How French Girl Style Is Different From The Way American Women Dress

Americans have long been interested in the French girl and with getting her look. But how do our two fashion styles differ? Let’s find out.

By Nicole Andre3 min read
french girl chic vs american style

To understand who the French girl is, you really have to understand where she started. It started with fashion icons like Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin (click their names for a breakdown of each of their styles), as well as Françoise Hardy and Charlotte Gainsbourg. These women really defined what it meant to have “French girl” style and paved the way for some of the modern French girls we see today.

Today’s French girls are the likes of Jeanne Damas and Camille Charrière. You’ll see their effortlessly cool looks, often updated versions of what their predecessors wore, all over Instagram and Pinterest. 

Social media isn't the only place that's taken with French girl chic. Just look at Emily in Paris. No, I’m not talking about Emily as her outfits in the show were often more of a cross between Sex in the City and Gossip Girl style. In contrast to Emily's overly trendy and complicated ensembles, Camille's effortless style is a much better representation of true French girl style.

Trends Versus Investments

As Franny Moizant of Vestiaire Collective explained, “Fast fashion is very big in the U.S., but in France, investment shopping is a way of life.” 

Fast fashion is not a problem limited just to the U.S., but I would agree that this is a much bigger problem for American women than French women. Not only is learning to invest in more expensive pieces better for the fashion industry and the environment, it will give you better style. How much money have you wasted over time on a bunch of pieces you never wear? It’s much better to invest in pieces you truly love and will wear time and time again.

The difference in following trends as opposed to investing in quality pieces comes down to the mindset Moizant talked about. She says that French women are very devoted to “uniform dressing.” One mindset about clothing that I think we’ve lost in America is that it’s okay if people know you for your clothes! Having someone recognize a certain sweater as being “your sweater” isn’t a bad thing. Take it from Camille Charrière, who will post wearing the same jacket or coat without thinking twice. It’s financially responsible and means the items you own will be of better quality.

Learning to go shopping with your own closet by getting creative with the clothes you already have is a much more French way to look at your wardrobe. I promise, you have something to wear!

Never Go All Casual

French women tend to get more dressed up on an average day than American women because they pair more formal clothing items with casual ones. It’s really easy to elevate your look this way without feeling overdressed! If a French woman is wearing sneakers, she is probably also wearing a dress. And a pair of jean shorts is easily dressed up with a blouse and flats.

Ditch the Stilettos

Another thing you’ll notice about the way that French women dress is you won’t often see them in super high high-heels. They’ll tend to go for block heels or lower heels if they do wear heels because French culture involves a lot more walking. And honestly, a chic flat is much more popular with the French girl, especially for a daytime look!

Change out Your Handbag for a Basket Bag

The modern French girl has followed in the shoes of Jane Birkin and embraced the basket bag. And while I’ll sometimes see this trending for a brief period with Instagram influencers here in the U.S., in France it’s actually timeless because women wear the bags every summer without fail. Just don’t be caught with one in the winter because they pretty much disappear after Labor Day.

Gym in Secret

French women may go to the gym, but they aren’t talking about it, and they certainly aren’t announcing it to the world by running around in workout gear everywhere they go. If you want to do it right, change when you get to the gym and when you leave. But just only wearing workout clothes to work out and not all day afterward is a good start to being a little more French.

Play It Neutral

French women tend to dress with a lot less color than American women do. Instead, they select high-quality neutrals that they can mix and match. The same applies to undergarments! Nobody but you will necessarily see, but it can be a helpful confidence boost.

Delicate Jewelry

While a stack of chunky bracelets can be fun, and if that’s your thing I say go for it, it’s not the way to get the French girl look. Instead, stick to more delicate jewelry that adds a delicate touch, but doesn’t scream look at me. 

Brand Labels Are a No-No

Where flashing your fancy designer label might be common in America, the French girl avoids this because it’s seen as tacky. Nobody needs to know how much you spent on your top. If they recognize it, fine. If they can tell it’s good quality, great. But flaunting the price tag of something you own just isn’t very ladylike or very French.

Jeans Shouldn’t Be Comfortable

Want advice from modern-day French girl Camille Charrière? As a guest star in Alexa Chung’s video on French style, she shared that jeans aren’t supposed to be comfortable. The best ones won’t have any elastic stretch. Also, notice that shirts are almost always tucked in.

Shopping As a Family Is the Way To Go

Camille Charrière shared that she thinks that French style is distinctive because it’s “very trendless.” And the reason for that might actually lie in the way they shop! For French women, the act of going to the mall with your mom or sister and “buying things that you’re going to put in your wardrobe and keep forever” remains strong. Family time and smart fashion choices at once. Count me in!

Closing Thoughts

I love aspects of both French and American style, but when it comes to putting together a chic look I think we all could learn a thing or two from the French girl. The main thing to remember is investment over trends. Remember that, and you’re golden!