Here is your ultimate guide to Parisian style! Whether born-and-bred in Paris, citizens or just inhabitants, Parisian women have a real sense of style. Being French, I lived for several years in Paris (both in the 17th and 4th arrondissements). And from my personal experience, I want to bring you, in this article, the secrets behind Parisian chic. You’ll learn what really Parisian style is, how to achieve this style, how to dress like a Parisian —what Parisians really wear— and what you should not wear in Paris —to not look like a tourist.
When it comes down to it, what really stands out about Parisians is the fact that they never look like they are trying too hard with their outfits or look like they spent hours getting ready. So what makes a Parisienne so stylish? Keep scrolling below to get to the bottom of this question.
What Really Parisian Style Is
Adopting a Parisian style is all about finding the right wardrobe staples and accessories that make you feel confident and très chic. Parisian style is not a difficult style to pull off. Indeed, it’s something effortless, classic, nonchalant, cool but not arrogant. Parisian style is just a little bit more sophisticated than French style. The aim is to find the right balance between looking dressed up and laid-back (“chic-décontracté” in French).
It’s not being obsessed about wearing bold shades and extravagant items and bright colors, or expensive pieces. Think about Emily’s style in the Netflix series Emily in Paris being the anti-Parisian style. Instead, Parisian style is all about effortless basic clothes with one statement piece like a silk scarf, a nice hat, or a great pair of shoes. Accessorization of outfits is kept to a minimum and the overall look is simple and clean. Parisians are never overdone or overdress. And while this style may seem easy to reproduce, making a fashion statement while being a minimalist requires a particular style-savviness; think of it as a kind of art. Wear what you love and keep it simple, that is the Parisian way.
How To Get Parisian Style
In this section, I’ve tried to dissect the style rules Parisian women always follow in order to achieve that coveted Parisian style.
1. Go “Au Naturel”
“Au naturel” doesn’t mean “négligé” (untidy in English). Parisian style is all about finding the right balance between looking groomed and a little “undone” at the same time. Meaning that it can take a little bit of work to look effortless like a Parisian.
First, many Parisians don’t wear any makeup at all, or if they do, their makeup look is so subtle that you’ll never guess they wear makeup. Parisians usually skip foundation and instead, they prefer using a tinted moisturizer or just a concealer where necessary —under the eyes, around the nose, on blemishes. A little bit of blush or bronzer, a layer of mascara to wake up the eyes, a tiny bit of lip balm and that’s it! Parisians don’t rely on makeup and will always emphasize skin care over makeup.
Then, when it comes to their hair, Parisians’ philosophy remains the same: less is more. Parisians’ hair tends to be natural, and a little bit undone and messy. Many Parisians just sleep on wet hair to get that effortless chic hair instead of spending hours blowdrying their hair. They always lead the way when it comes to chic, simple hairstyles that look like they haven’t taken any time at all. And they always prefer to embrace their natural hair texture. In terms of hair colors: some prefer to embrace their natural grey hair —like Parisian journalist Sophie Fontanel— whereas others prefer coloring their hair —like Parisian model Inès de la Fressange.
2. Master The “Chic-Décontracté” Dress Code
Parisian style is all about looking chic and “décontracté” (casual in English) at the same time. Parisian style is a little bit chicer and more sophisticated than the classic French style. And Parisian women always mix casual and dress-up pieces rather than wearing all casual pieces at once or looking too dressed up. Think trench coat over jeans and white tees, ballet flats with the little black dress, or blazers with a pair of white sneakers. Remember Parisian style favors the introduction of tailored details in an otherwise unadventurous outfit.
3. Wear The “Masculin-Féminin” Look
Famous couturier Yves Saint Laurent introduced, what can be probably called masculine tailoring, back in 1966 when he created a women tuxedo suit. This was a truly revolutionary event in the world of fashion, and exactly 55 years later this style is extremely popular among Parisians.
Parisian women don’t like to be over sexy, they’re the anti-bimbo. Indeed, if they are wearing something super feminine, Parisians add a masculine touch. On the other hand, if they are wearing something more masculine, they add feminine details. Think suit pants with silk blouses, a black leather jacket over a silk midi dress, an oversized button-down shirt with high-rise straight jeans, or a blazer over a slightly transparent top. Blend masculine shapes with feminine silhouettes to achieve a modern, yet effortlessly chic Parisian style.
4. Invest In Timeless Luxury Items
Parisians invest a good amount of money into great outerwear, accessories, and shoes. Les Parisiennes often pair accessibly-priced pieces from the high-street with designer staples that have the ability to elevate any outfit. Which means that their simple jeans, white tees, and shirts never have to work hard since their cover-up, shoes, and handbags do all the talking for them.
Parisians generally invest in luxury pieces that don’t date in terms of style, and which they’ll be able to keep a lifetime. Here are a few iconic fashion investment pieces to buy now and wear forever:
- Saint Laurent Blazer
- Burberry The Kensington Trench Coat
- Hermès Carré de Soie
- Cartier’s Tank Française Watch
- Celine Sunglasses
- Kelly Hermès
- Louis Vuitton Nerverfull
- Chanel 2.55 Bag
- Chanel Slingbacks
- Roger Vivier Loafers
Fine jewelry, watches, and handbags are always smart investments since they hold strong resale value or even appreciate value over time. In terms of style, they prove their longevity by staying relevant season after season.
