How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

How to live a quality life, full of passion, sensory exploration, and style… without really trying.


Paris is the city of love, light, fashion, food, and art. Its inhabitants exude elegance, culture, and confidence to near-goddess status. They eat carbs, take lovers, and embrace all their imperfections. What sets French women apart is that they are unapologetically confident. They never leave the house without looking elegant, they roll their eyes at mediocrity, and they believe in living a quality life, full of passion, sensory exploration, and style.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

To live like a Parisian you must ooze chic, look perfectly imperfect, take pleasure in everything you do, kiss in public, slow down and enjoy yourself. Want to capture all that effortless glamour? Here are a few of the tips I’ve picked up during my visits to Paris:

Parisian Beauty

Parisians find beauty in their imperfections. A gap in her teeth is a sign of character and would never be closed with braces. The idea of the Parisian beauty routine is to have the “I woke up like this look,” meaning natural makeup and tousled hair. Makeup should look natural, except for the lips. French women generally steer clear of eyeliner, but the lips are usually a shade of red. Contouring is a no-no because it changes the shape of their face, instead, aiming for both natural and sensual, they catch light by using a highlighter on their cheeks, brow bones and Cupid’s bow of the lips.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

Paris beauty is all about the natural look, with emphasis on the lips

Dress like a Parisian

Effortless elegance, tomboyish charm, crisp minimalism and sophisticated tailoring — these are the attributes of Parisian style in a nutshell. French women are deliberately simple, versatile and practical. To dress like a woman of Paris, spend your money on a few quality staples to mix and match. Wear neutral tones that include darks like navy, black and grey. Avoid cheery shades and patterns. Flats are a popular shoe choice, probably due to the uneven cobblestone streets of Paris. But it goes along with the less is more philosophy. Elegantly flattering sunglasses, a silk scarf and understated earrings are all essential Parisian accessories.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

Me, in Paris… in a comfortable yet chic outfit

Dine Like a Parisian

It’s all about moderation when it comes to dining. Parisians eat proper lunches and buy fresh groceries each day. They love farm-to-table eating and spending time in cafes sipping dark espressos. The key to dining Parisian style is drinking water. If you do this, you can drink all the wine and eat all the dark chocolate, baguettes, croissants and cheese you desire (or, in my case, vegan cheese and pastries!). Avoid processed foods and opt for locally produced veggies, fruit, nuts, and olives.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

To dine like a Parisian, always eat fresh

Live like a Parisian

The best way to capture and bring home the Parisian aesthetic and way-of-life is to experience it yourself — like a local. So hop on a plane to Paris, and choose a luxury home rental over a hotel. Specifically, when in Paris choose to stay in a house in the city. We found the super-charming Pecquay Townhouse (Paris’ 4th oldest townhouse) through a vacation rental company called Luxury Travel Book. Staying in a real Parisian home is the best way to really live (and learn about) the Parisian lifestyle.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

At the front door to 2 Rue Pecquay the townhouse I stayed in, in the Marais

The Parisian Attitude

Speak loud, speak proud. Speak your mind … if you feel like it. You might call a Parisian arrogant, but it’s only because they have the “Je ne sais quoi” attitude that charms and delights those she encounters. Sulking is only appealing if you do it the French way — with good posture and a twinkle in your eye.

How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

To be a Parisian woman, you must be –above all– confident, understated, and elegant

Home Décor, Paris-Style

Naturally, the sophisticated French style extends to interiors. The rules include:

  • Don’t over-style. It’s undone but done. In other words, it shouldn’t look like you bought everything in one store.
  • Incorporate touches of lavishness like silk drapes, complex wallpaper and an oversized mirror.
  • Add sparkle with a vintage crystal chandelier.
  • Integrate aromatic and aesthetically pleasing elements like seasonal/local flowers from the market and a wooden essential oil diffuser.
How to Achieve the Effortless Elegance of a Parisian

Learn to perfect a minimalist yet hedonistic style (not to be confused with minimally hedonistic!) Confused yet?

To truly live a Parisian lifestyle, you have to adopt the attitude of minimalist hedonism. If you’re not sure what that means, just remember that quality trumps quantity, old trumps new (in most cases), and classic trumps trendy. Simple, right?!

Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 68 Comments

  1. Avatar of ysabelle raven

    ysabelle raven

    that room is astonishing! if I had that I’ll spend my days there. even sleep at night. then come morning stay there again. wow!

  2. Avatar of Claire Martinez

    Claire Martinez

    I’ve been living in Paris one year, I loved it and also hated some other side of the Parisian life. Back in Florida now I really see how different we are… Great article Hilary, you’re inspiring!

  3. Avatar of Della Martin

    Della Martin

    Inspiring stuff, Urbanette 🙂

  4. Avatar of Rosalia Russell

    Rosalia Russell

    Fantastic article – beautifully written and so fun to read. 🙂

  5. Avatar of Elizabeth Gonzalez

    Elizabeth Gonzalez

    Ahhhh, Paris! I just love this city!!! ? ?

  6. Avatar of Karen Abeyta

    Karen Abeyta

    I’ve read somewhere that France is known as a country of culinary masterpieces. Can’t wait to dine like a Parisian ☕ ? ??

  7. Avatar of Connie Schmidt

    Connie Schmidt

    I love Urbanette, you always offer inspirational and easy-to-read articles! I especially love your travel and international-focused articles. I love seeing the world through Hilary’s eyes.

  8. Avatar of Maxine Ford

    Maxine Ford

    Hi Hilary, HUGE thumbs up for this fantastic article! You really captured the french spirit in a poetic way ? ? ?

  9. Avatar of Esther Devine

    Esther Devine

    Interesting and informative! I’ve bookmarked your page and will definitely use this as guide when I visit Paris next month 😉

    • Avatar of Pepa Washington

      Pepa Washington

      Don’t forget to take a loooottttt of pictures. Paris has been the scene for great cinema classics for years and next month is your time to shine. Go for it girl!

  10. Avatar of Ofelia Ruley

    Ofelia Ruley

    I am a french woman and I must admit that everything that is said in this article is true. Especially one thing: their elegance. It is so undeniable that french woman are the most sultry as well as elegant I have ever seen in the world. They have that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ that you will never ever find in London or in America.

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