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Fashion in France - Not Just Paris!

I've read all the forum posts and blogs about what to wear as an American tourist in Paris, but what about in the rest of the country? I will also be in Reims, Beaune, Lyon, Avignon, the Luberon villages, Nice, St. Tropez, and Monaco (ambitious, I know). What do men and women wear in these areas? What should we wear so as to look a little less like Americans? We are leaving in 3 weeks; it's crunch time!

*Correction: we want to look less like self-absorbed, sloppy Americans. As an interracial couple, we already have plenty of stereotypes to worry about. I would prefer not to commit any fashion faux pas on top of it. It would make ME feel better to dress appropriately.

Posted by
11832 posts

Remember, they'll know you're a tourist by your mannerisms and especially once you say something. Being polite is the best way to be viewed in a favorable light. That said...

In early May, the "look" more or less for men in Paris seemed to be nice fitting dark jeans, either dress shoes or white Stan Smith tennis shoes (often without socks, or the kind that don't show), a long sleeve dress shirt, sportscoat, black peacoat or black rain coat, no tie but often a scarf and/or sweater (a black rib-knit sweater with a looser crew collar seems like a good choice). I'd say if you want to look less like a tourist, make sure everything fits well. No baggy jeans or coat.

Last fall wasn't much different in Paris except the tennis shoes were black or dark brown leather. These aren't running shoes, they're leather tennis shoes, specifically Stan Smith or identical style tennis shoes. White was the predominate color in May. Women, at least many women, wore the same but with some trim feature like metallic gold where men normally have green or black trim.

Don't forget the beard. Last fall I was debating whether to shave during my trip or not. When I got to Paris, I'd guess more than 90 percent of men have something between a three day beard and close-trimmed beard. Big beards, clean shaven, mustache alone, beard alone, and/or painstakingly trimmed beards were really rare. Most seemed to let the hair grow on their cheeks and shaved their necks every couple of days.

I think that also works elsewhere. My trip included Burgundy and Alsace and Reims this trip and you wouldn't have looked out of place with the same clothes. The sportscoat might be more urban than you need outside of the bigger cities.

I haven't been south yet, that's for my next trip in September.

sweater (and beard):

https://www.amazon.com/Toad-Co-Emmett-Crewneck-Sweater/dp/B00QSFDV4S/ref=sr_1_11?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1496153663&sr=1-11&nodeID=7147441011&psd=1&keywords=men%27s+rib+knit+sweater

shoes:

https://www.amazon.com/adidas-Originals-Smith-Sneaker-Fairway/dp/B00LUIKRHC/ref=sr_1_1?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1496153731&sr=1-1&nodeID=7147441011&psd=1&keywords=stan+smith+men

Posted by
12923 posts

Wear what you want and what is comfortable for you.
Nobody will care or pay attention, and people will be able to tell you are American regardless.
Just make sure you cover your flesh inside churches (no shorts, no tan tops).

Posted by
6487 posts

Roberto's answer was exactly right. I never understood why some people are so concerned about wearing the 'right' clothes when traveling. You are a tourist so why, when you're only going to be there a short time, do you feel the need to look like a local? As others have said, your clothes are not necessarily what will peg you as a tourist. Wear what is comfortable for you. If the locals are comfortable wearing suits doesn't mean you have to wear a suit; if the locals are all wearing shorts and flip-flops, you don't have to do the same - unless it's comfortable for you. Be aware of any dress codes for venues/events you will visit and you will be fine wearing whatever you wear in similar situations at home. I would worry more about smart wardrobe choices and packing light than dressing like the locals.

Posted by
41 posts

When I am traveling, I want to fully experience another culture! I want to embrace it and enmesh myself in it! So of course, that includes what I wear. Also, I work in fashion in NYC, so being on trend and stylish is important to me. Finally, I studied French for 7 years, so I may not be your average American tourist.

I find it awfully presumptive of those commenting to assume that all who travel, travel in the same way. What may seem silly to you will not seem so to everyone else. While you may travel simply to see the sights, I travel to experience the culture. This includes the fashions. If it didn't matter to me, I would not have asked!

Posted by
4690 posts

You specifically said you want to look less American - nothing about fashion industry, etc. I also agree with Roberto that nobody cares what you wear - as long as you pay.

If you want to go local, then just take one outfit and go shopping when you get there. As you probably know, it is not so much about the color as it is about the cut.

Posted by
2466 posts

Since you are involved with the fashion industry, all you have to do is Google French fashion magazines.
French Vogue is a little extreme but something like Elle would be correct for resort or Summertime clothing.
Other than that, all you need is a tan.

