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Goodbye to the Cliché of the ‘Perfect Parisian Woman’

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“How to be Parisian wherever you are. «Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 style secrets I learned while living in Paris. “Parisian school of charm: French secrets to cultivate love, joy and that certain Je Ne sais quoi”. “Chic and Slim Always.” “Love Parisienne: The guide to the love and passion of French women.” These are just a few of the dozens of books published in the 2000s that trafficked into the myth of the Parisian woman (or “girl” as she is often called). In these books, French women are summed up in a reductive stereotype: the thin, white and rich Parisian, refined in a striped shirt, trench coat and Hermès scarf.

This cliché persisted for decades, embodied by celebrities such as singer Jane Birkin, actress Brigitte Bardot and model and designer Inès de la Fressange. Although Ms Birkin is British, Ms Bardot has lived in the south of France for decades, and Ms de la Fressange is partly of Argentine-Colombian descent, they have come to represent a hallmark of Parisian style. But this fairy tale is finally fading. Ms Bardot, 87, once an icon of elegance, was fined € 20,000 this month by a French court for writing in a 2019 open letter that residents of Reunion Island have “wild genes” for their treatment of animals. (A spokesperson for Ms Bardot declined to comment.) A new generation of diverse celebrities, social media stars and designers are exploding the codes of Parisian aesthetics. And 101 years after its founding, Condé Nast Vogue Paris magazine changed its name to more inclusive Vogue France under its new head of editorial content, Eugénie Trochu.