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Style Icons: The Yéyé Girls

by Hollie Moat

Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy

Last week the fifth season of cult American television series Mad Men kicked off, much to the relief of its ardent fanbase, who had spent the past eighteen months just aching for its return. But it wasn’t beloved characters like Don or Peggy or Joan who dominated the headlines after the season premiere, the majority of coverage on the episode related to Don’s young new wife, Megan, who serenaded him at his fortieth birthday party with a sexy French song called Zou Bisou Bisou.

It’s a pretty addictive tune, and a little further homework on it reveal that Zou Bisou Bisou is a Yéyé song – a type of predominantly French music that was huge in the Sixties and was sung by a selection of gorgeous young female singers that mixed coquettishness with concentration, sexy but in a deliberately naïve, kittenish way. They also happened to be incredibly stylish, with their tousled hair, doe eyes, short skirts, little boots, polo necks and capri pants the Yéyé Girls are a perfect lesson in how to put simply pieces together in a striking but effortless way (and by keeping those necklines high they managed to avoid coming across as wanton, no matter how short those hemlines or sexually provocative their lyrics).
Meet five of our latest fashion crushes


Gillian Hills, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy, France Gall and Sheila

France Gall


Gall was just sixteen when she had her first hit Ne soir pas si bête (Don’t be so stupid), which made her wide-eyed ingénue image slightly easier to pull off. Her breathy vocals attracted the attention of Serge Gainsbourg, who went on to write several of her hits.



Sylvie Vartan


Vartan, who married French superstar Johnny Hallyday and became the nation’s favourite couple, had a more tough sounding, edgier voice than the other Yéyé girls, which make her hits like La plus belle pour aller danser more vocally arresting.



Françoise Hardy


One of the most enduringly famous of the girls, something which is largely down to her sense of style – her heavy fringe and tomboyish but flirty attire have seen her become the muse of Balenciaga designer Nicholas Ghesquière.



Sheila


Sheila was the top selling artist in France in the Sixties and Seventies, with a slightly more girl-next-door image than the other Yéyé girls, it comes as no surprise that she hit the big time with a particularly youthful song called L’école est finie.(School is over)



Gillian Hills


The original singer of Mad Men’s Zou Bisou Bisou was a pouty dark haired Brigitte Bardot lookalike who was actually British, and aside from her French pop career and appeared in classic Sixties films Beat Girl and Blow Up.

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