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Clothing in Paris

I'm worried that I might not be comfortable in my normal travel clothing while touring Paris. I typically wear nicer hiking style clothing. Any input?

Posted by
6245 posts

Wear whatever you want. Nobody cares what you are wearing. At all.

NOBODY. Really.

Cross this off your list of things to worry about. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
2558 posts

I wear nice hiking wear everywhere I go - leggings, t-shirt, fleece or down jacket if needed, athletic shoes and baseball cap. I was totally comfortable in Paris when I was there recently. Of course I have never been concerned about being a fashionista or trying to look like a local. There was a mix of locals and tourists when I was there, and I saw all kinds of clothing styles. It would be hard to stick out.

Posted by
2766 posts

You are fine in your hiking clothes.

BUT the question isn’t “can I wear hiking clothes”. The answer to that would be yes, no one cares. But the issue was that she might not feel comfortable in these clothes. And that’s a valid concern.

Paris isn’t a 24 hour fashion show and people will be in every type of attire. But going to nicer, local restaurants and shops (as opposed to big tourist sights), the median dress style you will see is a bit nicer than travel/hiking clothes. If you are someone who cares about that - and I am too, no judgement at all! - then packing one or two outfits that can be dressed up might make you more comfortable. A nice blouse and necklace/scarf and simple black pants that work with both travel clothes and the dressier blouse would be an example. No need to go for latest or expensive fashion, just something simple but a little dressier.

Posted by
16 posts

Hi Joanna! I hope you have a fantastic time in Paris. I do have some credentials to present you with. I lived in southern France for 3 years, travelled to Paris a couple of times then, and have made a few visits at other times. I have not been recently, but I am sure not much has changed in the parts of the culture of Paris that pertain to American travelers.

What I will say below is assuming that you are interested in cultural / historical sights and not nightclubs. I can't speak to the nightclub things - sorry!

The first thing to remember is that, as corny as it sounds, you are a foreign ambassador while you are there. Many of the French do dislike Americans strongly, and one reason (of many) is that we ignore their sense of propriety in our appearances and behaviors. I have seen Americans behave so appallingly that I wanted to cringe and say, "Please, that's not me, ignore them, we are not all like that." One 6'5" Texan wearing an enormous white ten-gallon hat - I kid you not - came roaring up to the train ticket area in one of the main stations, shouting that "You people shouldn't steal cabs out from under us Americans! If you don't treat us right we will quit coming and your economy will collapse!! Oh, my stars! We come and act like we are at the county fair or the zoo and we dress without any respect for their identity, their ancient heritage, and their ethos.

So no ten-gallon hats. And seriously, no shorts above the knee, (I wouldn't wear them at all,) shoulders and cleavage covered, and I'd avoid a baseball cap. You never know when you will want to stop at a beautiful church that your guidebook recommends and you should dress respectfully and not speak above a whisper if a mass is being held. At some churches you may be required to cover your head.

You may feel uncomfortable without your day hiking boots, but in Paris - the second capital of style - I promise that you will feel uncomfortable with them. No matter what, everyone will know you are an American tourist in a single glance. But then there's receiving the slow down-and-up from a sneering maitre d' who will seat you next to the toilets, or a waiter who will make sure your supper takes four hours instead of two. It might be difficult to get served in a more up-market store.

I am compelled to add that, as for eating in France, the French eat out for a quiet conversation with friends, as well as for the beautiful food. Americans can get loud without even thinking about it. Please respect their right to eat their meal in the peace they have paid for. As for dress, observe what the French people who are coming and going are wearing.

One last bit of advice: well, two. Do not, not, not take out your wallet if you are in the street. Not only might you lose your wallet but you might be injured if the thief or thieves decide to knock you down. Second: a cautionary tale. Do not leave money in your hotel room. My dad was a curious person and was examining a two-hundred franc note (about $40) in bed one night. He proceeded to use it as a bookmark in the book he was reading and went to sleep. We came back from "touristing" the next afternoon and it was gone. The hotel manager apologized, but he did not offer to repay my dad.

So give yourself a treat. Buy yourself a couple of silk shirts and an attractive pair of walking shoes. Then hit the sidewalks and parks of the most gorgeous city in the world!

