Crisp white shirts, messy fringes that may or may not have been brushed this morning. And, then, a small shot of espresso drunk while moving across a busy, but yet iconically French street, in narrow subtle heels. A pair of shoes that you plan realistically to wear all day. This is French girl chic. Or at least this is what the world sells to us as what French girl’s dress like.
We have long been obsessed with Paris as the home of fashion and style, where the best clothes are worn first. The city has always had its own distinctive style. For those watching the runway at Paris fashion week it can be easy to mistake Paris fashion for Haute Couture and high-end brands, flamboyance, and whatever the latest global trends are.
But that is not where we should look to see how the truly fashionable French women dress. Instead, we must look passed the runway and to the Parisian’s attending the event.
The first thing we learn, understatement is key. And messy is the go-to word. Effortless is another. It should really look like you put little to no thought into the matter of dressing. You just threw this ensemble together because you needed to wear something; or at least that’s what the looks says. Complete style with minimum effort.
This street-styled boho feel is nothing new. It’s deeply entrenched in the world’s perception of Parisian dressing. Just look at Francoise Hardy; the French singer’s style has barely changed since she released her debut album in 1962. And what she was wearing in 1962 could be worn nowadays without any reason for inhibition. Bridgette Bardot is another fantastic example.
Coco Chanel completely reinvented clothing, making a swift move from bustles and structure to easy short hair and shift dresses. Parisian clothing made life easier for the metropolitan woman, or at least that’s what it seemed to suggest,
The larger selling point of the look is that it’s not simply a way to dress, it’s a lifestyle. An idea that Vogue loves to suggest over and over again in video format. From The 5-Step French Girl Workout with Model Caroline de Maigret to Camille Rowe on French vs. American Girl Style we learn that a French girl doesn’t feel the need to put much effort into anything, other than ordering a coffee that is.
The business of counting calories seems to be almost unheard of. Instead, endless cups of coffee and glasses of wine will keep you going amidst the various butter-filled lunches and dinners. And somehow you won’t put on weight; after all, with all the walking around the city you are doing there is little need to exercise.
Plus, the French girl reads, or she reads and she doesn’t care about the spine of the book, either. Folded over double, she reads a book as she crosses the road, as she ignores her ringing phone and as she orders food. Her home is filled with perfectly flattering books, no clashing colours there at all. It’s as if she bought all her books to match, though surely that would be too much effort…
Make up is another defining aspect of the French girl look. Once again, it’s about keeping it effortless. Contouring doesn’t exist and foundation barely gets a word in; French women have flawless skin that only requires moisturiser.
When applying make up the most important thing to remember is that you should only ever emphasise one part of your face. The choice is yours, eyes or lips. If you choose lips go for a bold colour, and if you choose eyes be ready for a bold eye. Strong eyeliner smoky eyes for the night, or dark nude colours for the day.
And heels are also an optional look, if you can make a pair of white trainers work with your outfit, then go ahead. But throw on some kind of jacket because we’re still the littlest bit dressy.
Perhaps the most incredible thing about the French girl look is that it is almost unclear who makes money from marketing it. It’s not a single store, company or magazine that makes money on the profits. It’s just anyone who decides to jump on the bandwagon. Meanwhile we lap it up. Because frankly who doesn’t want a life that is allowed to look a little messy but is still considered flawless.