Dress like the Parisians in Summer

Old May 15th, 2004, 09:29 PM
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Dress like the Parisians in Summer

Hi all,

Will be in Paris for an Summer Executive Programme for a month solo.

Don't want to stand out too much visually. And have limited luggage space (just 1 bag so I can handle it on my own). Therefore can't afford to bring excess stuff.

What is the norm clothes to wear in Paris? I've look up many a websites and they keep emphasizing that Parisian love black with colourful Hermes scarves. Not too sure about all that black in the heat of summer.

Also if I get invited to dinner by some of the other Parisian participants, any taboo dressing?

And what kind of shoes is preferable for daily walking on their streets? And on weekends, are my beaded slippers okie?

Hope I'm not too vapid with this enquiry but I want to try as much as possible to fit in. It's like first day in a new school. Only this school has a Parisian zipcode.
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Old May 15th, 2004, 09:57 PM
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Normally, I'd advise you to relax and dress the way you would at home, but since you said it was a Summer Executive Programme, I'll strongly suggest you dress as a very conservative professional would have dressed 20 years ago. Dark or neutral colors (even in summer), suit with very understated dark or matching shoes. If you're female, a low heel would be appropriate. If you're male, a tie is essential. You are dressing for business, not as a tourist.

Check with the program to see if they have guidelines. Also check to see what the nightlife might be. If you go to young hip places, you'll need to dress differently than if you go to places that older more conservative people attend. A bit of checking beforehand, perhaps with a previous attendee, will save you valuable packing space.

This will top your post and I'm sure you'll get some excellent advice from others. BTW, it usually(!) isn't terribly hot in Paris in the summer. (If there isn't a repeat of last year.) If it gets as hot for as long as last year, I'm sure even Paris will relax to the point of leaving jackets and ties at home. You don't need a great variety of clothes there. They tend to purchase one or two superb outfits and wear them often . . . not like us buying seven outfits for seven days and cutting on the quality. Take the best you have and don't be afraid to wear something more than once. Just change you Hermes scarves! 8^)
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Old May 15th, 2004, 10:28 PM
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I would say the opposite, wear color but not bright tones, and make sure it has simple lines. reveal that you are an indeprndent soul.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 04:16 AM
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Hi Tiger Lilly,
I've just read a fabulous book, "True pleasures: A memoir of women in Paris" by Lucinda Holdforth.
She is an Australian who worked as a diplomat/ assistant to deputy PM.
She writes amongst other issues that french women dress conservatively. They do not wear black in spring/summer and they do wear high heels.
The other gem, was not to smile at shop assistants/waiters when entering a shop or ordering food. A simple Bonjour Madame/Mlle/Mons with a very straight face. This tactic will give you street cred and will not be taken as impolite.
It is so nice to dress up in Paris..you can always soak your poor feet at night.
Another good book about life in Paris is "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull...a hilarious look at an Australian living in Paris.
She talks about etiquette at cocktail parties, family gatherings,red tape.
My hairdresser who is french found the book enlightening and it helped her understands the very different cultures.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 05:43 AM
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I gather that you're a woman, based on the beaded slippers/Hermes scarves mention .

Agree with most of the previous posters here, but wanted to recommend navy blue as a versatile alternative to black in summer. For some reason, it just seems cooler, especially when paired with white or pink. Shades of tan and beige can also work well, as can a light grey.

When I have to travel for work, I tend to take along suits from Ann Taylor--they're rather basic, not super expensive or fashionable--but the fabric, a kind of stretch gabardine, breathes more than other knits and yet shakes free of packing wrinkles in no time at all.

For shoes, I'd try an updated version of a pump, but would stay away from the more stilleto-type heels unless you're really used to walking (and climbing steps) in them. One of the interesting things you'll see in Paris is that many of the younger professional women will go without hose, even when wearing business clothes. This is not a look that I could ever pull off, but hey, if it works for you, why not?

The Hermes scarves could be a bit much for summer (not too many places are air conditioned). Depending on your suit and other accessories, you may want to look for some lighter-weight, gauzier things. I would just take a few scarves with me and then buy the rest in Paris--the selection is awesome. I'd also take (or buy) some stylish jewelry. On a day when it feels to hot to have fabric around your neck, a nice necklace can feel good. Parisiennes also seem to wear a lot of bracelets. (And yes, your beaded slippers will be fine for the weekend).