Posted by
10308 posts

, but in Paris - the second capital of style

A bit off topic but where/what is 'first'?

Posted by
1876 posts

Please wear what you want. I was told that Parisians wore black and tennis shoes were strictly for tourists. I stayed in a neighborhood near the Arc and while black may be work colors, many Parisians on the weekend wore tennis shoes and jeans. As for blending in, without being fluent in French there's no way you can.

Wear what makes you comfortable.

Posted by
103 posts

Perhaps pack one nicer outfit to wear out to dinner?

It seems like a cliché but scarves and earrings can go a long way to dress up a simple t-shirt.

Posted by
3089 posts

There is comfortable and looking sloppy, and there is comfortable and looking nice and more upscale. Choose the latter. As someone previously mentioned, scarves and jewelry can raise the level of a nice tee shirt. And “Bonjour Madame” or monsieur will up your game as well.

Posted by
1147 posts

I like to look at department store websites before I travel. It is grounding to see that by in large, similar products are being sold there as in my local stores. I also like to go to department stores and buy something not precious and expensive, something I will use, like a hat for shade. I also like to watch livestream webcams. I don't really have any in mind for Paris, but I would say people dress pretty much as we do. I think Sarah Murdoch had some videos from Paris last year if you want to search her out on Youtube. I wear the same clothes for travel that I wear at home for work and play, same shoes, too, mostly. Keen sandals, Bernie Mev shoes, maybe a pair of ballet flats for something fancy. Eileen Fisher pants, summer tops from the Gap (bought at the Philly airport!). I do have a few go-to dress up items. I always take my little silk scarf with sequins and usually have a longer wrap/shawl.

Wear what you feel comfortable in and then treat yourself to a little something along the way. This is why I have so many scarves - I buy them on trips - but what fun!

Posted by
267 posts

Last month I was in Paris for 11 days and I noticed people on the streets, in museums and sidewalk cafes wearing sensible clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for hiking or urban adventuring. I couldn’t have told you if they were French, Swiss, Bulgarian or American. I tend to dress dressier myself just because I’m more comfortable in a skirt, but my husband’s Seattle uniform of jeans, sneakers, fleece quarter zip, black Columbia rain jacket and baseball cap didn’t get a second look. : )

Back in the early 1980s I lived in Europe for several years and I spent a lot of time and energy worried about not looking American. At the time, the surefire give away that you were an (unfashionable) American was wearing white sneakers and jeans. Now white sneakers and jeans ARE fashionable all over Europe. I think that a lot of old stereotypes and ideas about fashion have thankfully gone by the wayside.

Unless you have plans for fine dining - or some other activity that has a dress code - well-fitting, clean hiking wear for general tourist activities is fine. And, when in doubt, add a scarf!

Posted by
9721 posts

I disagree with what spparks said.

My Parisian husband wears a US style baseball cap on sunny days and his beloved Skeechers shoes almost daily. Whatever is sold in the US, is available here. Our latest go-to is Uniqlo.

Posted by
7609 posts

I wear black jeans that read as slacks, turtles or ts depending on the weather and a polartek or overblouse depending on weather -- so not more formal than your stuff. For dinner out in a nice place, I have a dressy sweaterish thing that goes over the basic black and wear a scarf; it goes on like a sweater with arm holes but is drapey like a shawl. It is nice to have something to dress up the basic outfit and I have over the years found a couple of things that literally can be wadded up in the bottom of the suitcase and be wearable -- this sweaterish thing and sometimes instead I bring a black and white striped dressy jacket -- which is similarly robust to packing.

Almost everyone is in jeans or yoga pants unless they are literally going or coming from work. women tend to wear jackets and scarves. You are not going to stand out in the clothes you describe and with minor tweaks are good to go anywhere.

Posted by
6063 posts

"Hiking style" clothing is actually quite fashionable here these days. Every other trendy twenty- and thirty-something seems to be sporting some Patagonia or North Face-branded item.
And there is even more variety and flexibility for women's attire than for men's.

Posted by
7609 posts

Exactly -- the jacket I wear on 60ish days which we have been having is something I got at REI -- looks kind of polartek but it wool. Upscale sportswear is all over.

Posted by
2704 posts

We are all different.
We all dress differently.
Wear what is comfortable for you in the weather you're in.
You're not going to Paris to be fashionable.
Have fun!

