What to Wear in France in the Summer

by HiP Paris

August might be drawing to a close, but don’t pack up your summer wardrobe just yet! The warm weather extends well into the Fall in Paris. Below, expert Julie Blakley helps to demystify the “rules” of Parisian street fashion.

chic woman

By Julie Blakley, Why Go Paris

Style and fashion are important in France. My cousin, Jean-Marc, recently told me that he had no luck with the ladies until he “bought his first pair of Italian shoes.” However, even with a good percentage of French blood pumping through my own veins, every time I find myself in France I look longingly at the always impeccably dressed and stylish French ladies and wonder why they’ve got it going on so much more than I do. Suffice it to say, I will never be as sleek, stylish or thin as most of these French women, but that doesn’t mean I want to walk around Paris sporting a fanny pack and socks with sandals. And, while I may never look quite so effortlessly perfect as the French women always seem to, I have spent enough time living and traveling in France that I think I can do a pretty good job of looking like a local in France.

While simply wrapping a scarf around your neck, buying a pair of great boots and sporting a peacoat are perfect when wondering what to wear in France in the winter, this is not so much the case for warmer weather apparel. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned French traveler, you still may need some pointers on what to pack for your French vacation this summer.

My Tips to looking French-abulous

Ditch the shorts—Yes this rule applies to both women AND men. The French just don’t rock the shorts. Although in recent years I have been seeing some women’s hot pant style shorts surfacing in stores in Paris, shorts in general are just not worn by men or women in France. For that lucky 1% of ladies who look great in the booty short variety and feel like wearing a pair with a sassy top and a pair of heels, go for it (though don’t think you’re going to be able to waltz through any churches in that outfit). For the rest of us, opting for a skirt instead is probably the best route. If you have a stylish pair of fitted Bermuda shorts (knee length, fitted shorts) these are also acceptable (please note the words stylish and fitted).

For guys, I know you LOVE those khaki cargo shorts and practically live in them all summer, but I’ve got news for you—these won’t fly in Frog country. Not only will you stand out from kilometers away as an American, you may have a hard time getting into churches, nice restaurants and nightclubs while wearing them. If you don’t care about looking like an American tourist, then by all means wear your cargo shorts—but don’t count on a) being able to pick up any hot French babes while wearing them b) getting into any nightclubs or c) being mistaken for a local.

Don’t wear flip-flops—I love flip-flops, you love flip-flops, we all love flip-flops. But, this does not mean you should sport them around Paris on a day of sightseeing. Not only are they not great walking shoes, but especially in Paris you’ll find your feet completely filthy almost immediately. While these sandals are great for short walks to the beach, they are not stylish footwear to sport in France. We’re not in California guys and gals, so swap that pair of flip-flops for a more stylish pair of sandals (and, please, whatever you do, please don’t wear any of these options with socks. Ever.)

Spring for a skirt or dress—This obviously applies to the ladies, but since shorts are pretty much a big no-no in France, you are going to have to find an equally cool alternative for those hot summer months of July and August in France. Skirts and light dresses are perfect summer wear for ladies in France. Not only does wearing a skirt or dress keep you cool and allow for plenty of ventilation, but you’ll also look totally fabulous. Personally I’m a fan of the light and casual sun dress—they take up less room in your suitcase than separate pants and bottoms, require less thinking when getting dressed, keep you cool and look great.

Be brave, break out the manpris—You may have to wait until you are actually in France to find a pair of manpris (man Capri pants), but once you have crossed the Atlantic you should have no problem picking up a pair of these things. Since shorts are out for guys and they can’t wear skirts, manpris are a good choice. Now, I’m not suggesting you wear manpris with fringed bottoms and decorative glitter clogs like I once saw on a guy in Italy, but a stylish pair of manpris and sandals or stylish tennies and you’ll be fitting right in.

Leave Leisure wear at home—So, I know you think your Juicy velour sweatsuit is just TOO cute, but that doesn’t mean you should wear it in public. The French tend to have a more elevated version of what’s casual–and hoodies, sweat pants and athletic wear just doesn’t cut it in France. Keep it in the hotel or keep it at home all together.

Tube socks and white tennis shoes are a no-no—Yes, I understand that it is important to have comfortable walking shoes on when you are exploring France, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear your sneakers with white tube socks and shorts. You will see the trendy, “puma” like tennis shoes on young Parisians, but if you want to blend in, leave at home your white tennis/running shoes. We know that these shoes are comfortable and built for mileage, but white tennis shoes are the tell-tale sign of “American Tourist”. Truthfully, when I see white shoes in a sea of black, I know that it is a fellow American in Paris. Don’t make yourself an easy mark for pickpockets and just leave ‘em at home.

Invest in shoes designed for walking (Recommended brands are Ecco, Mephisto, or Dansko). One day of climbing steps up monuments and navigating cobblestoned corridors and you’ll understand why these sturdy European brands are so popular among Parisians . Or, wear a pair of flats, loafers or short-heeled boots that have been battle-tested at home for walking.

Leave your baseball cap at home—You love the Yankees and you may want everyone in France to know this, but the truth is that wearing a baseball cap in France is a sure-fire way to stand out as an American tourist. The French just don’t sport these types of hats, and you’ll definitely stick out like a sore thumb if you do. The French also find it rude to wear hats inside and during meals. You also definitely won’t be able to go clubbing in Paris wearing one either. You’re best off just leaving it home.

