The French girl. An infinite source of fascination. She exudes an air of confident insoussiance and effortless chic. How does she stay so thin? How does she get away with smoking so many Gitanes? She seems to wear hardly any makeup and still looks incredible. And her clothes! Never trendy but always on trend. Never trying hard but always getting it just right. Zut alors! How can we get a piece of that je ne sais quoi?
Let’s do away with some stereotypes first. She’s not a cliché but many sterotypes have several grains of truth. Sure, she wears a striped shirt but certainly carries no baguette while wearing a beret (of course, she does buy baguettes along with brioches and Boudin). She tends to be thin, from walking all over Paris, but she doesn’t strive for Barbie-meets-Beverly Hills perfection. Yes, she can look boyish with her borrowed-from-the-boys style, but she is certainly all femme, all the time. Looking smart is key, too; after all France favors intellectualism just as much as a tasty scandal. She is erotic rather than in-your-face-sexy. It’s in her attitude. So here we go, taking our inspirations from actual everyday chic Parisians spotted on our recent trip as well as our fave trendsetters like Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon and glam style icons from the past such as Jane Birkin.
French girls wouldn’t be caught dead with tacky Kardashian tresses. Instead, jeunes filles prefer a do that doesn’t look like it took hours to create. From bedhead, to sleek and straight with or without bangs, to simply pulled back in a practical ponytail, to a short, severe cut, French hair is never fussy, never looks like you spent hours curling it to death, never is Pamela Anderson blond or The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills long. Mon Dieu!
France favors a less is more, barely-there, fresh face. Yes, there are smoky eyes and bold red lips, of course! But no over-contouring and thick foundations and that super trendy U.S. look of making your lips look super duper pale. It just isn’t done.
Stilettos? Stripper heels? Never. Parisians walk a lot so there shoes have to be chic and practical. They’d rather own just a couple of pricey Isabel Marant booties than a load of glitzy, towering heels. Louboutins? Oui, when appropriate. But not for catching the Metro.
When in comes to clothes, the emphasis is on quality over quantity. A good pair of expensive jeans rather than 20 trendy ones. A nice pair of Hedi Slimane pants. A good coat. Scarves (a must! always!) since the weather is unpredictable. (There’s another more esoteric reason: The French are ever horrified of catching a draft, which guarantees catching a cold.) And those Breton stripes? Absolutely. Coco Chanel mastered them. Francophile Picasso did it so well. So did Audrey Hepburn (not French but might as well have been).
A word about attitude: There are plenty of French sex kittens (Bardot comes to mind), but generally, French women embrace intelligence and culture. Whether they slink or strut, they give off an air of utter confidence, of completely owning who they are. So concretely, what does it really come down to, in a nutshell (or escargot shell, if you prefer)?
Find the sexy in practical: mini skirt with flats or low booties. Exposed shoulder but covered legs. Hot lips but minimal face. Nothing skin tight or gaudy. Instead go for slim and well-fitting, fitted! Show your body off, your silhouette, but keep them guessing a bit. Your fun parts can come out and play later. And practice how to say: Je t’aime.