The trademark image of the Française lives on to this day. And we Brits have been fascinated for decades, ever since the heyday of the (non-)Parisienne par excellence: Jane Birkin.
The French have a joke: how do you spot an English girl? By the length of her skirt. Or her level of intoxication. Their wit knows no bounds. And how do you spot a Parisienne, you may ask? Why by her straight leg jeans of course! See also her finely cut blouse, her exquisite maroquinerie, her perfectly disheveled hair … you get the picture. Ever a slave to French fashion and in my quest to blend in with my 3rd arrondissement bourgeois-bohème neighbours, I may or may not have invested in a pair. I fear they may have grafted to my skin.
Such is the power of French-girl style. And more specifically the blogueuses of France. Anyone with the slightest interest in street style and the most minor of Instagram addictions will be aware of the likes of Jeanne Damas, whose iconic line Rouje routinely and justifiably sells out like petits pains, as we say this side of the Channel, and Sabina Socol. So cool is she that one suspects a whiff of nominative determinism. The antidote to trends, there is a timelessness to French style which never allows itself to be swayed by the latest fads. Amid laid-back shots of paired-down denim, fresh-faced skin, and delicate gold jewellery, these women have crafted a veritable modus vestiendi. Excuse the neologism.
“Taste is undoubtedly subjective. But if there is one thing living in Paris has taught me, it’s that good taste is universally recognised.”
Damas, with her self-trimmed fringe, her trademark straw basket and her impossibly feminine silhouettes is what we expect from our Parisienne, sealed by her perfectly blotted pout. The secret, as ever, an elaborately complex application (featuring fingers, smudging and cotton buds) masquerading under the guise of simplicity. Her philosophy, while a tad smug, is what we buy into. It confirms every suspicion we had that less is more, that beauty really does come from within, that French pharmacies are a sort of Mecca, and any other age-old adage parroted by our mothers. Captured striding along the banks of the Seine, perusing the merchandise of the bouquinistes, or simply reclining en terrasse, nonchalance seeps from her every pore. The recipe for success? Never trying too hard. God, how frustrating.
Socol, on the other hand, embodies a less studied, more undone posture, all the while never straying too far from the Parisienne’s staples. Citing a good pair of high-waisted jeans as every girl’s go-to item, she too extols the message of simplicity seemingly absent from our anglophone wardrobes. The impossible marriage of impeccable styling and effortless ease; delicate femininity and androgynous tailoring. To say French style is a perfect oxymoron is an understatement. How is it that one can look polished but not preened?
Repetitious you may call this. A self-perpetuating feed of Gallic it-girls recycling a stripped-back palette of denim, Breton-stripes and muted prints. Yes, some call this a uniform. Yes, some say it quashes individuality. But this simplicity is deceptive, and this argument somewhat reductive. Call me boring, unimaginative, dictatorial in my tastes, but I can’t help but admire the unfairly-labelled homogeneity of French style. Taste is undoubtedly subjective. But if there is one thing living in Paris has taught me, it’s that good taste is universally recognised. There is nothing offensive, gratuitous, provocative about French style. It may not be your cup of tea, but there is no doubting the elegance of a well-put-together ensemble. Behind every Parisian there is an unshakable confidence in his or her own personal brand. They know what suits them, and they have exploited this to the max.
Photo by EuamoBrasil