French Style Icons And How We Can Learn From Them


French Style Icons

Do you have a style icon? Someone whose way of dressing informs and inspires your own style? Someone you wish you could be when you (finally) grow up?

Identifying style icons can really help you to develop your own style. Taking inspiration from looks you admire can assist you to build a wardrobe you love.

While style icons can originate from every country on the planet, France has certainly provided the world with a long and distinguished list. In fact, when I decided that I wanted to delve into French style icons, I had to make some very tough decisions about to who I considered my own style icons.

It’s almost unbelievable that stylish French women like Carine Roitfeld, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Caroline de Maigret, Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tatou and Catherine Deneuve haven’t made my list. But I had to draw the line somewhere, otherwise this piece could have gone on forever.

So who did I choose? And why?

My French Style Icons

Lou Doillon (pictured above at the 2016 So Frenchy, So Chic Music Festival in Melbourne). Daughter of Jane Birkin and half sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg (both style icons in their own right), this creative French songstress appears to have style pulsing through her veins. She can go from street style to haute couture easily and knows how to own her look. This may have something to do with arrogance, which in an interview with Vogue, Lou Doillon suggested was the secret to French style.

Emmanuelle Alt. The editor of French Vogue makes my list primarily due to the fact that she is absolutely committed to her signature style. In fact, Emmanuelle Alt does signature style like no other. Blazers. White shirts. Skinny jeans. Heels. This woman knows how to rock them all.

Inès de la Fressange. One time super model, muse to Karl Lagerfeld, author and business woman, it seems there is nothing Inès de la Fressange can’t do. I simply love her relaxed and youthful approach to style. She is another icon who knows how to make essential wardrobe pieces work for her at any age.

Clémence Poésy. I love the fact that the gorgeous French actress knows how to make classic style look modern. And if you are looking for lessons on how to weave an oversized or tweed jacket into your outfit, you should look no further than Clémence Poésy.

Coco Chanel. This icon really needs no introduction. And I probably don’t need to explain why she makes my list of French style icons. Let’s just say anyone who introduced both comfort and the little black dress to women’s wardrobes absolutely qualifies as an icon from my perspective. And I love the fact that she lived life on her own (stylish) terms.

While it is one thing to identify our style icons, it is quite another to work out how we might use them. It turns out that while we might love an icon’s look, sometimes we actually have no idea of how to emulate it. And no matter how much we love their style, there is a part of us that is acutely aware that copying their style may not be appropriate for a Tuesday afternoon trip to the supermarket. (Especially if we have a completely different body shape or colouring to our favourite icon.)

One of our biggest mistakes comes when we place our icons on a pedestal. When we think that their style is way beyond our reach. But this comes from thinking that we have to copy a look in its entirety rather than picking bits and pieces from their look to enhance our own style.

How Incorporate An Icon’s Style Into Your Own Look

  1. Spend some time studying your icon’s style. Really think about why you love a particular look. Is it the clothes themselves that you adore, or is it some other element? Perhaps you are drawn to their hair or makeup as much – or more – than you are their clothing choices.
  2. If it is the style of clothing that you love, chunk things down even further. Consider every component of their look. Is it the fit of the clothing? The accessories? The bohemian look?
  3. Once you are clear on what you like, you can start to add your icon’s style flavour to your own wardrobe. Whether it is a particular heel height or the cut of a jacket, let your icon inspire you to  make small additions and changes rather than trying to copy a whole look.

Following this technique ensures that your style is updated with things you love, but it remains uniquely you. And it allows you to add elements that suit you, without feeling like you are trying too hard.

Are you a fan of any of the French style icons? Or do your icons come from another part of the style world? And how do you incorporate their style into your own look? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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3 thoughts on “French Style Icons And How We Can Learn From Them

  • Sue

    I think “arrogance” is probably correct or perhaps confidence is a better word. We all have our own style but are often too shy to make the most of it. Perhaps the French have that confidence to rock what they where, that je ne sais quoi!!!

    • Janelle Post author

      Yes, I was interested in the word arrogance too Sue, and I agree that confidence may sum things up better. That said, when you are comfortable in your clothing choices you do send off a different vibe.

    • Alisa

      A French woman would use the word “attitude”, and I think that sums it up best. Attitude is an air of confidence (whether real or faked), expressed through physical posture and gestures, facial expression, and (probably least important) one’s clothing. Attitude verges on on but does not cross over into haughty (a great underused English word!)
      I agree that arrogant is too strong and too negative. A woman with attitude is still approachable, flirtatious, funloving, feminine.
      The best American equivalent that I can think of would be to say about a woman that “She OWNS it!”