So when writing yesterday’s post on Parisian street style, I deliberately limited my commentary just to what I had observed. I didn’t want to lead reactions, and was curious to see what your impressions would be. I was not surprised by some of the reactions which included disappointment, dismay and even disbelief that the people I’d photographed were “real” Parisians (“they must be tourists,” some posted on my Facebook page).
I wanted to feature some Parisian style from different areas of the city than previously for a couple of reasons. First, because there’s been so much mythology built up about “chic Parisiennes” and that imagery often encompasses a very narrow subset and style (tailored, neutral, reserved, “b.c.b.g.”) and while you will see women dressed this way, generally from my observations it’s more prevalent in certain areas: the 7th, 8th, 16th arrondissements, Neuilly and other upscale areas outside of the city center. But Paris isn’t a monolith, and people of all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds live and work there. As other commenters mentioned, there are areas with larger populations of those of African origins, areas with a more bohemian sensibility, and some more working class. All are part of the kaleidoscope that is “Parisian.” We sometimes imagine that everyone in Paris is thin, chic, dressed in impeccably tailored and au courant (in a very understated way) ensembles and who look like they stepped out of our Pinterest boards. In some cases, that’s true. In many, many others it’s not.
Style is more global than ever. You can no longer assume that the girl in the New Balance sneakers is American. Or the Lee jeans, and the woman in the Sandro jacket may not be French. 😉 While there may be subtle nuances of styling, items like jeans or Birkenstocks or Brooklyn tees are no longer reliable markers of where someone is from, and whether or not they are tourists. (We were flummoxed when trying to find some souvenir tees to bring home for jeune homme; almost everything, even in the French brands featured “California surfing” or “New York” themes.)
I also wanted to reassure those planning to visit the city for the first time that they don’t have to get hung up about looking a certain way, or feel intimidated by those “stylish French women.” As long as you are neat, clean and look as if you’ve made an effort, you’ll be fine. You may feel more comfortable in mostly neutrals and simple styles (which is good a good strategy for packing light anyway) and leave the rubber flip-flops in the hotel room, but seriously there is no Fashion Police Unit that’s going to write you a citation for not being chic enough.
That said, there are some commonalities. Makeup, hair and jewelry tend to be done with a light hand. You don’t see Parisians out and about in clothing that’s torn, badly stained, or that could be worn at the beach or for doing heavy construction work (except for construction workers). People don’t wear sweats or obvious workout wear as street wear, but you will see runners in running gear, especially in parks. There’s a sensibility that it’s disrespectful not to dress appropriately (e.g. in street wear rather than lounge wear) to go out in public. This is an attitude I think most of us would agree with.
If you’ve visited Paris, were people there dressed differently than you anticipated? When you’ve visited new cities, was people’s style there what you expected? Are there areas of the region where you live that have their own distinctive styles?
*Last year’s style report here.