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dressing for paris

in my state of ugly-american paranoia, i'm having a wardrobe crisis about dressing for our trip to paris. i have been checking out the travel channel, but every time someone goes to france, everyone is wearing jackets & scarves, which doesn't help me for july.

can anyone list some key items that will help me (1) prepare for the weather (2) avoid looking like a fashion-challenged tourist, and (3) won't monopolize the space in the ONE suitcase i'm taking. thanks in advance!

Posted by
283 posts

Skip the jeans, although the Frendh wear them as much as Americans. Nice casual slacks, like khakis, etc. work great. Pair them with a nice t shirt or shirt and add a vest, since it is summer.

Scarves are essential to the French. Generally, French women own a couple of really nice, classically styled suits. They change them up with scarves--all year, not just in the winter. Oh, and the French wear their wool suits all year.

Take some nice, walking shoes--not tennis shoes. It will dress up what you are wearing. Take some nice costume jewlery to add polish to your outfits.

Posted by
590 posts

I was in Paris late May this year and I found jeans very popular. Not like alot of the jeans that Americans wear though. They were dark colored, form fitting designer type jeans. They would wear it with a nice form fitting top and accessorized with a scarf and nice purse. Most woman wore ballet type flats or heels. Not great for long bouts of walking for the average tourist though! I would suggest a Sketchers type shoe.
Capris and just above the knee skirts were very popular as well, again paired up with a nice top.
For people who have been to Europe: Is it just me or do North American girls dress alot less conservative? Europeans in my opinion don't wear very low cut cleavage busting shirts paired up with mini skirts/short shorts? Especially pre teen girls. I sound like my mom now!! haha

Posted by
11507 posts

Kate, no , its not just you. The average Europeon girl figures out a way to look, young, sexy, hip, etc, without resorting to looking sl*tty or like they are heading to the beach in a minute.
Right now the style here are tube tops,, tops with no straps ,, and the young girls here are really into them. Some wear them with a tank underneath, many do not, my duaghter pointed them out to me, and I just very calmly point out to her that since she still plays on the monkey bars( she is a young 12, lol) that she will not be wearing anthing with that risk factor built in. LOL

Posted by
51 posts

If you normally wear skirts, then I would definitely bring a couple. I find that they can pack quite well and are easy to dress up or down. Generally I would say that women in Paris are more put together and have a more classic style than you might see at home. However I haven't found it true that they only wear black or dark colors. I would say stick to solid colors or very subtle patterns, and pack items that can be easily interchanged with other pieces.

On a scarf note for july, I think that a lot of the scarf references are not for wooly winter scarves but also for pashminas or even lighter ones, just to be used to dress an outfit up, not for warmth.

Don't over think it too much. Wear what is conservatively comfortable to you.

Bonne chance et bon voyage!

Posted by
445 posts

It is a well-known fact that French women of all ages have a certain style.,,je ne sais quoi. They dont buy nearly as many clothes we we do, but look a heck of a lot chicer. Esp. look at women of a certain age...the French women look great! And the French are known for great thrift...no buying of "throw aaway chic items" there. Bue remember that anybody who is anybody will not be in Paris in
August...most likely you wil see mainly other tourists! There are signs on shop and restaurant doors all over Paris indicating that is their "fermature annuelle" (summer vacation).SUre you will find places open esp if they cater to tourists, but not as many as usual.

Getting back to what to wear....if you are only going to Paris, it's easier...smart looking skirts, pants and nice tops and a pair of nice shoes for when you think you can wear them (not for all day sightseeing!!) If your trip involves a few countries, it is harder but I still would take 1 lightweight nice skirt...great in hot weather, much cooler than tight-fitting pants. Capris/cropped pants are faulous.

I thin the Brits are the worst for lewtting in all hang out on top!!! I was there last year during Ascot week and I could not believe some of the outfits women were wearing.

Happy trip and don't obsess too much. ALways remember that dressing smartly doesn't mean spending a lot of money!! And it is always better to err on the conservative side.

Posted by
1455 posts

Amber, I am in Paris right now. As of June 27 its humid. Paris had rain last week, and they're expecting it again, but the darn clouds won't break. So in the AM its nice and some what cool. Once the sun comes out, its hot and a bit humid. You will sweat. By 8ish as you're outside eating dinner, you'll see its cooled down again.

The ladies are wearing everything from baby doll 1 piece dresses (gorgeous if you got the legs!), capris, cargo pants, jeans, and skirts/dresses. Not much shorts around, and the ones that do wear shorts are Brits or Americans

Tank tops are everywhere, and the Notre Dame didn't frown on those tourists.

Right now at midnight I am wearing a v-neck tshirt and khaki pants.

I would also consider bringing sandals and shoes. I opted to leave the shoes ad socks at home, and my feet are not just sore, but blackened from pounding the pavement. The Parisian streets are uneven and hard on the feet after a long day of walking or running to catch the bus or metro.

I'll be back July 2 if you want to PM me.

Posted by
211 posts

Also...a lot of people focus so much on what they are wearing, when what they are carrying. Your daypack/bag can be a dead giveaway, any packback, or purse designed for travelling are ovbious.

I bought a large Longchamp Pleaige bag (with long straps) and used only that. It's stylish, very French and looks great even when its filled to the brim. It can fit a ton of stuff, and is easy to clean, just give it a wipe. As a bonus, it folds up to fit nicely in your suitcase/backpack or w/e.

Posted by
506 posts

I would also recommend skipping the jeans for two reasons

1) Paris is hot and humid in the summer and you will roast
2) Hard to wash, rinse and dry

Skirts, capris and mix and match tank tops and shirts with sandals. Typically a light fitted jacket is common for the cool morning and evenings.

What happens here is that we accessorize - i.e. scarf. Summer means we bring out all our necklaces - given we are showing our necks of - they therefore must be adorned. It dresses up and out fit instantly much like a scarf.

July means Les Soldes (bi-annual sales) which have just begun this past wednesday. It can be an opportunity to add to your collection.

Bon chance.

Posted by
12 posts

LOL, Amber, I could have written this same email. I WAS going to bring one pair of jeans, but now I have changed my mind. Looks like I will need to pack my few scarves. I have light sweaters, v neck t shirts, skirts, knee length shorts, one or two pair, and so far two pair of longer light weight pants.

What is the temp lately? ANd what does humid mean to others? I live in SE PA and humid here is 85%+ humidity, anything less than 70% humidity is great to me.

Posted by
1158 posts

French wear jeans as we do here, but the different is the fit and the quality. You won't see garandma or all-American jeans in Europe, especially in France where people care about their clothes.
European jeans look different, thet are tight, have a modern look, either flare or straight, or some studs or little embroderies. Yes the colors are different, I have not seen "blue jeans", like light washed jeans any where in Europe.
in my opinion you don't have to wear classy style in Farnce or anywhere in Europe. Just don't wear tshirts with big logos or words, or lounge pants or PJ. I've seen girls wearing PJ on the streets here in Cleveland, or even at the library.
When I went to France I wore capri pants or roll-ups with nice simple or patterned tshirts. I have never had any problems.
Relax and forget about the ugly American thing.Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
32 posts

So I'm in Paris as I type (been here for a couple of days) and here's what I'd say about the jeans: they basically look like leggings here. Tight, ankle or above ankle length and Dark color. I see a lot of ballet flats with jeans, too. A few women were wearing flared jeans (as did I). The weather is absolutely GORGEOUS right now. It feels like the entire outdoors is climatized by the most perfectly set air conditioning. I would recommend bringing a light jacket (I've been using my pashmina b/c I didn't bring one) or buying a French one at one of the fantastic sales going on right now.

Posted by
12 posts

Oh if only the weather holds for two more weeks! ONe can wish, right?