I can't think of any major taboos for evening dinners. I'd err on the side of conservatism at first, and then adapt my style after observing what others are wearing. I would opt for things that are more tailored and closer to the body than loose and flowing. Women of every age wear their skirts relatively short, no longer than knee length. Occasionally, you'll see a longer skirt as part of a more ethnic or bohemian look, but certainly not for the office.


Sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I hope you have a terrific time and come back to enlighten us.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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Agree about the hose; it's perfectly ok to have bare legs in summer; that's what fake tans are for! I would wear mostly plain colours; navy/white, tan, beige. Not so many prints. And a pair of low-heeled comfortable sandals.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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A key thing to remember - your clothing should be sophisticated, clean and simple - never cutesy - and trendy, unless of the absolute real designer variety, will not fly at all.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 07:00 AM
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I was in Paris in April and saw a lot of camel, beige and tan, and I think that would be a good choice for summer. Navy and white also looks crisp. I brought a pink jacket with me because I was so sick of winter darks, and it was very out of place in Paris. I didn't really care because it made me feel good, but neutrals mixed with darks will be your best bet. I would skip the high heels I see Parisian women sporting and go for a cuban heel or low slingback. Lightweight cotton, chiffon or gauze-y scarves and bracelets, yes!. I love linen, but it will leave you looking rumpled, so I think the Ann Taylor/gaberdine suggestion is a good one. Also professional is the slip dress or column dress. Do the french consider sleeveless too casual for business? I am not sure. Kimerly 0thanks for the 2 book titles - I will definitely look for those.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 07:37 AM
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My dear, just wear clothes that are smart casual, if you've the figure, wear Jil Sander, Prada, MiuMiu, anything that epitomises smart summer casual, you should know how to dress by now.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 07:38 AM
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Having studied in Paris myself, I would agree with all the good postings here about neutral colors, beige, navy, black, etc. and esp. about the simple, classic lines-your clothing should NEVER look trendy or faddy- that is a sure mark of someone who is not "au courant." Sleveless dresses (with coord. jacket) work just great. One thing I think will surprise you is how badly dressed the majority of Parisians are! It is a welcome realization from the traditional viewpoint that they all look like they stepped out of a Chanel boutique! That said, however, you are there in a business context, and you will definitely be sized up acc. to the clothes you wear-with the good suggestions found here, you can't go wrong. And even in the short time you will be in the City of Light, I'm sure you will be taking in the fashion scene, and buying clothes to give you that "European look." It is inevitable- everyone I know who goes to Europe, and partic. Paris, to work or study very quickly starts to dress like they are a native! Have fun- you will love the Parisians and the French- don't go over with any preconceived notions about how you think the French are- they will surprise you every time with their warmth, humor and generosity!
 
Old May 16th, 2004, 11:17 AM
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Disclaimer, I've never lived in Paris but have visited (on vacation not for business or school). Having said that, not everyone in Paris is walking around in black with designer scarves, that is for certain.

My suggestions come from watching my dear friend who lives in french-speaking Switzerland and travels on business extensively. She uses always solid colors (not a print in her wardrobe). For daytime business she takes two good suits and silk blouses, low heels. For casual mostly good quality knits. Colors black, tan, beige, cream, kakhi. Pieces in shells, pants, skirts, dresses with barelegs and various flats, sandals or cute but low heels in summer. She wears her clothes over and over, just hanging them out to air inbetween. Honestly this is the most major different I notice, Americans wash and dry clean their clothing WAY more than Europeans do.

Wishing you a wonderful month, Tiger Lily!!
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Old May 16th, 2004, 11:27 AM
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Hi everyone,

Thank you lots for your posts. Terribly comforting.

Yes, I am a femme. Fearsome am I to the guy whose screen name is Tiger_Lily.

Btw, the programme is held in La Defense. So no matter how casual the class is, I'd probably still have to stick to the blah neutrals with throw-ins of black.

Will keep in mind not to smile too much, Kimerley (which is different, cos where I come from, we try as much to be friendly with a smile) Think Haughty, Tiger.

I had just the same sentiment with your pink jacket, ninasdream - Was going to bring a mid blue casual jacket. Looks very smart but the color might be off from everybody's accounts.

Could we talk about bags? What is the Parisian woman carrying? I've 2 choices:

A dark matte brown leather Bally Baguette with a thick red leather strap - (think that this might be good as I can hug it just under the arms away from pickpockets but is the dark red strap too much?)

or

A Kenzo black leather bag with 2 longer straps and it's opening (no flap just the edges) closed with just a hidden magnet. Any safety concerns I should take into account?