Posted by
140 posts

I saw a lot of Parisians wearing black pants and white sneakers last week --so felt very comfortable with mine. Puffer vests were everywhere. I personally brought a selection of silk tops for layering (great for those with hot flashes, didn't really wrinkle, light weight and look nice). I personally like to look nice on vacation, and find ways to balance packing light with some fashion options. Others may not care how I look, but I do, and my husband does too. So you should do you, and wear what you feel best in. I don't think you will have any issues with the type of attire you mentioned. Overly sexy, garish things, probably, but low key and serviceable should go unnoticed

Posted by
120 posts

As others have noted, it is fine to wear “hiking style” clothes in Paris, but I think only you can decide if you would feel comfortable dressed this way. For me, hiking clothes are for … hiking! I would feel ridiculous wearing hiking boots, fleece and any garment labeled “quick-dry” anywhere but the trail. But that is me. If you are comfortable wearing hiking clothes as casual wear at home then you should definitely wear them to travel.

Posted by
1299 posts

Truly the most important thing is good footware and clothes that dry. You're going to sweat. You're not there for fashion week, so leave the fashion to the fashionistas and just enjoy every moment.

Posted by
1 posts

Paris used to see anyone wearing tennis shoes as “American”, but everyone is wearing them now. We are in France right now, and some stores are selling fairly garish tennies for 300€ and up. Things have really changed. I think your hiking boots might be perceived as chic.

Posted by
1602 posts

JoAnna- Sounds like you will be physically comfortable but maybe you're more worried about being socially comfortable?

if you are asking, then more than likely you may be already feeling a little uncomfortable??

You can see what people are wearing on a you tube series A Walk in Paris, where this guy just walks and films, no narrative. The Videos are often just a few days old, you can see what people are wearing to get a sense if you will be ok. One of my favorite take always are what people are wearing, eating, artwork on buildings etc.

Personally, I would never be comfortable in hiking or workout wear when traveling (not talking about the airplane), no matter how nice or expensive.

Posted by
318 posts

Really? No shorts above the knee? If they're not above the knee, I wouldn't consider them shorts. Does no one wear shorts in late spring/summer in France/Paris? I'm from Louisiana, and I live in shorts for most of the year. Should I leave them home, are they inappropriate in France.

Posted by
229 posts

I vote with the "no one cares" crowd. You're not there for a job interview. Everyone knows you're an American tourist and even if "they" privately question your fashion sense, they are happy that you're there spending your $$. And even tho Parisians have a bad rep (even among the French - there was a campaign many years ago to get Parisians to be nicer to tourists foreign and domestic) for the way they treat strangers, we usually found that folks were quite gracious, even if our dress was probably out-of-place in some very nice restaurants. My only other advice is to dress with security in mind (no matter how ugly that makes you) b/c there's no way you won't be pegged as a tourist.

C of David and C.

Posted by
1602 posts

Even if 'no one cares" you should care! My goodness, you're on vacation/traveling, not at a yard sale. Have some dignity and respect for yourself, your tour mates (if that is the case) and the property your visiting/event you're going to. I dress nice, but comfortable in my own skin, when traveling and still have moments when I feel really underdressed and a little embarrassed.

Posted by
6063 posts

Shorts above the knee are totally fine in France, and very common. And, contrary to Italy or Spain, you can visit churches wearing those, too. I would only change into something longer for dinner at a traditional or fancy establishment.

Posted by
1211 posts

If your clothing concern is for visiting sites, parks and museums, keep your normal travel clothing.
To go to fancier places like an upscale restaurant, a dinner show or an evening with the colonel of the Republican Guard, plan something more "chic".
About the opinion Parisians will have when they see you, don't worry, whatever you're wearing they'll know you're American :)

Posted by
2576 posts

The only people I saw a Paris in March who stuck out where the Instagram wannabes. They were overdressed, overly made up and the Parisians were laughing at them. But they didn’t even notice anyone else

So as long as do not dress like a circus clown or lady of the night so you can get attention, you’ll probably be fine

Posted by
539 posts

I recall, pre Covid, seeing 2 young (20s) American women in Paris with their boyfriends/husbands. The guys were in T-shirts, baggy cargo shorts, baseball caps, and flip flops. The women where wearing short, short, short, shorts and sandals. I was embarrassed for them.

