French Girl Makeup Looks To Recreate From Every Decade

For centuries France has been a leader in fashion and beauty trends. It's home to top designers like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Christian Louboutin, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hermès, and more. Both haute couture on the runways and effortless Parisian street style influence the way people dress around the world. Because of their status as fashion leaders, the "French girl" style has become an enviable look with Tiktok and Youtube tutorials detailing how to achieve the aesthetic.

What makes the French girl style so iconic is its simplicity. The fashion is focused on timeless and effortless pieces matched with natural makeup and often a classic red lip. It's chic without trying too hard and isn't too difficult to achieve. Like any style, the French girl look has evolved over the years, with trends coming in and out of style. But, the French girl's look was always fresh, elegant, and effortless. Here you'll find how French girl beauty changed over the years, how it stayed the same, and how you can copy the styles of your favorite decades and French It-Girls.

The crazy years of 1920s French beauty

The 1920s were a time of political and social change. It was the end of World War I, and the economy was on the rise. French women embraced this time by indulging in bold beauty trends. According to Sunday Edit, the makeup industry didn't start gaining traction with most French women until the 1920s. Prior, makeup was mostly worn by French actresses and sex workers. But, in the 1920s, many American artists immigrated to France, bringing with them jazz music and the flapper style, which inspired French beauty.

Stylish French girls at the time began wearing black eyeliner and red lipstick. It was such a change from the fashion of previous decades that the French referred to it as "Les Années Folles," which translates to "the crazy years." Marie-Laure Fournier of Fournier PR + Consulting explained these changes saying it was a way French women "expressed their new social power through fashion."

To achieve this 1920s-inspired look, focus on the eyes and lips. For the dark eyes, go for more of a smudged, smokey liner rather than any sharp lines. For the lips, use a matte red and follow your mouth's natural outline. Keep the rest of the face fairly natural. You can add concealer and foundation as needed, but keep it light and apply peach blush in a circular motion to warm up the skin. 1920s actress Renée Adorée is an excellent example of the look (via IMDb).

Shocking lipstick shades of 1930s

Much of 1930s French girl makeup remained the same from the 1920s. The style still leaned towards a fresh face with charcoal eye makeup and long lashes bringing attention to the eyes. Red lipstick was also still fashionable. However, another lip color trend took off in the 1930s thanks to Elsa Schiaparelli. Schiaparelli was an Italian-born fashion designer and couturier. She was a contemporary of Coco Channel and one of her biggest rivals, per DailyArt Magazine.

Schiaparelli made waves in 1930s France when she released a perfume aptly named "Shocking." The perfume quickly caught attention because it was sold in a bottle shaped like a woman's torso, and the hourglass silhouette was based on the actress Mae West. Advertisements for the perfume showed the provocative bottle and drew the attention of the French. Along with the perfume, the designer introduced her signature color, "shocking pink," which is still used by many designers to this day. Describing the eye-catching color, Schiaparelli called it "life-giving, like all the light and the birds and the fish in the world put together." And it seems French women agreed, as according to Allure, with the introduction of this vibrant pink shade into fashion, women also started wearing bright pink lipstick instead of always sticking to classic red.

1940s French beauty during wartime

French style in the 1940s is a great example of how world events can influence fashion and beauty trends. You can clearly see how World War II's events impacted the French style. The war meant limited supplies, and new styles developed as a result. As Allure explains, hair care products such as shampoo and dye were challenging to get hold of. So, snoods and turbans became a fashionable way to cover hair, often with victory rolls pinned at the front of the head to make more of a statement. While war led countries like the US and Britain to adopt more subdued styles, French women under German occupation used their bold makeup and hairstyles as a subtle way to rebel.

Most of the emphasis was put on lips with deep cherry red lipstick or other dark red hues worn with natural face makeup. Different areas of France also had distinct styles from one another at the time. According to Marie Claire, while German-occupied regions leaned towards pencil-thin brows, in Vichy Franch, fuller, natural brows with a pronounced arch were the prevailing fashion.

