There’s been so many articles written on how to dress in Paris that’s it’s a bit hard to separate the myths from the reality…
Paris is a huge city. You’ll find French people dressed with every possible look. The other day, in one of the Asian food restaurant district of Paris (rue Ste Anne by the Opéra) I saw a woman in full Deco Lolita kawai look… This is not usual, but it’s possible….
So my first tip is: if you don’t care to fit in with French people, dress however you’d like.
Yet, there is kind of a “classic chic” Paris look… Something that’s often exaggerated by tourists who try to mimic “My Fair Lady”… You can dress in comfortable clothes, wear flat shoes and still perfectly fit the Paris code…
So here are the clothes you should pack and wear if you want to fit in Paris and with French people.
1 – What Clothes do Teenagers, French Adult Men and Women Wear Everyday in Paris?
What clothes do French teenagers wear in Paris?
French teenagers do wear sports shoes, sweatshirts and low-rise jeans (or slim, depending on the year!!), but usually with a trendy T-shirt and a nice shirt casually opened on top of the T-shirt.
It looks like they grabbed the first thing handy, but they actually put a lot of thought into it — boys and girls alike.
Hard rock and metal band T-shirts are usually not so “cool” in Paris.
French teenager girls usually don’t wear very sexy outfits either. No super short shorts, no high heels for younger girls. It would be considered vulgar by Parisian standards.
For younger French girls, makeup is also typically minimal and girls in France start wearing a light makeup when they are teens (twelvish… Seldom before).
Brand sports shoes are very much in fashion for French teens. Nothing too flashy though unless it’s really in that year… Typically think classic white Adidas for example, with jeans, and a nice T-shirt.
Now let’s see how French adults dress in Paris.
What do French adults wear in Paris?
French grown-ups dress closer to what Americans call “business casual”: Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and the Gap are some good examples of brands that will fit in in France.
Classic styles are always recommended. Classic colors as well. Stay away from anything too flashy… Think neutral… unless you want to stand out of course!
Shorts and Nikes are fine to power walk through Paris in the afternoon and grab a sandwich at a café, but if you are an adult, you may want to change into khakis, shirt and leather shoes when going in a restaurant or bistro.
Most Parisians do wear sort of business casual clothing when going to work, and more casual, relaxed clothes on the weekends.
However they don’t sacrifice style to comfort. It’s not typical to wear yoga pants or running style leggings to walk in Paris. It’s comfortable for sure, but not what a Parisian would wear (unless they are actually running or going to their yoga class of course…)
Fancy little tennis shoes like “Bensimon” or “Converse” are quite trendy for any age group.
Lately, there’s been a loungewear fashion in Paris… So yes, some comfy outfit is possible, but it has to be a brand, and still in classic colors.
Brands are important, and will quickly send the message of your social class belonging. Parisians like brands, especially when it comes to accessories (bags, shoes, scarves, jewellery…). Most of us will notice your classic Hermès ‘ancre’ chain bracelet…
To train on clothing vocabulary, check out chapter 4 of my beginner level audio novel “À Moi Paris L2 “. The matching audio workbook features a long list of clothing related vocabulary.
Let’s now see an important part of dressing in Paris: dressing for the evening, for going out.
2 – What do Parisians Wear in the Evening?
Tourists are often at a loss when it comes to dressing to go out in Paris. To fit in with French people, don’t over do it!
What do French men wear when going out in Paris?
Typically, Frenchmen would wear:
- A sports jacket with a dress shirt over a clean pair of jeans, and leather shoes: this is fine for a casual night out.
- Ties are optional although a lot of Frenchmen wear them for work and when they go out.
- Parisian men prefer a long sleeve shirt, which they then roll up rather than a short sleeve shirt. Plain is always the best choice.
- Stay away from shorts for dinner at a restaurant, but Khakis are fine.
What do French women wear when going out in Paris?
Typically, Frenchwomen would wear:
- For French women, when going out at night, don’t overdo it. French people prefer good cuts and pretty fabrics to beads and evening gowns.
- Don’t wear anything flashy: think Armani, not Versace. The outfit can be very simple – actually simpler is better – but needs to match and fit you nicely.
- Pack things that don’t need ironing, and that you can mix and match.
- go easy on make-up.
- If you have nice hair, chances are that you will stand out nicely this way: Parisians don’t spend as much time on their hair as we do in the US, so that’s a big advantage for American women 😊
3 – Accessorize Your Outfit in Paris!
In my humble opinion, accessories are what make the whole difference in an outfit.
You don’t need to pack a huge suitcase. Different scarves, earrings and hairdos can change the look and vibe of a standard black outfit.
As for a handbag, a backpack will really accentuate the tourist look. I’d recommend a wide strap comfy bag – which closes well with a zipper (watch out for pickpockets), or a side holster bag that you can wear in the front in crowded area.
I usually carry either a huge handbag or a tiny purse.
In the huge handbag, I could comfortably fit a couple of purchases (hey, I’m in Paris… temptation is everywhere!!). I can also carry a scarf, makeup and bigger earrings: in case we go straight out to dinner, I’ll be able to dress up just a bit and freshen up my makeup (I don’t wear much anyway…)
In the small pocket bag, I’d just carry my phone, credit cards, a bit of cash and subway tickets! It’s better for my shoulders if I plan on walking a lot.
No matter whether it’s small or big, a handbag will dress up your outfit and add a touch of color if you’re wearing black.
4 – Pay Attention to Your Shoes When you Dress in Paris!
Do pay attention to the shoes you wear in Paris, they often make a big difference to one’s outfit.
For women, don’t wear too high a heel, it’s really not convenient in Paris nor is it that common. Short heels or pretty flat shoes are perfectly fine.
If everything is acceptable for lunch, sports shoes such as bulky and super colorful running Nikes are a big no-no for adults in Paris when going out at night. It’s trendy for younger adults to wear the latest Adidas or Converse, but not typical for mature adults, especially when going out at night.
Actually, for a few years now, wearing sports shoes in Paris has been very fashionable: good news for tourists! However, there is usually a difference between trendy Nikes and the ones you would actually wear to run… With so many to choose from nowadays, a good idea for a well put-together outfit is to find a pair that matches the color of your jacket, or your pants.
Do invest in a prettier, yet comfortable brand of shoes such as Clarks. They are versatile: you can walk with them and then still go out to dinner without changing.
Enough with the “theory”. Let me share with you exactly how I dress when I travel to Paris.
5 – What do I Wear and Pack When I go to Paris?
I live in the West of France, in Brittany. I travel to Paris often since all my family lives there (I was born and raised in Paris).
When I travel to Paris, I often do a lot of walking. But I also go out a lot with my friends and family.
So what I pack needs to be really versatile.
What does a French woman pack to wear in Paris?
I’m a French woman in her late forties. Let me share with you what I’ll pack for a 5 day stay in Paris in summer:
- two casual dresses (one black, one with colors) that I can wear casually with flat sandales and a jean jacket, or wear with black fluid pants as if they were a long top, or that I can dress up with heel shoes and jewellery.
- one pair of jeans/comfy pants to walk around Paris.
- one shirt and 3 tops.
- along fluid black jacket, to dress up my outfits – this will match both my fluid pants, dresses and T-shirts.
- a couple of long colourful scarves that I can wear like a drape on one shoulder, or around my neck if it’s cold. Large and long necklaces I take out of my purse before stepping into a restaurant at night.
- a pair of comfortable yet pretty sandals for light walking around Paris (or tall flat boots in winter), a pair a very comfortable shoes (sandals or discreet sport shoes) if I intend to walk a lot, a pair of heel shoes when we go out: I like platform ones because they both are elegant and somewhat comfortable – I don’t do spike heels, too much torture !!
- a bathing suit. Because I love to swim, so I always pack one. It doesn’t take much room, and who knows???
What does a French man pack to wear in Paris?
Here is what my husband packed for our trip to Paris:
- two pairs of khaki pants that can zip into knee-length shorts,
- one pair of nice jeans
- two long sleeve shirts
- five trendy T-shirts
- one pair of comfortable sneakers that look somewhat stylish to walk around the city. One pair of comfortable but dressy leather shoes to go out at night/do some light walking.
- a leather belt
- a light jacket
- Olivier doesn’t do ties. But ties and sports coat are a good idea in Paris if you are planning to go somewhere fancy.
French people no longer dress up to go to the stage theatre or the opera. And we seldom dress really fancy to go out to a restaurant.
Dress up if you feel like it; it’s always a good thing in France and will never be frowned upon. French people like when people dress up. But don’t feel you have to.
Just pay attention to what you are wearing, with a good balance between comfort and style, and you’ll fit in perfectly!