Style influencer Teggy French has loved fashion for as long as she can remember. When her parents would go to open houses when she was a kid, Teggy would open people’s closets to look at their clothes. Her earliest fashion memory came at age 4, when her mom bought her a blue velour sweatsuit with little ice cream cones on it. She couldn’t wait to model it for her dad.
In second grade, when most kids were obsessed with New Kids on the Block, Teggy couldn’t get enough of Buddy Holly and wore poodle skirts to school. Those early experiences in fashion inspired an affinity toward all things retro and vintage. Add her deep love of Palm Springs and Lilly Pulitzer and her distinct Teggy French look was born. She describes it as preppy with a twist—an old-school glam vibe channeling a mix of pretty pastels and bold colors, statement earrings, vibrant bows and her signature kaftan, which offers a stylish and equally comfortable alternative to leggings and a sweatshirt.
Her mantra: Less is never more and life is too short not to be glamorous. Teggy lived that mantra as an actress and real estate agent (her legal name is Alexandra French) before launching her fashion blog, Teggy French, in 2014. She has since grown her brand on social media with a huge presence on Instagram @teggyfrench. In October 2020, she launched a line of kaftans harkening back to 1960s glam. Beyond her own line, Teggy curates clothing, home décor, accessories and jewelry on her website, shopteggyfrench.com, and via pop-up shops and trunk shows in and around New Jersey.
We asked Teggy about the evolution of her style, her family (she and husband Russ happily co-parent son Lawrence with his dad, her ex-husband James) and what she loves about living in New Jersey.
New Jersey Family: Let’s talk about Teggy French. How did you come up with the name for your brand?
Teggy French: My maiden name is Tegenborg, and in high school, people called me Tegs. Then in college, it evolved to Teggy. My middle name is French, which is my mom’s maiden name. When I started Teggy French, I always had the vision that it would one day become a brand. A lot of people know me by Alex. Alexandra is my birth name.
NJF: You’ve talked a lot about making fashion accessible. What’s your approach to making fashion affordable and how do you put together a great look on a budget?
TF: I’m of the mindset that style is something one possesses and it has nothing to do with your financial situation. Some of the best outfits I’ve ever worn have come from consignment stores. When I was growing up, I would get a 20-dollar-a-week allowance and I would take that 20 dollars and go to the mall every week and see what I could buy with it. I think that’s how I learned to get creative with not having a lot of money to spend but still wanting to go to the mall and have that experience. As my lifestyle changed, I wanted to show people that it doesn’t matter what your budget is to spend on clothes. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you should be spending all of it on clothes because you really can look amazing for under a hundred dollars.
NJF: You’ve made kaftans and turbans your thing. How did this look come about and what would you say to women who think they can’t pull off that look?
TF: Anyone can pull anything off. It’s just having the confidence to do it and not caring what anybody else thinks. As long as it makes you feel good, then that’s going to come across when you wear it. People are attracted to that confidence. I think that people misunderstand comfort and what that has to look like. A lot of people are ‘okay, workout clothes, that’s my comfort clothes’ and for me, a kaftan is way more comfortable than putting on athleisure because it’s just one piece. It’s one size fits most. Back in the day, women had house dresses and they would wear those, and it was a way that they were comfortable but still looked put together. I always adored that. You could wear it around the house with your slippers, but you could also throw on a cute pair of sandals and go out for lunch and throw on a pair of heels and go out to dinner. To me, it was a one-stop shop and great investment and I had the idea of starting my own kaftan line on shopteggyfrench.com. We were just going to sell kaftans and then it evolved into a full website where we now sell from different clothing brands and sell homeware, jewelry and more.
NJF: Let’s talk about how fashion makes you feel. I remember a post on Instagram where you, as always, looked so fabulous and someone asked, ‘What are you so dressed up for? Where are you going?’ and you said something like, ‘I’m dressed up for life.’
TF: We’re so busy nowadays and so much is expected of us that I think it’s very easy to lose track of doing those small things that really can make a difference in how we feel and what we’re exuding to others when we’re out in the world. Audrey Hepburn has a quote where she says, ‘Life is a party, dress like it.’ It’s so true. We’re here, let’s have some fun. I always find I feel so much better. On the days where I’m in a rush and I can’t put myself together, I notice that my day doesn’t feel as put together whereas if I spend a little time for myself in the morning, I’m going to have a much better experience because I’m a visual person.
NJF: A few years back, you were asked to design homes for Mansion in May, a prestigious fundraiser of the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center in which designers design a lavish mansion for public tours. What was that like?
TF: It was terrifying because I’m not an interior designer by trade. Actually, my mom had done Mansion in May many moons ago, probably in 1991. She was familiar with it. She was able to guide me through it. I love interior design and I love picking everything out. It’s an art form and it goes so beyond just picking out things that are pretty. It didn’t come as naturally to me as I would’ve hoped but I absolutely loved it.
NJF: On a more serious topic, beyond the fun style you share on Instagram, one thing people are so inspired by is your honesty. You’ve been very open about some of the biggest struggles you’ve faced in life from divorce to miscarriage. Now you’re remarried and happily co-parenting. I think what sharing this did is made a lot of other women who’ve gone through similar experiences feel less alone, heard and understood. What has this journey been like for you and your family?
