wearing colorful clothes in Paris

I had read that in Paris most women wear neutral colors and it is better to blend in and avoid the Spring colors that are plentiful in the US this time of year. Color yells "American tourist". Is it important to stick to neutral colors when chosing which clothing to bring for a 3 day stay in Paris for sightseeing?

Posted by Kathy
Winston Salem
18 posts

If you are just staying in Paris for 3 days, chances are that people will know that you are a tourist anyway, unless you speak French and act like French. But that's OK because there are so many tourists in Paris that nobody will really care. I think they do wear neutral colors and they are not so "fashionable" compared to what many people assume they are, but I would wear any color so that you'll get nice pictures!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
4229 posts

In February, yes, darks and grays and browns were dominate. But that could all change by spring. My wife pointed out "Of course, riding around on the Metro and buses all the time, the dirt doesn't show up as much."

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
1019 posts

I pack neutrals because everything goes with everything else. But I also always pack a couple of items that add a "pop" of color. And in Paris, that helps me to feel a little more chic than the average American tourist, and less like a schlub! A couple of springs ago I packed dark basics - black, ink blue, moleskin gray - but wore a bright tangerine colored trench (classic cut/zingy color) and carried a bright bag so I wouldn't feel drab and dreary. That being said, many women - especially younger women - take advantage of the "fast fashion" stores like C&A and H&M to add colorful pieces for a single season that don't break the bank. Here's the C&W website - the trends page - to give you an idea of what women in France will be rocking this season! http://www.c-and-a.com/uk/en/corporate/fashion/trends/ IMHO, the real musts to avoid are mom jeans, puffy white sneakers, and baseball caps. :-) And here is H&M: http://www.hm.com/fr/department/LADIES

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5331 posts

Pull up some Google street views or some webcams and you can see exactly what people are wearing. Now, try and pick out the tourists from the French. It is not important to wear some kind of special clothing, colors or shoes when traveling to anyplace in Europe. People don't care and won't really notice unless it is something overly tacky, like guys wearing sagging pants showing their underwear, or a shirt tucked into gathered waist polyester pants, or those awful parachute pants that make a swishy noise every time you take a step. Can you let us know where you read the article that said to avoid spring colors in Paris this time of the year? Would like to read it too.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3994 posts

Here's a couple of links to small bits of "RS' Europe" videos in Paris: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH_4d2xUmbE&list=PLAF8618AFFCFBCF3E http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtjAckFH3bI&list=ECAF8618AFFCFBCF3E (Sorry - you'll have to Copy and Paste; my links won't work.) I grew up 3 hours from Fairview; if you're from anywhere near there, people will know ;-) Bring a very small amount of clothing that will mix-and-match with each other. For most, the black/tan/gray colors are our go-tos. Color comes from jewelry, scarves, etc. Some people wear lots of color; if that's you, then do it! Don't drastically change your style while traveling; that only makes you uncomfortable. About the only thing that yells American tourist is yelling about how everything is 'better in America' :-( Baseball caps, white tennis shoes and jeans, Florida Marlin t-shirts - all worn by Europeans, too. I can assure you that no matter what you wear, you won't be beaten by a baguette-wielding Parisienne. (And I don't know what your experience will be, but most women in Paris that I see wear ugly crap. Maybe I need to frequent better areas...)

Posted by Kim
901 posts

Judy, I've finally figured out what it is. It's not color that can draw attention to your clothes here, it's pattern. My mom likes to wear colorful plaid or flower shirts, and she finally realized that she does better here with solid-colored items instead. I think the main thing, as someone pointed out, is not to dress yourself where you feel uncomfortable. Nobody is going to worry too much about what you wear!

Posted by Judy
Fairview, TX, USA
4 posts

Thanks for all the input - actually, watching the youtubes helped a lot - didn't see anything all that different than here in the Dallas area since Dallas is becoming quite a mixture of nationalities and cultures. Never have been one to wear a baseball cap so I think I'll be fine...

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, im not a clothes horse, nor do i care to play the fashion game. i like to spend my $$ on different things like travel. iac, i choose my clothes so #1 they are comfortable, #2 functionalable - ie pockets and easy to wash/care for on my travels, #3 neutral colors so matching shirt/pants inst a big deal and i can mix-n-match with anything. btw, you will be a "tourist" as soon as you plop out that map, camera or ipad/device to take pics. i wasnt targeted by any scam artist until i brought out my camera! just an comment, im PROUD to be an American, so should you! happy trails.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8673 posts

Well I am proud to be a Canadian, but I don't want my butt grubby from sitting on various surfaces( buses, metro, park benches) , so I stick to dark neutrals even in summer .
I do wear some colors for tops, but I do stay away from flowery prints etc, but then I do that at home anyways. Since I pack light I tend to black bottoms and mix and match tops.. I find if you bring too many patterned ( plaids , stripes, flowers ) its harder to mix and match.. So my wardrobe is simple to make it easier to look clean and decent.

Posted by Bets
2722 posts

It's just like in big cities on the US northeast coast.

