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Proper Attire in Paris

My family and I will be staying in Paris for seven weeks. I would like to dress according to the culture. Do the French people wear jeans? Is there an appropriate dress that will make us stand out less? We are coming from the hot desert, so it will be a bit of an adjustment for us. Thanks for any tips!

Posted by
23237 posts

You will get a variety of opinions. Our observations are --- people, especially women, tend to dress less causal, more smartly, or a bit nicer than is common in Phoenix. No shorts especially on men. The jeans we saw were very tight, skinny legs, with high heels on young females. Did not see old women or men wearing jeans in the city. Did see a bunch of tourist wearing jeans and shorts.

However, in our opinion jeans are a poor travel materials simply because they are heavy, can be hot, and difficult to care for. No hand washing. Lighter weight fabric and blends work much better.

Posted by
1878 posts

My wife and I were just in Paris a little over week ago. Things are a little looser that they were ten years back. As a tourist, I would not worry about jeans. The locals are going to know that you are a tourist anyway, and they do not let it bother them that there are tourists in their midst. (I guess if it does bother you, you do not live in tourist areas). It depends upon the time of year -- if you are going in the summer I would agree with another poster than jeans may be too hot. But being from the southwest, maybe your standard of "hot" is pretty high. On the other hand, Jeans are more conducive to several wearings in between washings than some slacks. i used to worry about wearing sneakers in Europe, but not any more. I just wear black sneakers that are not quite so obvious in being sneakers. (I like New Balance walking shoes). Baseball caps in Paris, you don't see so much but when the sun is beating down you need to have a hat so I wear mine anyway. I will tell you though, my wife made a special effort to bring some stylish yet practical clothes for our evenings in Paris, and I could tell she really enjoyed looking great in the City of Light. You want to have a couple of outfits that are fit for Paris, for the evenings at least.

Posted by
4535 posts

Jeans are fine, but I'd go for a nice pair of pants like Dockers or such. Women wear a lot of skirts and make efforts to look "comfortable but nice." The French women are masters at that.

Avoid shorts, logo T-Shirts and baseball caps and you'll be fine.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks! Those are some great thoughts that will aide me in my packing for the trip!

Posted by
8938 posts

If you really want to know, go to Google Street view or one of the live webcams in any city you are visiting.

Posted by
1014 posts

Jeans are ok, but are hard to care for as said above. Personally, I would leave them home. My wife and I travel to Paris with just a backpack and she buys clothes there to wear and bring back home. If clothes are bought in Paris, then you are definitely wearing what they wear. As a male, I take plain collared, knit shirts with a pocket, and tan or other dark pants. Both of you need comfortable walking shoes and/or sandals. If you must take tennis shoes, take dark ones, as suggested above.

If you are getting there the first week of July and onward, there are great sales (soldes) going on that last about 3 to 4 weeks. Wonderful bargains. Some stores are as much as 80% off towards the end.

Posted by
211 posts

Advice for women - Jeans are fine, but make sure they are not mom jeans, dark wash, skinny style etc. Depending on what time of year you are traveling your can pair them with a riding style boot or nice flats. Keep accessories simple and tasteful. Pea coat or trench coats as outwear, always a beautiful scarf. Keep your colours muted, and a great, but slightly expensive souvenir that you could use while there would be a Longchamp Pliage bag, all (many) of the French women have them and the large, long handle ones function great as a day bag. I love them, I've bought four and plan to buy another one when I visit again in the fall.

Posted by
26 posts

Just got back - boy did the French look good! No sloppy styles and baggy clothing that we see all over the US. Scarves are huge, lovely jackets, skinny jeans for sure. I was really impressed with the looks in Paris. If you just don't want to stand out - I'd just stay away from shorts/baggy clothes/white sneakers. :)

Posted by
88 posts

For a woman, one word: scarves! Women in France, and especially in Paris wear scarves a lot! A scarf can dress up a plain outfit and just a few can really extend your wardrobe.

Posted by
1315 posts

If you're staying for seven weeks, are you renting an apartment with a washer and dryer? If so, I'd definitely bring your jeans if that is what you're comfortable in.

