Paris Style Report – Spring 2014*

Paris black and white
Long black coat/top over slim white pants. I did see several women similarly attired. The woman on the right had a killer bag, wish I’d been able to get a shot of it.

*Or, at least the few days of printemps we experienced…

First, I just want to stipulate that the trends/styles described below are based on my own observations over the course of a few days in several arrondisements. This isn’t meant to be a scientific or comprehensive account, just what I noticed most. I’m sure once the weather warms up a bit some layers will be lighter or shed altogether. And though I tried to filter out anyone who seemed obviously a visitor, Paris is a multicultural city, inhabited by people from all over the world and the women I photographed may or may not be born-and-raised Parisiennes.

Polka dot scarves

Polka Dot Scarves

This was actually the first prevalent trend I noticed even before we arrived in Paris. In French, polka dots are called petit pois (little peas) which I find charming. Where did “polka” come from anyway? But petits pois scarves are everywhere, in colors and neutrals, high and low contrast, large and small dots.

Trench Coats

Paris Trenches

Long or short, mostly neutrals but occasionally in color, trenches seem to remain the preferred form of lightweight outerwear. I saw very few utility or military-style jackets.

Coral or Red

Paris red

When I did see Parisiennes wearing bright color, most of the time it was in the coral or red family. I noticed both men and women wearing light coral pants like the woman in the lower left corner. I also spotted a few women in softer colors, usually worn in a monochromatic way head-to-toe.

Feminine Jackets

Paris Jackets

I think this is one of the reasons Parisiennes have a rep for looking pulled together. Jackets really complete an outfit, giving it structure and definition. Cardigans were rarely seen but if so were either more structured like a soft jacket or buttoned and worn as a middle layer. You don’t see droopy or voluminous sweaters or cardigans. But you don’t see a lot of voluminous, boxy or “boyfriend” jackets either…everything is well-fitted and tends to nip in at the waist a bit. I also noticed that when moto-style jackets are worn, they are cut for women, and don’t have a lot of extraneous hardware.

Other style notes

I did not see many femmes d’un certain âge in skirts; most were in trousers or jeans. This may have been a function of weather…it had been cool up until the last three days of our visit. Pants were almost always narrow and straight, often cut quite slim but not “painted-on” skinny. Jeans never distressed or whiskered that I could tell, and though women of all ages are wearing white jeans, I did not see many light washes except on younger women. I most often observed pants or jeans worn at ankle length or longer and over ankle boots or with loafers or sneakers. Once the weather warmed up I noticed a few pant legs rolled up to just above the ankle (and did the same myself the last day to keep cool). Flares or bootcuts were rarely seen, and if so almost always on younger women.

I did not see any women in skirts who were bare-legged. Most wore tights in a color coordinating with the rest of their outfit; a few I saw were wearing very sheer nude hose. I also noticed women weren’t hung up about visible hosiery…I spotted printed socks under cut-away booties and visible lace shoe liners with ballet flats. The idea seems to be that it’s fine if your hosiery is visible, as long as it’s pretty.

Bags have been downscaled a bit, though I did notice that many women who seem to be on their way to or from work carrying multiple bags: a smaller day bag and a larger tote. I did not notice many structured or boxy bags, except for Chanel flap bags (mostly in the 1er and 7eme). Crossbody bags, totes and hobos seemed to be the most popular choices, and as with previous visits, I did not see many women carrying bags with imprinted designer logos (the subtle Goyard print being the exception) or a lot of bling or embellishment.

The most noticeable change from our last visit two years ago was the prevalence of sneakers and even “trainers.” Chuck Taylors have always been popular, but now one sees actual athletic shoes as street wear.

sneakers outside Colette Paris
Granted, this shot was taken outside of Colette, which is ground zero for Sartorialist-bait, however more subdued versions of trainers (often a neutral color with bright laces or accents) are now quite commonplace, no longer a badge of fashion ignominy.

What hasn’t changed: notice that most of the women I photographed are wearing low heels or even flats. Paris is a walking city, and you don’t often see women out in the daytime in heels much over 2.5 inches. Ankle boots, various styles of loafers and kitten heel pumps are the footwear of choice for those women not wearing sneakers. Makeup is still usually minimal and subdued, and jewelry is minimal (though it may be hidden under scarves and coats). You will not see locals in baggy, oversized, shapeless clothing, sweats or workout wear (though I did spot a very few fashion-y sweatshirts on younger women). No flip-flops or Crocs.

Do these trends/looks differ a great deal from where you live?

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Coral and Red

Petit Pois

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  1. It’s actually a bit dressier in my immediate area and certain parts of town but pretty similar overall – so right about Colette!

    1. Tabitha, yes, I noticed last year that people tend to dress up a bit more there, and in London also. Paris is more casual in many ways.

