Leah Buckle explores the new return to French trends that has crept up on us, and why we’re obsessed with Gallic grace.

Summer 2018 has seen the revival of Parisian chic. Think slouchy t-shirts tucked into cropped jeans with just-out-of-bed perfectly tousled locks and a minimal make-up look. Floral wrap skirts paired with oh-so-crisp white trainers and a little basket bag. The effortless chic that we all aspire to.

It seems that the French have always had a reputation for being at the centre of fashion. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were renowned for their jewel encrusted finery and penchant for luxury. Even after the French Revolution and the end of monarchical excess, Paris quickly regained its standing as the capitale du mode. By the mid-1900s the first department store had opened in Paris and the Parisienne woman had become a cultural phenomenon, famously depicted by painters such as Renoir and Tissot.

However, it wasn’t until the early 1900s with the advent of designers such as Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel that we see the beginning of the French style that is so iconic today. Poiret, a costume designer and couturier, abandoned the corsets that had been so fundamental to women’s fashion in the previous centuries, preferring looser silhouettes and simpler designs. Building on this new trend, Chanel discarded a typically feminine style of dress, introducing androgyny to women’s design. Chanel revolutionised female fashion both aesthetically and philosophically, famously stating that: “Fashion has to do with the ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” In her striped Breton top and loose trousers Chanel was redefining what it meant to be a woman; configuring a new way for women to interact with the world around them. No longer confined to restricting clothing, the French style heralded by Chanel was about female presence in public life, in the work place, and on the street.

The fashion icons Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot, whose street style remains as influential today as it was in the 1960s and ‘70s, built upon Chanel’s subversive femininity. Birkin was a pioneer of the androgynous look. Her go-to outfit: a pair of flared trousers and a t-shirt, or even one of Serge’s shirts. Many have tried, but Birkin truly made stealing your boyfriend’s shirt a fashion statement.  Bardot, more classically feminine in style, was a likely to be found in a shockingly short dress as a highpower skirt-suit. What these two icons had in common and what makes their sense of style so endlessly resonant is simplicity. They were glamourous without all the glitz.

The French Girl Renaissance we’re experiencing now is a testament to the timelessness of this classic look. The pictures of Bardot or Birkin that regularly appear on my Instagram feed could have easily been taken by a fashion blogger equipped with a vintage-looking filter.

Brands such as & OTHER STORIES, ROUJE and RÉALISATION PAR have capitalised on this trend, turning it into every It Girls’ uniform. Jeanne Damas, the founder of ROUJE and part-time model, lives and breathes French style. Her Instagram feed
features pictures of her lounging in the French Riviera in beautiful silk dresses from her clothing line or out and about on the streets of Paris, perched outside a coffee shop in straight leg jeans and a simple blouse, somehow oozing sexiness and chic without trying at all. The French have mastered the art of effortless glamour and we can but try to emulate it.

How to achieve the French Girl Look:

Simplicity is key. An outfit should never have too many patterns, ruffles or colours. Your statement pieces should have room to shine. A plain t-shirt or bandeau top looks great with a ditsy skirt, and a floaty blouse is perfect paired with jeans or black trousers. Less is most definitely more.

Minimal makeup. Think statement lip, sun-kissed skin and not much else.

Tousled tresses. Perfectly imperfect post-beach waves. If only we could live in Southern France all year round.

Live in jeans. Jeans can be dressed up with a nice blouse, a few accessories and statement heels. Or, dressed down with a t-shirt and trainers. The trick is to find a fit that is not too skinny and not too loose. The straight leg is always your friend.

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