Skip to main content

How Living in Paris Changed My Personal Style

An Expat’s Advice on Dressing for Paris
Fashionable Parisian woman dressed for winter
September 20, 2023
Discover the secrets to the elegant yet effortless Parisian style! From mastering timeless cuts to balancing casual chic clothing, and layering for unpredictable Paris weather, learn from firsthand experience how to add a touch of Parisian flair to your wardrobe.

This post may contain sponsored or affiliate links.

That a woman who has moved to Paris, is going to change her wardrobe (and probably her haircut) at some point, has been so oft-repeated, it’s almost a cliché at this point.

And I am definitely not an exception to this.

Since moving to Paris, I’ve incorporated a lot of elements of Parisian style into my outfits. At times, due to necessity, and in other cases, because I’ve come to appreciate them aesthetically.

Parisian style emerges from a long sartorial tradition that can be traced back to the 17th century.

Modern Parisian men’s and women’s style also reflects lifestyle factors such as climate, weather, transportation system, and overall logistics of living in a crowded city with small apartments. 

Reserve a private fashion tour of Paris with local designer.

While social media would have us believe that a Parisian woman imbibes a specific aesthetic, body type, and personality, it’s far from the truth.

Paris is a very diverse city, with a wide range in what constitutes Parisian style. The following isn’t a checklist of things to make someone “look Parisian”, but rather an attempt to summarize some underlying sensibilities I’ve uncovered and found to helpful for living here in the City of Love.

Timeless Cuts & Classic Silhouettes Over Trends

Pick any iconic French film from the 60s, 70s, or even 90s, and look at what actresses like Charlotte Gainsbourg or Juliette Binoche are wearing. You’ll find that the same elements, cuts, and fabrics are still relevant today.

I think that’s a great indicator of how picking timeless cuts and silhouettes can allow you to wear your clothes over decades, instead of feeling the need to purge your closet every year because you feel it’s out of style. 

Stylish Parisian wearing striped shirt.

Investing in quality basics form the building blocks of a Parisian wardrobe. Paying attention to fabrics, including buying outer layers which are durable, waterproof, and won’t show dirt to combat the gritty side of city life.

Picking pieces that can last without looking out-of-date also means that clothes shopping in Paris becomes more of an investment.

And it’s one that’s not only good for the pocket, but also for the environment, since every new garment made will eventually end up in a landfill. 

Mastering Casual Chic Parisian Style

Everyone looks put-together in Paris. I cannot stress this point enough.

Being elegant while dressing casually is not a misnomer here. In fact, women here do it with remarkable ease. It’s very common to see women dressed in comfortable clothes and sneakers while still managing to look sleek and dressed up. 

I’ve picked up a few tricks for recreating this chic yet casual Parisian style. The real key lies in balance and accessorising. Pair a casual piece with a tailored or structured piece.

A French woman wearing a trench coat and taking a picture of a vegetal wall in Paris.

For example, combine a crisp dressy white shirt with a casual straight-legged jeans, or the reverse, wearing casual T-shirt tucked neatly into well-tailored trousers.

The strategy is to mix dressy pieces with casual, comfortable pieces from your closet for a look that’s laid-back but put-together. Wearing memorable accessories like a statement bag, chic patent leather shoes, or a pair of beautiful earrings, is another great way to achieve this effect. 

Layering: An Art & a Necessity in Paris

When you factor in that most locals don’t have cars and take Paris public transportation to get to and from work every day, sturdy and stain-resistant clothes and shoes are essential.

Also, Parisian weather is notoriously unpredictable especially during the spring, fall, and winter. So yes, practically the whole year.

Random showers are known to happen, even in the middle of the sunniest week, while the temperature can swing between hot and cold in the same day.

This means dressing in clothes that can be layered is a necessity, so you can be prepared for all manner of weather, whether rainy, windy, or sunny. All you need to do is peel off or put on another layer. But it does make packing for Paris a little more difficult.

Fashionable Parisian woman dressed for winter

Being from a country like India, where the temperature stays consistent and warm for most of the year, this is definitely the side of Parisian style that’s been the hardest for me to master.

The idiosyncrasies of the French capital’s weather and lifestyle explain why certain garments have becomes intractably linked to Parisian fashion. For example, trench coat, boots, sturdy loafers, and a mostly dark-colored wardrobe are all very stylish yet practical for life in the City of Light.

Reserve a private fashion tour of Paris with local designer.

Again, scarves also serve the same dual purpose, and over the years I too have found myself gravitating to this oh-so-French staple out of practicality. 

Vintage Shopping 

Vintage shopping in Paris is extremely popular. There’s something to be found for every price point, whether it’s one of the Kilo stores where you can buy second-hand clothes by the pound (or well, kilogram) or one of the fancier curated stores with clothes and accessories from all luxury brands imaginable.

Paris thrift shop selling clothes by the pound, or kilo.
Photo via Facebook @kiloshop

There’s also a wide spectrum of possibilities between the two, with a lot of flea markets as well as concept stores where vintage items are upcycled and resold. 

On one hand, vintage shopping has emerged as a very acceptable answer to the social pressures of looking good in a city like Paris which is chock-full of both wealthy residents and young students, artists, and creatives who are barely getting by.

On the other hand this retro trend also represents increasing concerns about fast fashion and waste. 

But that’s not to say that people in Paris don’t wear fast-fashion brands.

Many like Zara and Mango are thriving, but the interesting aspect here is how you’re more likely to find people mixing fast fashion, vintage, and bespoke handmade pieces in the same outfit, rather than people who exclusively shop at the big department stores.

Want more Paris tips and tricks from local insiders? Join our free Urbansider Club to receive recommendations in your inbox and save your favorite places to your account!

Want to learn more about Parisian fashion? If you haven’t already, join our free Urbansider Club for access to our exclusive Paris for Fans of Fashion content.

Urbansider Paris Club logo white.
Want More Paris Insider Insights?
Create a Free Account to Receive More Tips & Picks

Join our free Urbansider Club to access personalized recommendationsdownloadable guides, and a monthly newsletter with the latest from Paris as well as our new top addresses and experiences. You’ll also be invited to our exclusive Urbansider events in Paris.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *