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Paris, the home of Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and other heavy hitters of the fashion industry. For years the City of Lights has been associated with high fashion from mysteriously flawless French models, Paris Fashion Week, and a population that exudes confidence bordering on pretentiousness. It is easy to automatically assume that every Parisian walking the streets will be a judgmental reincarnation of the boss from The Devil Wears Prada, naturally causing stress for travelers hoping to make a visual statement while in town.
While it is true that locals from Paris are more fashionably inclined, not every person will be sporting the newest trend from the Vogue winter catalog. This article is for all the travelers out there panicking about what to wear in Paris — here are some casual suggestions that won’t totally scream ‘tourist’.
Do: Comfortable Walking Shoes
This should probably be the number one on every tourist’s list. A pair of comfortable walking shoes can be the difference in grumpily missing some sites to return to the hotel to nurse your feet and developing a connection with your new favorite city.
Don’t: Flip Flops
Yes, Parisians are slightly more casual than their reputation suggests, but their sideways glances at flip-flops will absolutely make any sandal-wearer realize they have crossed a line. Flip-flops in France are reserved for beaches or for wearing around the house; everywhere else is a faux pas for sure. Anyone not abiding this suggestion might be teased with questions like “ou est la plage?” (“where is the beach”).
Don’t: High Heels
No-one is going to have a good time in high heels. Incredibly impractical and very bulky, high heels need not be on any packing lists. We promise Parisians are not going to think any less of someone for wearing flats. When they will think less of someone? When that person is wearing high heels and they trip on the cobblestone streets while sightseeing and need to be escorted to a hospital for ankle trauma. Besides, Parisian women rarely wear them.
Do: Ankle Boots
A great, versatile alternative to the high heel, ankle boots are both trendy and have the ability to be dressed up. Sturdy enough to take on uneven streets, comfortable enough to wander the Louvre or to climb the Eiffel Tower, and fashionable enough to wear to a nice dinner on the Seine.
People who wear fur are a lot like the animals their clothes are made out of: they’re going extinct. While Parisian winters are cold enough to warrant a heavy top layer or coat, fur is not the solution. The fashion world is perhaps the most progressive and socially-conscious industry out there, so they will have our backs on this one. And with a population that is current on fashion trends, be assured furs are not going to be a favorite in Paris.
Do: Black Dress
Also known as the LBD, the little black dress has never been more of an essential than when visiting the French capital. Easily paired with previously mentioned ankle boots, black dresses are also extremely versatile. Going to the Modern Art Museum during the day and want to look a little hipstery? Black dress with a long sleeve shirt underneath. A night out on the Left Bank? Black dress accented by a light jacket. Sipping wine on a riverbank? Just wear a black dress. LBD FTW.
Don’t: Men’s Tank Tops
Sorry, bro. Sun’s out does not mean guns out in Paris. Along with flip-flops, tanks are associated with beach fashion. So, do what is comfortable but don’t be surprised to immediately be treated as a foreigner.
Want to look like a goofy tourist? Well then, allow us to introduce you to the beret. It is absolutely a cliché that every French person owns a beret, when it’s much more common to see berets worn in the United States or the United Kingdom. Pretty much every instance of berets creeping into popular culture’s canon comes courtesy of Americans or Brits (see: Carrie Bradshaw, Kate Middleton, Rihanna, or even the Black Panther Party).
A fair warning; we are not talking about the faded pair of Wrangler’s that have graced your closet since the nineties. But yes, jeans are totally acceptable in Paris’ fashion culture. A good pair of fitted or skinny jeans can go a long way in France for both men and women. So pack a nice pair of denim to smartly pair with other essentials.
Practical and a potential lifesaver in the colder months, scarves are a favorite in Paris, for both genders. Also when done correctly, a lightweight or sheer scarf can be a perfect touch to a summer outfit.
Don’t: Tons of Accessories
Even at its most chic, Parisian style is not about flash. Instead, local fashionistas prefer to wear pieces that speak for themselves. It’s rare to see a fashionista in Paris wear excessive amounts of accessories or use a harsh color spectrum. Classy simplicity reigns supreme here.