Near forgot that I will be bringing my notebook. Okie, is it adviceable not to use the official computer bag? Or perhaps I'll just use a knapsack? - one of those average sized high school ones i.e. not the hiker types.

Any comments? Well-tailored shirt, knee lengthed skirt, low slingback heels. Check. And... Err a knapsack?

Okie, this is a conundrum.

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Old May 16th, 2004, 11:29 AM
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Europeans clean their clothes when they look tired and need cleaning - I'm not talking about clothes that are worn next to the body, but suits, jackets etc that are worn over another garment. Why clean a suit if it's crease free and clean?

However, I feel that anything worn close to the skin should always been cleaned after every wear, if not every other wear. That is why it is essential to pack a large suitcase whenever one travels, after all, repeat outfits are undesirable.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 11:44 AM
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m_kingdom2 would have you totting a huge suitcase of designer clothes. "Repeat outfits are undesirable" and "should always be cleaned after every wear". I stress these are only one person's opinion and not particularly applicable to the way most people travel who are doing 1 month out of 1 suitcase traveling solo. Please listen to those who have experience more similar to your own.

I say - Bring the blue jacket, the pocketbook with the red straps and the normal laptop carry bag. If you want something different, a messenger bag is better than a knapsack.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 11:45 AM
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A Parisian professional woman would never carry a knapsack - that is for kids only. typically they will do a smart small purse with the addition of a briefcase if needed - black leather is best.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 11:53 AM
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If you can afford it, my suggestion is to go over packed light & go shopping for some new clothes in Paris... after you arrive and see what kind of things would be best for your situation. Buy an inexpensive nylon duffle bag to pack the extra stuff or spring for postage and mail a box (of your old clothes!) home at the end of the month.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 01:53 PM
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Hi TL,

Returned from Paris May 5.

All of the shops are showing colors this year. Pink is very popular.

I agree that you should dress for the office, but you don't have to be blah.

They are still showing shoes with pointed toes that stick out about 17 inches. Most women were not wearing them.

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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:22 PM
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Ira dear, when are you being appointed as the editor of Vogue?

Every designer, every single year, shows colours in their collections, even Helmut Lang, famous for monochrome colours has reds and stone colours in virtually every collection. The pointy shoes have been around for a few years now, in vogue that is, they're over.

Parisiennes tend to dress rather too conservatively, even the smarter ones look like they've walked out of Hermes or Chanel boutiques a couple of decades ago. The 80s, so still too recent to be truly vintage or desirable.

Wear modern collections. Celine, Loewe, Prada typify the elegant summer smart casual look. Givenchy used to, but not anymore, I shudder at their collections. I haven't the time for Gucci anymore, who wants their wallpaper? Grow up!

Black is a summer colour, but only in the evening, those who attempt to wear it during the day are naff and/or should know better and/or ignorant. I feel all three most probably are the case!

Beaded slippers? You wear those on flights, spas, and in the privacy of your own home, not in the streets dear.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 02:54 PM
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Gues it depends if you want to stand out by wearing things that were obviously purchased in the US...take little and lots of Euros..see what the others are wearing and BUY accordingly. Tell yourself you are worth it. And as to those shoes Ira was evidently staring at....when i was there the women who could afford to look fashionable WERE wearing them.
Good luck.
 
Old May 16th, 2004, 05:24 PM
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I find this a very interesting post. Suze's comment about dry-cleaning is dead-on, in fact, I just read an article that Americans in fact do tend to dry-clean their clothes too often, and that breaks down the fibers. Europeans do dry-clean far less. On the other hand, I agree with M-King. about dry-cleaning more frequently clothes that are worn close to the body. As to how to pack, I would advise NOT packing light. It's funny, most seasoned travelers I know, and those who travel for a living, don't, surprisingly enough, travel lighter, but travel with a large suitcase filled with lots of different shoes/selections of outfits! As for me, I have to be in London on business the second week in July, and I plan to bring everything but the kitchen sink! I know there are many who disagree with me, and it is difficult to manage, but that's why you have porters and trolleys to help you out. I'd much rather have a number of choices as to clothes I know look good on me, than not having the selection I want with me-particularly when I'm trying to make an impression in the business environment. Also, it doesn't sound to me as if you're going to have that much time to shop for clothes, because presumably you'll be working during the day and socializing/networking on the nights/week-ends that you are there. Accordingly, if I were you, Tiger Lily, I'd be sure to have all those outfits/shoes with me that I think I would need. Just be sure to put your outfits together before you leave, so you won't have to think about it when you get to Paris, that way you can concentrate on doing what you're there for.
 

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