  2. I would say that women in Dallas dress up quite a bit more than the women you have pictured. Of course we have no need for a trench coat this time of year–they are strictly winter wear in our warm climate. I find the coral and red trend to be very interesting and welcome. I still don’t like the athletic shoe trend. I think on an older women it can tend to say “my feet are prone to hurting”. I may be wrong. I so enjoy your photos and comments.

    1. They could also say “I walk a lot and keep fit in my daily life”. Paris is far more walkable than Dallas. Though I don’t care for white athletic shoes with business clothes either – they were a fad in New York City a few decades ago. There is much more choice in good walking shoes now.

      1. Yes, I have great looking shoes I can walk in . Here’s a good thing going on in Dallas–our city is working hard to become more walkable in areas close to downtown. Big investments have been made by the city and progressive developers. Things are beginning to look up for Dallas as a good urban area.

      2. I’m not that keen on the Nike skate-type shoes, to me they look like you’re on your way to Zumba class.
        The Converse style is fine with me, their hidden secret is that they’ll take an orthopedic insert, and look a bit fresher than black lace-ups from Reebok – postman shoes. A woman intent on a pair of walking shoes can find more graceful models, almost anything from Munro American fits the bill.

    2. Well put, lagatta à montréal. When I was a twenty-something flight attendant on international, long-haul flights, I learned the value of being able to move comfortably and, accordingly, of wearing shoes that treat my feet well. In fact, one of our priority proposals in contract negotiations was to gain the right to wear shoes that were good for our feet inflight. Like it or not, the best generally-available shoe for any foot most often is an athletic shoe that is built to cater to the wearer’s type of gait and to the features of her feet. A woman of any age who wants to relish moving on her feet, and to take care of her feet, is wise to wear the right athletic shoe for her gait and feet as often as she possibly can.

  3. Enjoyed your photos . It does strike me that fashion is very universal now . Most of those fashions can be seen everywhere in European cities & large towns , with variations for the climate . It seems important to look as if you haven’t made a great effort to look good but have managed it anyway . Some might say it is a shame we don’t have regional differences any longer – the days of national costumes are long gone .

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Most of this translates to NY or any urban city – except for the polka dots. Most urban wear, style, is practical at heart.

  4. I really enjoyed the photos and commentary. Here in the upper Midwest, casual is a norm, but I saw nothing here that I wouldn’t see somewhere on the street. I’ve been looking for fun sneakers since reading about this Paris trend earlier this spring, and they are not easily to be found (I am never successful with shoes I don’t try on and walk in at the store). And I really hope that the idea of low-cut lace shoe liners catches on here because it makes so much sense.

  5. Fascinating report, Femme. How things have changed! I wonder what the report is from London, as I will be there in the fall. Thanks for your diligent observation.

  6. It’s always interesting to see what the “one chic thing is”: this year polka dot scarves. On my first trip to Paris (1972) the chic item was fake cherries pinned to one’s jacket. Parisian women look good in those fitted jackets because many have small and narrow torsos (which I do not, alas).

    I think there is now an urban look (at least in the Western world, obvs). Americans don’t stand out in Paris the way we used to, though we reveal ourselves by our posture and gait.

  7. Like Susan, I live in Texas, but Houston not Dallas. Just my opinion, but I think Dallas women are dressier than Houston women. Maybe this is just my sister-in-law’s friends, but the jewelry will be attention getting and real and they will wear more make-up. That said, I think we dress similarly to the women you showed, but take into account our heat and humidity. No coats or jackets, except in an office or similarly cool space. Flats and low heels. No sneakers worn as fashion (at least on women my age). Trim, well-fitting clothes. Yes to color. Dresses with no hose. Simple fresh make-up and hair. Thanks for the photos. It is so fun to see how women dress in other cities, especially Paris.

  8. Great photos! I like to see what people are wearing in the bigger cities….I think that fashion is more refined in big cities and notice quite a difference on the east coast versus the west coast where we seem to be so much more casual. Gosh and I wore flip flops yesterday with my newly painted orange toes to shop and walk about in my neighbourhood! I am glad the Fashion Police took a day off!

  9. Red clothes and accessories and coloured baskets are all over the place here in Montréal…in fact I’m posting on the red tomorrow!

    There is a real difference between the cool-brand ‘baskets’ in colours and the low end ones, though.

  10. On a trip to Rome a couple of weeks ago, I noticed how many women were wearing sneakers. Interesting to see the same happening in Paris.

    1. Europeans have not missed the economic slump. I wonder whether the popularity of canvas sneakers is a way to have something fresh for less.

