This might be a sweeping generalisation but French women are just so chic. They seem to have that easy, timeless, classic style that never dates. As a lady of a certain age who still swoons at a pair of Nike Air Jordans and hasn’t quite mastered the art of walking in heels, I’m not claiming I can pull off these slightly more grown-up-lady looks everyday. But once in a while I like to give it a go and, when I do, I look towards some of my favourite French style icons for inspiration.
I’m also very pleased to note that five out of these six women are well over 40, proving once again that age is definitely NOT a hindrance to looking good. If only brands would catch on to this. I’ve noticed recently whilst browsing Instagram that some of my personal favourite clothing brands (naming no names*) are suddenly using much younger models in their content. Sometimes it would be nice for them to realise that those of us who are a bit older can still look good in their clothes.
But enough complaining (for now – I’m sure I will complain about this again soon). Here is how to do ‘French Girl Style’ at any age…
Had to start with Isabel Marant. If I had all the money in the world, I would spend a lot of it on her clothes. Like every good fashion designer, she is quite clearly her own muse as she seems to dress mainly in her own collections. She also makes me not worry so much about going grey, as never has there been a woman who wears her natural hair colour with such style. It’s also LONG, proving another fashion ‘rule’ wrong, that women over a certain age need to cut their hair. You don’t need to have the funds to take inspiration from Marant. But if you were to buy one piece from the designer, I would go for a classic Marant oversized blazer. It will pay for itself eventually as you will wear it forever.
1. Seventy & Mochi Victoria ruffle blouse
2. Isabel Marant Etoile Charley herringbone wool jacket
3. The Outnet Frame ‘Le Slouch’ tapered jeans
4. Stradavarius black studded belt
5. New Look black suedette pointed stilettos
6. Isabel Marant suede crossbody bag
Emmanuelle Alt, for those who don’t know her, was (until recently) the editor of French Vogue and a stalwart of fashion week street style. Her look is less casual than Isabel Marant: she often favours tonal dressing, all black or all navy (or a mix of both, that works, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). I think all navy is just so chic. It’s also an easy one to recreate, as navy will go with most skin tones and is generally a bit more flattering than an all-black ensemble.
1. Cos pure cashmere turtleneck jumper
2. Claire Hill Designs geometric gold vermeil hoop earrings
3. The Outnet Claudie Pierlot double breasted wool blend pea coat
4. M&S kick flare cropped high waisted jeans
5. Capri quilted leather flap bag
6. Hush Tallis leather pointed boots
Actress and singer Jane Birkin, her who the Hermes Birkin bag was named after. Look how nonchalantly she throws hers around. On the floor! Near the dog! Covered in stickers! But if you are cool enough to have one of the world’s most famous (and expensive) bags named in your honour then you can do whatever the hell you like with it. At 75, her style is now less waif-like-femme-fatale and more cosy, casual chic. Something we can all pull off I think. Teddy coat, Converse, loose jeans, fancy bag. Done.
1. La Redoute recycled grandad collar jumper
2. Jigsaw Adela pebble leather tote bag
4. Abercrombie & Fitch wool blend coat
5. Converse Chuck 70 vintage canvas trainers
The youngest of the group, Jeanne Damas, early fashion blogger and now founder of French fashion brand Rouje. Vogue once described her as “the Paris girl personified”, while W magazine included her on their list of ‘the most iconic French girls of all time’. Don’t ask me who else was on that list, I stole that fact from Wikipedia. I just love her style: think mid-heel ankle boots, cropped jeans and the odd Breton.
2. Gucci Blondie leather mini bag
4. Reiss Bailey regular high waist straight jeans
5. Esska Sassy leather platform boots
INES DE LA FRESSANGE
Inès de La Fressange, former model, Chanel muse, and designer is still, at 65, a style icon. I always check out her collections for Uniqlo. I think they come out a couple of times a year and always include a few good stripes, blazers and classic white shirts. Her personal style is very similar – great blouses, smart coats, flat shoes and excellent accessories.
1. Hush Viola frill cotton shirt
2. Coach Tabby tan pebble leather bag
3. Karen Millen virgin wool double breasted coat
5. Ganni jewell leather loafers
CAROLINE DE MAIGRET
Finally, I had to include Caroline de Maigret because she single-handedly makes me think I might want a new fringe cut every few months. But then I remember, I don’t really have the long, straight hair that can deal with that. More like a mass of frizz that needs to be tamed every morning with 17 different products and a very expensive hair dryer (I recently splashed out on a Dyson Airwrap and, while I’m still getting to grips with it, it’s already worked wonders on my hair, I love it). But back to Caroline. Go for excellent wool coats and blazers, teamed with tailored trousers and classic boots or simple trainers.
1. & Other Stories relaxed chest pocket shirt
2. Sezane Milo black snakeskin effect leather bag
3. Mango wool mix speckled grey overcoat
4. Cos wool wide leg tailored trousers
5. Adidas black nubuck Gazelle trainers
I hope this gives you a bit of French-Chic inspiration for the week ahead.
*OK, I will name names, Boden and ME + EM. Your customers are not waif-like 20 year olds.