Posted by
689 posts

Good advice already given, and I'll point out that you can get away with more casual attire while sightseeing than you can at dinner or shopping in nice stores--I will wear skinny jeans/boots sightseeing during the day (we don't go in summer though), but not to dinner. We go to Paris regularly and have never once had bad or snooty service in any shop or restaurant--in fact, I'm always amazed at how thoughtfully a store clerk will wrap up, say, a little baby bib or a small box of chocolates--and I think it's partly because we dress nicely. We've also never been targeted for a scam, been jostled on the subway, etc.

Posted by
283 posts

My experience in Paris is like the other posters: rachet the look up a bit. Anywhere else in France, they dress almost as bad as Americans, but in Paris, there is a lot more style.

I usually choose a color scheme, like black, red and white. Then I bring things that are interchangeable: red jacket with a black skirt. Black pants with a white shirt, etc. AND I highly endorse the idea of scarves which the French where all the time. If the weather is warmer, try some jewelry to change the look. Oh and the color scheme also means fewer shoes: one pair of black flats, and maybe another pair to switch off.

Enjoy!

Posted by
44 posts

I have been thinking of the same issue with clothes. As a matter of fact, on the way home today I wondered if anyone in Paris would wear a baseball cap or does that indicate American tourist worth robbing.

To beat the sun, what is the unofficial hat for males to wear who want to keep cool and the sun off of their face?

I would just as well buy a hat in Paris. All I am thinking about is how I do a double take at Euro tourists here in SFLA who wear black socks, sandals and a fanny pack. Word must have gotten off since that outfit has sort of vanished each year here.

Posted by
4535 posts

Paul - I'm not sure many Parisians would wear any hat but go ahead and wear one to keep the sun off. Any brimmed hat would do, and a baseball cap isn't the end of the world during the day while walking around. Just "lose it" when going out for the evening, sitting in restaurants or touring museums.

Posted by
1568 posts

If you want to look like a Parisian, why not buy your clothes there.

Posted by
44 posts

That is why I ask. If there is some sort of common hat like say a "Kango" hat or some other brand, then I would buy it there. Most of my time is spent indoors and this will be the longest time spent outdoors and the sun is not always your friend.

I just do not want to end up as the American version in Paris of the German tourists in Miami, who with the black socks, sandals and fanny packs are on par with heavy set Speedo wearing French Canadians with locals.

Something you can't seem to purge from your eyes for a while.

Brazilian women with thong bikinis on Miami Beach is a different story though.

Posted by
38 posts

Well, my experience is that you are going to be pegged as a tourist no matter what you wear, so wear what is comfortable to you.

The other day I walked to the Reformhaus (health food store) down the street from my apartment and while passing me on a bike, a woman spoken English to me. I hadn't even opened my mouth and she knew that I was American.

If you will have a washer and dryer in your apartment you can always just bring a few days worth of clothes and then shop to fill in the gaps. I was at H&M yesterday doing just that!

Posted by
2023 posts

We are just back from Paris and saw just about everything as far as attire goes. Yes, jeans everywhere and we never travel wo them--there are plenty now that are lighter weight and pack well. The week started out chilly and Parisians were still wearing coats, scarves, etc. Then it warmed up and we saw shorts, flip flop sandals. halter tops, etc. Around the Sacre Coeur we saw lots of strapless attire on younger women. Just use common sense--for example, I would not walk into Jacquemart-Andre for lunch wearing inappropriate and unflattering attire. Most important:comfortable shoes!

Posted by
842 posts

Got to agree with Susan and Jo. Turn on Google street view and look around. Everyone wears jeans! The thing that surprised me was the people that carried back packs everywhere they went; lawyers in suits, kids, women on the way to work, etc.

Dress to be comfortable!!! But dress up your clothes at night with accessories; scarves, sweaters, jackets, nice shoes, etc..
My wife alwsys has her thin leather jacket, or her go-everywhere black silk sweater, or she buys some scarves and uses them.

