French Style Icons — Past and Present — Who Shaped the Fashion Industry

C'est très bien.

Len Trievnor/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

French style icons have always been a point of reference for designers and those seeking a relaxed, chic mode of dressing. Refresh your appreciation of this country's effortless and confident aesthetic by taking note of the women behind the archetype. Ahead, 23 icons — past and present — worth taking inspiration from for your personal wardrobe.

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

French actress and singer Brigitte Bardot is unmissable with her signature blonde hair, thickly-painted cat-eye, and trend-setting style. She perfected the art of adding sex appeal to the simplest of separates.Dove/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Daughter to Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Gainsbourg has long been an icon in the French fashion world. Her tousled hair and undone sense of style is the kind of cool that’s tough to replicate. Gary Gershoff/WireImage/Getty Images
French pop singer Françoise Hardy is who you should turn to when in need of a look that melds traditionally masculine and feminine elements. Think: a leather moto jacket layered over a ruffled blouse or a newsboy cap paired with a mini dress and tights. She’s ‘cool’ in the purest sense of the term.Reg Lancaster/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Franco-Senegalese fashion star Julia Sarr Jamois is the fashion director at British Vogue and a staple in the street style scene thanks to her playful use of color and silhouette. She embodies the notion that not all French style must adhere to a neutrals-only, simple style of dress. Rather, embracing confidence and originality is what’s key.Jacopo Raule/GC Images/Getty Images
Actress Catherine Deneuve is well-known for her role in Belle du Jour and distinctly mod sense of style. A-line dresses, headbands, and kitten heels were all mainstays in the icon’s wardrobe circa the ‘60s and ‘70s.Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Rouje founder and all-around iconic French girl Jeanne Damas has revived the art of classic dressing. The Parisian relies heavily on her rotation of staple blue denim, floral midi dresses, and a strong set of boxy blazers. Oh, and a signature red lip, of course.Edward Berthelot/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Though Josephine Baker was born in the United States, her influence on Paris in The Roaring Twenties makes her a must-include figure on this list. The dancer and singer will forever be associated with this period’s opulent, elegant style.Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Singer, model, and actress Vanessa Paradis is a French icon who transcends time. Despite her success back in the ‘80s, she continues to be a relevant figure in the fashion industry. Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Betty Catroux (left) and Louise de la Falaise (right) were muses of Yves Saint Laurent (center) and fashion icons in their own right. Revisit their style for bohemian ‘70s highlights with callouts including lace-up mini dresses, silk headscarves, and thigh-high boots.Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
French model Cindy Bruna is a modern trendsetter who has helped usher in a new wave of personal style, with bold accents and trendy silhouettes.Gotham/GC Images/Getty Images
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel is a woman who needs little introduction. This French style icon’s impact on the fashion landscape — past, present, and future — is unquantifiable. Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images
Music producer and model Caroline de la Maigret is recognizable by her signature French bangs, androgynous rock n’ roll style, and exquisitely cool confidence. Also, she doesn’t take herself too seriously — always a bonus.Kirstin Sinclair/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
You knew Jane Birkin had to be in the mix. Despite being born in England, it is sacrilegious to discuss French style without a nod to this icon. Woven basket, chic fringe, and classic wardrobe separates — et voila!REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief Emmanuelle Alt is the perfect example of effortlessly cool when it comes to Parisian style. If you live for a minimalist uniform, her outfits will serve your inspiration board well.Edward Berthelot/WireImage/Getty Images
French singer and actress Juliette Gréco enjoyed a sixty-year career and, along the way, served up some seriously inspiring style, particularly of the Beatnik variety. Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
Keep an eye on model Tina Kunakey’s personal style; a bold cocktail of bright colors, body-accentuating silhouettes, and buzzy labels. At 24-years-old, there’s likely much more to come for this icon on the rise. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
You may know French actress Jeanne Moreau from the beloved Jules and Jim, but her style is also worth taking note of. Approaching her wardrobe with an elegant, simple attitude, her looks always felt unfussy and polished. Reg Lancaster/Getty Images
Daugher of Jane Birkin and Jacques Doillon, Lou Doillon is a French singer-songwriter and artist who has cemented herself as a figure in the fashion industry. Her covetable bedhead and individualistic approach to personal style is what makes her a universal favorite (among several other traits).Michel Dufour/WireImage/Getty Images
Farida Khelfa experienced success in Paris in the ‘80s as a model and went on to also become a documentary filmmaker. The icon, now in her sixties, is still an industry favorite. PIERRE GUILLAUD/AFP/Getty Images
Ines de la Fressange is a model, perfumer, designer, and author of Parisian Chic, a Style Guide. Her style aesthetic speaks to a pared-back sensibility with staples like button-downs, slacks, and leather belts being wardrobe heroes. Jacopo Raule/GC Images/Getty Images
Sylvie Vartan, a Bulgarian-French-Armenian jazz singer who was immensely popular in France but lesser-known stateside, also happens to be a noteworthy style icon. Her clothing collection was even exhibited at the Palais Galliera and was the subject of a book called, Le Style Vartan.REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Actress Clémence Poésy has reliably served as fashion inspiration throughout her career with noteworthy red carpet moments, and relaxed street style looks that feel equal parts polished and approachable.Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/French Select/Getty Images
Born in Martinique, French West Indies, Cathy Rosier was a model and actress who was well-known for her role in the French New Wave film Le Samourai. Bernard CHARLON/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!