  11. Just surfed into your blog and so glad to read that the 11 year old navy blue sneakers (canvas running shoes) which (I thought!) added panache and comfort to my walkabout outfit yesterday afternoon would be IN STYLE in Paris. Heading off to Europe myself in two weeks so will definitely be bringing the sneakers! Thanks for the reassurance 😉

  12. Thank you so much for your update – especially helpful as I’m thinking of going to Paris again for my birthday (it’s been two years!). I am looking at buying a new hobo bag and am torn between navy and red. If red is fashionable in Paris…….!

  13. At first glance, it looked not very much different from what I see here in quite a few US cities. But on closer look, common threads emerge: 1) the clothes fit very well on these women, even though not all of them are skinny; and 2) with a couple exceptions, hair is shorter (or if long, pulled back). Better-fitting clothes and less long, starlet-type hair. Both positives, IMO.

  14. I should have added that here in Spain many women wear very high heels (though not when they’re walking very far). I’ve noticed far more young women wearing sneakers/trainers recently. The tendency is for younger women to wear very short skirts and some (not all) older women to wear longer, rather dowdy skirts. As an over 60 Brit in Spain I usually wear trousers and when I wear skirts they are just over my knees, as I’m a petite.

    1. I usually have long hair, but recently got it cut to mid neck length. I like it–but reserve the right to revert to my starlet hair. I have a very round face and my hairdresser actually thinks longer hair suits me better than shorter. I’m not entirely sure about it, but just wear what I like at the moment. So–please no judgement about hair!

      1. Hi Susan, I don’t think I commented on hair, but here are my thoughts: wear what looks best on you! My hair is short as I think it suits me shorter, however I like to keep it dark, even though the general consensus is to have lighter hair as you get older. My youngest daughter, who has a good eye for colour, tells me I look better with darker hair – so for the moment it’s still dark.

  15. I was in Switzerland and Hungary this year and also noticed the coral pants on both men and women.
    I’ve been somewhere in Europe every year for the last 10 and have seen everyone, not just Americans, wearing sneakers. And many overweight people. And people walking down the street eating. All behaviors that were always attributed to being a strictly American thing. Times have changed, lines have blurred, and due to global marketing there is less distinction between countries and cultures. You don’t even have to shop online when all the same stores are now in many countries.

  16. Frugalscholar, I’m interested in your observation about Americans being identified by their posture and gait. Do I assume correctly that our posture is more slumped over? But what is noticeable about our gait? I think it’s fascinating how we can often identify a person of another nationality by subtle differences in his/her clothing, mannerisms, etc.

    1. Do you think that a blue polka dot top counts as being à la mode? That’s what I was wearing today!

  17. Great round-up, thanks. And I’m very happy to hear about the petit pois – love them and have been incorporating them into my accessories for a while now.

    As for the sneakers, I’d say that’s not a positive development. I always loved that Parisiennes managed to find stylish and comfortable walking shoes that were NOT sneakers. Ah well.

  18. I like that you blocked on the faces in the photos. Though it is commonplace these days, I find taking photos of strangers rather intrusive, even if meant in a positive light.
    Very nice observations you’ve made, thank you for sharing.

  19. I like the photos with the observations. I’ve learned a great deal over the past four or five years (could it be 5?) from your blog. Nice to know Parisian women are more comfort conscious than style conscious. I just bought a pair of nude open toed snake print sandals with 3″ heels and they are cute but I don’t feel balanced. I’m so used to wearing flats I have a hard time with heels. And to think, once upon a time, they were all I wore! Good to know about nude hose being in fashion as I keep hearing no hose is the thing over here and I don’t really care for it when I’m dressing up. Great info!

  20. Such a lovely recap my dear … thoroughly enjoyed it! Kudos to you for all of the picture taking! When I was there … I was much to timid … and still regret the fact!

    Here in the suburbs of South Orange County … daily dressing consists more of gym wear … for day wear. I too, must admit, have fallen victim to this style rut more often than not … now that I am back to a regular work out schedule. I suppose that is why I find the trainer trend so objectionable … if I finally take the time to put on real clothes during the day … it’s not going to be a trainer :))

    Thank you so much for sharing your stylish adventure! I absolutely loved following along … there is just something so special about following a journey in real time. Your sharing your travels … made my days brighter!


  21. I also appreciate that your post included what you saw on younger vs. more “mature” women:) I enjoy being fashionable but also want to look age appropriate. When I went to France last year, I wore a red trench coat…I didn’t know I was ahead of the trend!!

  22. I heard about the trend of wearing trainers. Wish I knew that when I walked 7 hours all over Paris in boots – ouch! Love the trenches. I am having many of my baggier blouses taken to the tailor to nip them in a bit at the waist. I like to tuck in the front when I wear a belt but leave the back of the shirts out (with jeans) but too baggy is ugly. Thanks for your Paris Update!

  23. Thank you for including a variety of women in your posts. Everyone looks interesting! Love comparing, and often find very little difference between the two cultures.