20 ways to dress like a French IT girl

Let’s face it: When it comes to fashion, France has the pick of It Girls. Here's 20 of the best, and the lessons we can learn from their je ne sais quoi...

Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis
(Image credit: REX)

Let’s face it: When it comes to fashion, France has the pick of It Girls. Here's 20 of the best, and the lessons we can learn from their je ne sais quoi...

It’s a well-known fact that French women have serious style. Not only that, but French women like the revered IT Girls of Paris passionately break dress codes.

Evening dresses make great beachwear, smart pyjamas are better worn as a tux and exercise is a mere excuse to show off your latest Isabel Marant trainers.

Refusing to abide by a uniform is seen as subtle, daily resistance: trends are only there to be reshuffled and re-appropriated. And no one represents that elusive, unique aesthetic better that Vanessa Paradis.

We’re celebrating the most famous French style icons and the style lessons to be learned from these eternally inspirational IT Girls...

Vanessa Paradis Johnny Depp's former other-half has been turning heads all on her own for years with her vampy, vintage-inspired sexy style. With a penchant for flapper dresses, lingerie-style pieces and quirky accessories, there's a reason why she's one of Karl Lagerfeld’s favourite girls. The internationally successful musician and actress has taught us that favoring unconventional red carpet gowns pays off in dividends- and that a neck tie and a bold red lip make anything look good.

Clemence Poesy The style of this French actress is impossibly effortless and utterly chic. She nails the 'oh this old thing?’ every time with her androgynous twist on chic French style. To emulate, choose mannish pieces including oversized sweaters and boxy jackets, and throw in some luxe, androgynous accessories—like a wide-brimmed fedora and flat broguesd to finish off the easy look.

Lou Doillon The youngest of the Birkin clan, Lou Doillon is basically the ultimate cool girl muse. Her preference for over-sized layers, sexy silhouettes, rock chick accessories and that hair all but scream "effortless." Think Hedi Slimane's reimagining of Saint Laurent, add in a touch of free spirit and je ne sais quoi, and you're there. She’s also got sexy, undone eveningwear down to a tea. Simply throw on a revealing mini or sheer jumpsuit and leave hair undone and unkempt and add on a pair of patent courts, and leave the make-up at home…

Audrey Tautou Tautou first charmed Hollywood with her pixie Parisian look in ‘Amelie’ and although her personal style is a little more refined, it still reflects the sweetness and energy of her famous character. Romantic dresses, cutesy heels and a flash of red lippy are all you need for to emulate Audrey’s fun and feminine style.

Garance Dore Her years of photographing the street style stars at the international shows has ensured that Garance has nailed practical yet covetable style. Her unique ability to mix weather-proof staples with glamorous eveningwear is admired the world over. Think silk jumpsuits and heels with a over-sized and cosy wool coat, or lace pencil skirt and shirt with clutch tote and sneakers – simply mix high and low for a go anywhere, easy-to-wear look.

Charlotte Gainsbourg The daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Charlotte was pretty much born to look cool. The Louis Vuitton muse favours leather and a heavy rock n’roll spirit mixed with heels and tones of attitude - and no, you don't have to be French to pull that off.

Ines de la Fressange If there’s one thing Chanel muse, designer and model Ines de la Fressange has taught us it is that velvet Roger Vivier slippers and drainpipe trousers are a fail-safe look day or night and should be part of every stylish arsenal. To channel her style savvy, keep the elements and palette neutral and tailored, but throw on an unexpected belt, statement necklace or look-at-me bag before walking out the door.

Jane Birkin Though this undisputed style icon is technically British, her French residence, partner and overall aesthetic/style prowess has earned her an honorary slot on our list. From straw totes and flared jeans to relaxed silk shirts and knee-high boots, her easy breezy style and unexpected mixes of style classics are what is so unique and admired. The takeaway style tip here is to pair-up the unexpected. From metallic disco pants with a straw totes to T-shirt dresses with diamond necklaces – it’s all about putting your own personal spin on your wardrobe favourites. And of course, never looking like you’ve tried, at all.

