The words "French fashion" may conjure up images of Chanel's interlocking C's and Lanvin's artful bows, but when it comes to what Parisians really wear day-to-day, look no further than Agnès B. (Real name: Agnès Troublé. The self-styled "B" stands for "bourgeois.")
In the designer's 50-plus-year career she's created costumes for cult '60s fashion film Qui Êtes-Vous Polly Magoo, convinced David Bowie to give leather pants a try, and redefined the idea of French-girl staples (Agnès swears by snap-button cardigans and mechanic's jumpsuits). Read on for five of the designer's outfit-making styling tips, from her new book, Styliste, out this week.
Tip No. 1: Cardigans Can Be Cool
In 1979, Agnès B. set out to design a layering piece that "looked like an article of clothing from the Renaissance, an article of child's clothing for adults." The end result was a snap-button fleece cardigan, which quickly became one of the brand's signature styles and is still produced today.
We're partial to the short-sleeve version of the Agnès B. staple, below; worn on its own, with a few top and bottom buttons unsnapped, it lends a bit of polish to jeans or cut-offs.
Pink Cardigan Swing, $165, agnesb,us.
Tip No. 2: Look to Louis XIV and Louis XV
Raised right outside of Versailles's walls, Agnès B. spent her childhood reading everything she could about the events leading up to the French Revolution. Now, she explains, she works with "an intuitive memory, but never with documents of the era." This translates to modern variations on 18th-century cuts, like the streamlined military coat, below. Try a similar style when you want to reign in a vintage band tee with a little tailoring.
Stripes Fifre Jacket, $345, agnesb.us.
Tip No. 3: Get Yourself a Mechanic's Jumpsuit
Sure, lots of designers do jumpsuits, but Agnès B. starts with garments purchased at Monsieur Porte, a Bordeaux-based manufacturer of workers' uniforms, and then adjusts the proportions for women. Find your dream mechanic-style coveralls, layer a long-sleeve striped tee underneath, cuff those sleeves and pant legs once or twice, and finish off the look with a pair of white sneakers.
Dark Blue Kat Jumpsuit, $425, agnesb.us.
Tip No. 4: Photo Prints Are the Best Prints
Photo prints are one of Agnès B.'s hallmarks, whether they're snapped on the designer's phone or commissioned from an artist. While you might glance past a floral pattern or a subtle plaid, clothing splashed with scenes from everyday life draws the eye in. Try a photo-emblazoned tee tucked into high-rise jeans, or go all in with a dress covered in snow-topped leaves, worn with your highest metallic platforms.
Gray Malick Sidibé T-Shirt , $75, agnesb.us.
Snow Gaura Skirt, $195, agnesb.us.
Tip No. 5: Show Off That Collar
"A white shirt collar protruding from a black sweater or a lace sleeve haphazardly escaping the tight grip of wool are discreet indications of Parisian elegance," Agnès B. says. Good to know! Layer up a white button-down and a black sweater, then add ripped jeans and combat boots just to confuse everyone.
White Matsui Shirt, $245, agnesb.us.
Black Cardigan, $295, agnesb.us.