Posted by
6487 posts

Wow, guess we stepped on some toes. Actually there is no easy answer to your question. I'm not sure anyone here will be able to tell you what the 'fashion' is like in all the different cities/villages you plan to visit. In general, styles are a bit more casual in the smaller towns and villages than they are in Paris. But whether you like it or not, you will most likely look like and be pegged as an American tourist, whether you dress like the locals or not. I also studied French for several years but that didn't make me anything like a local. I spent a month touring around France and then a month in Paris. A couple of times I apparently was mistaken for a local, because other tourists came up and asked me questions, assuming that I either lived there or was familiar with the area. They were a bit taken aback when I explained that I was 'just a tourist' like them. I like to spend a bit more time in each place I visit than a lot of other tourists do and I try to immerse myself as much as possible in the local culture. But I know in my heart that trying to be a 'local' for a few days, or even a few weeks, is just a pipe dream that many of us tourists share but it's not really going to happen unless I decide to actually live there. And, by the way, I don't wear what the locals wear. I dress much more casual than they do, I just wear comfortable clothes that are neat, clean, not sloppy, etc. And I don't wear flip-flops!

If fashion is that important to you, then do as other posters suggested and google some french fashion websites. You can also do a search on here as there's been many threads on this very subject.

Posted by
2893 posts

"Also, I work in fashion in NYC, so being on trend and stylish is important to me. Finally, I studied French for 7 years, so I may not be your average American tourist."

I too am into fashion and at one point in my life, I worked in the fashion industry so I get your interest. But the thing is that in the current world, if you are dressed stylishly and "on trend" in New York, you will be dressed well in France. Frankly, the key to looking good and less like an American in France is the key to looking good in the US: fit is everything. After you have proper fit, you are golden. The other day while in Paris, I asked a good friend who lives there why I am frequently mistaken for a French person (because I think I that I look very American because I am so tall and not skinny) and she launched into a long explanation which basically boiled down to: Europeans stereotype American as being in sneakers and ill fitting, too casual or too tight clothes, message Ts, wearing too much makeup and being loud and they assume that people who are not doing those things are not American. If you are a woman, I say go for natural looking makeup and proper fit, skip message Ts or clothes from your alma mater. If you are a man, also skip alma mater clothing and message Ts and look for a slimmer fit than the clothes you typically see men wearing the US and if you tend to wear blue, grey and black pants, note that color palette for men is broader than that. Now, when I say message Ts, I mean t-shirts with the name of your town or or stuff like that on them. The other day I was wearing a slim fit, heather grey t-shirt with Bill Murray on it in Paris and it was absolutely a hit. I also wore my rose gold Converse sneakers and probably saw more Converse in Paris than you could count --same for some modern white court shoes. I bought mine in Le Marais at M. Moustache but that general look is a still hot in France.

Posted by
776 posts

Emphasis on the comment above . . .the tan . . .after the four hot sun filled days we've just had you'll want that as your badge of being in the long weekend class. To keep it, you''ll need to dress in layers . . . think debardeurs . . so you can whip off the shirt/blouse to continue your tan while cafe sitting.

Posted by
2319 posts

I am stylish at home and thus I take my style with me when I travel. Stylish doesn't mean fancy, for me it's well-fitting jeans, flattering top and/or sweater, viscose or cotton scarf in cooler weather, and my preferred brand of funky Fluevog shoes (and if not crazy-colored Fluevogs, then leather sneaker/oxfords by Ecco--you don't have to sacrifice style for comfort if you find the right shoes or boots). I am most often mistaken for Italian (dark curly hair), and the guide I had in Tallinn also said it was because I was dressed nicely. So, I don't assume I am fooling anyone about my origins, but I don't want to be a schlump, either.

Posted by
2560 posts

Reading the OP's response caused me to drop to my knees and thank God again for the woman I married....

Posted by
6642 posts

Looking like a tourist is not a problem, looking like a slob is. And that's true home or abroad. If you're visiting tourist destinations, most of the other people there are probably tourists too, not locals who are too busy working, shopping or on their way to school or business.

Posted by
776 posts

And you'll want a nicely fitted PSG T-shirt that says Fly Emirates

Posted by
2893 posts

"Reading the OP's response caused me to drop to my knees and thank God again for the woman I married...."

Well, yes, to each his or her own. One of my dearest friends takes approximately 90 minutes to get dressed and every outfit is fashion perfection and her makeup is impeccable if a bit heavy for my taste. Her husband takes about an hour to get dressed and adores my friend's high maintenance ways and vice versa.

Posted by
223 posts

I don't believe I will ever understand the fixation some tourists have on clothes. It's mystifying. flynnrom, I would suggest you get on Google street view in the various towns you plan to visit and look at folks along the street to see what people wear. If you want to accent that understanding, check the websites of retailers such as Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Caroll, Celio, Pimkie, Zara, Pull & Bear, Jennyfer, Lacoste, Morgan, and on and on and on. See what they're currently selling. They have pictures you can see without even reading French.

