How to Dress for Travel in Paris

Leave your flip-flops and sports jerseys at home when visiting Paris.

The City of Lights is a very fashion-forward city, where tourists can stand out like sore thumbs in their fanny packs, Bermuda shorts and discount-bin flip-flops. When you pack for your trip to this fashion capital, you might be swayed by two different mindsets. One side of you will want comfort and practicality, but the other side will likely want to use the opportunity to dress up and be a part of the stylish climate that gave birth to haute couture. The good news is you can do both–you just need to pack sensibly and make minor changes to what you consider “casual.”

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Upgrade your sense of casual. Leave your athletic, workout gear at home unless you intend to visit a gym. Wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes may be a comfortable way to get around the city, but it’s not a very fashionable one. White tennis shoes, even brand new ones, are particularly frowned upon. Invest instead in comfortable walking shoes and wear clothes made of natural fabrics that breathe. Jeans are OK, provided they fit well. Leave all baggy, ill-fitting clothes at home.


Prepare for the seasons. In the summer you will be able to wear shoes like flip-flops, but take cues from Parisians who wear the more fashionable sort with a heel, straps or a touch of “bling.” Boots are the footwear of choice in the winter in Paris, and you will need to layer your clothes so you can easily add to or take away from your outfit as the situation warrants.


Accessorize. The French have mastered the art of the ensemble. A simple scarf can go a long way in dressing up a casual outfit for a night out on the town, and as such scarves are pretty much a Parisian staple of almost all fashion no matter the hour of the day or the season. Sunglasses and hats can help both men and women visiting in Paris look their most stylish. These accessories also take up less room in your suitcase than an assortment of different outfits.


Know how to mix and match. Take a few quality items that can be worn in a variety of ways, from the casual to the dressy. Keep it neutral and leave the flashy stuff to a touch of bling from your jewelry or color from your accessories.


Keep it simple. Parisian style isn’t about the most ostentatious dresser, it’s about the person who knows how to touch up a classic style with a certain “je ne sais quoi,” or stamp of individuality. Always remember to pack your basic black outfit, especially a black dress for the female traveler. These sleek, classic dresses can slenderize your silhouette and give you a dressier look with little effort.


Opt for an “au natural” look when it comes to your makeup and hairstyle. French women prefer a more natural look than the over-styled sensibilities of their American counterparts. Pack just a basic foundation and some blush, as well as some lipstick to achieve a more radiant, natural look rather than flashy cosmetics. Also consider the classic chignon hairstyle, which pulls the hair back away from the face but is a stylish step above a ponytail.


Show respect. Parisians favor those travelers who show respect for the sophistication of their city, and respect for their culture. This is especially true in places of worship, where women should make an effort to cover bare shoulders and legs before entering. Men can usually leave their ties at home, unless the trip is business related, or more elegant evenings out are planned. Usually a nice suit jacket suffices.

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