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What to Wear: How Not to Look Like an American in Paris

France-Paris-shopping-Agnes-b.jpgIt’s hard to imagine a trip to Paris that doesn’t include, at the very least, an afternoon of shopping. But the question is what to wear while you’re shopping—and sightseeing, and eating at a café—since fashion will always reign supreme in the City of Light.

No matter where you live or what your style, from the moment you step off the plane you’ll obsess over how to achieve the relaxed, elegant way Parisian women dress. You’ll marvel at how they casually toss a scarf around their neck and have it look amazing, or how they can make a 15-year-old cashmere cardigan look fresh with a skinny belt. Suddenly, virtually all the clothes you packed may feel outdated, frumpy, and wrong.

But fret not, ma chère amie. You’re not destined to walk around Paris feeling less-than. We’ve given you a fail-safe guide that promises to keep you looking fabulous as you stroll down the Champs-Elysées or around the Marais. But we can’t promise that once you hit the streets of this fashion-obsessed city, that your credit card won’t max out faster than you can say oh la la.

Do’s & Don’ts of Dressing in Paris


  • When in doubt, do wear black.
  • Don’t overdo jewelry. A minimalist look is better.
  • For those on the smaller side, do go braless—they’re decidedly optional.
  • Don’t get a french manicure (the French don’t!). Your best bet is to keep nails short with clear polish.
  • Do wear your glasses if they’re funky and colorful. Bonus for not having to schlep solution on the plane!
  • If you visit in summer, don’t dress like you’re going to camp.
  • Do bring a scarf or two. You’ll look instantly chic with one wrapped loosely around your neck.
  • Don’t match your shoes to your bag—or spend time worrying about matching too much at all.
  • Do carry a backpack—but only if it’s small, sleek, and doesn’t say college student.
  • Do rock your best t-shirt and a pair of Converse Chucks with just about anything—even a skirt!

Find Your Fashion Inspiration

La Jeune Femme

Paris-shopping-Vanessa-Bruno-tote.jpgShe’s that young wisp of a thing standing on rue Oberkampf, chatting with her friends, cigarette in hand, looking as if she’s had less than her eight hours—and whatever she has on, she wears it well.

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Inspiration: Audrey Tautou
Best Accessories: The huge, costume cocktail ring you found at the bar last night, Vanessa Bruno tote (pictured), and Repetto ballet flats
Favorite Parts of Town: Canal St- Martin, Oberkampf, the Bastille.
Biggest Splurge: Are those 200 euro jeans from Colette really considered a splurge when you wear them every day?
Chic Boutique: Thank goodness the designers have secondary lines! Now you’ll only spend one paycheck at Antoine & Lili.
Chain Store Knockoff: Never underestimate the genius that is H&M.
Favorite Pick-me-up: A croque madame and side of frites.
Mode of Transport: Get thee a boyfriend with a Vespa! Otherwise, it’s the métro for you.
Won’t Leave The House Without: Your trendy new cell phone.
Must-have Item: Nearly-destroyed high-top Converse. Hands down.

La Dame Elegante

Cacharel-perfume.jpgHow’s she so stunning at the Sunday market, children in tow, no make-up, hair up in a knot? Easy—she’s meticulous about skincare, has in-laws with a house in the south, and is carrying the latest bag from Longchamps.

Inspiration: Juliette Binoche
Best Accessories: Longines watch, Lamarthe bag, Cacharel perfume (pictured), and the 400 euro cashmere Chanel sweater you just scored from that fabulous consignment shop on rue St-Honoré at half the retail price!
Favorite Parts of Town: The Marais, Rive Gauche.
Biggest Splurge: It’s hard to resist those new platform sandals from Dior.
Chic Boutique: You can’t get enough of Chloé, but you’ll settle for anything from Vanessa Bruno.
Chain Store Knockoff: How is it that you ever survived without agnès b.?
Favorite Pick-me-up: Lentil and poached egg salad and sparkling water.
Mode of Transport: You take the métro, but chances are you have an Audi that’ll get you and the kids out of town.
Won’t Leave The House Without: The scarf your grandmother bought you for Christmas.
Must-have Item: Every elegant woman needs a trench coat.

La Grande Dame

Paris-shopping-Roger-Vivier-flats.jpgYou can’t miss her walking down the Champs-Elysées—she’s still turning heads, with her Chanel suit, Hermès scarf, and her near-perfect posture. Something to aspire to…

Inspiration: Catherine Deneuve
Best Accessories: Roger Vivier flats (pictured), Cartier watch, and your favorite companions: your two French poodles.
Favorite Parts of Town: The Faubourg St-Honoré and the Grand Boulevards to name a few . .. but definitely not the Rive Gauche.
Biggest Splurge: Does it really have to be just one? If so, a private jet will do.
Chic Boutique: Only the standards—that’s Chanel and Herm ès, darling . . .
Chain Store Knockoff: What’s a knockoff?
Favorite Pick-me-up: Foie gras or steak tartare . . . plus champagne.
Mode of Transport: Having a driver is really the only way to get around with all those shopping bags.
Won’t Leave The House Without: Your Chanel No. 5.
Must-have Item: A Kelly bag, of course!


Photo Credits: Courtesy Agnes B., Cartier, Vanessa Bruno, Cacharel, and Roger Vivier.

What are your favorite fashion tips for Paris?

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