It's downright cliché to say there's a certain je ne sais quoi about French-girl style. But as tired as the acknowledgement may be, we still can't seem to get enough of that special something. French women have a way of making chic look effortless and perfectly polished style bewitchingly nonchalant. We'll never tire of French girls' insouciant approach to style and may spend our lives striving to become fluent in it. Until we succeed in getting dressed and stepping out in the world with the same stylish savoir faire, we can seek inspiration from the greats who've proven their prowess in exuding this coveted style.
While we certainly have our fill of contemporary French-girl fashion muses—e.g., Jeanne Damas, Camille Rowe, Garance Doré, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Lou Doillon—there's nothing quite like the style embodied in cinema's French New Wave, or nouvelle vague, of the 1960s. These bombshells lit up the silver screen while igniting a series of enviable looks. Add these titles to your lazy weekend queue for no shortage of sartorial inspiration to fuel all your Francophile tendencies.
Click to see the cinematic selections that showcase the reigning classics of French-girl style.
The Movie: And God Created Woman (Et Dieu… Créa la Femme) (1956)
Roger Vadim's box-office hit made Brigitte Bardot a star. Her character, Juliette, attracts the attention and affections of the men of St. Tropez while showing off her famous figure in a series of silhouettes designed by Pierre Balmain.
The Movie: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964)
Set to Michel Legrand's over-the-top score, Jacques Demy's colorful Palme d'Or winner was Catherine Deneuve's breakout film, in which she set the precedent for polished French-girl style.
The Movie: Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim) (1962)
Jeanne Moreau wore a lot of her own clothes in the filming if François Truffaut's New Wave masterpiece. Her character Catherine's experimentation with tomboy style and even crossdressing became iconic, along with classic striped tops and oversize sweaters.
Les Productions Artistes Associés
The Movie: Viva Maria! (1965)
Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau redefined the notion of French bombshell when they teamed up in Louis Malle's comedic adventure film wearing over-the-top costumes designed by Pierre Cardin.
Georges de Beauregard
The Movie: Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) (1960)
Jean Seberg became the epitome of gamine fashion as the stylish expat Patricia in Jean-Luc Godard's first feature-length work. Sporting a pixie cut, slim-cut black pants, ballerina flats, and a series of simple tops (including iconic Breton stripes), Seberg became an instant fashion icon, setting a standard for style that still exists today.
Robert et Raymond Hakim
The Movie: Beauty of the Day (Belle de Jour) (1967)
In Luis Buñuel's provocative drama, Catherine Deneuve donned costumes designed by Yves Saint Laurent, who used opposing variations of colors and fabrics to communicate the very different personas her character plays with in the film.
Films Georges de Beauregard
The Movie: Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Godard's French Riviera classic is highly saturated with bright colors, including Anna Karina's character Marianne's wardrobe, which is composed of bright reds and blues in summery dresses.
Channel breezy vintage vibes with this lightweight ruffled top complete with pleated ruffles and pintuck detailing.
Get your nautical stripes on in this French-girl staple. The cashmere-infused blend is finished with rough edges to instantly amp up the cool factor of this classic.
This bordeaux velvet number boasts antique luxury with a costume-y feel to the right degree.
The ruffled asymmetric hem turns up the romance of this voluminous skirt.
These grained leather ankle boots are the perfect statement piece to finish off your look.
Who's your French style icon? Share with us in the comments.