French Lessons: The 50 Chicest French Women Ever


America’s got Hollywood glamour and the girl-next-door, Britain’s rife with royals and the English Rose, but it’s France that holds the secrets of chic. From jeune filles to grandes dames, French women’s innate élan borders on the cliché. Some Parisiennes are born, others are made — but they all know a dozen ways to knot an Hermès scarf, and to make the effort necessary to look effortless. Plus, they famously “don’t get fat.”

The je ne sais quoi that sets a mademoiselle apart is her nonchalance — an attitude that only seems uncalculated.  She chooses style over trends, shops for quality at any price, embraces her imperfections, and accepts her age. Her makeup is ever-present, but understated; her hair, laissez-faire. Sometimes she smokes, but when she does, it’s unapologetically. She considers her appearance a matter of etiquette and a measure of self-respect.

That’s the basis of the chic mystique — the Gallic guidelines that have made generations of women appear enviably elegant. So, as we wrap up Men’s Fashion Week in Paris and approach another ravissant season of haute couture – in Paris, naturellement – here are 50 variations on the theme: gamines and ingénues; visionary couturières and dashing bohémiennes; Rive Gauche intellectuals and unabashed femmes fatales, all united by their enduring chic.