Fautes de goût

Bad taste or literally, ‘mistakes in taste’ is the phrase most often used by the French fashion police. Mostly they are undercover. Outside of a few people magazines and reality TV shows, French style rules for what to wear are largely unspoken. But believe me, you know they’re there.

On the street you will observe a certain uniformity in the way people dress, what could even be described as a uniform. Skinny legs, close-fitting waists and nary a panty line. Belts and buckles and laces and earrings. It’s all standard issue.

Brigitte Macron, France’s best-dressed first lady, has the unanimous admiration of her compatriots for rising to every occasion sans faute de goût.

At the office, creativity in putting together an outfit tends to be limited to a small detail, an accessory or an unusual cut. To avoid fashion blunders, flashy colours are a no-no, heels are de rigueur, no mixing of patterns and stripes! It is like an army in military drab.

Quintessentially Parisian style maven Ines de la Fressange advises people to dare to make fashion faux pas. Yet she herself is impeccably classic in her uniform below.

Brazilian-born Cristina Cordula is queen of les Reines du Shopping, a French reality TV show in which the female candidates compete to buy a new outfit on a set budget and model it for each other to see who will qualify as shopping queen. Wrongly pairing neckline with jacket, heels to hem height or mixing too many colours and textures will earn the dreaded ‘faute de goût!’

The way I look at it, the only real mistake you can make in what you wear is to forget who you are. Be true to your own style. Wear what feels good for you, be that in ‘good’ taste or not.

Sometimes I will try to dress to fit an idea that is not mine, say with a few more accessories than usual. Because I’ve seen it on someone else and thought it looked good. So I try it on, check in the mirror and it looks okay. Then I walk around for two minutes and change. Because it’s not me.

Ultimately I opt for what makes me feel good. Which means comfortable and confident. Although I avoid going out in track pants or leggings unless I’m actually running. Exercising is one thing; going to the shops is another, even though styles have loosened up a lot in recent years and the line between street wear and exercise gear has blurred. Even in France.

As Gore Vidal said: “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

What’s your style? Or do you not give a damn?


  1. francetaste · March 15, 2018

    When we first started dating, my (not yet) husband would put on a tie and sports jacket to go to the supermarket.
    That has changed.
    You’re damned if you give a damn and you’re damned if you don’t. Too many textures? Not enough? Ugh.
    I am all in favor of the athleisure footwear trend, however. I messed up my feet by wearing heels for years and now have permanently painful feet. Heels are out of the question. I used to look at the grannies in their marshmallow trainers and think, “how frumpy.” Now, I am glad those shoes aren’t fautes de goût, because I have to wear them regardless.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      Tie and jacket? Did not realize your hubby was French! 😉 Times sure have changed. I am with you 100% on the footwear. No elegant appearance is worth wrecking your feet or knees for. As much as my legs could use some lengthening, I refuse to totter around in high heels, although when I dress up for weddings etc. I sometimes wear a low heel. The rest of the time it’s flats, and thankfully you can now get fashionable sporty shoes that work well with just about everything. Even low ankle boots with dresses, something I longed to do for years but was a bit of a fashion faux pas in France. Hallelujah!

  2. Garfield Hug · March 15, 2018

    Ha! Ha! My style is admittedly comfy! if there was a rule to include jeans and t shirt in the office, I would be the happiest. Monkey suits are out the window in lil red dot as the weather is too hot for it, unless you are a lawyer or attending an event that requires business suits. Most times, smart casual, no killer heels for me. Heels may make us look pretty but it causes bunions and heel problems not to mention back problems if one wears it 12 hours a day. Most Singaporeans are the most casual people when it comes to weekend, in Bermuda shorts and tee or jeans at a restaurant. Of course there are the fashionistas who wear Prada, Gucci etc.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      Smart casual sounds good — maybe they’ll introduce jeans for Fridays? I am glad to hear you lil red dotters keep things laid back. From the sounds of it, you work long hours so it’s only fair you should be comfy at work. Let the fashion hounds wear the designer suits — if I had the money, I’d probably get more nicer clothes but in the grand scheme of things, it’s no longer a priority. I work from home most days so the line between work clothes and pj’s is blurring. 🙂

      • Garfield Hug · March 16, 2018

        Yes, most companies allow jeans Fridays. Agree with you that fashion is no longer a priority for me too. I believe in the old adage that money in the pocket is more important as cash is king…but with QR scan codes and cashless payments, I am unsure really of how things go! It seems like a haven for hackers to have fun at depositors’ expense! I am old fashioned as I worry about cyber security.

  3. coteetcampagne · March 15, 2018

    Ha! Well, I confess that living in France full time has brought me full circle; right back to my default setting of scruffy , probably paint stained, art student . I do make an effort when we go out though, but I doubt my style is that of your average 63 year old.

