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La Beauté: What Do French Women Have That We Don’t?

Michel Nguyen

Every time I go to Paris, I’m inspired anew. I look at the women with their ruby red lips, their studiously disheveled hair, their outfits that—really, aren’t that exceptional and yet still scream “cool” because of the way they hang on their petite frames or just because of the attitude with which they’re worn—and I think: I can do that!

You see, French women make beauty look so easy. They’re not all made up, hair sprayed and complexion painted to perfection. Their nails don’t match their lips. Their shoes don’t match their bags. They’re not highlighted, bronzed, veneered, acrylic tipped, implanted, injected or perfected. And yet they’re beautiful.

So what do they have that we don’t (okay, at least I don’t)?

Making Magique

It all starts with attitude

My friends who date French women assure me the pretty young things are actually racked with insecurities. But you’d never know it looking at them. French women ooze sex appeal. It’s in the way they walk, the way they talk, and the way they hold their wine glasses. They think, “I’m beautiful,” and it radiates outwards, causing others to look at and admire them which, in turn, makes them feel beautiful—a brilliant cycle if there ever was one.

They celebrate their femininity

You’d never catch a French woman trying to emulate a man the way we do in the States. Here, we’re always putting on tough girl acts. We’re competitive and try to be uber independent. We even wear power suits and poker faces. Showing that we’re equal to men is a great byproduct of the women’s rights movement. But it’s not so sexy. French women embrace what makes them uniquely feminine—softness, caregiving, short skirts—instead of trying to prove they’re just like men.

Making Magique

They’re good with props

French women are famous devotees of lacy lingerie and potent perfume. But they’ve got other props up their sleeves, too. Things like cigarettes and compacts and lap dogs—accoutrements that draw attention to themselves and invite others to look at them. And when people are looking at them, you better believe they make sure they look good.

They know how to dress

As Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Clothing matters just as much as hair and makeup when it comes to beauty, and French women know this—and not just what they wear, but how they wear it. If they wear tight jeans, they offset them with loose, billowy blouses. If they wear short skirts, they won’t also give away a lot of cleavage. It’s all about subtlety; French women know there’s nothing sexier than the power of suggestion.

Wildfleur

They like to flirt

The image of a this adorable French woman winking at my friend in a crowded bar is forever etched in my mind. If I had done it, it would have been so cheesy. I would have looked spastic and desperate. But the way she delivered that wink—with a blush, a smile, a quick look down and then back up… French women can flirt like no one’s business. And that gives a power that makes them irresistible.

They don’t strive for perfection

Freckles, scars, chipped teeth, wild hair—all the things we American girls try to tame and combat are celebrated by French women. They know how to make a freckle or scar sexy (call attention to it! make it a conversation piece!); they don’t let imperfect teeth stop them from smiling; and messy hair looks sexy when it’s tossed up or adorned with sparkly barrettes. American women try too hard to be perfect instead of just reveling in ourselves, our beauty, and what we have to offer.

Wildfleur

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Written by Amy Thomas for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Amy Thomas

Amy ThomasAmy Thomas is a sweets-obssessed writer based between New York and Paris. She penned the Sweet Freak column for Metro newspaper and has written about Paris' best chocolatiers (New York Times), desserts for two (Time Out New York), chocolate for guys (Rachel Ray) and the best hot chocolate in the city (Metro). Check for updates from Amy on her blog, God I Love Paris.

Website: God I Love Paris

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Posted in Parisian Living | 47 Comments »

47 Responses to “La Beauté: What Do French Women Have That We Don’t?”

  • Megan says:

    French women created women’s studies, feminist theory, made garçonnes an icon and destroyed gender norms, but yes they’re so girly unlike those butchy Americans *eyeroll*

  • AngelaR says:

    French women are grown up. Even as little girls they are taught to carry themselves in a certain way. Have you ever seen an American child (boy or girl) running through a store screaming at the top of their lungs. Or, mores the pity, in a restaurant. We americans coddle our children so much that they never truly grow up. That’s why women behave so badly. “Real Housewives of whatever city” The constant screaming and fighting. Grown up women DO NOT fight. Its sad. We could learn so much from other cultures, but just like children Americans are arrogant.

  • Anonymous says:

    S’notes comment: “Italian girls fight with luxury clothes, hair and make up just to look perfect but most of them look fake!!” is quite harsh, almost cruel. I am an Italian woman & revel in my simplicity. Many believe I am French because I happen to dress in the same– naturally feminine with a subtle hint of style. I’ve been dressing this way for many years,
    even when employed at a
    prestigious law firm, back home in NYC, over 30 years ago. I have two grown children as well as an 8 yr old.
    People are in disbelief when they discover that I am 53 years of age as I have been told, time & again that I look anywhere between 25 & 32. Big deal. The point I am trying to make is that I believe that we women especially, can be very vicious when we feel compelled to judge other females. Perhaps if we focus less on style & more on accepting people for their individuality & uniqueness we would be far more appealing than when we catagorize so judgmentally. That to me is very unattractive & unappealing despite how a woman is dressed.

