With carefully-ironed cocktail dresses and high heels, my roommates and I felt no reason to second-guess the outfits we’d picked for our first night out while studying abroad in Paris. As soon as we hopped off the metro to the main nightlife street, however, we realized that we didn’t have a clue what the locals wore out. Honestly, though, we weren’t too hard on ourselves—it’s pretty confusing. Parisians have numerous unspoken dress codes, especially regarding evening wear. Luckily, you can learn from our major faux pas and wear the perfect outfit out, no matter where you decide to explore after dark.
RestaurantsFor most restaurants and bars, the dress code is dressed-up casual. So, if you do decide to go with a cocktail dress, the norm is for it to be accompanied by tights and a sweater/light jacket. This isn’t because Parisians are against showing skin; it’s just not typical for this type of setting. People would just give you some funny looks (wondering how cold you must be). More common, though, would be to wear a casual dress (with tights, of course) or rip-free denim jeans with a nice top. Boots and heels are often worn, but it also isn’t unusual to spot women wearing sneakers on their nights out. As a general rule of thumb, clothing that has holes or is extremely oversized can be frowned upon at a lot of places. And baseball caps/ hats are almost always a no (unless you go to a sports bar…maybe).
Clubs/High-End OutingsIf you’re headed somewhere to tear up the dance floor or indulge in some fancy food and refreshments, the dress code will likely be stricter. Jeans (besides dark or black-wash) are usually safest to avoid. I’d recommend a skirt, tights, and a nice blouse—paired with either boots or heels. If you're ever unsure of what would be allowed, opt for semi-formal attire: a dress or skirt (always with tights) or slacks. In case of super dress-code confusion--which can certainly happen--don't hesitate to call the venue before-hand. They're not exactly known for being more understanding towards tourists, and better to be safe than sorry!
Learn more about studying abroad in Paris.
Olivia Hunt is the Spring 2020 CEA MOJO Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at University of San Diego.