Americans Love French Style—but Whose Style Do French Women Covet?

We American girls are notorious for being obsessed with French women and their effortless style, but it’s never been made clear if the French ladies we admire have their own huge style crushes. Having been curious about this for years, I finally decided to get to the bottom of it by asking some of the most stylish Frenchies whose look they envy most.

I had no idea what to expect, but there were some major commonalities among their answers—despite all of these women being different ages and opting for totally different styles within their own wardrobes. But, French or not, I have a feeling you’ll agree with their answers.

Scroll down to see what Inès de la Fressange and some of our favourite French bloggers had to say on the matter!

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Inès de la Fressange began her career as a model in 1975 and quickly became Karl Lagerfeld's ultimate muse and Chanel's star model for over seven years. Still a regular on the fashion circuit, she recently relaunched her namesake label, where she acts as creative director–at-large, and has collaborated on a lower-priced line with Uniqlo.

Is there a particular group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

No, style doesn't belong to one category. Some older ladies can be very stylish, or not very wealthy people, children, and hobos. That's the clue—it has nothing to do with brands or even fashion.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

If one is obsessed by style and appearance, it shows, and that attitude [looks] bad. It is important to care about [what you’re wearing], of course, but you should forget [about your outfit] as soon you are out of the dressing room!

Personally, it's my job to care about clothes, accessories and dream up more, so of course I notice and watch things (in the street, in magazines, online, etc.) all the time, but in my own outfits I just try to feel good. I know most of the people I meet will not remember which handbag I was wearing the day after!

Are there any particular French women whose style other French women really seem to admire?

That’s not really the way French people think. They admire someone who is bright, charismatic and talented, like Elizabeth Badinter, and then they’ll notice afterward that she also has great style. In fact having style is not enough [in France], it helps but nobody is known only for the way they’re dressed. We don’t have the concept of "socialites" here; it’s just a different culture.

How do you feel about the fact that so many Americans idolize French style? Why do you think that is?

I was surprised [at first] because I think American women are more aware of fashion—they shop more, they get their nails and hair done more and seem more concerned by appearance [overall]. But French women know how to mix high-street clothes with luxurious ones, [always] finding things at the flea market or the supermarket that look great without [costing a lot]. Also, when American women can afford to buy clothes from luxury brands, they don’t think about buying a T-shirt from a low-key shop downtown!

I guess American people are surprised to realise [from our style] that money is not the answer to everything. In a few words: more expensive does not mean better! [Laughs.]

Is there a group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

One thing we do not love is vulgarity. [This is] hard to answer, I guess I would say actresses. But I think we admire people more for their personality and happiness [than their style]. Who cares about the style if a woman has what we call la classe? It can be anyone from Léa Seydoux to our grandmother.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

You know, in France we are very chauvinistic. French women love French women, and it's nice to be a cliché. For a long time I thought our style was the best, but now I know a lot of Scandinavian girls well and I’ve changed my mind. I'm obsessed with their perfect style, silhouettes, and way of life. I don't know if all Frenchies think the same, though.

And it’s important to know that here in France we judge people a lot, especially [when it comes to] what they're wearing. It's not the same as in London or New York where you can maybe feel more confident wearing what you really want to wear (no matter the style). We probably envy that. We are free of course, but in the end [most] French women are wearing the same "uniform.”

Is there a group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

I guess it depends on your taste, but I'm pretty sure most of us are impressed by Scandinavian fashion. Maybe it’s just a trend these days, but I feel like we're all inspired by their minimal style, home décor, and [overall] culture. That’s the case for me at least! I'm also really inspired by Japanese girls—I think they can wear whatever they want and look modern! In general, we're also attracted to American style because it's quite the opposite of what we do, but it's more a "love you/hate you" thing.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

I'm obsessed with Alexa Chung (as is the rest of the world). So, a British girl, but one who wears a lot of ’60s, French-inspired outfits!

Is there a group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

Although French women are very proud of their style, I think we definitely admire some other groups, especially the Hollywood glamour of American women—who wouldn't? We tend to be more effortlessly chic, but we secretly love that kind of sophistication. We also like British style, its preppy touch—I guess it matches our romantic taste. I also feel inspired by Scandinavian women, because they master stylish minimalism so well.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

We have quite a few British obsessions: Alexa Chung is clearly an icon for French women—that preppy yet cool style of hers is perfect, and Kate Moss, of course, has been [a favourite] for years. As for Americans, Audrey Hepburn remains a classic—she will always be one of our favourites—but, more recently, we love the simple elegance of Olivia Palermo.

Is there a specific group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

The thing about French women is that they strive to look chic without standing out, which means things can get a little repetitive. After all, there are only so many silhouettes you can conjure up using jeans, tees, blazers, pumps, and lace-ups. So we turn to those who have mastered the art of effortless style without ever looking boring: the fashion editors. Emmanuelle Alt and her vanguard of Voguettes always stand out from the crowd, despite dressing according to the same formula and sticking to basics. Models off duty are particularly good at this, too.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

For me, it's the Scandis that really stand out when it comes to style. While the French are a tad too conservative (read: an army of clones), I find Scandinavians far more experimental and directional—though they also stick to a monochrome palette and the idea of a capsule wardrobe. They play around with volume and are masters at layering easy basics. They also do the barefaced look better than anyone, but that could just be good genes. I'd trade my French passport for some of those cheekbones any day!

Is there a group of people whose style French women love more than the rest?

At the moment, I think French girls really like minimalistic style, like that of Scandinavian or Nordic girls with their long flowing trenches paired with jeans and white sneakers. It’s a bit less "girlie" than in previous years—I see lots of tomboy style in Paris. But everyone has different tastes, so it's difficult to answer this universally.

Are there certain non-French women who a lot of French women, yourself included, are obsessed with?

I wouldn’t say I'm really "obsessed" with anyone’s style, but I’ve liked Alexa Chung's look for a few years now, and lots of French girls love her style—it's sometimes feminine, sometimes boyish, and seems to survive throughout the years without seeming dated. She doesn’t seem to follow the trends; she knows what suits her well, and she’s good at mixing different prints and shapes. I also like Keira Knightley's and Emma Watson's style.

I really like the British touch in general—something a little preppy and elegant, but laid-back at the same time. I’m drawn more to classic [pieces] these days—getting old you know [laughs]. But I'm also inspired by many of the women I just see in the street, famous or not.

Scroll down to shop some of our favourite French designers...

A.P.C. Tunis Cotton Top ($150)

Étoile Isabel Marant Celia Linen-Blend Shorts ($214)

Whose style do you admire most? Let us know why in the comments!