  • Victoria says:

    I completely agree with Hannah. Men do not own strength and professionalism – this is a depressingly archaic viewpoint. Courage, durability, stability, intelligence are all female attributes. Take a look at Christine Lagarde – her power is not at all at odds with her femininity – in fact, it heightens it and, in turn, is amplified by it.

    I would say, also, that USA (for example) and French versions of femininity are quite unalike. French girls are not fluffy, they do not flap their hands in front of their faces, fidget, shriek or squeal. French femininity is grown up, husky, womanly, assertive, well-read, grown up – never girly or manufactured. I was in Paris a few months ago and lost count of the number of French women I saw arguing in public either over the phone or over the phone. But they did so unselfconsciously and with wildly spontaneous and expressive hand gestures – stylish conflict!

    French boys, too, are fantastically stylish and beautiful creatures. It’s a shame we spend so much time examining and criticising ourselves rather than looking up and out, enjoying the view.

  • Parisbreakfast says:

    Madame Figaro says NO WAY!
    Read all about it

    http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.fr/2013/08/french-femme-mystique-debunked.html
    So glad finally someone said the Emperess has no clothes

  • Marissa says:

    Lizzie Brocheré, in After Fall, Winter. In the movie and watch her in interviews on youtube a few years ago. She is the embodiment of what this article is trying to express. The messy side parted hair, the wrinkles around the mouth, expressive life filled eyes. She speaks with expression with no self consciousness.

  • Pooja says:

    I am an 26 yr old Indian female with a French soul since the time I know myself…french lifestyle never stops to amuse and amaze me. They so chic and subtle..wish to be like that so i will be learning the language too shortly..

  • Kathleen says:

    I travelled France from Nice to Paris and I saw a lot of French women . I have to say that not All of them are beautiful or chic , some were quite ordinary .However , there’s an image of a certain lady that I saw in Paris while stuck in traffic that I will never forget . It’s of a young lady , probably in her twenties , wearing a trench coat , with a lavender Longchamp tote on her shoulder , wearing STILETTOS while riding a bicycle ! I followed her with my eyes until I couldn’t see her anymore and all I could think of was I want to BE that girl ! I guess I was struck by her fearlessness on being feminine . Who cares if it’s not practical to pedal a bike while wearing stilettos ? Practical is boring . What I noticed most about French women are that they are feminine without being girly .

  • John says:

    Please, I would like to know what it means when a french woman winks at you almost at each eye contact? Do they consider age in marriage? Can a french woman marries a man who is much younger than and the guy he is more educated than?

  • Laura says:

    I believe a good amount of french women’s charm and sex appeal resides in their language…They definitely have haute couture, great fragrance maisons, a fresh attitude towards beauty, etc, but I still believe their language plays a key role in all of their charm.

  • Babette de la Piata says:

    Stereotypes are boring, and very misleading. My French mother in law would single handedly convert the most ardent Francophile to utter detestation of Frenchwomen, if she was the only one they met. She was loud, obnoxious, unbelievably rude,completely ungracious, tactless, a shocking gossip and liar, hell-bent on destroying reputations, and appeared to think she had an innate right to do so. She was obese and never once looked after her appearance, but naturally felt free to criticise other people’s clothes and hair. AND SHE COULD NOT COOK!! No matter what she dished up, it was revolting and unidentifiable. She grew up in Paris, so this is proof that not all Parisians have a je ne sais quoi.

  • lila says:

    hello! I’m french and I’m 15. I’d like to say that not everything on that aricle is true because I just know 4-5 persons who are really classy, a lot of frech girls and women look like hobos (in the way they dress up i mean) and we are shy too!!!
    we generaly wait for men to flirt with us, and hardly ever do it first!!
    i’m sorry if you didn’t get everything :) and i love your country y the way

  • Hide Takahashi says:

    Very interesting article. I recently met a French woman( in her late 50s)at match.com and there are something about her that most American women don’t have. She’s quite open-minded and she said that French women are generally more open-minded than American women.
    She fixed lunch for both of us and I can tell( I’m a chef) she’s an excellent cook. She believes that general French women are good cooks and that they certainly know how to cook.
    I know that some European women like to be topless on the beach or by the private pool,it’s no exception for her. She wanted me to get into the pool with her so I did. The water was bit too cold. When she showed up,she was topless.For her age, her boobs looked descent,but she has beautiful long legs,she has a nice curve and her butt is nice and slim.