1950s doe-eyed look

In the 1950s, the focus was pulled from the lips to the eyes. One of the keys to French girl makeup across the decades is never doing too much at once. If you're doing a dramatic lip, then it's best to keep the eye makeup more subdued, and the reverse is true. In the 1950s, the popular look left lips plain while emphasizing the eyes with black liner. You can achieve this look with minimal face makeup and fully lined eyes on the top and bottom with a wing and heavy mascara. According to Allure, the makeup style was called "l'oeil de biche," which translates to doe eyes, as it gave the appearance of large dramatic eyes similar to a deer's.

French models popularized the doe-eyed look by wearing dramatic eye makeup with everyday fashion. And the actress Brigitte Bardot made the style known around the world. Bardot was born in Paris in 1934 and made famous for film roles such as "And God Created Woman" and "Contempt." Dark doe eyes and teased blonde hair were her signature look, and due to her status as a movie star, sex symbol, and fashion icon, this French look remained popular from the 1950s well into the 1960s.

Bolder eyes in the 1960s

Around the globe, the 1960s were a time for a lot of experimentation with makeup. The mod look took over with bold geometric shapes and interesting eye looks, heavily inspired by the model Twiggy. According to The Hair and Makeup Artist Handbook, the famous mod eye used black to line the eyes and crease, then filled in the lids with a lighter color in white, green, or blue. Shimmering makeup was coming into style, and many were also influenced by the hippie movement to incorporate bolder colors and face paint into looks.

However, the classic French girl look maintained a more effortless and natural feel throughout this time. Brigitte Bardot's popularity continued, so an emphasis on the eyes, sometimes incorporating liner in a doe-eyed look, was still en vogue. According to Allure, the French leveled up the eye look by adding fake lashes, which became much more common in the 1960s. Dramatic, fluttery lashes accomplish this look. While other parts of the world were experimenting with more extreme face and eye makeup, the French girl look still relied on fresh, matte skin. Although, the French did start to embrace frosted lipstick to contrast with natural face makeup.

Fresh makeup of 1970s

French girl beauty in the 1970s relied on natural, healthy skin. This was often finished with a smudged, but not too dark smoky eye and glossy lips. Jane Birkin is an English-French actress and singer who perfectly embodied the on-trend French girl of the time. Although she originally came from England, Birkin was embraced by the French; she told Vogue, "The French gave me a real gift in accepting me very quickly." She became a style icon for the French. Her effortless look included French girl bangs, minimal face makeup, and often a glossed lip.

Fashion brands are still inspired by the chic and youthful looks of the 1970s French girl today. Channel based their Fall 2020 show off the style. To give their models the fresh French girl look, Channel's Lucia Pica told Evoke that she brushed the brows up to make them fuller, added gloss to the lips, used a pearl pink blush on the cheeks, and lightly added highlighter to the eyelids and cheekbones for a natural, dewy glow. To replicate this trend yourself, avoid going too heavy with any of the products, as the key to the style is a natural, healthy look.

Dip into color with 1980s French style

Around the world, '80s fashion was influenced by music videos, movies, and nightlife. Women started wearing bolder colors in both fashion and makeup. This was also true for French beauty. According to Allure, in the 1980s, French women were known to wear colored eyeshadows, often with fake lashes, at the same time as a vibrant lip color. This was a move away from the traditional French method, which only emphasized one feature, such as the lips or the eyes. Instead, women might wear vibrant colors on the lips, eyes, and cheeks all at once. Farida Khelfa was a French supermodel who also inspired French beauty at the time with her edgy nightlife style.

The bright over-the-top style of the 1980s was a part of French style, but the French version was still more subdued than the '80s fashion you'd have seen in the US at the time. Women often downplayed bright, feminine makeup by styling it with menswear fashion. You can see how Jacquemus replicated this in their 2017 Fall runway (via InStyle). Models took to the catwalk wearing oversized blazers and shoulder pads while wearing eye-catching pink lips.