Bottom line: you're going to look like Americans (or Canadians), so give that little fantasy up.

Posted by
7 posts

I never cease to be amazed at how judgmental people can get as soon as someone mentions wanting to dress nicely and less-touristy while on vacation.

flynnrom: you do you! since France can get quite sunny and hot in the summer, think linens, cottons, light organic fibers (or at least material that breathes). A loose pair of linen pants, nice sandals or flats, an a sleeveless blouse can go far in France. A favorite fashion photographer of mine is living in Provence at the moment and is absolutely winning the American-in-France style game--check her photos out for inspo (Jamie Beck, @annstreetstudio on Instagram).

Posted by
177 posts

I think it's perfectly fine that you're wanting to know what they're wearing in France!

As a former exchange student who lived there for a year in college decades ago and is headed back for the first time in two weeks, I'm always interested in all aspects of an immersive experience. As a result, I've dusted off my used-to-be-fluent French in recent months in a conversation class, read up on French cheeses, and added a few off-the-beaten-path destinations where I can be surrounded by more locals and fewer tourists.

In my experience, both in France years ago and spending time in other European countries the past few years, what will make you seem less like an American tourist is your behavior rather than your clothes. Speaking softly on public transport and always greeting shopkeepers with a respectful "Bonjour madame/monsieur" goes along way. My goal when traveling is not so much to seem other than an American, but to never reinforce bad American stereotypes :)

As for clothing, it DOES seem like it's more "anything goes" in Europe than it used to be. My goal is to be put together and comfortable and I inevitably find myself wearing scarves daily whereas I just don't in the U.S. I'm sure as someone who works in fashion, you'll enjoy trendspotting while there!

Posted by
1290 posts

If you dont want to look like an American which nationality are you wanting to look like? I was just in Paris, Nice and Monaco and I could not tell who the Americans were until they spoke. Everyone wears everything. It was really hot so lots of shorts, sandals, tanks. Sensible shoes and not so sensible. People overdressed and underdressed. Was in Monaco for the F1 so all about team gear...some dressed fancy, most for comfort. The people in the stands dressed differently from the ones on the yachts etc. I think your dress style will be dictated by your plans for the day, if you walk a lot, plan to be indoors or outdoors or are dressing for day to night. Enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
1780 posts

Have a great trip. Your activities may dictate some of your clothing choices. Are you traveling as a small group or part of a tour? Will you be eating in upscale restaurants? In my opinion, women in Europe dress less casually than those in my part of the country, but if you're in fashion, your present wardrobe should fit right in. On the West Coast, people dress very casually for all occasions; I don't think you'd see the French dressing casually for an upscale dinner or concert.

I also think they have more fashion choices, even in smaller cities, than I do.So, if your schedule will permit shopping, I'd take advantage.

Posted by
541 posts

The cities are pretty close to what every other city in the western world is doing. Not much variation in the past decade for fashion (internet killed that void) it's more who's wearing it. I'm guessing those younger than Boomers are way more into this stuff. Just wait until the post Millennial generation becomes of age. These kids are serious about fashion decorum. Most of my wardrobe is European and I'm tall-ish and thin but I'm sure my SoCal hair and LA/Atlanta make-up give me away. Hubby and I frequent a little piece of French paradise in the Caribbean 1-2 times a year. Same vibe/culture as the French coast from our experience. I always check out the 'resort wear' collections from all the big design houses and nicer department stores for ideas. The knock-offs elsewhere much cheaper :). Better yet, hopefully you will be there during 'Les Soldes'! I'm currently planning a trip and refining my wardrobe too. Looks like same stuff as usual: gauzey white maxi dresses and full linen long sleeved shirts/pants for the guys. It appears the calypso skirt is even back.

Posted by
8631 posts

WOW--

I will be sure to enter France from another Schengen country

Am sure I could get past passport control OK , but no way my Dockers from Costco will make it past the French Fashion Police

Thank you for the warning

Posted by
15 posts

Dear Flynnrom, what about the other way round? Why don't you simply introduce the latest fashion trends in the US to the Français? I am sure they will appreciate, and you might be inspirational to the French.

Posted by
2893 posts

No one has suggested that there is a French Fashion Police. In fact just the opposite so I am sure that the Costco Dockers will be fine. But if the French Fashion Police do show up and stop you for questioning, just tell them that you bought them at http://www.lajeanerie.fr/ or maybe at Costco (https://www.costco.fr/).

Posted by
8631 posts

JHK--- thanks for the info about Costco--- now I can tour Versailles , hit Costco for the $1.50 hot dog for a late afternoon snack and pick up a $5 chicken to do a picnic dinner at a park near the Eiffel Tower and watch sunset.

To get back on topic-- What is so wrong about "looking like an American" ? When French tourists come to the US, do they all order cargo pants from REI so they will blend in with Americans and immerse themselves into our culture?

