Say Oui to French Fashion

Delaney Bolstein, Co-Editor/Director of Media

French fashion has been a source of inspiration and fascination for Americans for decades. From the iconic pink Chanel suit Jackie Kennedy wore on the day of her husband’s assassination to the neck scarves Emirates flight attendants wear, all resemble French fashion. The average American looks to our baguette-holding friends across the Atlantic for all things couture. French style, with its many stripes and perfectly tailored garments, has become synonymous with elegance, sophistication, and impeccable taste. Yet, through the years of trends coming and going, French fashion has remained resilient and even offered modern upgrades seen best through the 2023 Paris Fashion Week because at the core of every “nouveau” fashion designer, there
is a deep love and appreciation for the French.

(Above) The Breton shirt, also known as the marinière, is
a classic and timeless fashion item that originated in France in the late 19th century. The shirt was originally designed as a uniform for the French Navy, with 21 stripes representing each of Napoleon’s victories. The shirt was made from thick cotton to protect sailors from the harsh weather conditions at sea. In the 20th century, the Breton shirt became popular among artists and intellectuals in France, including Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre, who adopted it as a symbol of their anti-establishment views. The shirt soon became associated with French fashion and culture, and it was popularized by designers such as Coco Chanel in the 1920s.
Model photo courtesy of Getty Images. (Model photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Above) Silk scarves have been a prominent accessory in French fashion for centuries, with their history dating back to the ancient Silk Road trade route that connected China and Europe. The luxurious fabric was introduced to
France in the 17th century, during the reign of King Louis XIV, and quickly became a favorite among the French aristocracy. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that silk scarves became a ubiquitous accessory in French
fashion. One of the most famous wearers of silk scarves in this era was Jacqueline Kennedy, the wife of American President John F. Kennedy. She was a fashion icon of her time, known for her elegant and sophisticated style, and her love of silk scarves only added to her allure. Model
photo courtesy of Getty Images. (Model photo courtesy of Getty Images.)
(Above) The maxi skirt, a long flowing skirt that typically reaches the ankles or floor, gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, when the bohemian style became popular among French women. The maxi skirt was seen as a symbol of freedom and femininity, and it quickly became a staple in many French women’s wardrobes. After falling out of fashion in the 80s, the 90s grunge movement further solidified its place in French
fashion, and could be seen on nearly every French celebrity such as Vanessa Paradis. More recently, British Vogue has hailed 2023 the year of the maxi skirt. Prominent haute couture brand, MM6 Maison Margiela’s, 2023 Spring Runway featured a nuanced take on the classic skirt, utilizing denim fabrics and distressed details. Similarly, prominent (and very controversial) teen retailer, Brandy Melville, has been promoting cargo maxi skirts complete with deep pockets and utilitarian fabrics. Model photo courtesy of Vogue. (Model photo courtesy of Vogue.)
(Above) Prints in French fashion are fickle. One of the hallmarks of the style is its lack of color and patterns aside from a few exceptions, including, “toile.” Translating to “canvas,” the toile pattern features almost storybook scenes amidst a beige background. It initially gained popularity back in the 18th century during the age of realism when people desired art to reflect everyday life but has remained popular throughout the years. To pay homage to the print, Dior Homme’s 2022/2023 Paris Fashion Week show included a collection based upon the toile print and offered a modern alternative. This runway show, especially because behind it sat replicas of Paris’s iconic monuments, proves the longevity of French fashion that makes it so alluring. The same Breton shirt Audrey Hepburn once wore is as trendy as the garments on the Paris Fashion Week runways. Model photo courtesy of Reuters. (Model photo courtesy of Reuters. )\