How to Look Like a Local in France

by Published

How to look French in France

France is recognized as one of the great fashion hubs of the world. Iconic trends seem to emerge from France on a weekly basis, and French women are looked to as models of style and chic-ness. For this reason, traveling in France can be intimidating. Figuring out how to dress like the French is key to not feeling like a complete outsider in France.

While the city of love is also seen as the city of style, the fashion in France is pretty much the same across Europe. Within large cities such as Paris, you can get away with wearing whatever you’d like and be seen as a trend-setter. But that being said, the American tourist look is always recognizable.

If you want to walk the Champs-Elysees like the champ you are, you will need to know some key French fashion style tips. To put together some classic French looks, take note of the clothing worn in France and keep these ideas in mind while packing:

1. Repetition is Fine

In France, wearing the same thing twice in one week is not a fashion crisis. In fact, it’s the key to daily fashion in France. Capsule wardrobes for the win! This is great news for your suitcase. Rather than creating a lineup of completely different outfits, focus on packing a few key pieces. Bring a nice coat or blazer, a pair of quality shoes, and one or two pairs of nice pants.

View of Paris, France
Paris is known for the fashion and elegance of its inhabitants

As far as shoes go, avoid flip-flops and clunky, white tennis shoes; what you wear on your feet should be both stylish and comfortable, as you’ll be walking quite a bit. For pants, wearing jeans is fine as long as they aren’t scuffed or faded. You could also throw in a nicer pair of slacks in case you end up going to a nice restaurant or club. Ladies, don’t forget to throw in a dress or two! You can get away with spending weeks in France with just a little carry-on if you’re able to mix and match.

2. Wear a Scarf

Scarves are another basic that you should pack to switch up your wardrobe. In France, scarves are popular year-round; they are more of a fashion statement than a tool to combat cold weather. If you want to know how to not look like a tourist in Paris, simply throwing (or wrapping) on a scarf will instantly give you more of a French look. Add a fashionable scarf that’s right for the season to your packing list, or if you don’t have one, it might be fun to buy one of these iconic French accessories while you’re there.

Scarves are popular for men as well. So guys, if you’re in France during a chilly season, don’t be afraid to bundle up! 

Couple walking in Montmartre, Paris
Natural hair and scarves are key features in the French ‘look’

3. Black is the New…Black

Everyone wants to know how to look French, and the answer is to simply wear black. Black never seems to go out of style, especially in France. This isn’t to say that everyone wears black all of the time, but it is a safe color to don if you’re in doubt. Fashion in France, just as with most European countries, is all about neutral colors rather than big, bright colors or flashy prints. Besides, it’s easier to match clothes with wardrobe basics if you don’t need to put much effort into avoiding clashes.

4. Hair and Makeup is “Au Naturel”

While France–Paris in particular–is often seen as the fashion capital of the world, this doesn’t mean women glob themselves with makeup and spend hours making sure their hair is perfect. Makeup is actually viewed as more attractive when barely any is used. If you really want to know how to look French, a natural, glowing skin look instead of caking on creams and powders is definitely the way to go. 

Gargoyle looking over Paris at night
Not only is Paris beautiful, it’s fashionable as well - learning how to dress like the French will give you a whole new understanding of style.

A similar strategy is used for hair. Rather than flat ironing curly hair and curling straight hair, French women wear their hair as-is. It’s not a big deal if their are a few weird kinks or if a strand is out of place. They make it work. It’s all about playing up natural features that give you that je ne sais quoi

5. Shorts & T-shirts Are Out

Sorry guys, but if you are in the habit of dressing “American,” you’ll have to learn to branch out when you go abroad. Shorts and a loose-fitting t-shirt of your college’s mascot just don’t fit in with clothing worn in France at all. Unsurprisingly, fashion in France demands a little more from your outfits. Instead consider wearing polos, button-up shirts, or fitted t-shirts under a sports jacket or leather coat. Running shorts and t-shirts are out for the ladies, as well (unless you’re actually running/at the gym).

View of Paris, France
Paris is known for the fashion and elegance of its inhabitants

While your accent and nationality will make it difficult to really blend in, essential French fashion style tips like these can give you a better travel experience while in France. Learn from the fashion leaders, adapt your style, and learn how to dress like the French.

Want to live in France for an extended period rather than simply visiting? Find jobs, study or volunteer programs, teaching positions, or internships today!