From Brigitte Bardot and Coco Chanel to Marion Cotillard and Clemence Poesy, gallic girls have long been renowned for their flawless style and inimitable cool. Effortlessly undone and forever topping best dressed lists around the globe, we’ve narrowed down the secrets of French fashion to five key wardrobe rules, guaranteed to lend timeless appeal to your rails.
Never underestimate the eternal power of a classic Breton. First introduced as the uniform for the French navy in 1858, it was Coco Chanel who gave the stripes their sartorial kudos, incoporating them into her nautical collection in 1917. Since then, we’ve seen everyone from Kate Moss to Alexa Chung filling their wardrobes with these tops, but it’s still the French ladies winning us over. Look to Brigitte Bardot and Marion Cotillard for inspiration. High-waisted trousers and a cardigan will give you true retro glamour, while Marion proves that off-duty style needn’t be scruffy.
Get Your Flats On
French girls seem to pair their heels with their hemlines. The shorter the length, the flatter their shoes, ensuring they’re never over-done. Clemence Poesy is a prime example of a flattie champion, mixing her mannish brogues and cute, buckled patent beauties work with everything from Chanel separates and leather trousers to Burberry coats. You might have thought sky-high heels were a prerequisite for the FROW, but as Clemence proves, flats can have an even greater impact on your outfit. Good news for our feet, then!
Back To Black
While we love nothing more than a bit of expert colour-blocking, the fash pack across the Channel are huge fans of top-to-toe black. It might be something you thought to avoid for fear of looking too sombre, but as Carine Roitfeld, Juliette Binoche and Vanessa Paradis show, sometimes nothing is chicer. What’s important is the cut of your clothes coupled with interesting details, such as flattering draping, sheer panels, sharp tailoring and luxe textures. Now that’s what you call a fail-safe formula.
Summer Sex Appeal
When the sun comes out, French icons like Marion and Audrey know that the sexiest way to tackle the heat is in a demure summer frock. From a kooky print by Chalayan to Audrey’s Valentino number (also spotted on Alexa Chung), it’s all about simplicity and minimal accessories. Thankfully, the high street is stocked with feminine silhouettes and pretty patterns, with spaghetti strap details and Bardot necklines. Bring on the sunshine.
The French Trench
Practically synonymous with French girl cool, the trench coat is a classic cover-up that you’ll keep forever. Our trench idol is actress Melanie Laurent who, whether sporting an all-white wonder on the Burberry FROW, or a classic beige beaut, Melanie proves how versatile this style staple really is. Wear yours open over jeans and a basic tee, or belted over shift dresses and classic courts. Either way, the high street has you covered.