A Girl Abroad: The Real Difference Between American And French Style

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Photos and story by Karina Castrillo for The Style Line

Our perception of beauty is personal and subjective,

and this can also become the case when judging fashion and style. Each culture for instance has their own taste and look they consider in vogue. Focusing on two of the most discussed style personalities – the American girl and the Parisian girl – we compare their closets and the cultural nuances behind their wardrobe choices.

American girls experiment with makeup

They contour, shape their eyebrows, keep a variation of lipsticks at hand. They like to have their face well made up and keep a variety of products from big brands like Mac and indie ones like NYX. YouTube is their go-to for tutorials. They like to look polished and well-groomed even if it takes an extra thirty minutes. Especially at work, having makeup on is considered polished and professional.

Parisian girls don’t fuss with it

Perhaps a dab of mascara and chapstick on the lips is the most they’ll venture. They prefer the “not trying too hard” look. Parisians like discretion, minimal attention drawn to them and putting on makeup is considered an obvious hassle. Instead they concentrate on skincare, buying products they find at their neighborhood pharmacy. French brands like Avène, Caudalie that protect their skin and keep it radiant so they don’t have to bother with foundation. If they’re feeling wild a smear of rouge on the lips will do for an evening out!

American girls shops the trends

She keeps herself up-to-date with what’s trending in the magazines and on the streets. She shops a lot, but buys more modestly opting to have the current outfit instead of one that’s timeless.

Parisian girls will break the bank on a coat

They invest in fashion pieces that are pricey, but will only buy few amounts. For example, she’ll invest in an Isabel Marant coat or a vintage designer purse that she’ll later pair with more modestly priced clothing articles. Parisians rarely buy in bulk, they prefer good quality.

Parisians have a knack for menswear

Leaning towards tomboy, Parisians easily wear their boyfriend’s buttoned downs without a care. In general they prefer a classic wardrobe, a sort of everyday uniform that looks smart and conservative. Americans prefer to showcase their femininity by wearing heels, a ruffled sleeve or a low-cut neckline. Parisians wear flats.

American girls like to buy jewelry to match their outfit

Whether it’s a statement ring or a necklace, most of the time they shop to give their outfit that final touch that makes the look complete. They have a large collection of jewelry, but they probably won’t wear the pieces more than a few times since their collection keeps growing. Parisians buy small delicate jewelry that lasts a lifetime, and they wear it every day. They never wear large necklaces, or fake jewelry. It’s gold, silver or vintage Cartier heirlooms from their grandparents.

The type of lingerie they like differs

American girls have a love for Victoria’s Secret. Push up bras and plush toy puppies cater to their love of their preferred pet and of course a fuller looking cleavage. Bras are meant to give support and an augmented perk to sinuate a voluptuous figure. Parisian girls opt out of padded bras or push ups, they are more concerned with the material of the bra, the embroidery and the tiny lace details she can feel. Many Parisians consider small breasts to be elegant.

Both styles can be empowering to women when it represents their personality.

For me, my own wardrobe was a conflicting assortment of clothes that didn’t represent me, but I’ve weaved in both the American and Parisian approach to fashion to create a look that reflects who I am and what I like since I feel a part of both cultures.

Clothing after all has more than a utilitarian value, it also speaks volumes about you and you need to make sure it tells your story. I don’t adhere to trends for the reason that following them too closely can confuse the image I’ve so carefully crafted. It took me years to find the right haircut – Jane Birkin bangs that define my face – and the right coat – a large oversized faux-fur coat that makes me feel endlessly sophisticated.

Finding my own style has been a trial-and-error process, and I often share the story that in my first attempt to look Parisian, I tried accessorizing a scarf and ended up looking like an airline hostess. Nothing is worse than attempting to look like someone else – so I’ve since sold my Hermès scarf. While I’ve allowed my style to be influenced by Paris, and I’ve grown fond of the classics, I still love experimenting with hair color and makeup. In the end it’s what you feel comfortable wearing that makes you feel empowered.