Posted by
54 posts

Carol: "The only people I saw a Paris in March who stuck out where the Instagram wannabes. They were overdressed, overly made up and the Parisians were laughing at them. But they didn’t even notice anyone else."

Was just about to make the same comment after our two weeks in late April. Good Lord, the lipstick and berets (and apparently everyone woman under 30 now studies the ins and outs of professional model posing) .... I'd also add the Emily wannabees, though I'm sure a Venn diagram would show a huge intersection between the 'Grammers/Emilys.

Dress casual but neat, pull up a sidewalk cafe spot, and enjoy the show.

Posted by
12 posts

We just got back from two weeks in Paris and Normandy. Jean, tennis shoes, or other comfortable shoes, and nice tops are fine in nearly any location. I saw plenty of French people wearing baseball caps and saw them for sale at non-tourist locations. I would probably skip cargo shorts, but if it's shorts weather, any pair of nice shorts would be fine. To me, the French wore what we wear in the US, just more stylishly or nicer variations. Exercise and loungewear were the only things I didn't see on the streets.

As a guy in a swing season, I wore casual khakis and button down long-sleeve shirts. I generally felt overdressed during the day and would have preferred polos, but just a little too cool. I was fine at night.

Wear what fits, is comfortable, and looks nice and isn't wha what you would wear to the gym and you should be good for anything except the finer restaurants or a black-tie party. Will you be going to any of those? Even in a finer restaurant, a button down top would probably be enough to "dress-up." I was surprised at the number of jackets I saw on men, but how few ties, too.


Posted by
1321 posts

Paris in some ways is a melting pot, but it tend to have a powerful uniformity in that nearly everyone in one way or another conforms to being a bit plus in the fashion department in one way or the other.

You might not care, but many Parisians do judge. Our last trip there I walked three blocks to the bakery one morning in gray shorts, black t shirt and flip flops. Literally three different people laughed openly while staring at my flip flops. I didn't feel shamed, rather amused that my feet were so amusing.

But being to some extent pulled together fashion-wise, however you do that, does grease the wheels in Paris. You get treated better than if you don't.

Making the effort to have a little panache
is a form of respecting the place. Not at all mandatory, but millions of locals do it, so I usually try to make a little bit of effort too. And not to the end of blending in - a don't care who marks me as an American tourist - but rather to pay homage.

Posted by
140 posts

I agree Hank -- I didn't make any packing choices based on trying to hide that I'm American, but rather to personally feel good and to be perceived as an American who has a level of respect. I do this every trip regardless of destination. No idea if that impacted how we were treated, if it was our consistently saying bonjour, not being loud, etc., but we had really friendly and positive interactions with everyone.

Posted by
2 posts

I thank all of the above, even the ones I did not agree with.
My interest was, WEIGHT of clothing, as in March = weather related.

If I am a tourist, I WILL NEVER FIT IN........ now no one should be offensive in dress. So in Latin America usually wearing short short short shorts identifies a woman as a woman of the street, unless its the beach or she drives a Merc.

The suggestion to watch youtube...A Walk in Paris was excellent, however it was filmed I assume on a Sunday. GoogleMaps the little gold man is a good way to observe what people wear, and the areas you will be at.
A pair of jeans, is not out of place, nor white sneakers.
Just look at the quantity of those you see, I would say a large % are white, so buy more as that style will go to NAmerica again.
However, if you are in an upscale area, or functions, or business district, that may change, so you might try to be more stylish. And be comfortable what you wear.

March is like = Late May in Canada....... and you have to be ready for rain.
Good walking shoes are fundamental. Style out the window, unless you take taxis and walk no-where.
If you are in a group they should require walking trainers/shoes, otherwise you will have horses to shoot.
A lot of stairs also, take your cane even if you rarely use it.

Thanks everyone, very informative. Comfort, warm, cool, without offending others eyes, Lululemon at HOME please, no one wears that there, unless a model, or coming from a gym. So if you look like a Vogue model you can get away with it, and try some orange green red plaid polka-dot stripped fur leather mesh wedge healed spiked thingies, you will fit in, otherwise, go nice jeans. Slacks.