5. Wear Neutral Tones
Parisian style is very discreet. That’s why Parisians do not take any risks and don’t wear too many colors at the same time in an outfit and too bright colors. Instead, they stick with neutral tones such as black, cognac, burgundy, white, navy blue, grey, brown, or beige. One benefit of neutral colors is that you can easily mix and match them with other pieces of clothing. Parisians add a few touches of color through their accessories —a scarf, a nice hat, or a purse—, but the overall outfit should remain discreet.
6. Pay Attention To Details
Parisians care about the details, which can make all the difference in an outfit. First, Parisian women always coordinate their entire outfits, ensuring their top matches their pants, which matches their shoes, which matches their coats. When styling your outfit, don’t overlook pant cuffs, rolled sleeves, shirt tucks, and how —much or little— you button a shirt, that could make all the difference in your ensemble. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a belt to give your outfit more shape.
Look at what the garment is made of and prefer natural fibers —like cotton, silk, wool, cashmere or linen, etc.— over synthetic fabrics.
Your clothes should fit perfectly, meaning your clothes should be not too tight, not too loose, not too short, not too long. Also, get some pieces tailored if they don’t fit you perfectly.
In terms of prints, keep it classic and stick to these six prints that won’t go out of style: leopard, stripes, plaid, tartan, gingham, and houndstooth. Leopard can make you look older so I’ll not recommend it for women over 50. Also, keep stripes for a button-down shirt or a marinière. Finally, Parisians do not wear more than one print at the same time in an outfit.
Jewelry & Accessories
You can add pops of details that make any outfit chicer, like lace, a bow, a silk scarf, a hat, or some jewelry. Always, stick to delicate pieces of jewelry, or choose one statement item. And don’t over-accessorize as too many layers and accessories add unwanted bulk to a look. Parisians generally keep accessorization of their outfits to a minimum.
7. Review The Trends
As I’ve said earlier, the Parisian style is a little bit more sophisticated than the classic French style. And if most French women don’t follow the latest fashion trends, Parisians always review the trends and select one or two to update their overall look. It could be the latest it-bag, or the trendiest shoes or accessories.
8. Find Your Own Style
Parisians have a strong sense of fashion style, and strong personalities as well! Even if Parisiennes love their basics and do not mind sharing them with half of the women in Paris, yet they also want to be unique and put a lot of effort into that. By seeking vintage pieces and unknown brands (“marques confidentielles” in French), Parisians create their own individuality through details. Also, Parisians are always confident with what they wear. And they never leave the house feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what they have on. They just own it!
How To Dress Like A Parisian
Parisians always buy timeless, versatile, and comfortable basics that they can re-wear and re-style often, and they can easily wear every day. And in order to help you attain that chic Parisian style, I’ve listed below the basics that are found in every Parisian wardrobe —and on every Parisian street. Here is what you’ll need…
- White t-shirt — I love Loulou Studio’s cotton-jersey t-shirt
- White / blue or striped button down shirt — I love this Etro Pinstriped cotton Oxford shirt
- Silk shirt — like this Sandro silk shirt with jabot collar
- The Breton striped shirt (marinière) — like this beautiful Sézane Noan Marinière
- Cashemere knitwear — I love this beautiful Arch4 Knightsbridge cashmere sweater
- Cardigans — like this Sandro long houndstooth cardigan
- A leather jacket or coat — I love this Maje shearling coat
- Beige trench coat — like this Burberry The Kensington Heritage
- Wool coat — I’m in love with this Sandro double breasted wool coat
- Blazer — like this Maje fitted suit jacket
- Black tuxedo jacket — I have had this Sandro tuxedo jacket in my closet for years
- The little black dress — like this Sandro long sleeve dress which is perfect for any occasion
- Jeans — I’m obessed with flared jeans like this Chloé braided high-rise flared jeans
- Cross body leather bag — I love this A.P.C. cross body bag
- Classic tote bag — I’m in love with this new Saint Laurent Maillon leather tote
If you want to know which kind of shoes Parisians love to wear see my previous article on the ten essential shoes every French woman has in her closet. And for accessories, you can read my article on the ten jewelry pieces all stylish French women own. Finally, here are below a few French clothing brands where Parisians shop for timeless pieces and basics…
What Not Wear In Paris (To Not Look Like A Tourist)
To avoid standing out as a tourist on the Parisian streets, there are a few items you should avoid. First, avoid sweatpants, leggings, and the sporty total look. Parisian women, famous for their discreet style sense, generally don’t wear sporty clothing —except at the gym. In terms of shoes avoid UGG boots, clunky tennis shoes, flip flops, or socks with sandals. Then, avoid any type of t-shirt or sweatshirt printed with home city/state or “I love Paris”. Avoid also going for French fashion stereotypes by wearing a beret, a striped top with a red scarf. In terms of bags avoid wearing a backpack or a fanny pack (especially in the Parisian Métro for safety reasons). Finally, avoid flashy colors altogether, too many prints, too tight, too revealing, or too short dresses, and shorts.
Et voilà! I hope this guide to the Parisian style will help you achieve this simple yet sophisticated style. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.
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Bonjour and welcome to Leonce Chenal, a modern lifestyle platform created and curated by a French woman for lovers of everything French. I’m Leonce, born and raised near Annecy, France. Through this website, I want to share with you the passion I have for my home country and for the French art de vivre. Merci for visiting and à bientôt! —Leonce