Posted by Lo
1291 posts

Don't be surprised if you are neutral and you see all kinds of colors on your trip. Last June the big thing in Paris was brightly colored jeans. I wouldn't avoid color because of a short stay in Paris. I tried linking but it didn't work so here's the address for Spring 2013 Fashion Color Trends: http://www.pantone.com/pages/fcr.aspx?pg=21005&ca=4.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8673 posts

Actaully bright colored jeans are in here too, but frankly they are best left to the under 40 set, or the over 40 set if really in good shape, plus please remember something folks,, you are on holiday, and the locals are not . They have washing machines in their houses, or they have way more clothes in their closet then what you have in your 22 inch bag.. they CAN wear white pants out, since they can wear them once and wash or change them, travellers have to be a bit wiser ( unless you like carrying lots of luggage or spending time at laundremats)

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

You're talking about "this time of year", so it's important to remember that you might be able to get away with spring fashion in Dallas right now, but in Toronto, for example, everyone's still wearing the darker colors of winter (because it actually is still winter there...it was last weekend when I was there anyway). So, even though the calendar says spring, it doesn't feel like spring everywhere, including lots of places in Northern Europe. Another key point is that folks living in big international cities often do have a lot of darker clothing in their wardrobe. This is one of the reasons you'll read stuff here along the lines of, "They only wear black in Paris." That's not really true, of course, but it may seem that way in fall, winter, and very early spring when it's still cold or chilly. Still, even in summer, you'll see a lot more people (especially if they're younger, fit, and somewhat fashion-focused) in something like a black or grey, slim tee and a darker pair of slim jeans, cords, or chinos. You may not see much of that in Des Moines, but you will in the big international cities here and everywhere. At the end of the day, you really don't need to change a thing about your wardrobe beyond being ready for whatever weather might present itself for the time of year you're visiting. If you're fashion conscious, then you're probably already wearing the same types of things they're wearing in Paris. If you're not, why change just for a trip? There are lots of other things beyond your wardrobe that will make you look like a tourist for sure. If you don't care, then don't worry about it...you're on vacation. If you do care, then change those things but leave your wardrobe alone. BTW, if it's warm in Paris, women will be wearing spring colors/fashion. Cheers!

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1273 posts

Compared to the abundance of head to toe color you might see in Texas, the wardrobe of locals in Paris (or any big European or northeast U.S. city) might seem more heavily geared towards neutrals to you. This is mostly out of necessity. As it lacks decent public transportation, Texas has a serious car culture & people there will hop in their SUV to drive 10 blocks just to pick up a gallon of milk. It's easy to keep bright clothes looking fresh when you have a car. I have no car in the city, so I've got a closet full of black, grey, navy and taupe. I own just 1 pair of white pants, a single pair of turquoise capris and a pair of red jeans and the only time I ever get to wear those are when I am at the beach because there we have a car. At home, I have to add color by wearing a bright top with dark bottoms or through accessories like a purse, earrings, necklace or scarf. I'll be using the much the same this Spring in Europe although I will slightly break tradition and pack a pair of dark pine green slim fit ankle crop pants, but only because the color is just dark enough to hide the residue from any dirty bench or subway seat I have to park myself on, and because it's also a color that will work well with both some taupe and black tops that I will be packing. A fitted emerald green tee (Spring 2013's big color trend) is also going with me on this trip because it can be dressed down with my dark rinse jeans by day and dressed up with black pants by night. I won't be pairing that tee with the dark pine pants because that's just overkill and I'm not interested in looking like a walking advertisement for St. Patrick's Day. Wear what makes you happy, but the key to packing light is being able to mix as many different looks as you can from a few essential pieces.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
859 posts

Asking for fashion advice on Rick Steves' forum? Forget it and just dress comfortably. This is the last place to get fashion advice. Have you ever watched him on TV?

Posted by kay
san antonio
6 posts

I think the most important thing to remember, clothes-wise, is that Spring weather in Europe is dicey, to say the least. We were in the South of France in MAY two or three years ago, and it SNOWED in Carcassonne. My hands were so cold I couldn't open my umbrella. This has happened to us several times--Greece one April and Rome one year at Easter. I never seem to learn; never have something warm, am running around buying wool socks and a sweater.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Wear what you want. Anyone who lives in a big city can smell a tourist a mile away, no matter what they wear. I live in NYC near a few hostels and it's always apparent who is a tourist through things you could never anticipate (like crowding by the subways stairs, which is a breach of etiquette, so to speak) rather than just clothes or how they are speaking. The important thing to do in Paris is rather to learn enough French to be polite to the people you deal with. They don't smile a lot, but a nice "Bounjouur monsieur/madame, comment ca va?" goes a long way with them and helps you avoid that obnoxious tourist stereotype. In my opinion, blending in (or at least not sticking out) is more about behavioral things like that than clothing. You won't be able to anticipate all of the things that make you stick out as a tourist, though.

Posted by Stephanie
Trussville, Al
185 posts

As many others have said wear what you want. I personally found out while visiting London quite a few years ago that you will probably not blend in. Two bobbies approached my daughter & I while in Victoria station & struck up a conversation. One of them immediately asked us where we were from, I answered the US &
he said "I thought so". I looked puzzled & asked how did you know. He said all American women have perfect hair, wear makeup & their clothes are different. That was an observation made by someone whom I'm sure observed many foreign tourists including Americans on a daily basis through the years.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
859 posts

This is probably one of the more popular questions among first time travelers to Europe. After you have been there you realize it's more important to embrace the fact that you are visiting. Dress for comfort and ease of travel because it is highly unlikely that you will be seen be seen as a local no matter how you dress. Christina's advice to learn French phrases and customs of greetings will do you more good than what you are wearing. Being polite by not assuming everyone speaks English will make the most difference.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

One fun thing you can do is leave a little room in your luggage, see how women are dressed once you get there, and then shop for some stylish things to wear. Scarves in particular will be fun purchases there. That is, of course, if you like to shop. I do agree with those above who say that wearing dark colors is practical, if nothing else. But I stick to my initial thought that blending in is kind of a futile endeavor. The French are nice enough if you make an effort with the language (as long as you don't five them a 20 euro note for something that costs 5 euros or less, that is. Then the claws come out a bit!)

Posted by terry
44 posts

Wear what makes you happy, and that you feel good in. Yes packing neutrals can make things easier,but this is your trip. Just enjoy your trip!