    Boho? My dear, we invented it. In 1971.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      There is something liberating about the full-circle return to student days. I’m sure that paint-streaked suits you perfectly. And I sure hope my dressed up or down style is not that of a typical 60-year-old either!

  4. poshbirdy · March 15, 2018

    I am far too shabby to be chic. Other than essential business attire (and I mean only when essential) and occasional black tie, I choose comfort every time. Lazy, perhaps? Yeah, you bet! As you say, be true to yourself, and I am truly casual about clothing x

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      Shabby is chic in certain circles so you probably fit right in! Can totally relate to the laziness when it comes to dressing up — why bother? But I know when it’s time for me to upgrade when I start feeling like I look like everyone else in my age group.

      • poshbirdy · March 16, 2018

        Absolutely right. I’ll never be ready to be the same age as people who are the same age as me!

  5. Susanne · March 15, 2018

    Do I have One style? I think I have many styles – for work, for exercise, for kicking around the house. I like knowing what is current but I adapt for my age and draw boundaries. eg. No high-waisted pants for this ol’ bird. Been there in the 80’s. I’m a bit of a copy-cat and will try on looks I admire on other people but know enough to let it go if it doesn’t feel good. Fashion is fun and I have fun with it.

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      Could not agree more. Love the idea of having as many styles as your mood and lifestyle allow. Except the high-waisted pants: I lived through them in the 80s too and am happy to have them back — those low-waisted jeans did nothing to hold in my beer belly! 😉

  6. onebigstressball · March 15, 2018

    Love this! I am a PT so live in Sportswear, so when I go out for dinner it’s nice to put on a dress and do my makeup! Sport gear is so comfy though, I would much rather wear leggings and a comfy tee than a suit any day!

    • MELewis · March 15, 2018

      Thanks and glad you can relate. PT – is that physical therapist? Guess you need to stay comfortable to do your job so that makes sense. Nice to dress up from time to time though. For me the best is when you can combine comfort with style — maybe a dressier pair of leggings with a tunic-style top or a dress that feels really special.

      • onebigstressball · March 15, 2018

        It’s a personal trainer! I totally understand… I live for long tops I can chuck on with some tights and boots!

  7. midihideaways · March 15, 2018

    I’m with Gore Vidal when it comes to clothes – I couldn’t care less what other people think. But then that’s much easier for men, I imagine – we’re not judged along the same lines, are we??

    • MELewis · March 16, 2018

      Men certainly seem to be able to get away with less fashion-wise than women — and yet, so many still wear the monkey suit to work that I suppose it evens out! Not caring what anyone thinks make sense to me!

  8. davidprosser · March 16, 2018

    Skinny jeans for me paired with a variety of jumpers until and if something smart is required then it’s usually straight to a suit with shirt and tie. If not too formal I might just go with slacks but shirt and tie would still be worn unless the temperature dictates not…….but what’s the likelihood of that over here?
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    • MELewis · March 16, 2018

      Oh, I do envy you being able to wear skinny’s. My legs will not allow it — they protest by cutting off all the circulation to my feet. I’m sure somehow you look smart no matter what, David! xo

  9. Yeah, Another Blogger · March 16, 2018


    I guess my style is a “comfortable” look. I always wear jeans. And my color choices include a lot of blues and grays.

    Do they sell Vans footwear in France? Vans makes pretty cool shoes. They’re my fave.
    See you —

    Neil S.

    • MELewis · March 16, 2018

      Hey, Neil, I’m sure you would fit right in with those neutrals around here. And pretty sure they do sell Vans! 🙂

  10. Steven Cramer · March 17, 2018

    Love those shoes! That’s the next fashion statement for me!!

    • Kiki · March 19, 2018

      Steven, if you look anything like TinTin, those sandels would be just perfect. Just forget about the socks, PLEASE, will you, pleasedy please?! 🙂

      • Steven Cramer · March 19, 2018

        OK…..no socks will be worn….!

    • MELewis · March 20, 2018

      Hmm…picture please? 😀

      • Kiki · March 20, 2018

        Mel; Please NOT! 🙂

  11. Osyth · March 19, 2018

    I make more effort living in the city but I certainly don’t conform to the French norms … my hair is too long, I am too tall and anyway my granny taught me that ‘Fashion is what suits you’ …. who am I to argue 😉 x

    • Mél@nie · March 20, 2018

      I do agree with your granny… ❤ and someone said that "la mode est qqchose qui se démode!" 🙂

      • Osyth · March 20, 2018

        J’suis complètement d’accords! 😌

    • MELewis · March 20, 2018

      Having rather the opposite problems (short and too short), it never occurred to me that a woman’s hair could be too long for French norms. But now that you mention it: there is a sort of ‘standard standard’ in France, and anything outside of that box is clearly eccentric. 😉 Which you being English probably works just perfectly for the French! 😛 I am sure that your look, ‘cela te ressemble bien.’