Whatever shoes you want to wear, try them out for same 2 miles.... museums are HUGE.... and walking to Metro also

I booked hotel right near the Metro stops where we would take, so no transfers, also direct ride from Airport. A MUST, for anyone who isn't a backpacker.
Spend the money, its worth it, we have done that in Rome, Paris, CAmerica and Caribbean, you deserve the extra, or get ready to lug luggage and papers, and by the way you will look like a tourist ;-}

This is a last time deal, 70/80 done Paris 6 times, this is going to where no one else goes, or I want to repeat, and not get cold wet nor feel like a fish out of water. Well, my sister comes from Germany and all the brands there are different on her and husband, except LL Bean. Men in Europe do wear coats, and older men ties. Walking in the forest, but that's stupid.
So leave your Stetson home, and beret for that matter, and walk determined to go where your nose is pointing, and not like a lost sheep.
Thanks again everyone comments were very helpful.

Posted by
1426 posts

"One 6'5" Texan wearing an enormous white ten-gallon hat – I kid you not.." - I agree, there's no accounting for bad taste. I've a sneaking suspicion that was Mister E or one of his compadres, those boys show no regard for fashion or show the slightest inclination to live like a local. I bet you could hear him a mile off, chomping like an Appaloosa on his Big Mac down the Champs-Élysées, the jingle-jangle of his boot spurs louder than the ring of Quasimodo's bells. Doggone it, it's about time we rope dem boys into the fashion corral, come hell or high water.

Personally, in France I'm a fool for white running shoes with thick, black rubber soles, long white socks, and baggy blue shorts hanging just below the knee. To ensure I'm not mistaken for a tourist I wear a blue and white banded shirt, a beret at a slant, a string of onions around my neck, a filterless Gauloises dangling from my lips. To be even more convincing I like to ride a rusty one gear bike along the cobbles. Admittedly, it's not a look everyone can get away with. I'm one of the lucky ones.

Posted by
7609 posts

I laughed at the Texan wearing a 10 gallon hat -- literally 60 years ago in Bremen Germany I saw this guy. Big flabby Texas guy with cowboy hat and a blue satin tie and loud and. pushy and gross. I was so embarrassed. And of course the modest respectful tourists of any country don't stand out so the rude ones become the stereotype.

These day most people you see on the street, metro, stores, museums etc will be wearing jeans in fall winter or spring and many in summer although wearing lighter weight cottons is common then. I have counted in subway cars and platforms and seen virtually everyone in jeans, from students to elderly women. There is an uptick in yoga pants and tights and similar wear now especially for women, but jeans are the universal. Most sneakers are not white although there was a brief fashion upsurge in that not long ago. But sneakers are commonly worn by everyone.

It is good to wear these comfortable clothes with a little flair -- a scarf, attention to fit, a smart jacket, but comfortable travel clothes are fine and good looking sport clothing works pretty well too.

Posted by
2576 posts

"One last bit of advice: well, two. Do not, not, not take out your wallet if you are in the street. Not only might you lose your wallet but you might be injured if the thief or thieves decide to knock you down. Second: a cautionary tale. Do not leave money in your hotel room."

I have been to Paris twice in the past year and probably 10 times in the past several years.... I do take my wallet out and nothing like this has ever happened to me

Additionally, I have not had my purse slashed. I have not felt the need to buy a portable safe to carry my belongings etc... I just use common sense and of course I don't carry more cash than I can afford to lose. If they do get my wallet have fun with that 20 Euros... I will live :) It's like any big city use a lot of common sense.

As for the fashion police statements above. Having been in Paris very recently no you won't feel out of place regardless of what you are wearing... those days are gone IMHO You won't get the sneer, you won't get slower service etc..... The most common footware in Paris now White tennis shoes. LOL! Boots, jeans, t-shirts etc all VERY common on the street

(And the "do not leave money in your hotel room" is true ANYWHERE and should include valuables. Hotel management is inclined not to care. And that's because there are lot of people trying to scam them. My friend who manages a major hotel told me a story of a woman who claimed her $5,000 camera set up was stolen" Hmm..... video of the family coming in and out of the hotel showed no evidence of said camera... and then they found the camera under the bed $200 point and shoot. The family admitted that was the "stolen" camera.. So not only was it not "Stolen" it was not what was advertised :) )