s almost a crime. If you spend enough time watching French women, or men for that matter, they appear to have just stepped right out of a fashion magazine. The following are a few style essentials that make it easy to create that chic-in-the-South look.
1. The Cardigan
The French love their layers, and the cardigan is a perfect example of how one piece of clothing can help shape several outfits. Warm enough to be placed under coats in the winter and cool enough to be tied around the shoulders in the spring, this light affair is also a perfect travel companion.
Stuff one in your oversized tote and you’ve got an emergency layer when your café hours spill into aperitif time.
2. The Collared-Shirt
It’s easy to be chic in a well-tailored, collared-shirt and that’s probably why you’ll spot plenty of folks wearing them seaside, at cafes, or even out to dinner. They’re easily paired with jeans, khakis, and/or shorts, and also perfect to wear under the ever-popular French cardigan.
Have leggings, will travel (& in a great deal of comfort). These knee and full-length wonders are made for long, leisurely afternoons in the South. Throw on a pair, add an oversized T-shirt and some Tropezienne sandals, and you’re set for a day at the beach or crawling through your favorite antiques market. Also work well under dresses & skirts during the cooler months.
4. The Scarf / Foulard
Ah, the French scarf. In the cooler months, it takes on a fuller aspect – wrapped snuggly under trench coats or thrown casually around sweaters. In warmer times, the foulard (a lighter, thinner version) is tied artfully around necks or paired with everything from T-shirts to summer dresses.
Light, stylish, and just the thing to accompany those fab leggings, tuniques are also very simple to accessorize with a pair of oversized earring or a chunky, leather belt. Made of cotton or similar “sheer” fabric, they also make terrific cover-ups for those long days at the beach.
6. Ballet Flats / Sandals
While it can be a wonderful idea to sport a pair of sleek heels when pursuing the boutiques of St. Tropez or cruising the streets of Aix-en-Provence, it’s also perfectly acceptable to pair ballet flat or sandals with your relaxed, southern style.
It goes without saying that the South of France is a sunny place. Even when temperatures dip into single digits, sunglasses are the essential accessory for any season. There are no obvious rules for your choice of shades. Although, sunglasses that are large, chunky, & baring the label of a certain designer named Coco will certainly serve you well. Alternatively, Ray-bans are also a perennial favorite & sure to get you a few extra Southern-style points with the younger crowd.
Updates, January 2018:
-Tennis shoes are in style (& how!)
A big change from just a few years ago… it seems like you can find tennis shoes (known as “baskets” in French) on sale in every major store and pretty much everywhere you go. Keep in mind that these fall into two basic categories: 1. Adidas and other running shoes (often black or white) that people pair with fashionable outfits. 2. “Glamorous” tennis shoes (I can’t think of a better word to describe them)… like Micheal Kors, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger etc… and the French version of those brands.
Of course there are cheaper versions of these “glamour-shoes” around in most shoe stores (like the shoe store Eram) and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that this trend had come to the south. I bought 2 pairs of New Balance tennis shoes and now they are my weekend favorites – ie. don’t be afraid to pack a pair, or two, of comfy walking shoes for your trip to France!
I’ve had a few questions about what to pack in the late fall and winter months. Well, the truth is… Provence can get pretty cold, and in some places (even in Aix-en-Provence), really cold. You’ll need a thick jacket (a popular style here is the “puffy” down jacket – from ages 16-65, everyone wears them) and 2-3 heavy scarves. Packing a number of sweaters and / or sweatshirts is important as well. Boots are also worn a lot in the winter, long and short. But you can bring tennis shoes or closed-toed shoes as well (whichever is more comfortable). Like most things on this list, you can pick up any items you’re unsure about once you arrive. My favorite store for cheap(er) winter-gear is Camaieu.
*If you’ve forgotten to stuff any of these essentials in your suitcase, no worries, many affordable versions can be found at local markets or boutiques around the south.