      • Osyth · March 20, 2018

        We live in hopes but i can akways hide vehibd that English eccentricity…. I know that’s well acknowledged 🤣

  12. Kiki · March 19, 2018

    Ha, right after Osyth, oh the fun…. Osyth you’re too tall, your hair is too long – I’m def about 30cm too short for my weight but those little buggers, I think they’re called calories’ or something, they work every night and in the morning when I put on my clothes, they have shrunk another ‘taille’….! 🙂
    I used to be a fashion follower for a short while in my life. Up to when I had more important things to do than ‘competing’ with thin, fashionable and tall women! No, this sounds wrong – I was never a fashion junkie, but now it’s a critical question of thinking long and hard WHAT doesn’t make me look even smaller and rounder? I am (sometimes) being told that I’m a good dresser, meaning probably that it is difficult to be so short, so ‘boule’ and find comfy clothes with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. Therefore I’ve decided to do ‘inner beauty’ plus go through life with a positive attitude and a smile on my face. Typically, my Hero Husband of 20 yrs this 21st, often says to me first thing in the morning: Tu as un beau sourire, or: Tu as de beaux yeux…. There isn’t much else that’s BEAU….!
    also, for health reasons (and ‘thanks’ to a choir conductor early in my twenties, he who told me that with the high heels I was sporting, my body can never take in air properly for singing….) I had to do away with heels and since my poor feet are a mess too, my eyes approaching blindness at an alarming rate, I’m always out looking for beautiful flats in cute colours, and wide enough for my now peasant’s feet.
    Couldn’t comment before, the guy’s feet with his tennis socks and the sandals made me sick…. 😉 One of my bros-in-law wears those, how did you get a pic of him? 🙂

    • MELewis · March 20, 2018

      Kiki, I think you and I have more in common than I thought! At least physically: I must work on the inner beauty and the smile which my hubs complains is too infrequent. Agree 100%: to be loved by our loved ones is truly ‘une chose de beauté.’ P.S. Oh, and maybe we could get together and sing a duet one day? 🙂

      • Kiki · March 20, 2018

        You look wahayyyy slimmer than me, and taller, and cooler. I occasionally have to tell some of my truly glamorous friends that actually, I should hate them – and remind them that when I married Hero Husband I was wearing clothes about 20 sizes smaller, had a waist, three times more hair and my face wasn’t looking like a jupe plissée (pleated skirt) années 60….
        But hey, yes, we could sing together. THAT much should work fine 🙂

      • MELewis · March 21, 2018

        Ooh, all I can say is: blog photos can be deceiving! 🙂 Not tall or slim, I’m afraid. Only 2 sizes larger than when I met ZFrenchman but many pleats on this old face! 🙂

  13. Mél@nie · March 20, 2018

    comble du “plouquisme”(sic!): sandales et chaussettes… holy Molly!!! 😀

    • MELewis · March 20, 2018

      Ha, ha…’plouquisme’ as you so nicely coin a phrase is universal. I think in some circles the socks with sandals is probably even chic, although certainly nowhere in France! 🙂

    • Kiki · March 20, 2018

      Mélanie: j’ai appris un nouveau mot aujourd’hui – qui n’est pas dans LEO, btw…. plouquisme! 🙂

  14. Dale · March 21, 2018

    Ugh. I cannot, CANNOT abide the socks in sandals thing. And if you really needs must “break them in”, then please do in the discretion of your home… Merde!

    I am so far from being a trend follower. I go for classic, never go out of style (but I eventually get sick of) clothes for that “work” environment I no longer am part of. The rest of the time, I like to make somewhat of an effort – ergo, you will NOT EVER see me in sweats or sportswear in public, unless I am actually doing a sport.

    When I go out, I do like to make more of an effort. Like so many, my feet are no longer impressed with heels, but I still treat myself to a long leg for a few hours… 🙂

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      I do admire people who make an effort, no matter how un-trendy they are. We used to have neighbours near Lyon who were lovely people but socks in sandals was a thing — I remember once inviting them over for dinner and they arrived in their slippers!

      • Dale · March 22, 2018

        Good grief! Guess they felt suuuuuper comfortable in your presence!

  15. Maison Bentley Style · April 16, 2018

    Went to a Grayson Perry exhibition recently and he would agree with you – there’s no such thing as bad taste, though he did quip that none of the middle classes would agree! xxx

    • MELewis · April 16, 2018

      What an interesting show that must have been! Perhaps too much bronzer and flashy gear might qualify as bad taste in my books — but if it feels good, I say, go for it! x

  16. Secretparisian · May 26, 2018

    I am dating a french (and living in France) so I can totally relate!

    • MELewis · May 28, 2018

      Judging from your blog, you are the right place! Thanks for checking in!

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