No problem with one dressing appropriately, but feeling the need to live "The Devil wears Prada", strikes me as .. silly ( wish I had a Thesaurus handy but that's the best I can do on the fly)

Posted by
8405 posts

You've gotten some good info such as clothes being cut closer to the body, and here's one more: everything is ironed. Well ironed, even jeans. So the basic items are the same, but the cut and handling is a bit different, even for the pieces bought at the outdoor market. If you're in the rag trade, you'll see right away. Don't take much but leave room to buy and wear. You can wear black even in the south and the Riviera in June and not feel like you have a bullseye painted on you. And as stated above--natural looking make-up and little jewelry. I see a few US women over-dressed in make up, earrings, scarves thinking it's French or Parisian, but it's not.

Posted by
11832 posts

When I'm traveling, I look at what people are wearing because I might want to emulate them in my closet at home. I wouldn't say I want to look like something other than American, but I want to look nice including both clothes and staying fit.

As far as women's looks are concerned. I don't consider myself to be an expert. I did often ask myself what was different about the way Parisian women dress compared to women in DC. I'd say they have tiny closets so everything in it is something they love. They don't have room for 15 pairs of white shorts, none of which they particularly like (but were bought on sale). Their clothes cost more but they keep a limited inventory.

I think French women do a good job of "owning" what they wear. Mostly smart basics with an added item to give it flair (we think of a scarf but it could be her shoes) and all accessories are good quality. I don't recall ever seeing outrageous nails, jewelry or make up - mostly smart and simple, never gaudy.

They smoke too much, but that's a different discussion.

Posted by
2466 posts

How old is the OP?
If around 22 - 28, you can take chances that older people (French, Europeans) would not dream of...
And yes - you should definitely wave cigarettes around, even if you don't smoke them.

Posted by
1820 posts

There are plenty of short, up to the minute clips on YouTube, of fashion in Paris.
Here's the link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92nQGYHAkB8
This channel has many videos of all seasons.

As you can see, they dress just like everyone else in the world; but a bit more stylish with simpler accessories.
Wear what you like.

Posted by
21076 posts

The street markets in Provence are awash in linen garments.

Posted by
2893 posts

@ S Jackson, Thanks for the YouTube link.

Posted by
4371 posts

Google Street View.

(BTW, today is Street View's 10th birthday!)

Compared to even 15 years ago, fashion across the planet is starting to merge into somewhat of a sameness. YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, blogs, etc., means we know what's in fashion Everywhere and Immediately, and borderless online shopping makes it easy for Karen in Phoenix to dress like Monique in Lyon, and for Luca in Siena to buy Levis and Dallas Cowboys jerseys. Comparing my 1998 trip to a more recent one, the fashion borderlines have really blurred. It used to be easy to tell who was from where, and when we had crossed from one country into another, but not anymore. That's not to say we couldn't pick out the Russians, but... ;-)

On Street View, it's fairly easy to pick out the locals from the tourists - look for luggage, day bags, 4" stiletto heels, groups of people (tourists) vs singles (workers going to/from work, lunch, meetings). Locals will be more likely to be the ones carrying shopping bags and pulling shopping trolleys (carts).

It sounds like you may be less concerned with how to look as compared with how not to look. Street View is great for that LOL!

Have a great time on your trip!

Posted by
724 posts

Most people I saw in France were dressed casually. I was a tourist. I didn't go to fancy places. We were mostly in small towns.

I think the premise of your question is wrong. I don't think what you wear will enhance or detract from your interactions with locals.

The most memorable conversation we had on our last 3 week trip in France took place in a village with a wonderful Romanesque church. It was with our waiter. The restaurant was not very good -- a village doesn't give you a lot of choices. Apparently our waiter was thrilled to see us because my son was wearing a Detroit Lions t-shirt and cargo shorts. He looked like an American teenager. The waiter told us he wanted to go to Detroit (we are not from Detroit) because he really liked rap. In fact, he was studying English by listening to rap! I am not sure how successful his methods were -- our conversation was in French. We talked a long time and it was so much fun to hear his views and learn about his ambitions. None of this would have happened if my son had been more fashionable.

So you just never know what will start a conversation. I think you need to be open to the unexpected. And I don't think it matters what you wear. I think you ought to shop while you're there and bring something memorable home.

Posted by
6487 posts

It could also be said that if one doesn't like an answer to their post, one could just ignore it. Seems to be a two way street. And one should be careful when sitting on such a high horse lest one fall off.

Posted by
8405 posts

Since emma mentions hair, I concur. I get my best cuts in France, and have for decades. They are also good for color. You can see how well hair is cut in the videos posted. However, if the cut and color is too good, no on will offer you a seat on the metro. Happened to me: every day I was offered a seat, until I had my hair colored and cut. Then I no longer looked decrepit enough to deserve a seat. Gotta know what you want: youthful allure or a seat.

