What we can learn from French girl style

What do Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel and Clemence Poesy have in common? A strong sense of visual expression and individuality.


Clémence Poésy

Photo, Hendrik Ballhausen/Keystone Press.

It’s Bastille Day and what better way to celebrate France’s national holiday then to consider the chic republic’s most beloved export: French girl style.

From timeless icons like Coco Chanel and Brigitte Bardot to Jane Birkin and Catherine Deneuve to contemporary trendsetters like Lou Doillon, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Clémence Poésy — France boasts a continuous and seemingly endless cast of stylish women to inspire. No one looks quite the same or follows any kind of prescribed idea about what is fashionable or chic, but rather each embody the idea that style is personal.

Brigitte Bardot’s flowing blonde locks and black eyeliner have inspired a thousand imitators none of which touch the striking vision of the original. Contemporary stars like Charlotte Gainsbourg and sister Lou Doillon may eschew the fuss and sex kitten polish of Bardot, but both women make a strong visual impression that fuses a curated street style with old-fashioned glamour.  Gainsbourg channels a 70s rock-chick vibe, while Doillon shows the softer side of menswear.

Recently, Elle created a kind of primer on how to dress like a ‘French It Girl’. And if you’re interested in taking a page out of the French Girl’s Book of Style then there are some good tips. For example, you can be be bold and mix prints and textures like Coco Chanel. Or take a cue from Brigitte Bardot, who never went full sexpot, but mixed feminine pieces (full skirts) with tighter, more revealing garb (tight cleavage-enhancing sweaters) to forge her demure but powerfully provocative style.

Over at Vogue you can also take inspiration from a slideshow of some of today’s most chic French trendsetters in celebration of Bastille Day.

Scrolling through both sites’ tributes to French girl style, however, it becomes clear that the real strength of French style and French women lies in the celebration of individuality. To truly channel your inner French girl, avoid imitation and get in touch with your sense of self.



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