Posted by
21 posts

thanks for all the great advice! for those of you who have the same questions i did, here's what i observed: the style of dress was simple, neat and modern with a lot of the trends mentioned in other responses. i'd liken it to the way girls dress in manhattan--neutral colors (black & white, browns, tans, blues) with splashes of color, usually in the form of a scarf (plenty of girls still wore them in the summer all over europe), jewelry, or pair of shoes. accessories were big (chunky necklaces, wide belts, big earrings, and bags on the larger side usually in black, white, or red leather) and jeans were dark in either skinny or bootcut. There were TONS of ballet flats, but flip-flops and sandals were just as popular; you just won't catch anyone wearing the brightly colored plastic ones. the romantic look is all over there too, so long, flowing skirts worked great for hot days, or a lacy cami underneath the shirt for a little added color. also, the fitted twill jackets/blazers were the top choice for most on rainy mornings and breezy nights. i definitely recommend the advice given above about planning a wardrobe around neutral colors you can mix & match with a few key items. there was a lot of variability with the weather--sometimes i was sweating like crazy in a light skirt and tank top, and sometimes i wore the sweaters and pashminas i brought for rainy ireland. bon chance to those who've yet to see paris. it was incredible!

Posted by
347 posts

Just dress as you would at home....1/2 the people in Paris are tourists. They will just think your from Canada A'(most of the locals were happy to see Americans, as long as it was not "W"). July=hot, not so bad as here, but its still summer. I did see some HOT locals in the Metro going to work, but the tourists in T's and shorts were just fine.

Posted by
258 posts

buy clothes in Paris to fit in with the Paris look. I love to buy clothes when I am in other countries. You have a style the locals where and when you get home you will get compliments on the clothing - at least I have.

Posted by
2030 posts

I'm with you Kelly -- that's what I like to do also. I get into the look and feel of Paris, and have great clothing, shoe, purse or jewelry souveniers & conversation pieces when I get home.
I'm starting to do this a bit with Italy too -- it's getting expensive!

Posted by
66 posts

Guys, do you mind if I butt in here and ask, what are the guys wearing?. Going in september and my oh so darling husband would live in t-shirt and jeans if he was allowed.He's not going to bring a suit as we'll be on a break , so would he get away with a casual but dressy shirt with jeans and a nice pair of soft leather shoes instead of trainers?. Help, not only do I have to pack for myself but I'll be packing for him too.
We're going end of september so i guess the weather will be cooling down somewhat by then so I think we'll have to buy ourselves a nice new jacket too.

Posted by
2030 posts

Yes Ellen the wardrobe you describe for your husband sounds good: Nice jeans, (khakis too) long sleeved shirts, or knit tops, polo shirts - just no T-shirts, that is just too casual for Paris, unless you are a teenager.
A nice jacket -- leather is perfect, but anything in neutral/dark color, not too sporty. He really doesn't need a suit. But Sept. may be pretty warm. I was there last year and it was mid 70's. Blacks (or dark brown) shoes of any type are fine.

Posted by
7 posts

We will be traveling in Western Europe mid-September. Advice still holds? I am "a woman of a certain age."
Have enjoyed the comments and suggestions thus far.

Posted by
1 posts

I am on my way back to Paris in May for the third time. Dressing well for respect when shopping was mentioned; you also need to dress in layers for shopping because even the major department stores didn't turn on the A/C until mid June. It was cool leaving that morning but it was sweltering in the Galleria later that afternoon; I almost fainted before I realized the problem. I suggest wearing a jacket/sweater over lighter weight clothing.

As for packing my moto is pack light and drag back heavy (shopping).

Posted by
3313 posts

It's a Zombie Jamboree!

Please don't continue this post. OP has long since traveled and this topic has since been addressed numerous times.

That is all.

Posted by
283 posts

This is always apopular discussion. Here is what I did for two weeks in Paris:
I chose a color scheme: black, red and white.
Everything I brough was in that scheme, including my coat (it was October). That way, with two pairs of slacks, one skirt, two jackets and some tees, and two pairs of walking shoes, it all went together. It worked great and I always felt good, and like I fit in. Scarves are a must, but I also like the post on necklaces.

One admission: I did bring jeans, but I bought a pair of very dark ones, as that seems to be the Paris favorite. The color makes them dressier that faded or prewashed jeans. They also paired up nicely with my colors.

Posted by
10329 posts

During my trip to Paris over the holidays I saw many people wearing jeans in all shades of blue.

Posted by
2764 posts

Why not contribute? People are still going to Paris!