    I ended up giving her a total body massage and she was totally naked. I asked her if she could trust me,she firmly said,”yes”. I still don’t know why she could say that to a stranger,but to honor her trust on me,I didn’t make a move to take advantage of the situation.
    Anyway,it’s not my style.

    Just a little French experience.

  • Most of the French women I’ve met have certainly been inspiring, and one good tip I got was to use drops of essential oil to accentuate my perfume…and it also makes it hard to place…keeps ’em guessing!

  • Hannah says:

    I think that dismissing women who feel that they are on par with any man as being unfeminine is truly offensive and awful. You can wear a power suit and be strong while also being sexy and beautiful. Strength and pursuit of equality does not somehow make someone less of a female. I really enjoy this blog and it’s been an incredible resource for me, but how about we celebrate the qualities of one group without putting down another?

  • Sweet Freak says:

    Touché, Jameela! I don’t disagree that the “French fashionista” stereotype isn’t always true and I certainly don’t mean to put down American women. In fact, one of my old colleagues in Paris, who had lived and worked in New York, thought American woman totally “won” over the French. But there’s something undeniably seductive and intriguing and forever inspiring about the way French women approach beauty.

  • Jameela says:

    Though I love the French fashion, culture, and France in general. I have to say that I’ve been to France, different parts in fact including Paris, and I have also studied the culture. I think the idea that all French women are fashionistas is kind of a stereotype that we’ve given them. I know many French women also, and not every French woman has an attitude or are concerned with being fashionble. There are beautiful French women and there are average looking French women.
    They’re normal people just like everyone else.
    I liked this post, but I have to say that putting down the way American women act and dress is kind of unfair. Everyone has something to offer. I respect American women for having the courage and strength to fight and show that they are just as strong as any man. I happen to think that is sexy. Plus, there are a lot of stylish Americans that I have seen, I’ve seen more fashionable American women than fashionable French women.

  • Kiki says:

    @ Chloe:
    Amen to that…. I think we all agree but you’re missing part of Amy’s message. If nobody hadn’t anything to say to the Parisian’s style etc, about 10 zillions of blogs about anything Parisian wouldn’t have a place :)
    I love France, I like much Paris has to offer but you don’t have to love Parisians, nor their style, nor their way of living. You stay who you are and are happy with it – so am I – and we will never be French for that (thank Goodness).
    Have a good week.

  • Chloe says:

    I never quite understand what all the fuzz is about? I love Paris, mostly because it’s so beautiful, their food is delicious and yes they have fabulous fashion. That being said, I don’t understand why an american would try so hard to be fabulously french? It doesn’t make any sense at all to me. While I agree that fanny packs, atheltic shoes and t shirts shouldn’t be part of anyone’s wardrobe, it’s not because I want to mimic another culture, its because it’s common sense to me. Also, I don’t find smoking nor chipped teeth appealing. I think a woman has to find happiness and security in who she is. Not who she wants to be. I am not interested whatsoever in acheiving a tre chic parisian look. I am not interested in living their life. I am interested in traveling the world, learning about other cultures but I want to be ME. I love fashion, I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a timeless chanel jacket or a woman with a strong sense of who she is. Do we have to be french to acheive this? I think not.

  • Kenny says:

    Their eyes, lips and hair! Like say…Audrey Tautou, and also Irene Jacob.

  • Sara says:

    Fantastique ! I was born in America with a French soul. Glad to find your site.

  • Emme says:

    A fun read. As a woman with freckles though, I don’t try to “hide” them (never met someone who does) and wouldn’t class them with scars or chipped teeth.

  • Absolutely love this article, its just so true! Still have to master their stylish elegance.

    Best regards
    Nadia
    -The French Life

  • ElleSee says:

    Fantastic! Loved reading your article :)

  • great article :-) and so so please some of my pics are included here! I am *blushing* now! XOXOXO

  • argone says:

    Nice post, I wish all french girls were like that.
    signed : a french woman not living in Paris

  • Anne Touraine says:

    Everything you said is so true. Congrats !
    To those who are interested in scarves, I have a created a group in Facebook called “Scarf Addicted”. Any of you who want to join are welcome…..
    All the best ! Your blog rocks !

  • No matter how perfectly I wrap my scarf or dress, I will never be able to muster the outer je ne sais quoi of the Parisian woman.

  • Bonjour. I am sorry but I do not know where the scarf comes from. Pretty!!

  • vicki archer says:

    Me again… I loved this so much I put it on My Daily Click…..xv

  • danielle says:

    What is the scarf in the picture with the tiny stars-I just love it!

