Why Am I Obsessed with French Girl Style?

Why is it that, when I Google “French Girl style,” all the hits are the same? The outfits always consist of a white T-shirt or navy-striped top with a crisp, black jacket, and culottes or high-waisted jeans—and a red lip, of course.

The look is simplistic, classy and has stood the test of time. It is the model that American and Canadian women use to emulate elegance for any occasion—because somehow, our neighbours across the pond are the definition of elegance, in our eyes. A first date? You better believe I’m pulling out my high-waisted denim and Oxfords. Shopping trip with the girls? Let me dress up this basic white tee with a quick knot at the waist, low bun and red lip. You get the picture.

But, where did it all begin? Do you know the origin story of the image of a French girl?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and reflect on all of the French women and brands who shaped my understanding of Parisian style.

 

1. Madeline

The girl who walked in two straight lines always wore either a blue or yellow trench coat with a matching hat. I would also argue that Madeline’s goofy, mischievous personality contributed to the idea that French women’s style should be effortless and a little tomboyish.

2. Louis Vuitton

We’ve all seen the brown and tan monogrammed bags. This brand’s look is to stick to fall neutrals and earth tones. How did this contribute to French girl style, you might ask? Well, there’s a reason we splurge on LV bags. They go with any outfit, and their elegant and sexy reputation as a brand elevates any basic T-shirt/jean outfit that is synonymous with French style.

3. Balenciaga

While originally a Spanish company, it now has French owners and is a much sought-after show at Paris Fashion Week.

 

 

4. Balmain

Created by Pierre Balmain in 1945, it is now run by the social media savvy Olivier Rousteing. You may recognize him from snaps of him hanging with Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, Beyonce and so many more celebs. How has this youthful, opulent, haute couture brand influenced French girl style? Perusing their 2018 collection gives you a good sense. Nearly the entire collection is shades of grey and black, and while it looks simple, each piece is incredibly detailed, playing on the idea that sticking to basics is best, much like the culture of Parisian style. Plus, the horizontal striped T-shirts—I mean, that’s the essence of dressing French, am I right?

5. Saint Laurent

True story: Yves Saint Laurent was the intern of Christian Dior until his passing, when Saint Laurent took over the brand. In the 1960s, he left Dior and created his own brand, with which he introduced the first tuxedo for women. His collections greatly shaped French women’s style by making androgyny cool, an aspect still apparent in our understanding of how French women dress today because of the ever-present blazer.

6. Celine

What started as a line of children’s shoes took speed and became a luxury fashion label due to the support of Princess Caroline and Prince Albert of Monaco. The line has consistently been made of oversized, flowy garments (that is, until the 2018 collection’s release). This casual approach to fine dressing has cemented the idea that classy dressing can be effortless.

 

7. Chloé

This unapologetically feminine brand has been the helm for many designers’ careers. Existing on the pastel side of the colour spectrum, it lets the colour and shape speak for the garment and avoids fussy patterns. This plays into the no-fuss French fashion trend we all know and love.

8. Dior

Perhaps the most famous French fashion brand of all is Dior. While the entire range of Dior products are elegant and classy, it was the launch of Dior’s eight-piece red lipstick collection that marked the French girl’s signature lip shade for years to come. In more recent years, their boxy purse has become the It Bag of all upper-class women, with Diana, Princess of Wales sporting it time and time again on royal tours. The brand even renamed the purse Lady Dior in honour of HRH in reference to her maiden name, Lady Diana Spencer. This purse contributed to the French look because it demonstrated that you don’t need an excess of purses to be fashionable. The Lady Dior proved that one structured bag can enhance any outfit, day to night.

9. Givenchy

You may know Givenchy as the brand that dressed Meghan Markle for her wedding to Prince Harry. It also happens to be the brand behind Audrey Hepburn’s iconic black dress in the opening credits of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While Coco Chanel may have introduced the LBD, Givenchy claimed the black dress in this cinematic moment and made it the most recognizable dress in the world. So, if you thought Audrey Hepburn and all things Givenchy were the picture of class, it only makes sense that it’s a French brand.

 

10. Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel is infamous for introducing the suit to women’s wardrobes. So when you attribute blazers to the quintessential French girl, you have Coco to thank. She also introduced the world to the little black dress as a closet staple.

11. Isabel Marant

A newer brand to the game is Isabel Marant. Debuting in the 90s, this brand is the quintessential casual cool girl with its popular basics like their jeans and T-shirts. Could you get any more French girl chic?

12. Lanvin

What started as a hat shop in the 19th century has grown into the oldest fashion house to date. Known for its feminine beaded designs and detailed embroidery, Lanvin quickly became the dress brand for all upper-class French women. It is best known for its “cigarette pants” and fluid evening dresses.

 

13. Louise Follain

Moving away from brands, this French model and influencer has been praised by Vogue, bloggers and Instagram followers alike. While her wardrobe does consist of designer pieces, she doesn’t stray from her jeans and tee roots, going for casual over opulent. She lets the assemblage of her clothes be the star of her show rather than the abundance of monograms. She is understated, and that’s how her social media presence reaffirms the French reputation of being effortless.

14. Audrey Tautou

I used to watch her in French movies to support my French immersion education. She is quirky, has doll-like eyes and approaches her style with a laissez-faire attitude.

 

So, what is the takeaway from this galant list of French influencers? Basically, the image of a French girl was not born overnight. It was sculpted over hundreds of years, with one designer introducing a hit trend and a woman reinforcing that trend and establishing it as a symbol of class and effortless elegance. The repetitive nature of French artists has cemented Parisian style as the epitome of cool girl chic that the rest of the world clamours to emulate.

Now, over to you! How do you express your inner French girl? Comment below your favourite French influences from this list.

 

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