Given that Parisians set the international standard for chic, it’s a bit tricky (as an étrangère) to figure out how to blend in among the locals. I’ve never considered myself a particularly risqué dresser, but when I moved to Paris, it was clear that some pieces I had worn in New York suddenly felt downright scandalous alongside the low-key, layered look of Parisians.
During seasonal transitions, the challenge of dressing for Paris is compounded by the unpredictable climate—it can be sweltering one minute, hailing the next—but this need not lead to bipolarity of the wardrobe.
Just do as the French do—layer accordingly and do not surrender your personal style to seasonal shifts. A few rules to keep you looking sharp as we move from spring into summer:
1. Lighten your layers. Warm-weather dressing in Paris is not really about shorter and skimpier; it’s about looser and lighter. It’s not about less layering; it’s about different layering. Switch your wool, cashmere and suede pieces for similar items in summer-appropriate materials (linen, cotton). This way, you’ll still look like you, but you won’t spiral into a heat-induced rage.
2. Show a little leg. Paris is not a cleavage-bearing city. Over-exposed décolletage always shocks me here—perhaps because it happens so infrequently. In the summer, however, you can get away with wearing shorter hemlines (just make sure to balance them out with more coverage up top). French women masterfully pair short dresses with tailored blazers, and shorts with modest menswear-inspired shirts.
3. Accessorize. Even if you’re wearing minimal clothing, you can still look “dressed” by accessorizing effectively. Light scarves are de rigeur, and the French make panama hats look very cool indeed.
4. Dare To Wear Color. It’s blasphemous, I know. Neutrals reign supreme year-round in Paris, and black never goes out of style, but in the summer, even Parisians go a little brighter (in moderation, of course).
5. Break out the fair-weather footwear. You’ll see Parisians wearing ankle boots throughout the summer, but at this time of year, the endless sea of boots begins to give way to flats and sandals. Just remember to keep them classy— beach flip-flops do not fly in Paris.
Above all, don’t worry too much about it. It’s springtime in Paris—who cares what you’re wearing?