French designers are credited with enduring fashion favorites like the little black dress (Coco Chanel), stiletto heels (Roger Vivier), and the trapeze silhouette (Yves Saint Laurent). Indeed, the influence of the French on fashion remains undeniable to this day. Millions of women around the world seek to imitate that certain French je ne sais quoi, that effortlessly chic appeal that carries on throughout history.
In honor of the beginning of Paris Fashion Week, we celebrate 15 iconic French women and their remarkable sense of style.
Françoise Hardy is a French chanteuse of the highest order, and is no stranger to fashion. In fact, she is an influence on Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton. Cop her relaxed look by wearing your hair down and finishing your look with a fitted leather jacket.
Bardot was the embodiment of classic French style, but her bee-stung lips and gorgeous figure also emitted intrinsic sensuality. Be brave like Bardot and opt to tower above the competition in chic heeled boots.
One of Yves Saint Laurent’s favorite muses, Catherine Deneuve was the perfect fit for his menswear-inspired tuxedo jackets. Try on a white tuxedo jacket like Deneuve’s and pair with only a bralet for a look that spells seduction.
The world would be bereft of so much if it had not been for Coco Chanel and her courageous, pioneering ways. You will never go out of fashion in a Chanel tweed suit and, like all Chanel addicts, you’ll find they look glamorous for nearly any occasion.
Albeit of British nationality, actress Jane Birkin epitomized that French je ne sais quoi, which earned her a place in this feature. She is so iconic that she has an Hermès bag named after her. If you want to attempt the Birkin look, try flared, high-waisted denim and a simple tank or crop top.
Chic is never overdone and often understated, and no one understands that better than Audrey Tautou. Imitate the chic minimalism of Tautou’s style by trading in bright prints and patterns for quieter neutrals and monochrome separates.
Bruni loves ballet flats, and they help keep her tall frame grounded while also compensating for the five-inch height disparity between her and husband Nicolas Sarkozy. The ballet flat is timeless no matter your stature, so pair with everything from A-line skirts to slim-cut trousers.
Caroline de Maigret
Breton stripes were pioneered by the French, and now French icon and How to Be Parisian author Caroline de Maigret is making them fashionable again for the modern era. Try her casual-cool look by adapting the striped top in a wider pattern and pairing it with skinny jeans.
As an untraditional beauty, it is fitting that Gainsbourg follows an untraditional style blueprint. If you prefer to buck trends rather than embrace them, follow Gainsbourg’s uniform by donning a timeless leather jacket, slouchy tee, and skinny jeans.
Poésy possesses gamine grace and often opts for very feminine, flattering, and youthful looks. To capture her look, mix together schoolgirl style with classic French pieces like black-and-white separates.
Inès de la Fressange
Part of possessing great style is knowing how to work proportions, and Inès de la Fressange was born with this knowledge. Follow her lead by pairing chic cigarette pants with a boxy jacket or loose silk blouse.
With smart looks like printed blouses and pencil skirts, Seydoux is the closest the French have to “nerdy chic”. Imitate her smart red carpet know-how with a fun printed blouse and secretarial pencil skirt that hugs your curves.
Daughter of Jane Birkin, half-sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a style icon to millions – mixes tomboy pieces with feminine accents. Fortunately, this look is red-hot for summer, so just top it off with a wide-brimmed hat for the perfect Doillon look.
Marion Cotillard’s regal, polished style comes at the hands of Dior, but she naturally enhances the clothes with her perfect figure, coif, and accessorizing skills. If you’re following the Cotillard blueprint, you’ll need a perfect blowout, a glamorous gown, and understated makeup.
Vanessa Paradis is like a modern-day combination of Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin – with a gap-toothed grin and effortlessly sexy style. If you’re anything like her, you feel most comfortable in unconventional clothes. Rock the look that you’re sure no one else will have on, like a leather-and-lace frock.