My roommates and I have a running joke that, after spending 15-30 minutes picking out the perfect outfit or carefully applying makeup, we “can’t believe we woke up like this.” This daily saying sprang from our collective realization that French women (and men!) seem to put in a lot of effort to look effortless.
For me, there was a steep learning curve that came with trying to emulate Parisian style. I’ve compiled this guide so that you (unlike me) don’t have to suffer through stares on the Metro or funny looks on your way to class. But -- you may be thinking -- I like my style. Why should I change it just because I’m in a different country? Well, there’s a safety element to it. Blending in with the locals is a crucial way to avoid being a target for pickpockets and tourist scams. The best reason? Dressing like a Parisian is fun!
Below are three ways to look like a local (shout-out to my lovely CEA study abroad friends for their modeling!)
1. Trendless, but make it trendy.
Part of the allure of French fashion is its ability to be trendy and fashion-forward, while simultaneously classic and iconic. If you’re ever unsure of what to wear, you truly can’t go wrong with the classics. Luckily, many Parisian staples and “classic” clothing items likely fill your wardrobe already. For instance: jeans, basic tees, chunky sweaters, turtlenecks, and single-color coats. I’ve also noticed that Parisians keep clothing with logos to a minimum; it seems “cooler” to sport classic, trendless clothes that speak for themselves.
2. Scarves, scarves, and more scarves!
The amount of scarves you’ll see on the streets while studying abroad in Paris (no matter the temperature outside) cannot be overstated. They’re everywhere. Seriously. But, when you think about it, what’s not to like? Scarves are simple, comfortable, and a great way to add a pop of color to a classic, neutral-toned outfit. Keeping you cozy and completing your outfit? Incroyable!
3. Just say NO to athleisure, leggings, and sweats.
As much as many of us (myself included) like attending our college classes in PJs or sweats, the “I literally just rolled out of bed look” doesn’t fly in Paris. Unless you’re at the gym, it’s rare to see someone walking about in athletic wear -- and it’s a dead giveaway of that person being a foreigner. Does that mean that you can’t wear sneakers? Nope! Just wear leggings sparingly, and avoid being out and about in sweatpants.
Overall, Parisian style is dressed-up-casual and sophisticated. Dressing like a Parisian doesn’t mean that you have to give up your personal style -- you’re just adapting it to new surroundings. Emulating local style is a great way to immerse yourself in a new culture, and, who knows -- you may even start to prefer it.
Olivia Hunt is the Spring 2020 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at University of San Diego.