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What to wear in Paris in late April/early May

I browsed past questions about this and the ones I found were at least 5 years old, so I thought I'd ask again. I'm aware that as an American I will stick out no matter what I do, but I'd like to not look overwhelmingly out of place. I've read to wear dark colors and avoid white shoes. Any other clothing tips for a woman in Paris during that time? I'm really excited about the trip but probably stressing a bit too much about what to wear. In my part of the USA right now, the trendy clothing appears to be tunics, leggings, denim jackets, and boots. I typically dress more traditionally (boringly, maybe?) in jeans, athletic shoes and t-shirts.

Thank you for any help!

Posted by
30 posts

I wear black sneakers with my black or blue jeans and polos shirts. I bring a Dickies thermal sweater shirt as 3 season coat, snuggly, pillow and room darkenerates when I put it over my head because it fits nicely in my suitcase. fashioned be ****ed. Not sure I could use that last word. What, are they going to deny me admittance to Versailles because I look the American that I am?

Posted by
27096 posts

By far the most important considerations are:

  • Really, really comfortable shoes
  • Layers to keep you warm
  • An outer layer to keep you dry

Someone provided this tip in an earlier what-to-wear thread: Google for Paris webcams and take a look at what people on the street are wearing. You'll see a wide variety of clothing, though as of now you may mostly see coats. But keep in mind that few Parisians head out of their homes planning to spend the entire day on their feet as tourists often do. Don't try to match their footwear!

Posted by
1068 posts

COMFORTABLE SHOES! That is indeed the MOST important thing! :-)

That said, while knowing I will always be recognizable as an American, I too like looking a little less conspicuous if I possibly can.

The webcam idea is superb! Also, for fashion tips, you can just google "Paris street style" and "how to dress like a Parisienne" - there are tons of blog posts out there with lots of information and pictures!

FWIW, here's my fall/spring packing list for northern Europe (10-12 day trip):

black jeans, skinny (wear on plane)
black pants, slim leg (usually stretch wool)
black leggings #1
black leggings #2 (not plain - maybe pleather or brocade)
Doc Martens brogues
engineers boots, ankle high (wear on plane)
black t-shirt (slightly nicer than Hanes, maybe with some shape or style)
dark gray t-shirt (ditto)
black satin tunic/blouse with V-neck and low bow
ink blue cashmere-blend sleeveless t-shirt
black or ink blue V-neck cashmere sweater (wear on plane)
black long cardigan
tartan scarf, long (wear on plane)
coat, usually a trench, but sometimes my MC jacket (wear on plane)

I can get the whole shebang, plus HABA and other Rick-approved essentials, into a standard sized backpack. My shoes are HELLA comfy and my appearance doesn't scream "AMERICAN!" I mean, it's obvious the minute I open my mouth, but I feel weirdly more confident knowing I at least pass minimum fashion muster.

And everything goes with everything else! :-)

Posted by
13931 posts

Well, I'll be there at the same time! I am planning to pack my usual travel clothes that have done me well on most of my trips except last August where it was hot as h*ll, lol. I've traveled with this basic layout for as much as 8 weeks.

Shirts: probably 4 or 5 SS tee shirts - 2 merino wool tees from Cabelas/2 or 3 cotton/modal layering tees from Lands End. The merino wool shirts are a dark teal and a light teal, the LE tees will probably be black, cobalt and maybe aqua. I usually take 1 long sleeve shirt, just in case, so will throw in a Lands End silky shirt that is actually in their long underwear section. I may also take a long sleeve sunshirt, depending on how the weather looks nearer the time.
Pants: 1 pr dark wash blue jeans/1 pr black jeans/if it is warm I'll add one pr crop pants, otherwise maybe another pr lighter weight jeans
Shoes: 2 pr Altra athletic shoes/ if it looks like it will be really rainy, will swap 1 pr Altra hiking boots for one of the athletic shoes
Jacket: probably 2 Land End cardigans, probably black and cobalt
Rain layer: Cabelas waterproof jacket - black
Scarf: I take one that goes with all the colors I am taking and usually buy another when I am there!
Underwear: I take 4 Ex Officio underwear and 2 Ex Officio bras

So...I basically take jeans, athletic shoes and t-shirts, lol!. I do take cardigans as a completer piece and wear them if it is cool enough.

I pack in Rick's 21 inch rollaboard suitcase using Eagle Creek packing cubes. Everything I take I wash in a large ziplock bag in the sink and hang to dry. I don't usually need to wash the cardies when I am traveling. The jeans all have some synthetic fabric in them so they dry faster than 100% cotton jeans. I do go for dark wash as that is mostly what I see worn in Europe.

I do suggest a test pack ahead of time! Don't worry about looking like a tourist, you are one! AND you'll have a fabulous time!

editing to add: I TOTALLY agree about your shoes. They MUST be comfortable. Hopefully you will have walked 4-5 miles in them already to make sure they work.

