Do you ever wonder why all these articles about the French way to wear a specific coat or cardigan are taking over our inboxes? As a French woman myself, I can’t help but giggle at the idea that we wear our clothes better because we were born in what we consider the capital of fashion. Honestly to me, it’s the same as saying all Italian woman know how to make the perfect pasta, or that the English man is a professional football and rugby player. Ok, I’m getting out of my depth here, but this explains why I wanted to look into the history of this idea that all French woman are it girls and why we’re still using this angle to sell fashion.
Try it yourself, Google: how to dress French and you’ll see hundreds of articles such as How to dress like a French woman or What I’ve learned about French style, or even The 12 secrets to dressing like a French woman. This spiked my curiosity – what if I replace French with Italian because let’s face it, walking around in Milan on a Saturday afternoon beats going to Paris Fashion Week in a heartbeat.
Well let me tell you, the results were much less glamorous. How to disguise yourself as an Italian woman was the first article I found, and it was all based on ridiculous stereotypes. The rest of the articles were not from reliable sources with loads of examples of how no Italian women go out without their alluring hats or manicured nails. So why are there so many articles on the French over any other nationalities?
You’ll be happy to hear that I have a few theories but please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the topic in the comments below! Everyone in the history of fashion has somewhat of an idea of what French style is. Think Brigitte Bardot with her gorgeous and full hair smoking a cigarette, or Catherine Deneuve posing for Yves Saint Laurent in a flattering suit jacket. And then there are the younger icons such as young Vanessa Paradis with her sexy yet innocent smirk, and Lou Doillon, the arrogant-looking supermodel who breathes Paris style perfection.
My first theory is that the world idealizes and sexualizes French women because of these famous sex bombs that took over the magazine front covers, and seduced the most influential designers and photographers of our time. But this way of reasoning is not only outdated but also ultra stereotypical. Sure, we might love our baguettes, smoke a lot and seem to wear a lot of navy, but have we forgotten about all the other international fashion icons? Does Jackie Kennedy not ring a bell? Or Audrey Hepburn?
Another aspect of this phenomenon to look at is how the French, or should I say, Parisian ladies are influenced by their city’s beauty. I might be biased here, but I feel like a lot of people would consider it a crime to wear an unsophisticated outfit in the streets of Paris; not to mention a loss for the perfect picture opportunities. There’s undoubtedly something about Paris itself that makes us want to look and feel good, but also fit into that unspoken language about French standards of style.
You’ll see gorgeously dressed mothers picking up their kids from school as if they were going out for dinner, and who knows they might be heading out later but it doesn’t matter for them. The last thing any mother wants is to feel unaccepted and therefore socially disregarded in front of their kids, and that my friend, is a strong social pressure we all endure due to our standard of living.
Other than the higher standard of living, I also believe that French women throughout history have had a specific fashion standard to follow. I myself am a living proof of that social pressure, and I would hate to make people think that I am not a real Parisian woman for not dressing the part when I am out with friends. Though, is this pressure something we put on ourselves or is it more contrived norms of being from France? Any foreigner that has lived in France will tell you their style changed whilst living there but would never blame it on social pressure.
Finally, the last characteristic of French beauty is one that I am particularly fond of – the fact that we are natural. If you look at Lou Doillon or the other ladies mentioned above, they all share that natural flair of an effortless head to toe flawless style. This is probably one of the standards of beauty that sets the French most apart from the British or the Americans. The French don’t overdo anything, including their foundation and eyeliner.
There are hence a plethora of reasons why the world would consider the French woman’s style to be special, but I also find the pattern quite unreasonable. Let’s not forget that women around the world have amazing and unique style, and we should never base perfect style on a nationality.
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