Posted by
2560 posts

Instead of scolding the respondents go back and read your original post and the first reply which really does address your question. This is the RS Travel Forum. If you read a bit more about RS and the sort of folks who tour with him you would find these are a group of travelers who greatly value cultural immersion, as you call it, but don't put a lot of emphasis on fashion. Hard to be consistently fashionable with a single small rollaboard. I've been to Europe numerous times and have had real "moments"-memories of my travels that will stay with me forever. Most had to do with people and place. In Bosnia my eyes welled up as I spoke to a woman whose brother was killed just a few yards from where we sat sipping coffee in a cafe. In Montenegro on the Bay of Kotor we watched a fisherman pulling in the nets, rowing to shore, going into a closed nearby restaurant, and magically transforming into a waiter. A fabulous seafood lunch followed. Much laughter over our total inability to share any language except that of people enjoying fresh fish and wine. In Lourmarin France I spoke with a grave keeper as we stood at the grave of Albert Camus. Despite his nearly non-existent English and my high school French we both understood we were moved as students by Camus' great work, The Stranger. Last summer in Spain we crawled into a crowded tapas bar after a long hot slog in Madrid. Our Spanish is poor but we managed to eat and drink well. A young couple from Seville, up for the sales, were trying to do the same-the 3 year old was asleep in his mothers arms but the 8 year old was on fire, running around, knocking into people, while the parents tried to corral him, apologize, eat and not wake the baby. I made the universal come here sign to the young man, and stole his nose. You know that game. Then I put it back. The folks around me helped with the Spanish I needed to keep this going. The kid was amazed-maybe part of that was his nose was black, but when I stole it it was white. Oh, well. Enough time passed that the parents enjoyed their meal, folks around us laughed, and,magically, glasses of cava showed up at our table, brought by the formerly grumpy, now smiling waiter. France, Bosnia, Montenegro, Spain-and there are many more. But this I can tell you- I don't remember what I or any of the great people I met were wearing at the time. Yes, it's important to you, and I hope it adds to your journey. But meeting the people, sharing some food and drink, laughing with them-that will stay with you long after you need to look at photos to remember what you wore.

Posted by
2000 posts

I totally agree with you flynnrom. I like to look put-together & appropriate wherever I go. It's not a case of trying to pass myself off as a local. I guess this concept escapes (and angers) a lot of people. Hang in there.
As for how people dress outside of paris, I have spent some time in Nice, and found it to be a more casual, resort scene. In Monaco however, especially around the casino you will see some bling.

Posted by
1000 posts

fo·rum
ˈfôrəm/

noun

  1. a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.
Posted by
2466 posts

Sounds like someone who just wanted to lecture the Americans as to why she was better than they were.
Stands to reason that anyone would be sensible enough to wear a srraw hat and shorts while in Nice or Monaco in the Summertime.

Posted by
4371 posts

"Now there is one thing I have read in these responses that does deserve correction. Museums are not created for tourists alone. Nor are parks, restaurants, sidewalks, stores, etc. The French do go to these places as well. The suggestion that I will not see the French in France because they are at work is preposterous! Do they travel to work invisibly? Do they hide in their homes on the weekends? It is this sort of American attitude that I am trying to avoid! Foreign cities were not created solely for the enjoyment of tourists. I WANT to interact with the locals. If you do not grasp this concept, then you are a person who should NOT be answering the question of how to immerse oneself in a new culture!"

And this is why I hate it when people apparently remove their posts; I can't find any posts this refers to :-(

flynnrom, if you're offended here, stay away from the rest of the Internet; it's seriously all Unicorns and Cotton Candy on this forum LOL! It's truly scary Out There...filthy language, people posting your home address/kids' names/photos/workplace in the forums, calling you a stupid twit (and waaaay worse). Nobody here is screaming at you about your airplane spewing carbon poo and killing 'The Children and The Trees', starting an argument about your (presumed) white priviledge and First-World Problems, etc. I've seen some really out-there, knock-down drag-out fights on the travel forums on Trip Advisor and Fodors 8^O This forum is truly full of pussycats ^..^

Again, have a great trip...and please come back to this thread and let us know what everyone IS wearing elsewhere. And do some fun shopping while you're there!

Posted by
223 posts

BG writes:

"I totally agree with you flynnrom. I like to look put-together &
appropriate wherever I go. It's not a case of trying to pass myself
off as a local."

While BG seems to overlook the original poster's question:

"What should we wear so as to look a little less like Americans?"

I get it. Some people, for some reason, seem fixated on what clothes they wear and how those clothes compare to others around them. I don't understand it, but I know that attitude exists. And looking "put-together" has no inherent relationship to looking "a little less like Americans."