Posted by
7049 posts

I think the advice from 5 years ago still holds, i.e. to wear what makes you feel comfortable and allows you to walk without killing your feet. Whatever you wear, the most important thing (IMHO) is that you look neat and well-put avoid anything outsized (too loose) or with too many logos. Something that complements your body type, fits you well, and has a clean/crisp appearance. I know this is subjective, but you know it when you see it.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you all so much!! Your suggestions really make me feel better about what I'd been planning to pack, and to be sure and get a raincoat. I appreciate the very specific packing lists from you all, as well. :) I love the idea of doing a packing trial run, and of looking at google cam. I will also google styles in Paris!

Thank you all again!!!!

Posted by
32 posts

Pam, it would be funny if we ran into each other and never knew it. I'll be set up with an easel and busily painting- so look for me! :)

Posted by
27 posts

I was there last June and noticed the trend was definitely skinny/ankle jeans, pants, and even some capris. I really didn't see any straight leg or flare jeans/pants at all. Ankle boots (mostly black) are very much in style. Find a comfortable pair you can walk all day in. These were great for me -- A cute raincoat or trench coat is also a must. And of course, everyone wears scarves! Hope this helps!

Posted by
9420 posts

I was just there for 15 days and white tennis shoes (not athletic running shoes) are big. With no socks - even when it was in the 30s and 40s - or little socks you can't really see. With cropped or rolled up jeans/pants so ankle and lower calf are bare. Some had sequins on the very back. Saw them worn and in shops all over.
I wear jeans and white New Balance tennies and never feel out of place.
Peg is right, ankle boots (but with heels) are also very big. I never saw a chic Parisian in ankle boots that didn't have heels, and about 25% were narrow/spiked heels.
You will see everything and anything in Paris.
Wear any nice, clean clothes/shoes and you will be fine and not out of place.

Posted by
13931 posts

Oh you'll have me eyeing every artist I see! Please leave the corner of a blue and yellow RS guide book sticking out of your bag so I'll know it's you, lol!

Posted by
4132 posts

That time of year my number-one garment would be an ultralight breathable rain jacket. With layers underneath.

These typically run around $100 but there are sales.

Posted by
2466 posts

"Baskets" - running or walking shoes, or "sneakers" - are worn by everyone.
You don't have to wear black - most people are wearing neon baskets, or at least neon laces. I'd wear socks, because of the blisters factor...

Black is practical for travelling, because there's a lot of pollution in big cities.
Grey is also good.
But residents will be breaking out spring colors around the time you will be here. So if you don't want to look like a tourist, you might think about abandoning most of the black/grey and add some color to your wardrobe.

Posted by
32 posts

chexbres, thank you! That might lighten the packing burden (cost-wise), because every day here I wear running shoes, and the most recent pair is bright fuchsia! (hot pink, almost) I was wondering how to pay for all the dark things and new shoes before the trip.

Also, thank you, Adam, for the raincoat tip. I will put the money I was thinking of paying for new shoes towards a raincoat instead.

Pam, I hope we run into each other!

Thank you again, everyone!

Posted by
12172 posts

As I travel with only the new smaller carry-on, I've downsized to one pair of shoes. Last trip I wanted comfortable for walking, with some grip for hiking, decent looking in case I have to look good, casual enough to wear with warm-ups or shorts, and water resistant in case it rains. I settled on a pair of black leather boat/tennis shoes. These weren't may favorite in any category but fit the overall bill better than anything else I had in my closet.

When I got to Paris, maybe fifty percent or more of the local men were wearing nearly identical shoes. I didn't pack any jeans, because they're too heavy/bulky for my pack list. If I had, I would have matched about 80 percent of local men, especially since I wear slim, not baggy, jeans. Add a button up shirt and either a blazer or nice jacket and you're fine - until you open your mouth. My rain shell wasn't too bad, but only looked local when rain was actually in the forecast.

Posted by
13931 posts

Leslie, if you take your fuchsia/hot pink athletic shoes your goal can be to find some scarves with that color to tie things together!

Posted by
2466 posts

Very bad idea to get all "matchy-matchy". No resident matches shoes, scarves and bags.
And don't work too hard trying to figure out how to tie clever knots in your scarf - this will mark you as a tourist, for sure!

The idea now is to "cassez son look" - mess something up, so it does not match.

Posted by
32 posts

Haha, Chex, thank you! That takes some pressure off as well! At this point I think I'm back to my normal jeans, t-shirts and fuchsia running shoes! Plus a raincoat.

Posted by
13931 posts

Hahaha!! Thanks for the tip! I will be wary of match-matchy! I'll have those very nice shop assistants in Diwalli help me pick something out that is trés chic. They usually like a challenge!

