Why does it feel like one minute it’s August, and the next thing you know you’re scrounging for a last minute Halloween costume one week out? Luckily, there are tons of easy French-inspired costumes you can throw together in no time. (Thank god for two-day shipping.) Here are some of our recommendations.
1. Karl Lagerfeld & Choupette
It’s been years since the German-born, Francophile icon died, but the Chanel designer looms large in the fashion industry. Get a white button down, black tie and jacket, black gloves and black sunglasses. Pull your hair back, and consider carrying a stuffed cat. Alternatively, you could have a friend dress as Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette, à la Doja Cat at the 2023 Met Gala.
2. La Marianne
The mother of France’s democracy! She’s depicted most famously in “Liberty Leading the People,” so model your costume after that (breast exposure optional). Wear a baggy red beanie (styled after La Marianne’s Phrygian cap) and a neutral color sheet draped around your body, cinched at the waist with a red rope or ribbon.
3. Marie Antoinette
Let them eat cake… or at least an entire bag of seasonal dark chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups. Draw inspiration from Sofia Coppola’s decadent film about the life of France’s most famous monarch for an over-the-top fit. See if your prom dress or wedding gown still fits, or finally give in and buy yourself one of those dresses from Selkie or Fanciful Doll you’ve been getting targeted adds for. Pile your hair up with some jewels and feathers, and be thankful no one’s putting your head in a guillotine any time soon.
4. Zelda Fitzgerald & F. Scott Fitzgerald
Though these two are definitely American, it’s undeniably fun to dress up as members of Paris’s Lost Generation crew. Besides Zelda Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway are two other options. Stein requires a matronly look, Zelda should be styled like a flapper, and the two men would have suits and slicked-back hair (and notebooks, of course).
5. Coco Chanel
Who’s more iconically French than Chanel? Don a Chanel suit (if you can afford one), pearls, and a hat to pull off this look. Or you could don another signature look, the little black dress, accessorizing it with lots of pearls, a hat, watch and cigarette. Just remember to take one thing off before you walk out the door.
Everyone’s favorite little fictional French girl. Put on a blue dress with a white collar, a red bow, a yellow hat with a black bow, white tights and black flats.
To recreate Audrey Tatou’s iconic character in Amélie, all you need is a short black bob with bangs, a red or green cardigan (ideally over a polka-dotted dress), and a mischievous smile. Maybe keep a spoon on hand just in case. Add a gnome, or have your partner dress up as the gnome, to finish the look.
8. French flag
A cheap yet effective costume. Wear white clothing, a blue bracelet on the left arm, and a red bracelet on the right arm. Take a French flag and safety pin the color-corresponding stripes and bracelets together and the top of the white part to your shirt. (Note that the flag is facing the right direction to those standing behind you. If you want the flag to face the right direction from the front, switch the sides the bracelets are on and turn the flag around.)
Dark red, light yellow or pink clothing (depending on your cépage), a label pinned to your front and a cylindrical hat make up this easy Halloween costume.
10. A macaron
This one requires a bit of sewing. You’ll need two round pillows, some ribbon or ruffles, and two straps of some sort. Sew (or pin) the ribbon around the pillows to create the filling coming out the sides, then attach the straps to one side of each macaron so you can hang the straps over your shoulders and become the extra layer of filling in your macaron. Miam!
11. Eiffel Tower
You could buy an Eiffel Tower dress, but this costume is also pretty easy to DIY. You’ll need thin, lightweight metal pipes, wire, duct tape (to make the crossbars and hold the thing together), and some really narrow PVC pipe to use for the levels. And lots of time and patience.
12. A mime
A staple of every Bastille Day event. Black pants, black and white striped shirt, a black beret, white gloves, and face makeup to your heart’s content.
13. Stereotypical French girl
The upside of the stereotypical French girl costume is that at least everyone will know what you are. Put on a black (or black and white striped) shirt, jeans or a red A-line skirt with tights, ballet flats, a red beret, and red lipstick. Bonus points if you carry a baguette. The end goal is to look like a Shutterstock photo (see above).
14. Zeffirelli and Juliette from ‘The French Dispatch’
Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch, is an homage to Paris and the many fascinating people and creatures who bring it to life. Two of them are the revolutionaries Zeffirelli (played by Timothée Chalamet) and Juliette, who recreate an alternate history of the May ’68 student riots. It’s an iconic couples costume, and pretty simple. For Zeffirelli, you just need a gray suit jacket and marvelously teased hair. For Juliette, a white motorcycle helmet with goggles, brown leather jacket, and skirt will do.
15. Josephine Baker
Showgirl, spy, expat–Josephine Baker did it all. This American-born star lit up Paris in the 1920s with her cabaret act and impeccable style. Attach some bananas to a belt to recreate her best-known dance costume, and pair with a gold bra and lots of pearls.
16. Léon and Mathilda
Léon the Professional, a 90s film from French director Luc Besson, stars French actor Jean Reno alongside a young Natalie Portman. Reno plays Léon, an assassin forced to assume the role of caretaker for a 12-year-old girl, Mathilda, after the death of her family. The film lives on as a cult classic and an infamous meme, and the look can be easily replicated. For Léon, all you need is a black beanie, round sunglasses, black coat, briefcase, and goatee. For Mathilda, a beanie, choker, striped shirt, green army jacket, denim short, boots, and plant.
17. Emily in Paris
The surprise Netflix hot mess that was Emily in Paris, despite its many, many flaws, had some truly spectacular (and horrifying) fashion moments. Anything loud, layered, and 90s will do. Got a hot pink blazer and a bouquet of roses? Done. Plaid bucket hat, silk scarf, and stuffed heart Eiffel Tower charm? Perfect. But the go-to would probably be red beret and black-and-white checkered wool coat. Don’t forget to use about a million emojis and hashtags.
18. Daft Punk
The iconic French electronic group Daft Punk was as well-known for their songs as for their anonymity, and always appeared in alien-like helmet masks (even on the red carpet) during their three-decade long career. Dress in all black (or in tuxes) and grab a couple masks online, and your costume is all set.
19. Arsène Lupin
French film star Omar Sy has made a big (6’3 to be exact) splash over the last few years with his foray into television as the titular star of the Netflix show Lupin. Based on a famous book series about a “gentleman burglar,” the show has gone on to rank far and away as Netflix’s biggest French language success. Take a page out of Sy’s book with a dark newsboy cap and long overcoat, and maybe tuck a (faux) jewel necklace into your pocket for good measure.
20. Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face
Audrey Hepburn has worn a lot of notable looks, but the head-to-toe black beat uniform she wears in Funny Face, where she is swept off to Paris to model for an ever-charming Fred Astaire, is about as easy as it gets. Bring out your best black turtleneck and slacks, and trow on a tan trench coat if you get chilly.
You might not be able to get your hands on a 1960s YSL Mondrian dress, inspired by the iconic De Stijl paintings of the artist Piet Mondrian, but you can find a pretty good dupe on Etsy. It’s a good costume for saying things like, “I am a work of art.”