There’s nothing wrong with basic black (or other neutrals)–Since you can’t bring your entire closet with you when you are traveling to France, you’ll want to stick with basic, neutral items that go with almost everything. Not only will this save you room in your bag, but you’ll also look classy. If you want to punch up your outfit, add scarves (of the silk variety in the summer) and other accessories.

Ditch the Fanny Pack—

This is actually not a bad idea for right here in the United States, but you’ll especially want to heed this advice when traveling in France. If you want to embody the cliché of an American tourist in France, all you have to do is strap on one of these bad boys and put your camera around your neck and you’re good to go. However, if you are trying to avoid looking like a bad cliché, leave the fanny pack at home and opt for a backpack, a purse, a tote—anything that isn’t a fanny pack. ALSO, while backpacks are fine for that hike in the south of France or your day-trip to Mont Saint-Michel, pick something more stylish and sleek for the streets of Paris.

Keep in mind that no matter how hard you try you probably won’t look quite as stylish as your French counterparts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t blend in. When I was living in France, I always cherished the moments when I was asked for directions in French or when people were surprised to learn I had an accent. When in doubt, dress nicer than you think is necessary, remember there is definitely such thing as too casual in France, and dress your age. If you look the part, you may even get better treatment when you are out and about.

Julie Blakley is a writer for Why Go Paris, a comprehensive on-line Paris travel guide, where you can find the latest information on everything from conquering Paris on a budget to how to how to use the Metro.

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21 comments on “What to Wear in France in the Summer

LOVE this post, well done x

Erin - HiP Paris

Alessandra, we definitely agree that knowing your body and what looks best on it is critical. A gorgeous pair of shorts, like silk culottes for example, can certainly look chic on some.

I can’t bring myself to agree with the ‘shorts’ as a ‘no no’ (except for the cargos on the men). Whatever happened to beautifully cut, silk cullottes? With a pair of italian leather sandals? Even in winter, add some black opaque tights underneath and a pair of ankle boots. As for denim shorts, there are plenty of sexy yet elegant styles to flatter every figure but unfortunatly sometimes you just choose the wrong kind. You see, the shorts are not the problem, it’s your own lack of judgement. They are either too tight, too short, too ‘american tourist’ or you just can’t pull off the fashion shorts you insist on buying. And by the way, having french blood (whatever that means) does not lend you inherent style by default, you either have it or you don’t. And parisian style is a culture not heritage to lay claim too.


Love my manpris, though I didn’t know they had that name. Got then while in Colmar this last summer at Blanc du Nil. should have bought more than one pair though. When are back this summer going to get more.

I laughed so hard at the tube socks part. My French pure blood (as he always likes to remind everyone) boyfriend and I met where I live in Dallas, Texas.

And let me tell you, he wears the most HIDEOUS tube socks and JORTS combination you will ever see. That is all him—Mr. Pure blood French!

So despite his insistence… not all French people are fashionable!

Well I guess I must have the style innately then:-), I have dressed the same as many of the pictures you have posted and the web have posted, pretty much all of my life, even as a teen wearing my dad’s RL suit jacket as a dress with a belt. Scarves have been my staple since 3 and I’ve never been a fan of white sneakers always opting for colored, or converse hi-top….black is an awesome color, and red….

But I honestly think the key to French Chic is to not care what anyone thinks about how you are dressed, my friends could care less and so it is actually effortless….whereas if you go trying than you will of course never capture that fabulous French style.

Hi, love the blogsite but I have to say this article is absolute nonsense, I visit Paris each August for Paris Plage and have to say that 60% of people under 35 are wearing shorts, some with flip flops, some with trainers and yes your right, hideously some with sandals & socks.

Perhaps its because of the Plage event I notice this, only other season I go is winter. Things are very different in the UK from North America, shorts are widely accepted and people don’t want to be told what to wear on holiday and feel good to actually stand out from the crowd, not dress to blend in.

Anyway just my opinion.


juicy couture sweats are absolutely dreadful, no matter where you are. Maybe that’s just my opinion but they are not classy at all.

This is definitely a huge help, my aunt is from France, and she told me the same things and I agree that Americans should apply these rules into their daily lives (except the manpris because that’s just weird!).

NO! I do not love flipflops and wish they had never been invented.

This is so wonderful !
I live in Buenos Aires and all of these “rules”/”suggestions” apply here too.
This is so perfectly spelled out … I will copy it and just read it to anyone who asks, what should I pack ?
Merci ~

I totally agree – but you left out one key shoe for men and women of all ages …The Converse Chuck Taylors – the Parisians love them and wear them with jeans, skirts and dresses, and manpris. And definitely ditch the Juicy Couture…I wouldn’t wear that here, let alone there….and I live in LA!

I think these rules should apply to North America too! People here should be a LOT more Parisian and ditch their khaki shorts, fanny packs, flips flops etc etc. HELP!

Agree with most of this post but was a bit confused by the dress your age comment to receive better treatment.

I agree with most of your suggestions, but as a Cali girl, don’t think I could part with the Juicy sweats. They are too cute!!! Black is boring, don’t think I could manage that. I guess the best thing is to pack light, and then go sit at a cafe, check out what the French ladies are wearing and go shopping!

I loved this post. I wish every American traveling to Paris would have the opportunity to read this.

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