Posted by
16 posts

I'll be there in yellow blazer (hey, it is Spring in Paris) or navy raincoat , scarf ( that matches both jackets) and jeans. I am going for MY vacation. I am a tourist . Just want to be comfortable and content. See you there!

Posted by
32 posts

Awesome, ocean! That sounds perfect. :) Watch for me! I'll be the artist set up and painting wearing my comfortable jeans and probably my fuchsia colored New Balance, unless I can get some new ones before then. Enjoy!

Posted by
119 posts

We got home from Paris today. Skinny jeans. New Balance sneakers. (White are COOL.) Booties. Black or navy tops. Scarves. Short, quilted jacket. Longchamps back bag. Subtle makeup. Minimal jewelry. All yes. You will not stand out as a tourist.

Tunics and leggings. Baseball cap. I'll-fitting clothes. Tourist.

Walk with confidence. Be neat. Speak softly. You will be fine. Have a really great time.

Posted by
1 posts

I so disagree.

I've been to Paris 15+ times, and never felt like a tourist, nor was treated like one. (Good college French helps.)


-Good-looking trench coat. (Mine is black Michael Kors, with gold buttons. Detachable wool liner. Detachable hood.)
-Black leggings that look like skinny pants (Hue.)
-Jeggings that look like skinny jeans (Hue.) So much lighter than actual jeans, plus elastic in the waist is wonderful for fine dining!
-Basic black knit pants (NYDJ)
-Attractive black yoga pants (Zella) and jacket (i.e., don't look like athletic wear.)
-2-3 long comfortable cotton knit tunics. (JoyJoy)
2-3 non-wrinkle blouses.
Long black silk/cashmere cardigan
Lightweight jean jacket
Black cotton-knit flowy skirt in case of unseasonably hot weather. (Ella Moss)
Striped "Marinieres" (French fisherman's tee shirts) and belt to go with skirt.
(Short jean skirt and sleeveless T's if going south to Provence.)

Scarves, scarves, scarves:
3-4 French silk designer (Hermes, etc.)
2-3 warmer (Tory Burch wool blend, etc.)

Most important of ALL: shoes, shoes, shoes!!
(I have bad feet, so I take more than I would like to in traveling carry-on only.)

-World's most comfortable black boots or booties, weather-proofed, with Dr. Scholl's insoles. (Wear on plane.)
-Black Reef flipflops (bedroom slippers/shower shoes/ hot weather staple.)
-Black Nike Free sneakers
-Black Tory Burch Reva flats
-Fashion-forward patten-leather oxfords with athletic soles. (Bought last time I was in Paris. Now they are everywhere here.)
-or Mephistos.

Last of all, lots of fun COSTUME jewelry!

With scarves and jewelry, you can stretch 3 outfits into 30.


(And stay CLASSY!)

Posted by
32 posts

kta2754, thank you! So, what do you consider "World's most comfortable black boots or booties, weather-proofed, with Dr. Scholl's insoles. (Wear on plane.)" ? I'd love to know! I just don't even wear boots because I have bad feet. That's why I wear athletic shoes every day except Sunday. I love Oxfords but haven't found any in years. I'd love to find some that are fashion-forward, patent leather with athletic soles. The only ones I've found online in recent months were over $200, which is out of my reach. I will keep my eyes open in Paris for something like that- I would be so pleased to find some.

Thank you again for all your tips- I do feel better about what I'm bringing!

Thank you all! I'm heading out this week and can't wait!

Posted by
3941 posts

My worlds most comfortable boots are Blundstones. They are my go to boot. We are just finishing up a few weeks in Europe and I never ever go wrong with Blundstones. I live in them. Pull on and off, look great with jeans, have never had an issue with water getting in and I wear the darn things in slushy mushy weather. My current pair are going on 5 years old or so and this will be their last gasp vacation as the soles are almost to the hole stage.

They do require some breaking in tho, so I wouldn't recommend buying new unless you have time to break them in.

We are just leaving Paris. Lots of skinny tunic pants and jeans. Scarves abound. Some people look like they were bundled up for January and we were in our tshirts. Anyhoo, I wear a ball cap and don't really care that it pegs me as a tourist...I have really long thin hair, hair clips fall out, scrunchies look a mess after ten minutes, the ball cap keeps my hair and sun out of my face. Wear what is comfy for you.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you, Nicole P! I will look for Blundstones. Maybe I will find them and break them in before my next adventure! Thank you for the style report, too. I'm not a stylish person, so I'm glad jeans are fine! I've decided to stick with my jeans, fuchsia colored New Balance, blouses and a black duster, plus a black coat. It's not really a rain coat but it will help and keep me warm. I'm bringing two scarves and planning to buy some there to wear- the perfect keepsakes!