Emmanuelle Alt Though not as flashy as her predecessor Carine Roitfeld, French editor Emmanuelle Alt has stuck to a distinctive look for the last six years: tailored blazers, a button-down shirt or a tee, cropped slim jeans, and either a sleek pump, sexy sandal, or ankle boot. Her devotion to her uniform even extends to black-tie affairs — others wear ballgowns; Emmanuelle chooses a tuxedo jacket and silk trousers. The epitome of a capsule wardrobe and skewing trends in favor of classics this is how to do timelessly cool style…

Coco Chanel Let's be serious: It all begins (and ends, really) with Coco Chanel. The legendary designer will forever be remembered for her iconic suits (which still grace the backs of the rich and famous today) and penchant for tweed and pearls. But aside from learning that a pair of two-tone Chanel pumps and a quilted bag will always be forever-pieces, Coco taught us one major thing ‘When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.’ Just don't forget the pearls - and the Chanel bag.

Marion Cotillard Marion Cotillard’s long-standing relationship with Christian Dior is one that fashion dreams are made of. The Oscar-winners love of daring silhouettes and fearless approach to colour makes her the perfect muse for the brand, and in turn has resulted in some of our all-time favourite red carpet looks. There’s just one style lesson to note, go bold or go home.

Brigitte Bardot The French bombshell’s style was unabashedly sexy. Her messy, piled high up-do still inspires us today and her unique blend of confidence is still something to inspire. Ballet pimps, high-waisted prom skirts with Breton stripe tops and tees and fitted dresses with a sassy eyeliner flick are all key elements of her style arsenal.

Caroline de Maigret The model and music producer has the Parisian look down to an absolute tee, in the same style vein as the likes of Lou Doillon – think messy hair and plenty of black. She’s all about mannish flats with unbuttoned shirts and wide-leg trousers. And that elusive attitude.

Carine Roitfeld Carine Roitfeld is a constant reminder that French girls do it better. The woman responsible for some of the most iconic magazine covers and campaigns images for the last two decides is just as famous for her own personal style. From sultry leather pencil skirts to the highest of statement heels and of course, a silk Equipment shirt teamed with a smoky eye - she is sex personified. And in the most feminine way possible.

Lea Seydoux French actress and new Bond girl-to-be, Lea Seydoux can pretty much nail any style. Her best looks come in the form of a sexy form-fitting dress with retro waves and all contrasted with clashing, bold and bright accessories. Vintage meets contemporary, in the most sassiest and colourful of ways. Too chic for words.

Elisa Sednaoui The embodiment of the Parisian laissez-faire cool, model and actress Elisa is renowned for her designer looks wigth off-beat statemrtn accessoire. Think suede dresses with sparlng heels, and metallic playsuits with clomping flat boots. The key is in the detail- and clashing sexy with very unsexy. We love.

Carla Bruni During her time as the French First Lady, Carla Bruni was revered for her stylish coat dresses, power suits and pillbox hats. But before this, she was an international catwalk model famed for her feminine take on sleek minimalism. Invest in kitten heels and wide-leg trousers and team spaghetti strap dresses with a fabulous structured jacket for her truly French It-Girl style. Oh an don’t forget a great bag, always a timeless leather top-handle number.

Constance Jablonski If there’s one thing to learn from this French-born, New York-living model it is to never try too hard. A loose pony, evening flats and sweater sum up her take on easy yet wantable style.

Isabel Marant The face of her brand, Isabel Marant is rarely seen without her tomboy, bohemian, rock chick mix of leather, embellishments and off-duty denim. Biker jackets, cropped jeans a touch of sparkle– usually in the form of a neck tie are what makes up this designer’s daywear DNA. And for evening, it’s all about a stand-out metallic mini dress with chunky boots and barely-there make-up. Simple.

Josephine de la Baume The style of actress, singer and Mrs Mark Ronson is where the Champs Elysées meets Hackney. She mixes vintage shoes with catwalk dresses and adds statement accessories to make every catwalk look truly unique. If there’s one thing to takeaway from this bold, retro-infused style it is to be brave and brash enough to clash old with new, and pile on the personality…

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