Oh, Paul...yes I wore wore my John Deere baseball hat when I was wandering the streets during the day. But I ditched it when I went into any building, and never wore it at nite. I have a problem with glare, and it does the job. Yes, I am marked as a tourist, but I have gotten lots of great/ funny comments from people when I wear that hat, in many countries.

Posted by
2023 posts

I agree that you will be tagged as a toursist regardless of dress, etc and it does not bother me in the least. Was recently in Madrid and handed over my CC to make a purchase in El Corte Ingles and the clerk asked: euros or dollars? Without anything spoken she knew I was American. By the way, always request euros or you will be overpaying.

Posted by
88 posts

Just a note about wearing backpacks... this may seem obvioius, but take them off when on the Metro so you can guard it, or at least take off one strap and sling it around in front of you.

Posted by
136 posts

I lived in Phoenix for 22 years, just moved to NM. Its been a few years since Paris but we do go international almost every year. I find jeans or shorts to be the worst way to travel or blend in. I also hate the nylon "travel" pants. So I condition myself (ahead of time, at home) to wear a light cotton/nylon long pant. They wash reasonable well (we travel 5 or 6 weeks at a time in different climates) and pack well.

I like to eat well when I travel and in Paris that meant 1, 2 and 3 Michelin stars. My hotel concierge insisted that I wear a jacket and tie, even for lunch at nice restaurants. The worst was seeing Americans in jeans at Restaurant Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower. It seems we do not respect the French customs and then complain they are not friendly.

One thing I like to do when I will be traveling a lot is "dump" my luggage. For example, we are going to fly in and out of Madrid en route to Cairo. So I pick a hotel in Madrid for when we land and then stay at the same hotel when we fly out and onto Cairo. That way I can leave/store bags in Madrid and we can fly to Brussels and train in the Benelux countries but travel light.

This works really well if you want some "dress" clothes for Paris, but want to do a couple of overnights out into France.

Best, Dan

Posted by
23 posts

women wear a lot of linen in drab big city colors - black, grey, etc.
men wear khakis but not dockers, a thinner material. very common to see men at night with a blue blazer and jeans.

kids wear light cotton lots of skirts on girls.
many of the people on the streets of paris are not parisians so it is sometimes hard to tell what the parisians are actually wearing.

Posted by
115 posts

Just got back from Paris and saw a lot of well fitting jeans everywhere. I must say I was in mostly tourist areas but went for walks (and got enjoyably lost in) several residential neighborhoods.
I lost the fight with my 20 something son...he was going to wear a hat when he wanted (not restaurants) and I did not go to fancy restaurants anyway. But I think for men colored khakis are great...cooler than jeans and if they are dark khaki color or brown/black they look fine walking and out to dinner. I brought a black semi-elastic waisted skirt that was a bit above my ankles and cotton everywhere...it was warm enough for the 60's and they make thinner kinds of cotton ones that are great in summer. I just brought several great colored or printed T-shirt tops..longsleeved and short in different fabrics and some lacey...the scarves dress them up. Flat shoes and scarves are the best. And I gave up and brought a pair of dark grey sneakers (the very lightweight soled ones) with me "in case"....and I sure needed them for the very long walks/strolls we took in the evenings, and I kept a light pair of black flats in my bag and that was wonderful. That is an interesting thought tho...what kind of hat is good for a man when the sun is something he has to keep out of?

Posted by
15576 posts

Coming from a climate similar to Phoenix, I especially noticed that in Paris, the local men never seemed to wear any head covering. Perhaps it's because Paris is so much further north than we realize, the sun just isn't as strong. Paris is at 48 degrees latitude which puts it about the same as the western border between the US and Canada.

Posted by
11507 posts

Chani,, I came back from Paris on Wed,, and I have tan marks on my feet( showing my sandal straps) so the sun isn't that weak, at least not compared to where I live.

Wear whatever the heck you want,, I cannot believe people still think there is a "look" ,, I saw everything, FAT people ( yes locals) thin people , styling types and slobs..

Everyone is not a fashion plate. Dress practically for travel( ie, easy wear and care clothes that will not show dirt) and take good shoes, more then one pair too. I found my feet felt much better if I changed shoes between afternoon and evening.

