Traveling to Paris soon? Wondering what to wear in Paris? Living in France for a time I’ve always loved how French people dress, especially Parisians. But I read an article recently that said that some Japanese visitors were sad when they traveled to Paris. They called it, the Paris Syndrome, and it can happen to visitors from all countries but happens specifically to Japanese because Parisian fashion is idealized in Japanese advertising. Many Japanese truly believe that people in Paris all wear high-end brands and most look like fashion models. Is that true?
My first time in Paris I was actually ashamed with what I wore but I had no choice. I was 10 and I remember that I didn’t want to go to Paris wearing sweats like my mother had made me. Looking back on it, I’m sure it didn’t matter, but I always had the ideal that Paris is like New York. You just don’t show up in sweats and a collegiate t-shirt!
The truth is, of course, that it’s actually very rare Parisians wear high-end brands. However, they do make an effort to put together a stylish look. If you’re an American who loves to wear sweats and a collegiate t-shirt than you will surely stand out. By no means is this post meant to hate on Americans but rather to explain the Parisian style and what to wear in Paris if traveling there. I do feel it’s important, if traveling to a city, to respect whatever is normal for the people you’re visiting. So if in Paris, dress like Parisians do.
What to Wear in Paris?
Sophistication, Simplicity and Style are the 3 words that come to mind when thinking of the Parisian mindset on fashion. Parisians love anything that is fitted, great quality and has simple colors; sticking to mostly neutral, non-flashy or black. The goal is to keep your style effortless, modern, attractive, somewhat sexy but not overly sexual.
Women are wearing high-heels, flats, boots, jeans, dresses, skirts, pant suits, peacoats, cardigans, sunglasses, hand bags, fitted thin shirts and scarves. Make up is usually light and only is meant to enhance not to cover up. Girls want to look ‘naturally’ pretty and nothing should be overdone. Neutral patterns and colors are popular because it’s more slimming and flattering but over the top patterns are not.
The average Parisian women does not show too much skin and likes to keep her look like it was effortless. No caked on make-up or anything that would feel or look unflattering.
Men are comfortable wearing dress shoes, boots, sperry type of shoes, converses, dress pants, jeans, fitted blazers, jackets, suits, fitted t-shirts, peacoats, fitted collared shirts, ties and scarves. Notice I said fitted because the average Parisian male wouldn’t wear clothing that is too bulky. Dress shoes, sperry’s or boots are more popular than tennis shoes.
Scarves are also popular in the winter months and used to enhance an outfit and to keep warm. Bright colors are usually not worn and just like women, men like to have neutral colors. The rugged but fitted look is popular. Accessories are kept to a minimum for men. Stick with dark leather belts, a leather bag or sack, sunglasses, watches or wristbands.
Season to Season
The French ideal is to have summer and winter clothes that easily transition from one season to the next. Clothes that can be mixed and matched with one another for the entire year.
In Fall temperatures begin to drop and heavier materials come out like jackets, dark jeans, wool, and boots. However it fluctuates and it may be necessary only to wear a light jacket with some flats to be comfortable. Paris in Fall isn’t too extreme, although it can be chilly. Black, browns, blue are always a good go to for the French population. This is more like light sweater and light jacket weather. If you’re looking to be more creative and artsy with your wardrobe, pop in some bright colors to stand out.
In Winter most men and women wear some sort of combination of black or gray pea-coat, dress pants, tights, jeans, scarves, boots or high heels. Fitted cardigans or sweaters are favorites. Wool is a good insulator of the chilly winds and snows that Paris gets sometimes. When walking down a street during winter you usually see a sea of black pea-coats because black is a color that works with most items of clothing and is very functional. Parisians try to buy clothes that are easy to wear and will last. Most men and women wear scarves or some type of hat to keep warm. Jeans are popular but office workers will wear fitted dress pants with dress shoes. When traveling to Paris during the winter keep your style simple, neutral and black and functional.
In Spring it can be quite chilly in Paris or can be very warm. This season is the hardest to predict in terms of what to pack but I suggest some dark jeans mixed with brighter tops, lighter scarves, and if it’s warmer some dresses, shorts, blouses, and skirts.
Parisian women really like to bring out the colors so don’t be afraid to shed the grays and black. Florals may be cliché but they are popular in spring. Because the weather is a mixed bag you may be wearing a pea-coat or a jacket so don’t be afraid to bring a light-colored coat. The range for shoes is clear in these months and it may be cold enough to wear boots or warm enough to wear sandals, high heels or even flats.
