French fashion is a tricky business. As in any country, the styles you see on the streets of Paris are not the same kinds you’d see in a student-friendly town like Montpellier, a small fishing town in Brittany, or in a cultural crucible like Marseilles.
That being said, I believe I can help you look your best while traveling throughout France this summer. I’ll give some general tips, and then break it down for you by category.
French Fashion Fact: There Is No Singular “French Look”
Sit outdoors at a café on any given day, and you’ll see a veritable parade of styles walk by. But still, you can see a difference. What is it that makes the French seem just a cut above us mere mortals when it comes to fashion? Here are some hints.
Please note that this is not the final word; like snowflakes on a winter’s day, everyone has their own unique style. You’ll see exceptions to these hints at every turn. But after living in France for six years, I’ve seen a thing or two.
- First of all, they live there; you’re not going to see French locals carting around backpacks and large bottles of water. That’s a big difference that maybe can’t be helped, but there it is.
- Their clothes fit them correctly. Pants are hemmed to the correct length. Shirts match the person’s silhouette; no one is swimming in a baggy shirt.
- They have great haircuts.
- Their look matches. Sneakers are worn with workout gear, shoes with all other clothes. They have different jackets for all occasions, from wintertime to rainy days to a chilly summer night.
- Both men and women accessorize well – sunglasses, watches, purses in general are the best they can find (even if they bought it at a discount).
- They put their look together and then forget about it. They don’t fuss and fidget with their clothing while out and about. It’s simply a part of them.
Well. Now that the mystery’s solved – ha! – let’s get down to business: What do you pack for a trip to France this summer?
Here are some general tips for blending in during your next trip to France:
- Unsure what to wear to a restaurant? Try to walk past it during lunch or even dinner the night before, and see what others are wearing.
- No fanny packs. Seriously, you guys. There are a million ways to carry your stuff that look better than a fanny pack.
- Find a decent, attractive bag to carry your big hulking D-SLR camera in. That goes for you too, men. If not for fashion, then to avoid being mugged.
- Take the time and spend the money to find a comfortable pair of shoes that look nice. Leave the white sneakers at home. Please.
- Find a comfortable, nice outfit for traveling. Watching you guys come off a plane or train is like witnessing a 4AM fire drill at a college dorm.
- Shoulders and legs should ALWAYS be covered whenever visiting ANY house of worship in France for ANY reason. Do whatever it takes to respect this unspoken rule, no matter how hot it is.
Your Biggest Fashion Question Answered: Can I Wear Flip-Flops In France In The Summer?
The short answer? Yes. The French do. But here are some really, really important things to note before you throw those raggedy, cheap plastic atrocities into your suitcase.
- The flip-flops that French people wear, by and large, are not your standard-issue disposable Old Navy kind. They’re very nice. Follow their lead, and you can wear them day and night.
- Women, opt for some bling, a heel, or more complicated straps for your flip-flops or sandals.
- Men, invest in a really nice pair of simple, brown or black leather flip-flops. I once saw a Frenchman wearing these with linen pants and a crisp white t-shirt at a brasserie in Paris in 1997. That’s how much of an impression he made on me.
- Get a pedicure. That goes for men, too, so no eye-rolling. And carry some tissues or wipes with you throughout the day to clean up your feet before heading in to eat somewhere.
Fashion Tips For Young Women Visiting France In The Summer
Here are some tips I’ve compiled from a list of fashion don’ts I’ve seen recently:
- You know that cute sundress you want to wear to dinner? Don’t wear it with your cheapo flip-flops. Get a decent sandal or adorable flats.
- If you’re going to pack those sexy heels, own them. Confidence is 90% of what make French women so fabulous.
- American girls have this habit of wearing a really beautiful/sexy/expensive top with some jeans they pulled out of the bottom of a backpack. Either wear pants or a skirt, or bring fitted jeans and wear them with heels. See my “everything matches” hint above.
- Heading to the beach? Cover up on your way there unless your hotel is across the street from the shoreline.
- Make your ponytail look nice, like you meant to wear your hair that way, not like you’ve just finished doing laundry.
- When in doubt, find a long, light cotton scarf and wear it all the time. French girls do this with practically any outfit, no matter how warm it is, and it just pulls the whole look together.
Fashion Tips For Older Women Visiting France In The Summer
Ladies, you’ve almost got it down. But there are some final tips you might want to consider before heading out.
- Older French women do not hide their attractiveness. They are the Helen Mirren to your Joy Behar.
- Less equals more. Don’t wear every piece of jewelry you own in an attempt to dress up an outfit. French women do not over-accessorize with jewelry.
- The shoes thing goes double for you – invest in the most comfortable, most attractive shoes you can find. Nothing ruins your outfit more than your go-to sneakers.
- Go with light, natural fabrics – first of all, synthetics will overheat you in four seconds flat. Secondly, older French women tend to be of a generation that bought nice things and tended to them well. They have not bought into the disposable clothing trend of Americans.
- Otherwise, y’all look fine – have fun!
Fashion Tips For Young Men Visiting France In The Summer
Guys, you’ve got it rough. The differences are so great between you and your French counterparts, I don’t even know where to begin. And, chances are you could give a rat’s ass. But French girls will be watching you, so listen up if you want to make an impression.
- You know what I said above about looking like a 4AM college dorm fire drill? That’s all you, hon. Leave the beer promotion t-shirts, frat wear and wrinkled cargo shorts at home.
- All your clothes are freaking enormous. Bring stuff that fits you correctly. You’re competing with French boys in stovepipe jeans and skin-tight tees.
- Suck it up and bring a decent pair of shoes. Unless you plan on eating at McDonald’s every day, those flip-flops aren’t going to do you any favors at dinnertime.
- Flip-flops and sandals – guys, I feel you on this one. Your choices seem to be either Hippie Jesus sandals, reverse-engineered hybrid jobs or shower shoes. Please, take some time to find a decent summer shoe.
- When in doubt, go preppy. Well-fitting Bermuda shorts from the L.L. Bean catalog never killed anyone.
- No baseball cap. Bring a comb instead.
Fashion Tips For Older Men Visiting France In The Summer
Like your female companions, you’re almost there. Here are a few hints to help you look suave during your stay.
- No white sneakers, Pops! You’ve got it easiest when it comes to footwear, so take advantage of it. Find a comfortable pair of neutral-colored shoes that go with anything. Boom, you’re done.
- Unless you’re willing to get a pedicure, leave the open-toes sandals for going directly from your hotel room to the beach.
- I know you think those loud print shirts are your vacation fashion statement, but listen to your wife and leave them at home.
- I know you’re a huge fan of your local sports team; again, leave the jerseys and paraphernalia at home.
- The safari hat is a good look – while on safari. Wear sunglasses instead.
- Purchase several pairs of ankle-length athletic socks for your shoes, if you’re a sock wearer. Wear dress socks only when dressing in full-length pants for dinner.
- If you’ve got a neutral-color linen jacket, bring it and wear the hell out of it. You’ll look like a million bucks.
What Kids Should Wear When Visiting France In The Summer
Mom and Dad, you do a pretty excellent job of making your tykes look adorable on vacation. Pretty much anything goes for the little ones; but there are some pretty bad-ass French toddlers around, so if you wanted an excuse for your tot to wear that baby-sized Ramones t-shirt, then go for it.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to pack your bags with stylish frocks and come on over? Then get started by checking out flight prices to France using our handy widget below!