Others, as you can tell from the responses, couldn't care less.

But don't try to re-cast the question to be "not a case of trying to pass myself off as local" when that is, in fact, the core of the original request. It really doesn't do you or the original poster any favors.

Posted by
1219 posts

You have to wear a different wardrobe for every town you visit. It costs me a fortune because I'm a slave to fashion.

Posted by
489 posts

Interesting reading, and after yesterday... I am also NOT interested in looking like an US citizen while in France end of the month.... I am going to look into naturals... cotton, linen, etc... must fit good. buying a bag in Paris...etc. But from what I can tell.... shoes tell it all.... one look at shoes and they know where you are from and how much you are worth... oh hell, I'm done for, I go for comfort.... I guess I'll just smile and try my french a lot. Bon Voyage, mon ami!

Posted by
2893 posts

tgreen's post made me laugh out loud, but seriously, there is a lot of judgment going on in this thread. Some people care about fashion and some don't. Caring about fashion does not mean that you cannot have authentic experiences while traveling and return with memories that will last a life time and the same is true for the people who don't care about fashion and proudly carry a single carryon bag/backpack.

Posted by
8294 posts

Agree with JHK... a lot of snarky answers and judgement here.

If you don't like a question... don't answer it.

Posted by
41 posts

Thank you, Susan! I tried to say that as well, but then people used that comment to criticize me even further! I'm like, whoa, did I accidentally post something political on Facebook? If you don't have something nice or helpful to say, is it really better to throw around insults than to keep your mouth zipped?

I am a person who has read 3 Rick Steve's travel guides cover to cover for this trip. Glad I'm not going on one of his tours though! After this experience, I can't imagine I'd have a very good time being judged for caring about my appearance.

Posted by
8294 posts

flynnrom, you've gotten a lot of nice, helpful responses so ignore the snarky ones. This may be RS but it's still the internet... just like FB. Gotta have a thick skin here... and every where.

My 27 yo son is very into fashion and on our recent trip to Paris he spent a lot of $ buying lots of very cool clothes in Paris that he could not buy in SF. He had a great time and has been enjoying those clothes every day since. He's spent months in Paris / France on many, many trips there since I started taking him 16 yrs ago. He speaks French very well. Parisians never guess that we are American (I grew up there) and we have long, fun conversations every day (separately - we don't hang out together a lot since we have different interests) with Parisians. Those experiences are part of the fun and highlights of being there. My point is... a person can be dressed in cutting edge fashion and still be immersed in the culture and have amazing experiences. You can also wear JJill (me), REI, whatever and be immersed and have a great time.

As a previous poster said... you do you! Have a great time and ignore the snark!

PS do remember to always say "Bonjour Madame/Monsieur" before talking to anyone, with a lot of "Merçi Madame/Monsieur" thrown in... you'll be received much better if you do. Google Translate App is amazing, very useful even for a French speaker.
Have fun!

Posted by
1422 posts

A tourist can never pass himself as a local.

I grew up in Charleston SC, one of the most toured cities in the US. 90% of visitors are other Americans and I can STILL pick them out despite the fact they look, speak, and dress like me. The French will spot you an American, or at least as a non local, even more easily.

It's great you want to connect with locals but wearing the same clothes as they does not give you an edge.

Posted by
8631 posts

Well, having been on RS tours, I know no one would judge you harshly for looking smartly dressed. The only look of disapproval might come when the bus was late in leaving because you didn't start hauling your steamer trunks of clothes to the curb early enough, for an on time departure.

"*Correction: we want to look less like self-absorbed, sloppy Americans"
Well don't dress sloppy and and do not act self absorbed

From your various comments it seems you have a sense of fashion, so really didn't need anyone here to tell you how to dress.

I think most of the folk here dress appropriately and not "sloppy", but do not obsess over it.

If you dislike the responses, just hit the "delete" and realize you asked the wrong forum for fashion advice.

The only risk of a "fashion faux pas" would be to walk into a church in a mini skirt .

Feel free to ignore the comments you dislike and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
8294 posts

"A tourist can never pass himself as a local."

FastEddie, Parisians often think we're Parisian.

Posted by
776 posts

I've gotten such a kick out of this forum. Nowhere is there any indication of the fact that Parisians can come from Mali, Senegal, Afghanistan, India, Goa, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Chad, The Congo, Vietnam, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Israel . . . ..you get the idea. This is a big cosmopolitan city of 10 million people from all over the world . I enjoy watching the "French" line up for the newly baked bread at my boulangerie., . . .in every costume imaginable . . .but they're French and want French bread.

My reply is off the topic perhaps, but it seems to me that visitors are trying to fit in with a certain type of French person that doesn't represent the whole of the "French" at all. . . .if that even exists.