It’s more or less the same with men with the exceptions of florals. You will see a more casual to preppy look ranging from short sleeves, to a light jacket. In recent years looks from the USA like a jean jacket have been popular with men. Like the women, men are not afraid to add some color and they probably do it more often than American men. Men prefer low heeled boots, sperry’s, converses, or leather sandals if it’s warm.
Both men and women rarely wear tennis shoes in public unless working out.
In Summer go with more colorful clothing but don’t go over the top. Neutral colors mixed with brighter colors work well and hand bags, sunglasses and one type of jewelry could be added.
By June it’s usually warm enough to shed the jackets and coats and start to wear more short sleeves, shorts, and lighter colors. Because Paris is pretty chilly for much of the year, Parisian women take advantage of the short summer months and like to show off patterns, prints and textures. Don’t be afraid to add color to your outfit. Summer you won’t see many brown or black leather boots, it’s just too warm, but rather a lot of high heels, flats, and sandals.
For men it’s the same with jackets and darker colors. Usually men like to wear short sleeves, polos, fitted t-shirts and shirts as well as fitted shorts and jeans. Style is still kept and there should be some color and patterns in the wardrobe. Stick with shoes like converse, sperry’s, and low heeled boots. Men around this time rarely wear heavy leather boots but it’s okay if you plan to be fancy and have a nice meal out, etc…
In a city like Paris, it’s okay to add some color in your wardrobe in the summer. It can be hot walking around and so it’s wiser to walk around in something with lighter color; an outfit that doesn’t include heavy materials.
Parisians like fitting jeans and dress pants instead of the loose bagging ones preferred in the US. This keeps the look classic, making sure there is an ease of flow and comfort. Parisians understand that dressing correctly is essential in everyday life and you wouldn’t want to go to your job looking outdated and frumpy. And no creases! The look is simple, stylish, straightforward and owning your style and outfit is necessary. Confidence is key!
When traveling to Paris, dump your collegiate wear or anything that screams loud and lazy. No sweats! Scarves are always a great add-on for both men and women.
Also Parisian men and women wear cologne or perfume. Cologne and perfume are extremely popular in Paris and there is way more variety to choose from. It’s the way cologne and perfume makes you feel that is important. Just one spray or two.
Surprisingly Paris is rather conformed and uniformed with their looks. Black is very popular and there is a reason the French like it. It hides unflattering parts more and works well with most colors. Parisians don’t wear too much jewelry and Parisians select favorite pieces that are not overly flashy and flow with the outfit. Too much jewelry is not necessary.
Women like to accessorize with pearls, diamonds, necklaces, watches, headband, sunglasses, and a handbag of course. For men keep it simple with something like a bracelet, necklaces, wallets, ties, type of leather or duffel bag or a belt.
Men carry around more leather bags or duffel bags compared to the US so perhaps think about adding a bag to your look. Only wear a few of these items at one time and no sports shoes.
Some Parisians may wear high-end brands but the most wear everyday clothes from their favorite department stores or clothing stores, like
- Le Printemps
- The Kooples
- Le Bon Marché
- Yves St. Laurent
Rarely do I hear Parisians buying high-end items but if they do they make sure they will actually use it. And always quality over quantity!! It’s better to have few quality items than a lot of cheap items. It’s absurd to buy such an expensive item and never use it.
If the clothing doesn’t fit right on the body then don’t wear it. Also think about how many times you will wear the piece of clothing and if can you combine it to work with other pieces of clothes? Functionality is important and your whole wardrobe should fit with your entire style.
Sophistication, simplicity and effortless style is key. Only buy a piece that will flow with multiple outfits and only spend money on pieces that won’t get damaged easily and that you love. Basic shirts and pants try to buy cheaply. Dump anything messy, mediocre and that you don’t love. You must feel comfortable with what you’re wearing and have confidence.
Parisian men and women like to wear a refined, modern look that is easy to buy, wear and put on as well as looks great in the streets. If you’re trying a look that feels too over the top, then it probably is. Only buy items that work with other parts of your collection and only buy form-fitting, neutral colors with a little pop of color. Remember that if you aren’t going to wear it because it isn’t functional or stylish don’t even waste your time buying it. Contact me if you have any questions or leave a comment below. Feel free to share!