Copywriter & Freelance Creative

Notes on French style

I’m so tired and ill but I was talking about French style with some friends today and I keep thinking about it. Really, though, ‘French style’? What French style? Not all Frenchies dress in the same way. I do know what people mean when they talk about ‘French style’, though; they’re thinking of insouciance, slim fit troos, Isabel Marant, Breton stripes and trophy jackets (worn with skinny jeans, kitten heels and a plain slouchy tee, naturellement). But that’s just a scratch-on-the-surface take on French style. Actually, no, that’s just Emmanuelle Alt’s style.

I’m friends with one of those intimidating gals who always exude class and elegance — even when wearing jeans, of all things — and I often wonder whether this is because she’s half French and has, perhaps, inherited the innate sense of style that French girls supposedly have and that the English are perennially trying to emulate. But what do they have that we don’t? It’s that certain je ne sais quoi, of course. If you don’t get me, turn to Godard’s Nouvelle Vague films. My best girl Hannah made me watch some of them when I was hungover and losing my mind and, well, they made me really happy (and pretentious). They taught me lots of things — namely, how to be cool and how it’s OK to be depressed as long as you’re underweight and well dressed and show no exterior signs of your interior struggle — and they showed me exactly why we all love French girls. In A bout de souffle, Jean Seberg isn’t wearing anything fancy but she just seems so chic. Why? Because she has such a great attitude. She’s confident. She’s cool. Quickly, it all becomes clear that, peut-être, the key element of French style is less about the clothes, more about the woman beneath them.

If anything, when you think of all of the French women who stick to their relatively safe BCBG wardrobes, we Brits are much better dressers. And yeah, sure, Alexa Chung obviously references Jane Birkin and the like quite a lot when she’s getting dressed, but it’s the way she puts the clothes together that counts. Oh, and as much as I want to be Emmanuelle Alt (or the archetypal Isabel Marant woman) when I’m 40, the words ‘white denim’ currently only pass my lips when I’m referring to that cool band that I like quite a lot. Yep.