I lived for a while in Europe right after the war. The fresh faced, well scrubbed, well dressed Americans brought attitudes that this old world needed after the ravages of war. Their buoyant enthusiasm and their optimism helped a devastated continent. They laughed!!! We hadn't heard laughter in so long. Remembering all of this, I have always been proud to look like the American tourist I became and remain to this day.

Posted by
2018 posts

"I am a person who has read 3 Rick Steve's travel guides cover to cover for this trip. Glad I'm not going on one of his tours though! After this experience, I can't imagine I'd have a very good time being judged for caring about my appearance."

flynnrom, if you were to go on a RS tour, you might be surprised to find those fellow tour members among the least judgmental people you've ever been around. I have been on many tours including pre-teens, teens, young adults and older folks and not ever noticed anyone who was not neat and clean and dressed appropriately for the varied occasions, nor anyone who judged anyone else for what their clothing choices were. Well, there was that one guy who wore his money belt on the outside of his jeans!

I think you should wear whatever you like and makes you happy and comfortable and try not to worry about what others, locals or other tourists, might think. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
8405 posts

Well, there was that one guy who wore his money belt on the outside of his jeans!

Oh, my husband does that unless I remind him, but then he's French, in fact Parisian, born in the 15th. Go figure.

Posted by
2914 posts

Flynnrom, It sounds as if you have much more style than I do. Good for you! My daughter lived in France for two years; Paris and Nancy. She did not have a budget to buy expensive clothes, but she certainly developed a flare with accessories and looked wonderfully dressed even when wearing the most basic clothing. Accessories did it (and being young and cute...sigh). She moved to England for five years and some of that flare disappeared. When she returned to the US, she continued to accessorize, but to an even lower degree, but was still asked why she was 'dressed up' all the time. Her perception was that Americans don't even try. Her British husband thinks Americans' clothes do not fit them correctly, and is really annoyed with the suits here. Altho his standards have deteriorated as well, I think mainly because with him wearing tailored clothes, people separated him in business, etc. Sometimes this is good and sometimes not so good, depending on the purpose of one's work for the day. My point is: just listen to those who understand your goals. Many Americans leave the house in what appear to be gym or pajama type clothing, so consider your source. I'm horrified on what some people wear on airplanes, but consider myself fortunate as, domestically, the gate people see me and automatically upgrade me more often than not at no cost! I am not skilled at dressing myself like many people, and my basics are basic, but when I leave my property I do try to leave a certain 'cared for' impression by wearing 'public' clothes that fit me and were meant to be worn in public. You, obviously, have the talent to do more than that. Go for it! And have fun. Look at the Vivienne Files files, as thru her you might find more fewer people who pick on you and more that know how to dress, somewhat. Have a great time! Wray

Posted by
994 posts

Flynrom, if you're a fashionable New Yorker, I think you will fit in just fine in Paris in your NYC wardrobe. I just got back from Paris and the Normandy area and saw lots of people wearing skinny jeans and sneakers. People were wearing Converse , Vans, Nikes, etc and saw lots of these type of shoes in shop windows. I try to be stylish as well but at the end of the day, you'll be logging in so many steps that comfy shoes is a must. I must say I do cringe when I see what I assume are American tourists in their baggy cotton tshirts and mommy/daddy jeans or camping type clothes.

Posted by
724 posts

Oh dear, I am guilty of wearing camping type clothes in Europe. I find this type of clothing to be very practical for travel -- easy to wash, dries quickly, breathable and comfortable on a hot day, but protects my skin from the sun. Perfect for summer sightseeing, in my opinion. Also, perfect for hiking, which we love to do. It's all about context, isn't it?

Posted by
41 posts

Vray - so what do you wear on airplanes? I like to dress in layers and be comfortable for a long, overnight flight. But if there's a chance of being upgraded, I'll wear an evening gown if that's what it takes!

Posted by
41 posts

FastEddie - I live in NYC, the most visited city in the USA, and I will vouch that any tourist CAN pass themselves off as a local. All languages are spoken here. New Yorkers go to the museums - in fact, they are members! Central Park is filled with locals! Half the people you see at the Empire State Building observatory work in the building. (I'm one of them. We bring guests up regularly, with our skip the line privileges and half price tickets.) Many New Yorkers even look confused coming out of a subway station that they rarely use. The glaring things that make a tourist stand out as a tourist are stopping smack in the middle of a sidewalk to check your map or phone and trying to walk 3 or more across on the sidewalk (and slowly at that!). In New York, as in the rest of America, you can get away with wearing yoga pants. Unlike the rest of America, you can dress super-outrageous and no one bats an eye.

Posted by
41 posts

When I went to Italy, I was less concerned with my clothing for a couple of reasons:

1) it was March. I was wearing pants, regardless of what city we visited.

2) I had a broken foot, so my shoe options were limited.

