Back in February, Paris Fashion Week was overrun with reinterpretations of French-girl style, that endless, and exalted source of fashion inspiration. Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri imagined what a typical French woman might wear today and Louis Vuitton’s interpretation of the modern French look included illuminated glasses. Then, again, in July, the couture shows zeroed in on the French-girl fashion (Chanel’s version was classic: little black dresses, tweed coats, and Mary Janes for a walk along the Seine). The reoccurring theme proved the French’s approach to fashion and beauty still entices in 2023, long after many of its famous pioneers—Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, and even Marie Antoinette among them—introduced the concept to the rest of the world.
But the runways also proved that French-girl style is ever-evolving and very much open to interpretation beyond your average Breton stripes, gamine suiting, and intricately tied silk scarves (although they are still very much a part of it). Below, we spoke to four stylish women who live and work in Paris about how they interpret French dressing in their daily lives—and you can, too.
Sylvie Mus, Stylist
Sylvie Mus, a wardrobe stylist by trade, was born in Rwanda and grew up in Finland, but has lived in Paris full-time for the past two years. And in those 24 months, she has perfected the modern approach to French girl fashion to a T, filling her closet with what she calls “the foundations” of French-girl style: “great denim, timeless basics like a well-tailored blazer, silk slip dresses, and kitten heels.” But, she notes, there is an eclectic side to these well-heeled women. “We love to have fun with bold accessories,” Mus says.
“There was a time when the French girl style was perceived, from the outside, as an image of a romanticized woman in a floral dress carrying a straw bag,” she says. “Today, it has evolved into a more timeless and easily approachable aesthetic. It’s luxurious in a subtle way, and individuality plays a big role. Every French girl has her own way of interpreting this style. That’s what keeps it interesting, but that’s also what will keep it evolving.”
When she isn’t pulling looks for European fashion editorials, Mus likes to shop brands like Rouje and Sézane, which she says create “classic French pieces. I also like to source from old Céline, Phoebe Philo’s era. And being a Scandi girl at heart, I’m still shopping from brands like Toteme and By Malene Birger.”
Anne-Victoire Lefevre, Creative Consultant
For Anne-Victoire Lefevre, who has worked in fashion since she was 20 years old, the French-girl cliché looks a little something like this: “The beret, the marinière striped shirt, cardigan, or floral dress, with a baguette under her arm, seated at a Parisian café terrace,” she explains over e-mail. “Today, I think everything has changed.” She stresses that the heart of the French-girl aesthetic is, in fact, a lifestyle. French women, for instance, pursue less trend-driven styles than most Americans do. “There isn’t really a French style, but more a French attitude,” she explains. “French girls know how to be classic and sexy at the same time. We dare more and play with length, transparency, materials, and colors. But the base always remains unique, and the concept is to look effortless. If you wear timeless pieces, it’s easy to stay in the game.”
Lefevre was adopted from Taiwan when she was just a few months old by French parents, and has lived in Paris since she was a baby. Now, she calls the hip 11th arrondissement (“my fave one!” she adds) home—where she picks up inspiration from chic women she sees in the neighborhood. “I can always recognize a French woman in a foreign country,” Lefevre adds. “She is naturally elegant and never too much. The style is sober: neutral colors and no logos, just perfect shape and quality.”
The creative consultant is a big fan of New Age vintage shops like Bobby Paris, but covets French classics like Carel, the footwear brand. “I love Maison Cléo for their commitment to a ’90s touch, Surprise for their mohair sweaters, Musier for the perfect summer dress, and APC for their denim range,” she says. “In the future, French-girl style will always stay. It’s like an institution. But there are more nuances than just one recognizable look. There will always be a ‘French way,’ but not one style. That would be so sad!”
Annie Brooks, Model and Content Creator
Annie Brooks, better known by her social media moniker @Sausagelord, takes a maximalist’s approach to French-girl dressing. The stylist and content creator is from Australia originally, but has spent the past year splitting her time between London and Paris. That international mindset has given her a diverse and eclectic window into what makes French-girl style today; Brooks can often be seen on Instagram and TikTok styling herself in looks that call for a candy-colored ring on every finger, a pair of Vibram toe shoes, or a Chopova Lowena skirt with her favorite MSCHF boots. Still, she says “a more classic approach to French-girl style is to opt for elevated essentials—think: well-cut denim, tailored blazers, and quality ballet flats.”
These days, the aesthetic endures. “In my opinion, French-girl style puts emphasis on simple yet classic style and effortless and natural beauty,” Brooks says. “The ethos is still the same in 2023, just slightly more progressive. I don’t see it straying too far from what it currently is—the French stay traditional.”
A typical Parisian shopping trip for Brooks? “Vintage stores and flea markets are always my go-to,” she says, calling out Marché Dauphine, Headless vintage, and Opulence consignment store as a few favorites. But to glean fashion inspiration, Brooks looks to a couple French style mainstays. “Sonia Rykiel and Marine Serre are two of my favorites,” she notes. And, of course, there’s some British influence coming through as well: “Alexa Chung circa the mid 2000s did French-girl style so well.”
Franny Monzemba, Owner of Yomokoï Vintage
“French-girl style has seen an enormous evolution over the past few years,” 46-year-old Franny Monzemba, who owns the pop-up vintage shop Yomokoï, tells W. Monzemba, who worked as an accounting assistant before she decided to pursue her love of vintage by opening Yomokoï, has lived in France for the past 40 years, growing up on the outskirts of Paris but moving to the city proper at 18 years old.
“Having ‘French-girl style’ really doesn’t mean anything anymore today,” the mother of a 22-year-old says. “But generally, it means adopting a timeless and elegant approach.” That calls for what Monzemba refers to as “the pillars of a French wardrobe”: an oversized white t-shirt, raw denim, a perfect trench. “Opt for neutral colors and quality materials—without forgetting the accessories that play an important role!” she adds. “Silk scarves, quality handbags, timeless sunglasses, and simple jewelry are popular choices.”
“French style is often associated with a simple aesthetic that transcends fleeting trends,” she says. “French women are known for their ability to combine classic pieces with more electric elements.” That credo applies to the now as well—individuality has played an increasingly important role in this modern approach to French-girl fashion, which is directly influenced by the country’s current diverse diaspora. “Today’s French-girl style is brought about by cultural diversity and the adoption of elements from different countries—blending styles, patterns, and cuts, and reflecting a more holistic and inclusive aesthetic. French girl style is accessible to everyone, regardless of nationality, and everyone can make this aesthetic their own.”
When she isn’t stocking the shelves of her own shop, Monzemba wanders Paris’s famed shopping districts like the Marais and Saint-Germain-des-Prés to discover unique boutiques “and unearth classic French clothing,” she says. But for style inspiration, she looks to an unexpected star of the Real Housewives franchise. “I really like Jenna Lyons for her chic and sophisticated look—which is inspired by French aesthetics,” she adds.