Ballet flats (Paris in Pink)

Casual shoppers, beware. The French sales are just around the corner and many a French fashionista is getting ready to pounce on items she has secretly coveted all Fall. In all honesty, though, the soldes are often the one moment of fashion folly many Parisiennes allow themselves. For decades, one market has proven remarkably resistant to passing trends: Paris. Despite jumping at the occasional fad (the Balmain-inspired shoulder pad, the hardware-adorned gladiator sandal), Parisian shoppers — both young and old — follow certain cardinal rules in their shopping habits, year-in and year-out.

The key to this eternal French chic may lie in a natural sense of restraint and discernment. In considering her past wardrobe choices, a French woman is less inclined to wonder, “What was I thinking?” because (most likely) it’s what she’s still thinking: invest in high-quality staples and err on the side of understated elegance.

An Hermes scarf, guaranteed to never go out of style (Paris in Pink)

Here are the most time-tested items that can aid your journey towards impeccable Parisian dressing.

1. The scarf. Parisians’ year-round obsession with scarves has more to do with style than climate. For warmer months, a lightweight silk scarf (think Hermès) can sass up a basic outfit. As it gets colder, reach for heavier knits.

2. The trench. This old-school staple projects refined sexiness, while also combating the relentless Parisian drizzle.

3. The ballet flat. Brigitte Bardot helped put Repetto on the map when she began traipsing around town in the brand’s dance shoes in 1956. Nowadays, a pair or two is de rigueur for any pavement-pounding Parisian.

4. The pump. For the office or evening hours, an elegant heel is the way to go. Just make sure it’s walk-able—teetering is never a good look.

Fur and pumps – the Parisian mantra (Paris in Pink)

5. Le smoking. Created by YSL in 1966, this tuxedo jacket set the precedent in sexy menswear-inspired style for women. Today, you’ll find variations everywhere from H&M to the fashion house that originated the look.

6. The black pant. It’s a no-brainer, but a well-made pair of black pants (or a few, in various cuts and materials) provide the foundation for many a Parisian wardrobe.

7. White tailored shirt. Clean, classic and always in style.

8. The classic bag. Hermès, Chanel, Louis Vuitton. Bags that can appear too trendy in other environments somehow offer just the right touch when slung over the arm of a nattily dressed Parisian.

A classic Parisian look (Paris in Pink)

9. Touch of fur. Even the most basic outfit can be amped up by a hint of fur in the form of a hat, a stole, or a glove.

10. Minimal make-up. Well-maintained skin and hair are the domain of the French woman. Beyond that, a red lip or a kohl-lined eye can add drama—just don’t overdo it.

Finally, remember that it’s less about assembling a look than it is about owning it, so don’t forget to cultivate your je ne sais quoi.

Need a daily fashion fix? We love these:

Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris blog. Featuring images by Camille from Paris in Pink. Camille is a French-American freelance writer living in Paris, and she adores pink! Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Tory Hoen

Tory Henwood Hoen has been published by New York Magazine, Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit, Fortune, and others. She was Creative Director of Brand at M.M.LaFleur, where she founded the brand’s digital magazine, The M Dash. Her debut novel, The Arc, is available in bookshops near you and online.


  1. Yes, and quality not quantity. I remember the lines for Tod’s in Printemps…all those women craving comfortable shoes on the cobble stones.
    Mary Ann

  2. Ah, yes, the Frenchies and their ‘timeless classics’. I’m always shocked when I see younger people wearing such conservative clothes though, like the girl in white with black pumps. It’s pretty common and pretty boring, tbh.

  3. Oh and I am adding to my collection of scarves, constantly taking better care of my skin, simple yet exciting accessories to brighten a tired outfit!

    Come and join my Gorgeous Giveaway from Blydesign!

    Art by Karena

  4. To respond to Nicole’s comment – you do see some of this, but mainly among the older female generation and in certain neighborhoods – 6th, 7th, 8th, 16th and 17th! But I agree, this is also how outsiders view French style – the youth DO follow certain trends all the while remaining faithful to the above staples. It’s all about mixing tradition with trend.

  5. Clearly I was French in a former life since these are all my favorites!! My sartorial dream is to own a YSL Le Smoking – so classically chic!!

  6. I so enjoyed reading this post! I last went to Paris about five years ago and all I can remember is those gorgeous Parisian women and how perfectly they pulled off their out of this world scarves. I felt so “unchic” in their presence! All I could think was, if only I looked that dreamy and stylish!

  7. Oh my, what a surprise and delight to find this lovely article featuring some of my photos. Love your list. Merci mille fois 🙂 Camille @ Paris in Pink

  8. I agree wtih the list above but the photos posted represent what North American women think Parisian women look like. I lived in Paris for years and the only women I ever saw dressed in Hermès with red lipsticks and funny hats were North Americans. The photo with the girl with the black pumps and white shirt is a little more representative of a true Parisian women in her 20’s.

  9. Great advice – thanks! So hard to keep in mind when faced with a REALLY GOOD DEAL, though. (Then I make myself remember how many really good deals are either still sitting in my closet after one wearing, or are in the box to donate to charity.)

    Alas, I’m still searching for the holy grail of the perfect black pants.

  10. I love this list: and couldn’t agree more. As it’s often said that the Italian way of cooking is to let the ingredients shine through, the French do they same with style. One or two elements to enhance what you have. (Flaunt what you’ve got!)

  11. You are right! It’s too bad some of these are rarely on sale. Hermes scarves, the classic Burberry trenches and the classic bags are never part of the sale. Ballerinas and pumps, however, can always be found.

Leave a Reply

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