6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Let’s Play A Game Called:

Whats in my kitchen

French food is great, but there have been a few times when I’ve seen things pop up and I wondered what the hell they were. This is the first installment of (probably) many questionable items. Ready, set – here we go. 

1. Warm milk: I don’t really understand this, as an American. I don’t think I’ve ever seen milk kept warm, sealed and packaged like this before. Of course, I’ve seen it done with Rice and Soy milk, and the such, but never cow milk…this really surprised me – but who am I to judge? 

2. Mayo in a toothpaste tube: Can’t get much better than that, huh? It’s a little bit odd to see this in the fridge, or even being used at the dinner table, but I guess we do have squeezable mayo in the US…it’s just not normally in a tube like this where you literally use it exactly like toothpaste (rolling the end and all). 

3. I’m not really sure what’s in the top of this bad boy (maybe honey??) but the bottom is vinegar. There are several bottles like this one in the kitchen, and although you can’t see it – they come apart when you use them individually, and then fit perfectly back together to create (what looks like) a solid bottle. 

4. I was a bit concerned with this one when I first saw it squirted into a cup. I’m still not sure what it is entirely, but it’s an add water kind of solution that you then drink. The kids love it! 

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Somehow I don’t think this would fly in the US…

5. Every morning the kids eat bread, cereal, warm milk and this. Basically it’s like Nestle chocolate milk, but what was the most shocking (obviously I’ve seen chocolate milk powder, before) was the artwork on it…Behold: ———->

6. Little crackers from heaven: Ok, so these little biscuits are the best thing to ever happen on earth. The first time I tried one I almost grabbed the whole package and ate the entire thing. In fact, when I FINALLY go grocery shopping on Saturday I’m going to be grabbing a couple of packets, for sure. Basically they’re like graham crackers/a square of animal cracker like taste with chocolate in between. Because let’s be real – if there’s one thing the French love, it’s their chocolate. 

The Holy Trinity

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Church.

Like any given Sunday in the life of moi, this morning I went to church. Being a Christian, and it being Sunday, that fact is a fairly unexciting statistic. But, what made today different, was that “going to church” meant going into a gigantic medieval style stone structure filled marble carved statues (we’re talking 8-10 feet high, including a skeleton reaper which is #hellapunk) in a small French town. Oh, and that it was Catholic. Which I am not.

Now you may think there would be some cultural differences for an American Protestant girl who ducked her way into a party where no one speaks her exact verbal or spiritual language, and you would be right. But overall I felt incredibly refreshed by the experience. The reason I was there in the first place was because it’s the only church within 30 miles of where I live. Not gonna lie – the lack of options is kind of a bummer.

The church service was as traditional and conservative as you could probably find anywhere, complete with a pipe organ and higher than usual pitched singing. It reminded me of church coronations/marriage scenes from Elizabeth or Ever After. But, overall I loved the service. It was pieced together with biblical scriptures and interval hymns (In French, of course, which was amazing) and I loved that it constantly engaged those who were there to worship.

Afterward, I stopped by the flower shop across the street and bought a little purple flower bush to bring some life to my room. It worked. I’m so much happier seeing my little plant ward every time I walk in the door. It really is just the best for someone, like me, who is obsessed with the natural world.

The final excitement for the day happened when I logged in to my favorite websites, Hulu and Netflix, to relax for the evening. Then, to my utter astonishment, from BOTH websites, I was told that they did not work within the country I was operating. As in – there was NO Netflix, Hulu or Pandora in THIS WHOLE COUNTRY. Try to grasp my horror. It was quite severe and really couldn’t have been worse. I’m not ashamed to say it, I adore all of these websites, and being able to relax and watch a movie is essential to bringing together my feeling of home.

I’m starting to realize more than ever that, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make home feels like home. Like Netflix. Or a random little shrub in your room.

I am sorry to sound like a spoiled American brat, but when I first found out I would have no access to Netflix, Hulu or Pandora I was pretty seriously considering booking it out of France…ok, so I wasn’t, but I was pretty upset. I don’t have many of my movies with me here in France, so it’s really important to have these resources. Would I die without them, no. Would I be a lot less happy about life? Yes. LUCKILY, I have amazing friends who let me in on the secret of Chromzising websites and making them work with Hola. I couldn’t be more happy.

Today has been a full and relaxing day, overall. I actually had the guts to tell my host family I didn’t want to go with them, the kids and their grandparents to the park, a decision which needed to be made since it’s my day off and they keep trying to “include me” on these days – which is nice…but I’ll be with the kids this week 7am-7pm every day (school doesn’t start until next week) so I think I’ll have quite enough kid time for the week without going out on my day off. Instead I stayed home and wrote letters to any and everyone I could think of. I ran out of postcards, but I plan on getting more on my next trip outside this petit-chateau.

Also, if you’ve asked me to send you a letter/postcard please please be patient. I’m mailing out the first bunch today, but there are still some people I’ve missed that will have to go out the next time I have the courage to go into the post office and ask for stamps.

Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there's a sauna in it. Awesome.
Oh, yeah…I have a sauna in my bathroom. As in, the bathroom is only for me and there’s a sauna in it. Awesome.

Once Upon A Dream

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Today was pretty magical. And even though I’m tired from running around, the fact that I’m tired from running around inside of castles makes the fatigue bearable.The castle pictured is the Castle (or Château) of Sully-Sur-Loire and was a medieval fortress for generations of Dukes in this area of France. I would go on and on about my day, but since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let you see the results, instead. DSC_0838 DSC_0839 DSC_0845 DSC_0849 DSC_0850 DSC_0858 DSC_0862 DSC_0868 DSC_0869 DSC_0880 DSC_0882 DSC_0891 DSC_0893 DSC_0898 DSC_0905 DSC_0906 DSC_0908