  • vicki archer says:

    They are just gorgeous… xv

  • Hello,

    This is an inspired piece. Having lived in Paris 18 months now I do have to agree with Hazels observations; the FOIAF philosophy really does give that je ne sais quoi glamorous attitude. And smoking still remains fashionable not an unfashionable habit as it has become elsewhere…Piff.

    However, I also think that Parisian’s have such a strong aesthetic for beauty (it comes with the territory) being well turned out in Paris is to play to your advantage. I find that I am treated to according to my degree of groomed sophistication…superficial non? And so exhausting?

    Although, you gotta learn from them : I love the simple look paired with one fabulous luxury item!

  • Tracy Wilson says:

    Beautifully written!
    Now I really want that cigarette:)
    Tracy

  • april says:

    I’m a little bit obsessed with France – Paris especially – since I took my first ever abroad there in 1998. I remember walking through Luxembourg Gardens thinking, “This is IT. THIS is the style and look and way of life that no one else in my hometown gets.”

    I wore a scarf. Lots of black. A tousled chignon. Little make-up. I did NOT smoke. But I will never forget how irresistible and courageous I felt strolling thru the streets of Paris. As if I were French. As if I were living the life I always dreamt I would have.

  • Kiki says:

    @ Lindsey; yep…. isn’t it amazing? I’ve never ever seen anywhere so many women smoking…

  • Lindsey says:

    I think the thing about French women is that they roll up to work or to a party looking perfectly disheveled and you can’t help but think it’s innate. But the truth is, their gorgeous state of chaos is highly calculated. And that’s ok! They’re allowed to care, just like Anglosaxon women care, but even in caring, the final product generally looks more natural. And yes, despite smoking like chimneys they DO place an emphasis of self-preservation :)

  • Diana says:

    while living in Paris, I have also noticed these fineness of French women. their style looks a bit ‘i took the first thing from my wardrobe’ and ‘just out of the bed hair’ and it looks so good. They are not courageous in bright colours and crazy styles but they know exactly what works.
    And still, i have seen relationship between men and women in Paris, and sometimes its really her in control. but this would ask for an article about Parisian men:)

  • I was delighted to find that the women here ( and men) are much the same as in Paris or Italy.
    The majority dress well, even if it is old and a bit worn, they are clean, tucked in, and their clothes fit !
    We won’t discuss how every single person seems to have the greatest hairdresser in the world..
    I agree with Dianes statement that French ( and the women here) are “women all their lives” ..

  • Susan says:

    Yes, lessons I need to be reminded of…celebrate your beauty & be confident! Merci :)

  • Loved this little read! :) A French lady once pointed out an interesting fact about French girls and their hair … like an unspoken rule, if you’re a French girl you wear a side part… always! That shabby, effortless, messy yet somehow miraculously amazing hair, is casually flipped to the side, you’ll never (or rarely) see a french girl with a dead centre part. Anyone else notice this? Is it true? …as i subtly flip my hair over and pray i dont look like a spastic peacock :) x

  • annie v. says:

    What makes us different is the way french men treat us, they are not afraid to show that they like women, not afraid like american men!!! having lived in Us for many years I am always amazed in the differences.

  • Kiki says:

    Amy,
    great article! So many fine points….

    You’re so right with most things you mention here – but what really triggered me to write to you NOW (it’s nearly 1am on Tuesday in France!!) is the subtle and yet totally convincing combination of prose and photos – good choices!

    About ‘celebrating their feminity’ – one word of advice: Don’t kid yourself. It’s true, French women LOOK and SEEM feminin, but they are tough as steel and what a French woman really wants, she gets…. (I’m talking business here just to be clear) They do come across all silky, the true person is as competitive as any American – but they are doing SUBTLE… I think THAT’s the one thing American women must learn

    What you girls do MUCH BETTER, is :) – And that’s VI(P) – I think fondly of that other article on this blog….

    Good night, kisses
    Kiki (neither French nor American)

  • Diane says:

    Although I love men, I could spend days in Paris mesmerized by the simplicity and chic that French women seem to own.

    And it’s not just about pretty young things, French women are women their whole entire lives. I love seeing ‘femme d’un certain age’ who dress with feminine touches instead of dressing to be invisible (like in NA).

    I think France is an ideal country for women to grow old in…

  • S'Notes blog says:

    Italian girls fight with luxury clothes, hair and make up just to look perfect but most of them look fake!!
    I love the natural and simple look of French women!!

  • Hazel says:

    I like to think of this as the F*** Off, I’m Fabulous philosophy. It works.

  • George says:

    Very interesting blog you got here. I am relocating to Paris next year and already bookmarked a lot of stuff. If only it weren’t so female-centric. Any cool links for boys? 😀

    Stay classy

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