TF: To help people feel not so alone, I think, is so important because when you’re going through a divorce, you feel painfully alone and you don’t know what’s going to happen day to day. It’s like this emotional roller coaster and you can go into a very dark, sad, lonely place. I did keep it to myself for a long time and it didn’t feel natural to me to not be fully myself. I think Instagram is tricky because you’re showing everybody the best parts of your life and you’re creating this image that people are buying into but behind the screen are real humans who are dealing with the same things as everybody else. I think it’s really dangerous if we don’t share the real side of things because it sets these expectations that are not attainable. I don’t want to make it seem like it just appeared that we’re this great modern family. We had to work really hard at that. I think that keeping Lawrence in mind and making it about what’s best for his future helped us to really come together and be able to get to the point we’re at now. I think when people go through divorce, it’s very easy to blame and to be angry. At the end of the day, you both chose to bring this child into this world and they owe you nothing and you owe them everything. Everything means being the best parent and family that you can be no matter what that looks like on paper. When James and I got divorced, it didn’t have to mean that we stopped being a family. It just meant that we were no longer married.
NJF: You shared a lovely photo on Instagram of Lawrence with you, his dad and your husband. How has co-parenting been for you?
TF: Co-parenting is really great for us. We’re really good at communicating, which I think is key. He and my husband really get along beautifully. Again, I think with time and with work, you can all come together. Those photos were actually taken on the one-year anniversary of Russ and I losing our son Lukas to miscarriage and the photo shoot had been rescheduled because of rain. It occurred to me when we were there what a big part Lukas played in us coming together because we were co-parenting and everything was fine but having that tragedy happen and seeing how everybody came together and really showed up for each other really solidified that we are still a family. It was a really magical day because I was mourning, but I also was seeing that this beautiful family came together in tragedy and that we were able to get through it and come out stronger. I’m so beyond grateful for the three men in my life.
NJF: How has motherhood changed you?
TF: Motherhood is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I see the world so differently now, and I just want everything to be the best that it can in the world and at home to help this little boy have the tools to become an incredible man. Watching him grow up, it’s like you go through all the different stages, you don’t think it’s going to get any better and then it just does as you’re evolving with him. Now he’s got this sense of humor that I’m seeing and he’s hysterically funny.
He’s got comedic timing and he loves to make people laugh and he challenges me more than anybody ever has. He’s set in his ways and watching him, it’s joy. Motherhood is so hard some days, but I just love everything about it.
NJF: Your son is always very well styled. What do you think he thinks about style?
TF: I’ve always dressed him and he has never questioned what I put on him. Everyone asks, ‘How do you get him to wear that? My little boy only wants to wear sweatsuits.’ I’m just like, ‘We didn’t have sweatsuits. It wasn’t an option.’
NJF: You’ve lived in New Jersey most of your life. What do you love most about living here?
TF: New Jersey is the country’s best-kept secret. We have beaches, we have the mountains that we can get to in 45 minutes to an hour. We have the seasons and we can be in New York City in 45 minutes. It’s a beautiful place and New Jersey people are really special. First of all, do you know there’s more famous people from the State of New Jersey than any other state? I think that there’s a confidence to New Jersey people and a sense of pride that you oftentimes see in the south. We’re so similar. We love our teams, we love big hair, we love our families.
NJF: What do you love most about living in Mendham?
TF: It feels like you’re on the set of a Hallmark movie but it’s real life. I know the mayor and she takes such pride in everything and the parades and the sense of community and the camaraderie. It’s a magical place. I’ve lived in New Jersey and I’ve lived in all different places, but I have to say Mendham is the most special place that I have lived in New Jersey. It’s just charming. From my house, I can walk to town, which I love, and it’s amazing that my son goes to the preschool where I went.
NJF: What do you do for yourself that keeps you grounded and happy?
TF: I pray every day. I don’t think you have to go to church every day and pray that way but I talk to people who have passed and I ask for continued guidance. There’s a great app called Calm and that’s a really nice way to kick off your day. It’s meditation mixed with a thought for the day. I also am very much into my supplements. I recently started acupuncture. I am going through the IVF journey again. I work out with Tina Baker, who’s amazing. I do virtual workouts twice a week and she makes it super fun.
NJF: What are your hopes for Teggy French, the brand, and for your life in 2023? Do you believe in resolutions?
TF: I believe in it all. I believe in whatever makes people be better people, whatever that is for you. If it’s a resolution, whatever you decide you’re going to do or give up, if it’s helping you mentally, I’m such a big proponent of manifestation. I believe that our minds have so much power to give us all of our hopes and dreams. It’s taking that time to manifest and to do the things like take care of yourself and meditate and all of those things. For me, in 2023, I hope Teggy French continues to grow. We’re a small retail site now, but I want to start designing more products, so not just kaftans but I would love to bring in other things that are vintage-inspired. I want to continue to show people how to look great on any budget and to look pulled together while still being super comfortable. I’d like to go global one day. That’s my ultimate goal.