The Belle Époque in particular, which lasted from around 1871 to 1914, added a sexual edge to her persona. The image of the Parisienne became that of a scandalous woman, not only inquisitive but also adventurous, keen to experiment sexually, break with conventions, eager to free herself from religion, family and marriage. The novelist Colette offers the archetype of the Parisienne at that time: an insatiable curiosity for life, love and lust, her struggle to break free from overbearing husbands, her taste for scandal, her fight to become financially independent through talent and, also, charm. Colette’s novella Gigi, adapted for the screen by Vincente Minnelli, tells the story of a young Parisian girl groomed for a career as a courtesan who tries to reconcile love and independence.
Mystery and playfulness
From the 1920s to the 1940s, working-class stars like the music-hall chanteuse Mistinguett and the actor Arletty, with their sharp humour, presented a similarly strong Parisienne character. And the famous dancer Josephine Baker, although African-American, made Paris her home – and perfectly embodied the insouciant Parisian spirit.