My lifelong love of French girl style began with Amélie in high school French class. She’s the reason I’m always on the lookout for the perfect chemise! In college French cinema class, I discovered Catherine Deneuve, Jean Seberg (honorary parisienne), and Jane Birkin (ditto), followed by more contemporary icons like Léa Seydoux and Mélanie Laurent.
Before coming here, I packed my suitcase with some trepidation because there was only so much room to bring my best chic when my hiking boots took up a good 20% of the space. But over the course of my sojourn in France, I’ve discovered that “French girl style” isn’t universal. For one, the streets are not filled to the brim with Melanie Laurent-lookalikes exuding cold, yet fragile allure. That is definitely a more parisienne archetype, and plus even in Paris every woman has her own individuality, bien sûr. In Grenoble (the Rhône-Alpes) and Nice (the Côte d’Azur), I’ve found that women dress very casually and not as though they’ve just stepped out of a moody New Wave film.
Even so, there *are* some elements of French girl style that hold true. Here I’ve gathered together the most authentic style tips, in sustainable (durable), organic (bio), eco-friendly (écologique), and vegan (vegan) versions. Vive la France!
While I have seen some French women with visible foundation, most are likely to let their natural complexion do the talking. Get rid of impurities and unveil baby-soft skin with French Girl Organics Rose Facial Polish, which contains fine ground organic powders and botanical oils for a gentle exfoliation. It’s especially good for problem-prone skin thanks to anti-bacterial Lavender and Patchouli Leaf. Certified organic and vegan.
Truth be told, probably the most quintessentially French red lipstick is one by Dior. But despite having vegan goddess Natalie Portman as a spokeswoman, Dior is neither cruelty-free nor vegan. We suggest this one by Chantecaille, a French-born, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free brand. Plus, the tube is just as luxurious as Dior.
The Dress-Up Dress-Down Sneaker
French women wear a lot of sneakers because sex appeal isn’t about teetering around in stilettos for some dudes, it’s about owning yourself. (Compare this to Manhattan where women tend to go for statement heels, day *and* night.) Sustainable French label Veja’s white vegan-leather Campo trainers uses rubber found in the Amazonian Rainforest for its soles. These go well with dresses or jeans or pants.
Dramatic yet Classic Trench Coat
I’m kind of in love with ethical brand Coralie Marabelle right now. The Parisian label makes everything in France and sources materials as close as possible in order to reduce emissions from shipping. Also, it produces a capsule collection each month instead of creating a vast inventory—which just makes business sense for such an indie house, but also has eco-friendly benefits. Coralie Marabelle occasionally does things like accept gently-used clothing to be re-made by the house’s atelier. Now, this trench coat is everything I love about French style. Classic, but the bi-color contrast and 2 different sashes (1 orange, 1 khaki/olive) makes it so original. Also, the proportions are just so sumptuous.
As a matter of fact, French girls dress down quite a lot. In New York, I used to put on dresses by Morgane Le Fay or Edun to go to sustainable fashion events or the ballet; over here that would look slightly crazy. (Although the French gars did appreciate my overkill style…muhahaha.) Anyway, this linen t-shirt by eco-friendly brand Ekyog is breezy and perfectly cut. Note: I asked a French person if it would be chic or cray-cray to buy a Breton stripe t-shirt, and the answer was that it’s a bit cheesy like wearing a beret and a neckerchief. So maybe just stick to these subtle stripes.
When casual French girls do opt for dresses, they tend to go for elegant and chic rather than overtly sexy. Instead of drawing attention with a body-skimming sheath, they might try something like this and unbuttoning one extra button and letting a gold pendant glitter just so on the décolletage. Yes, I’ve studied this like it’s my job. This one is made by sustainable “vegan silk” cupro.
French girls are pretty eclectic, which is really evident in how they decorate their apartments. These vibrant, 70s-inspired vegan platform sandals look just as good with jeans as with fishnet stockings and a scandalously short dress. And your heels won’t get stuck in cobblestones.
Head to throw this one in there—it’s unisex. Get these vegan boots for your guy and/or for yourself. Wear with messy hair, oversized white shirt, and skinny jeans tucked in (messily). So rock n’ roll but in a classic way.
Which one of these style elements are you going to try?
Photo: actumi via Instagram; respective brands; Peaceful Dumpling