Moody 1990s French girl

In the 1990s, the French style balanced its signature clean and fresh style with ​​more rock and roll-inspired details. As usual, the prevailing face makeup for French women remained clean and simple. To copy this look use minimal concealer and foundation to perfect blemishes. Leave the skin as natural as possible, avoiding any heavy blush and only adding a light contour if desired. For a slight edge, the '90s French girl paired the fresh face with brown lipstick. Allure recommends lining your lips with a brown or neutral shade before filling them in with the iconic '90s color. You can finish the French girl look with a subtle smoked eye keeping most of the emphasis on the lips.

The '90s French girl aesthetic was heavily inspired by Vanessa Paradis, a popular French singer and model. Speaking to Vogue, Paradis shared her secret to beautiful skin, saying, "The beauty essentials: sleep, water and fun."

Natural glamor in the 2000s

In the US, the early 2000s or Y2K fashion was pushed by pop culture it-girls like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Destiny's Child. As Grazia details, these celebrities were all about shimmer and sparkle. Their beauty looks relied on shimmering or frosted eyeshadows with glossy lips. Often that eyeshadow was packed all the way up to the brow bone. Hairstyles also embraced glitz and fun with crimping, high ponytails, and color streaks.

But, while Y2K celebrities were inspiring the US, French beauty took a step back. After the bold colors of the 1980s, French women went back to their classic roots. French girls in the 2000s kept their faces natural with a neutral lip and eye makeup to enhance their features. According to Allure, this shift to a traditional look was heavily inspired by Carla Bruni, an Italian and French musician and supermodel who became the first lady of France. Speaking about her beauty secrets, Bruni said she uses very moisturizing creams like Avène or La Roche Posay to keep her skin from getting dry, per Into the Gloss. And when it comes to face makeup, she recommended going light, "When you're 15 years old, you can cover yourself with makeup, but when you're past 30, you can be lighter with your hand. It's better to concentrate on having good skin. For instance, instead of using foundation, I would use a BB or CC cream."

The bushy eyebrows of 2010s

In the 2010s, the French makeup style continued to lean into natural makeup, this time with even more minimal makeup. According to Allure, the 2010 French girl's look kept her face and lips very clean and natural. Eye makeup was also fairly neutral with maybe light liner and lashes. The real statement was the brows. Bold, boyish brows were seen on Paris runways and quickly became a worldwide trend, with beauty brands creating countless products to shape and fill in brows, all so people could achieve the stylish, bushy look.

But, while this trend was copied worldwide, the French knew the secret to make it look effortless and chic. Peter Philips, Dior's makeup artist, shared some of those secrets with Elle. The first was not to overfill the brows. The temptation when creating striking brows may be to fill in the entire area, but Phillips advised leaving some transparency to achieve a natural look. Brush arches over the brow in a zig-zag pattern with tinted gel, but leave space between the lines so they look real. He recommended a cream shadow with a very subtle sheen to draw attention to the eyes without taking away from the natural look. This creates a dewy, healthy look that matches youthful brows.

Lived-in French girl look of today

Like past styles, today's French girl style is natural and effortless. Beauty Crew explained that achieving French beauty is as much about what you don't wear as what you do. Unlike beauty trends in the US, modern French looks avoid fake tans, contouring, and long acrylic nails, opting instead to enhance natural features and achieve a lived-in look.

The first step to achieving a modern French girl look is to focus on timeless red lips. Rather than using lip liner and spending time on a precise cupid's bow and careful application, you can leave your lips lightly smudged. The lived-in lipstick is the statement of the look, and the rest of your face should stay fairly natural. "The ideal French complexion is created with products that can't be seen on the skin," French beauty expert Charlotte Ravet said, "To achieve this effect, avoid applying too much foundation on the skin but rather use concealers and color correctors." Another way to enhance natural features is by using trending black blush. Though it appears black in the pot, the blush takes on pink and purple shades to mimic natural complexion when applied and is becoming widely popular in France, according to Ravet.