No city give its’ visitors more pressure to look effortlessly chic than Paris. This makes packing for Paris difficult for most of us who are non-French and therefore non-effortlessly chic (no matter how hard we may try to be.)
On top of that, there’s also comfort to consider. If you’re doing Paris right – you’re walking everywhere and only French girls seem capable of conquering the city in stilettos. I’m in awe when I see one perfectly navigate the cobblestones without getting stuck even once. I’ve scratched up many a heel trying to copy them.
And then there’s attire vs. agenda. I hate to waste time midday going back to the hotel to change my look. But how does one spend their afternoon wandering through the marche aux puces and spend cocktail hour at the Plaza Athenee without going back to the hotel to change? C’est impossible!
So you want to look French, but not like an idiot trying to look French. You want to be comfy, but not sloppy, and you want an outfit that ideally is going to be perfect no matter what you are doing and where you are.
I wish there was a formule that I could give you that would be as plain and simple as the menu at Chez Georges, but just like the French language, French style is just something we Americans just have to struggle with, knowing we will never fully master it – but we can come close.
So in case you need some inspiration – here’s everything I packed for my trip to Paris and how I wore it.
My main tips are
- stick neutral colors
- don’t over-accessorize
- when in doubt dress up, not down.
My absolute essential thing to have when in Paris is le tennis from Bensimon. They are like the French version of Converse. They come in every color, are a dream to walk around in, and are adorable. This trip I spent a lot of time in their new, velvet collection. They have a fluffy, warm insole to keep your toes cozy in the cooler temperatures. They are hard to find outside France and Belgium, but just make a stop at one of their many stores the first day of your trip. They make the perfect, useful souvenir.
For a day of exploring Paris I dressed up some dark distressed denim with a lacy white tuxedo blouse. Only in Paris is it acceptable to wear a sheer, lace blouse without a bra while casually wandering around for the day. I love the French.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it back to the hotel to change before dinner, but I knew this outfit could work later in the evening by just putting on a bright red lip. My velvet Bensimon tennis in rouge were the perfect pop of color and kept me comfortable while I walked 24,785 steps and then I had six creme brulees at Robert et Louise (because I earned them).
I love trousers. They are so much more fun than denim and they are wooly, warm, and sophisticated. To make them feel less like I’m heading to a business meeting, I paired them with a cropped black t-shirt. I decided to be monochromatic, so my leather jacket, cat-eye glasses, and black leather sneakers were the perfect finishing touch.
This sweater-like pencil skirt is like being wrapped in a cashmere blanket. It’s stretchy and has an elastic waistband, so naturally it’s the perfect outfit to eat croissants in. Since I wore this as a day look while having multiple bread items and coffees at Cafe de Flore I knotted my favorite, simple white t-shirt. My snake-print booties were a logical choice since your shoes stick out of the bottom of a cafe table, on display for all passerbyers to see. When I’m wearing a plain white t-shirt, I always look for a statement sunglass so that the top half of me looks less boring to the handsome, Parisians walking by.
This oversized, poplin suiting shirt served me two ways during our trip. The cut of this is actually trapeze, circus-tent like, so I made it a bit more girly by tying a knot at the waist day one when my stomach had not yet enlarged. Later in the week, when it had expanded considerably, I re-wore this top as the trapeze option and volia.
I confess I bought this dress mainly because it was colors of the French flag. I always love to travel with one, great day-dress, and I alway find one on-theme with where I’m heading. This dress screamed “vive la france” to me, and was under forty dollars so obviously – it became my favorite. A wrap dress is a classic, iconic shape and it’s causal enough to wear during the day.
You can bring one cheesy french outfit that screams tourist and includes a beret. Because you’re going to love it, and so will the Parisians who will look at you and think, “oh that silly American; clearly she’s tourist but clearly she loves us with every fiber of her being.” I say go with a cheeky sweatshirt or a stipped shirt.
Spend this day doing something super touristy – like strolling along the Seine checking out the antique books, going on a boat cruise, or walking around Montmartre. The ideal accessory for this outfit is a baguette tucked under your arm. Duh.
If all else fail – you could never go wrong bringing an entire suitcase of black and white for Paris. For drinks at a chic hotel followed by a nice dinner out, I wore what looks like fancy, silk pajamas. It was evening, after all – and if I get home so sleepy from wine and need to pass out instantly, I’m set.
There’s no better place to wear a seductive lingerie-inspired dress than a night out in Paris. A lipstick-red bag and studded boots was the perfect way to make this dress less-fancy and be able to walk around for hours. We ended up making an impromptu visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower before our dinner at Les Ombres, so I was glad I dressed up since I honestly would have been ashamed to visit la tour wearing anything less.
My sister Amanda is channeling adult Madeline with her black, hair-bow, black t-shirt dress, tailored, wool jacket, and metallic bag shaped like a lunchbox. And Ali threw this green bomber over her all-black look of skinny leggings and a turtle neck – a la Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.
Remember that in France, simplicity is always in style. Don’t try to over-style yourself or worry too much about looking on trend. Choose classic, simple looks and you will always fit in among the chicest of French girls, and be ready for wherever the day takes you.