I find that I do well if I just stick to basic black. My sign of successs... Parisans have asked me for directions! LOL! I tend to go pretty basic and do take a few scarfs or large peices of costume jewerly to "dress" things up!

Posted by
61 posts

Have enjoyed reading all the helpful advice. We are going to Paris the first of September. Trouble is we are also going to Nice and Provence. Trying to pack in one suitcase for all three has me exasperated. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
3313 posts

Then compose your own original question. Dredging up old posts just confuses things!

Posted by
2764 posts

Personally I think it's better to "drege" then to keep restarting the same topic over and over again.

Doug, since it bothers you so much may I suggest just don't open the threads... Not worth the stress you seem to be under.

I did follow a posters suggestion on this thread and took my Longchamp bag this past may. I don't think it helped me "fit it" since I was in some "real tourist" clothing from a more "rough" trip in Spain/Portugal, but I can see where the bag would help.

As for the honest truth.. it's the shoes that give Americans away. But I don't care anymore!

Posted by
689 posts

Carol, I've done a two week trip in Paris and Provence and had no trouble fitting everything into a carry on. I really didn't dress any differently in either place--I basically took a few skirts and tops, which work for sightseeing and restaurants in both places. I'd probably bring a pair of good jeans and boots in case the weather turned cool, but that's just me--one or two pair of any pants should be fine (yes I do laundry).

Posted by
61 posts

I am the Carol who asked about packing for both Paris and Provence, but not the one who gave the terse reply about dredging up the threads. Sorry Doug. Thanks to Christy for the good advice.

Posted by
1014 posts

My wife took 1 black pants, 1 capri pants, 1 multicolored skirt and 4 blouses, 1 scarf, plus undies. When there, she went shopping and bought more clothes to wear out and about. She saw what was popular and what was being worn and bought it. Actually, she really got into it and bought 47 pounds of clothes. We had to buy another bag to get new clothes home. Fine with me. She has her fall clothing collection now and does not have to shop for school clothes (she is a teacher). Clothes were cheaper in Paris then here. We were there during the summer sales event. Plus, no one has anything like she has.

Posted by
1014 posts

My wife took 1 black pants, 1 capri pants, 1 multicolored skirt and 4 blouses, 1 scarf, plus undies. When there, she went shopping and bought more clothes to wear out and about. She saw what was popular and what was being worn and bought it. Actually, she really got into it and bought 47 pounds of clothes. We had to buy another bag to get new clothes home. Fine with me. She has her fall clothing collection now and does not have to shop for school clothes (she is a teacher). Clothes were cheaper in Paris then here. We were there during the summer sales event. Plus, no one has anything like she has.

Posted by
1014 posts

My wife took 1 black pants, 1 capri pants, 1 multicolored skirt and 4 blouses, 1 scarf, plus undies. When there, she went shopping and bought more clothes to wear out and about. She saw what was popular and what was being worn and bought it. Actually, she really got into it and bought 47 pounds of clothes. We had to buy another bag to get new clothes home. Fine with me. She has her fall clothing collection now and does not have to shop for school clothes (she is a teacher). Clothes were cheaper in Paris then here. We were there during the summer sales event. Plus, no one has anything like she has.

Posted by
1014 posts

My wife took 1 black pants, 1 capri pants, 1 multicolored skirt and 4 blouses, 1 scarf, plus undies. When there, she went shopping and bought more clothes to wear out and about. She saw what was popular and what was being worn and bought it. Actually, she really got into it and bought 47 pounds of clothes. We had to buy another bag to get new clothes home. Fine with me. She has her fall clothing collection now and does not have to shop for school clothes (she is a teacher). Clothes were cheaper in Paris then here. We were there during the summer sales event. Plus, no one has anything like she has.

Posted by
790 posts

Hi Amber,

I am in Paris as we speak. I've been here for 10 days now, so here is my take:

I, an ugly-americain tourist myself (ha ha) felt perfectly comfortable in Paris. Honestly I hardly saw any really well dressed people in my travels all over the city. Most people I saw looked pretty ordinary and just as dumpy casual as we often look in the US.

However; I brought black sandles that could be dressed up or down and an entirely black and white wardrobe that could be dressed up or down. I bought some nice costume jewelry to dress up my outfits.