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)?
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.
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.
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.
- Parisien Salon profiles Les Grands Magasins, the temples of French beauty
- For some fab French beauty inspiration, check out Wildfleur and Making Magique
- Garance Doré is also one of our favorite chroniclers of general French chic-ness