Feeling intimidated by French fashion? If you're wondering what to pack for Paris as a tourist, check out my easy tips on the staples you do not want to forget.
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What to Wear in Paris: Where to begin?
Of all the things that intimidated me about traveling to France, embarrassingly, having stylish clothes was right at the top of the list.
And yes, #2 on the list was finally utilizing my French language skills, which were certainly a bit rusty since college. To see how the French language piece went, and how you can impress the Parisians, even if you don't speak French, check out my post 5 Ways to Charm the French.
Of course, as it turns out, the French were even more wonderfully well-dressed than I had been expecting - and thankfully I had all the right things in the suitcase, if largely, admittedly, by accident!
What to Wear in Paris: Rules to dress by
Let's walk through a couple over-arching thoughts as you're starting to pack, before we get to the actual items you'll want to bring to Paris.
1. Focus on fit.
First, and most importantly, I think, though of course there's plenty of expensive fashion to be had in Paris, the French are not necessarily only concerned with splashing out huge amounts on clothes and the latest fads. Though let's be honest - the French very often develop the fashion fads long before anyone else has even heard of them!
When it comes to selecting fashion items, the French tend to focus on fit. Just because something is inexpensive doesn't mean it can't fit properly (and they get things tailored if they need it). Therefore, focus on packing likely your higher-end items and pieces that actually fit well, not on running out and buying random cheap, trendy pieces that are very "right now."
Takeaway: If you're selecting items you already own, bring your best-fitting staple pieces.
2. Finish the outfit.
French outfits should always be "finished." This means that before even dreaming of leaving the house, the French will add a scarf, or a belt, or a hat, or a necklace to top-off any outfit. I did find that they often achieved this by adding a light jacket or "topper."
A shirt and a pair of pants is just not going to cut it - that outfit is not "done." For example, almost every businessman you see will be wearing a scarf - to complete the outfit - on top of his suit.
Takeaway: don't forget to include scarves, necklaces, jackets, and belts in your suitcase!
First things first: Don't forget the packing cubes!
No packing article would be complete without recommending my favorite packing cubes!
These nifty cubes keep everything you pack organized before, during, and after the trip.
Check out my constantly updated list of Europe Travel Essentials you'll need "across the pond!"
What to Wear in Paris: Selecting a light jacket
Overall, the weather in Paris is fairly mild. If you'll be in France in the winter, you'll want to bring a winter coat, but our most recent trip was in mid-October, and I never even unpacked the heavy, bulky, wool coat that I had hauled all the way across the Atlantic, assuming I'd need it to keep me warm. Of course, I live in the Midwestern US, so your temperature preferences may differ from mine. But, it just wasn't cold.
Even when it's not chilly, at least by my standards, the French often wear light, stylish overcoats, which appear to be more of a fashion statement than anything else. Sometimes blazers, a lot of rain jackets, and often what I've always called "toppers."
I was not at all prepared for this, but luckily, I had brought a light jacket that I often wear to work, which turned out to be perfect, from Eileen Fisher, which I'm wearing in the picture in the top of this section in Place des Voges. J McLaughlin also makes some super cute "toppers." And, while you're here, why not check out the full post on visiting Le Marais, my favorite spot in Paris?
And, of course, to me, wearing a light jacket is doubly effective - using the pockets effectively can also eliminate the need to carry a heavy purse, which is a huge benefit for me on a big tour day. I am all about that no purse action, when the Husband is around to help carry the valuables! Then I can keep my phone in my pocket so I can continually take it out to quickly snap pictures!
What to Wear in Paris: Don't forget your scarf!
The French love, love, love their scarves! Without one, I always felt simply naked. Especially in Fall - a scarf is a *must.*
Fun fact of the day: the French actually invented neckties for men. They didn't invent scarves for women, but the reinvented them to point that they might as well have created them in the first place, as they so often do with anything fashion-related.
I brought quite a few scarves along with me, and, of course, I picked up several others on the trip! Personally, I like the really big, silk scarves, but I also saw quite a few bulkier, chunkier scarves, especially when it's a bit chillier, so keep this in mind for the winter months! A few of my favorite scarf-finding locations: Nordstrom Rack, Tuckernuck, J McLaughlin, and Goodnight Macaroon, depending on season!
And, of course, you must know how to tie any scarf properly. Hermes has some lovely videos, if you want to study up on how to twirl your scarf in advance! I learned in the store and the first one they have on that page is the only one I can ever remember, on the fly! For tips on shopping at my favorite Hermes store, check out the full post on Paris's Left Bank!
Worried about charming the French during your trip? Check out my 5 Essential French Etiquette Tips for Tourists!
What to Wear in Paris: Striped shirts in every color
Saint James's classic tops are definitely the staple, as far as striped shirts are concerned. I actually hadn't heard of Saint James until our trip to French-Canadian Quebec City, where I visited their store and realized they'd even reached to North America! And, of course, the ever-trusty Amazon has an option for $16! They look lovely under that aforementioned light jacket, and they're good in most forms of French weather. Add that scarf and voila!
Check out my Paris Neighborhood Guide,
What to Wear in Paris: finding the right pants
At the top at this post, you'll see me rocking my red "crepe" pants, while shopping on the Champs-Elysees - check out the full post for more details if you'll be visiting the most fashionable street in the world!
Personally, I would avoid blue jeans, unless they fit extremely well, and are dressed-up with the rest of your outfit. If you are younger and cooler than me, a lot of the younger set were rocking the really light-washed 80's looking wash, a bit short, with giant tennis shoes. If you do wear jeans, be mindful that there are at least some restaurants with dress codes forbidding jeans - not many, but if you're going somewhere fancy, it's worth checking.
What to Wear in Paris: stylish loafers and booties
The French have a long and storied love of loafers that won't be ending anytime soon. Loafers are great shoes for a city vacation, if you invest in the right pair. I love anything from Sam Edelman, and I always stock up before long trip (keep an eye on Nordstrom Rack)! Though it's definitely a breach of all travel advise ever, I actually brought a *never worn* pair of Edelman loafers to Paris and then proceeded to walk 10 miles a day. Birdies is another great option for pretty slip-ons!
And, finally, regardless of the season, you can't go wrong with boots and booties in Paris! I love Blondo boots because they come in *waterproof* options and I can walk in them all day, rain or shine!
Looking for the best picnic spots in Paris? Check out my full list!
What to wear in Paris: Chic dresses
Whether it's going out for dinner, or strolling Paris during the day, when I'm feeling fancy, I do love to wear a cute dress, particularly a structured one. Add tights/leggings, a scarf, and those booties we just discussed, and you've got the perfect French vibe!
Avoid the top 10 Tourist Mistakes in Paris
What to Wear in Paris: Travel Jewelry
Often, I leave my nicer jewelry at home on big trips, for fear of losing it. If you want to leave your wedding/engagement ring at home, but still want a bit of shine for your Parisian shopping adventures, check out Noémie which has stunning diamond eternity bands, perfect for travel! For necklaces, earrings, etc., I've recently discovered J. Bubs, which has a ton of cool medallion necklaces (that are surprisingly affordable).
Bon voyage! xx And don't forget to subscribe to the blog and I'll send you my free, downloadable carry-on packing guide for Europe!
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