Posted by
2788 posts

Comments on men's hat selections: living in Hawaii 7 months of the year and visiting a dermatologist every 6 months to have spots remove and traveling to Europe every summer, I wear a type of sun hat with a brim that goes all the way around and has vents on the sides. The protection of my health superceds (sp?)
any stylish concerns I may have once had. In traveling to Europe for 3 or 4 weeks with only a RS 21" carry-on, I do not take very much and just plan on washing stuff every 3rd night. Sounds like Michelle should end up with a washer and dryer. Lucky you. Happy travels.

Posted by
251 posts

Re hats for men- I bought my husband a tilley hat- great protection for both face and neck- yes he looked a tourist- but he protected his sensitive skin!

Posted by
1010 posts

We just returned from 34 days in London and Paris. We were there last summer also. Believe me they don't dress up in Paris. They definitely dress nicer in London. You won't see light jeans there, but you will see dark jeans on everybody. They look very clean-cut. You won't see baseball caps on guys and you will rarely see white tennis shoes on anybody. The women wear a lot of scarves. Although more so in London. The smokers really ruined it for us this time. Everybody smokes and they are insensitive to the bad air they create. The French rest rooms were co-ed, which really bothered me. Bathrooms are scare, most of them are dirty or you have to pay to go to the bathroom. In the mall under the Lourve (really nice), you have to pay one euro to go to the restroom. The French are very rude and aloof people and don't like Americans. Even when I tried to pronounce some French words - like the Champs Elysees, they acted as though I wasn't even in front of them. We took many one day trip froms Paris through Gray Line (Cityrama). Most were a waste off time and money. One that was great was the trip to Bruge, Belgium. Definitely worth the long ride. It was very clean and quaint. We took the short canal ride.

Posted by
8293 posts

Rarely have I read such a negative report from someone just back from Paris as Elaine's. Too bad people smoking outdoors in their own country spoiled the air for her.

Posted by
11507 posts

Elaine,,The bathrooms are not all coed.
Eveyone is not rude but I bet you were,, I imagine you speak no to little french and likely marched up to people without even proper greetings( which may get you ignored) .

Frankly,, they just didn't like you,, its not Americans in general.

Sorry.

Posted by
10203 posts

I found everyone in Paris that I came across both friendly and helpful. It is our responsibility as a guest in another country to learn polite phrases and to use them. For a tourist to demand that people cater to them is the very definition of an Ugly ______, (fill in the blank for nationality).

I have a theory - if you occasionally run into someone who is rude or cranky, that is just human nature. If EVERYONE you deal with is rude, you need to look in the mirror to see whose fault it is.

Posted by
10344 posts

Everyone on this site is a tourist, you will look like a tourist no matter what you do. It's ok. You've decided to go to a foreign country and it's going to be different. Enjoy the differences. Or stay home.

Posted by
2193 posts

What…they don’t smoke in Orange County? I was just there two weeks ago and noticed many French tourists in Laguna Beach and vicinity…hope their reports back home about LA aren’t quite so negative. I suppose they could complain about posers, McMansions, Hummers, and uncontained suburban sprawl. Oh, and don't forget unhealthy air pollution.

Posted by
1506 posts

We were in France in March, 9 days in Paris and 7 days driving around Normandy & Britany, returning to Paris to stay near CDG for our final night. Everywhere we went Parisians and the French in general were pleasant and helpful to us. We studied French with CDs and a book before we went so we could understand and say some phrases although with poor pronounciation. Many places we went, the hotel or shop owners spoke little to no English, yet with our poor French and signs we were able to purchase food in delis, order meals in restaurants, ask for help of passerbys on the sidewalk, and even discuss routes and attractions with hotel owners. We always expect to be treated fairly and with respect by treating others the same and through our last trip we have almost always had good experiences. We have told our younger relatives - if you are not interested in understanding and adjusting to a particular foreign country it's best to go to a nice American style hotel with some DVDs of another country. It's a lot less expensive and you and the citizens of the other country will be happier.