What to wear in Paris can be a challenge. Follow my timeless French chic fashion tips and you can master Parisian style, where ever you are…
Dear Sharon: I’m going to Paris for vacation and don’t want to look like a tourist. I’m not familiar with what is acceptable to wear in such a chic city for touring around. I’m thinking the usual American customs of wearing shorts, T-shirts, sweats, tennis shoes, UGG’s, or flip-flops probably won’t go over well in Paris. What should I wear to a dinner cruise on the Seine or trolling about Paris to visit museums, shop, or have a casual lunch? What’s appropriate dress when I’m off to a train excursion that is still comfortable enough for walking around a village on somewhat rough roads? HELP me look French chic! – Fried Over French Fashion (Trophy Club, TX –a Dallas suburb) Dear Fried Over French Fashion: Thankfully, you are thinking about what not to wear in Paris- or any other stylish city for that matter! While we’re at it, let’s all make a global resolution as to not wear our ‘special’ car washing duds in public… hello, Mrs. Pink Sweats, you know we are talking to you.
While the chic women of Paris do wear casual clothing, the real sophistication comes from how they put it together.
They don’t suffer from the same dimwitted arrogance as badly dressed Americans who wear sloppy sweats, dumpy shorts, beachy flip-flops, or athletic sneakers as their implicit right to be dressed ‘comfortably’ at all times. Parisians, for the most part, wear well-fitting clothes that suit their frame. You’ll barely see a mademoiselle who is stuffed a la saucisson into a size too small jeans or drowned in a droopy camp shirt. The French understand the magic of a good tailor and proper fit, and so should you. It’s amazing how you can fake extravagance when something fits just so.
They also understand the power of quality.
Europeans usually don’t suffer the same fashion victim overindulgence as Americans do and feel compelled to buy every trend simply because it is in style. They buy what suits them in the best quality that they can afford. French chic is not a matter of having it all, but a matter of having the best of all that you need. Fashion is like food for the Parisian. You don’t go to a massive supermarket and load up on super-sized containers of all the groceries that you can cram into your SUV. You buy fresh ingredients from small, specialty shops and carry them home— less is more discerning.
C’est la classique… ahhhh it even sounds better in French!
Parisian chic comprises of classically cut fashion worn in an unexpected, yet perfectly elegant way. There is that certain extra design twist or precise flourish that makes each piece special but never trite or tired. And what gives these classics their special dose of French chic style power? It’s the off-handed way in which they are put together. A beautiful dress coat is worn with jeans and a simple T-shirt, along with a luxurious handbag and rich scarf to create an understated elegance that can take you to almost any kind of situation in style. If a French woman does wear sneakers, they are leather tennis shoes, designed to be more of a sports-inspired shoe rather than a gym necessity.
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Hairstyles are never overdone or complex. Makeup is always natural, even when lips are a bold scarlet.
There’s an expert sense of undoneness that makes every detail more clever but never tricky and without ostentation. Almost as if you are too busy to glance in a mirror, yet have your sense of style so ingrained that you don’t have to. Or, at least give that impression. Never looking as if you neurotically belabored over each and every facet of your total ensemble. French style appears to be very second-nature, yet extremely deliberate in its nonchalance.
There always seems to be a ubiquitous trend in the air, but it is never trendy, simply modern.
On my recent trip to Paris, it was all about flats- boots, that is. Wherever you looked, French women glommed on to this red hot, but classic style of slightly Equestrian-influenced flat, knee-high boots and each made her special mark with her interpretation of this trend gone wild. Skinny jeans neatly tucked into flat boots or a shorter skirt, dark tights, and flat boots. Barely a high heel in sight and certainly not a pair of flair leg jeans. Occasionally, ballerina flats replaced the boots. It is all about the long lean look topped by a proper coat, a clever piece of jewelry, and a fabulous knit scarf. For a dressier look, a little black dress adds punch and never looks predictable or showy.
You don’t need to be in Paris to master the élan of French chic.
First you need to understand the art of nuance and then you can get the look anywhere. While I was visiting my best friend and disco trivia cohort who moved to Paris to report on French trends for EyePreferParis, and we did what we do best together—shop. After decades of friendship, we were both shocked that my only purchase in Paris was a pack of Missoni-esque space-dyed socks at Muji and not my usual haul of too many shopping bags to get on a plane. I already had my French shopping fix at home with goodies from Hermes, Martin Margiela, Barbara Bui, and Paul and Joe.
But French chic, is really not about designer labels and more about how you put it all together.
It is about starting out with the right pieces that you can mix and match to wear anywhere. And, not obsessing about it. Have the poise to feel elegant yet slightly off-beat, polished but not glitzy, and self-confident enough to understand that the true meaning of chic is very individual. There is one obsession that Parisians are never without—that is a touch. Friends, lovers, family are constantly connected by holding hands or gently stroking each other—it is the truly the City of Love.
Dress like a Parisian with these French Chic brands:
Required Reading for Instant French Chic:
- Join my FREE newsletter and download “Passport to French Chic,” now!
- The French Chic at a Certain Age Series
- French Chic Fashion Tips
- How to Dress French When You Are Not
- Stylist Advice: Should I Revamp My Wardrobe From The Ground Up For French Chic Style?
- The French Chic Formula for Everyday Style a la Emmanuelle Alt
- French Chic Style
- Paris Street Style– How to wear IT!
- Cannes Do Chic Series
- French Chic Shoe Lesson 101: Red shoes pops a simple LBD, a la Berenice Bejo
- More French Chic posts
–January 3, 2007