3) I was in Rome for a marathon (broke that foot 10 days before, so I couldn't run it), so I was proud to wear my team gear on marathon day.

From what I've heard, Italy is a lot more casual than France. I don't know what is appropriate with regards to shorts in summer. Do people even wear shorts? (Remember when Americans made a stink that Michelle Obama wore shorts? In AMERICA?!) Can you wear shorts in a church? I go to church here in my running clothes or football jersey, but every church is different.

Again, looking for advice for outside of Paris. I'm set for Paris. No questions about what to wear in a big city.

Posted by
41 posts

@75020 - you make a very good point! I hadn't thought of that. Paris I'm sure is a lot like NYC. But what about the rest of the country? While there may be many cultures in France, there is still a quintessential French culture that cannot and should not be ignored, in my opinion.

Posted by
776 posts

OP

.You bring up a highly debated point. The arguments about a Quintessential French Culture have been around for a long time. . . . perhaps since the Viking invasions or Caesar and Gaul. The French Academy acts as the language police and yearly has to allow more English words in the lexicon. The second most favorite dish in France is now couscous. I notice the particularly French culture mainly in behavior. Few loud radios, few screaming children, extreme politeness on the buses, greeting of shop keepers . . .even extended to the people sharing one's park bench. There are so many examples of a civility I have found shared by all residents of Paris no matter their origins. Where else would a young 'un in a hoodie ask me if I minded if he smoked? Would you get that in NYC?

Posted by
8405 posts

You hit the nail on the head 75020. It's a code of conduct--not that it doesn't boil over, per strikes, marches, etc. but it's there to hold society together. And privacy, respect for others' time are two more that are very important. There are positives and negatives to all of these.

I've sent you a long pm describing what our French family and friends in the south wear. Lyon and further north, your NY/Paris clothes are fine. Avignon is a toss-up. Hope this helps you pack efficiently.

The basics--more body-hugging/exposure (deeper necklines), more detailed tailoring, ironed and coordinated with jackets (not big shirts as some US women do to hid what they consider 10# too many).

Posted by
776 posts

Bets

As annoying as it may be "descend dans les rues" is also an ancient and important part of French culture and worth respect because of its meaning to French civil society . . .and one Anglos don't understand at all as Anglos' redress is in petitions etc. Different forms of government.

Posted by
2914 posts

Flynrom, Remember, I said upgrade domestically. I've only been upgraded once on an international flight...still working on that. I think domestically maybe people are dressed even worse... I don't dress in a spectacular manner and I'm in my 60's, so it's not because I'm a cute young thing. LOL. However, I do seem to have a 'uniform'. I wear black slacks, black leather shoes, black, navy or white tank top under a crisp white blouse and over that a quilted vest...not a travel vest, a nice shaped vest in a good fabric which has been quilted so the top is a plain navy...theme here, and the other side is navy, white, and tan so that shows up at the collar...although it is reversible. (I'm a sewer.) And then a scarf and nice earrings. So nothing particularly fancy so I think it says more about how the rest of the plane is dressed.

Posted by
2466 posts

All the Italian tourists who come to Paris "dress to the nines" - designer clothing all the way and heels and jewelry to match. They are always well-groomed, not a hair out of place, perfect makeup.
Italian men and women look amazingly decorative, wherever they land - in cafes, parcs, department stores, Uber...
The French look at them with positive envy.

Posted by
776 posts

"Italian men and women look amazingly decorative"

So well put . . . .I can't stop giggling.

(misunderstanding, I guess. My comment was meant in admiration, not mockery)

Posted by
2466 posts

Nothing beats an Italian - man or woman - who has truly mastered the art of draping themselves as decoratively as possible in a cafe chair...
Carette in Place De Vosges is swarming with them in the Summer.

Posted by
2893 posts

I have to agree with Chexbres about well-dressed Italians. I was in Le Marais last month and every person who was immaculately dressed who I heard speak was speaking in Italian. They were all as my 19 year old would say looking hella good.

Posted by
1144 posts

Flynnrom, I hope you have a wonderful time.
Just be sure to leave room in your suitcase for all the wonderful clothes on sale in the marches!
I've stocked up on lovely linen dresses, tops, and pants ... and I didn't come to shop but am blown away by the cute clothes and inexpensive prices. (Luckily my RS 21 inch roller has the expansion zipper!)
As to being an interracial couple -- that is fairly common in Paris, where I am now, from what I can see. I wouldn't expect it to negatively impact your trip. (At least I would hope not!)
Happy trails to you!

Posted by
776 posts

I see you added a comment about being an interracial couple to your original post. If during your stay in Paris you are able to get out of the tourist area and go to, say, a location like the Parc de Buttes Chaumont,. you'd get an idea of how commonplace interracial couples are in Paris. . . .nothing unusual or at all stareworthy. . . .be comfortable