Monday, February 04, 2008

Reader Question: What To Wear To Paris In The Winter

Dear Meg,

I have a question: I'm going to Paris on a student exchange at the end of the year. It'll be fall going on to winter, and since I've lived in a tropical country for my entire life, what exactly does one pack? Could you suggest a few versatile clothes? And I'm especially concerned about shoes -- are boots a must, or will I be able to survive in my sneakers alone? I'm awfully clueless.



Setting aside my jealousy that you'll be spending a semester in Paris, I can suggest a few items that I think will help you transition to the cold weather. I've never been to Paris, but according to my research, the fall and winter are fairly chilly and rainy, though not snowy, which is nice. You'll definitely want plenty of clothes that can hold up to wet, windy weather, preferably layers that you can add on or take off when you move in and out of buildings. You also want versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down,

My first suggestion would be to pick up a trench coat in a waterproof fabric, ideally at 3/4 length. A trench is classic, chic and will never go out of style, so your money will be well-spent. Here's an example of a basic one from MICHAEL by Michael Kors.

When winter sets in, even the best trench won't keep you warm, so look for some lightweight sweaters that you can layer. I love cardigans for this purpose, since they're so easy to take on and off depending on how you're feeling. Dress a cardigan down with jeans and a tee or cami or throw it over a cocktail dress if you're going out on the town. This cardigan is from Nordstrom BP.

Another great piece to have that will help you transition from warm to cooler days and can also dress up or down is a cashmere or pashmina wrap. You can wear it as a scarf, throw it casually over your shoulders or pair it with a formal outfit. Here's one from Nordstrom, though you can find them for much less at discount stores.

Moving on to footwear...

I think you'll definitely need a good walking shoe and a waterproof boot of some kind. If you're the kind of girl who lives in sneakers, you could stick with those for dry days, but for something more Parisian, look for a cute pair of comfortable flats, like these from Me Too

The same goes for boots: if you tend toward the sporty and casual, you could go with a rubber pair like these, but if you want something that's a little more formal, I'd go with a low-heeled equestrian style like these

Any of these items would be perfect for days spent browsing the Louvre, eating chocolate croissants and riding around with cute boys on Vespas. Have a fantastic time during your study abroad!


Anonymous said...

I studied abroad in Paris almost 4 years ago and it was an incredible experience! Definitely bring staples such as Meg suggested and keep in mind the exchange rate! They do have several h&ms so you can always go there for less expensive stuff. It does get quite chilly in winter so be prepared to be cold! Bring gloves, hat and just buy your scarves there.
Depending on when you're there you might catch the sales that happen twice a year. In January and in July (I think). If so, you can go to Galeries Layfayette and Au Printemps and find good deals. Have a blast!!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on spending time in Paris.
I'm sure not only Meg is jealous. I have a friend who went to the southern end of France and will live there from Jan. to May. She said sneakers are a BIG no-no. If you want to fit in with the locals and not look like a tourist, find some elegant shoes but reserve sneakers for exercise. She said people dress beautifully. Great shoes and coats especially. Since you are going to Paris, a fashion capital, people there will be even better dressed. Most Americans dress up only on special occasions, but going outside in France, all people make a effort to look great. Just some tips from her--if you want to blend in France and not stick out like a sore thumb.
Good Luck!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the anon. above. Here is another piece of advice- Leave the sweatpants and sweatshirts at home. :-)

Zenobiah said...

And it is pretty warm, even in October you can get away with wearing a thin, long-sleeved shirt without a coat on a sunny day at least. Maybe bring a cardigan along, in case.

Agree with no sneakers or sweats. Nice urban clothing works well.

Anonymous said...

I would avoid sneakers (or trainers, as they'd call them) when visiting Europe. Even though they're often the most comfortable option for days of walking, nothing screams "American Tourist" more than sneaks. I'd bring a good pair of boots you can wear comfy socks with - and at the very least, close-toed leather shoes.

The prices will KILL you because of the exchange rate, so I wouldn't plan on buying anything if you don't have to.

And scarves are AMAZING. I'm a Florida girl, and I never knew until recently what a big difference they make.

anastasia said...

Nice recommendations Meg, but I would definitely throw in with the other comments and suggest ditching sneakers and going for a more polished look if your regular style is more beach-y or American casual. Our casual is much more relaxed than most of the world's, and when in Rome (or Paris)...Still, don't be afraid to keep your style (isn't it the French who are famous for their drab palette?) for fear of resembling a tourist, just take the opportunity to give your nicer digs a few more spins.

Dawn said...

As someone who has lived on mainland Europe and visited France many times, I have to say that some elements of 'French chic' are over-exaggerated. I have seen many younger French people wear runners but these are more along the lines of Converse... think along the lines of low-profile and cute rather than gym shoes. Most definitely leave the sweatpants at home... think along the lines of a well-fitting pair of jeans, a cute knee-length skirt... keep your parisian wardrobe coordinated and simple, and then pick up fashionable accessories when you get there and see what the locals are wearing, which is what I did when I moved to Kraków in Poland last semester.

Also, I found that the level of chic and amount of effort that the Polish students put into their appearance rubbed off on me and now I stick out like a sore thumb in my own university among the sweatpants and Ugg boot wearing students

Kristine said...

I currently live in Belgium and studied in Paris as an undergrad so I know your dilemma. I wholeheartedly agree with a bringing a waterproof trench, ideally with a hood and zip-out liner. Think monochrome in terms of color, black, grey, brown, get the idea. Europeans in general think bright colors are for Americans or, if they're being generous, Scandinavians. A pashmina type scarf is a must and if you need a burst of color, that is the place for it. Comfy boots that work with skirts and pants would be a plus. A cross-body bag with a zip closure is ideal because pickpockets abound in Paris and other European cities. I use one from Hobo International that I really like. Bring a tote for books, groceries, etc. Cashmere is very versatile and layers well. Also, leave good jewelry at home if you can do without it for a few months. Don't bother with brining hair appliances unless they are dual voltage, just buy them here. Bon Voyage!

Eunice said...

Thanks for all the advice! I'll have a couple of months to plan and pack so I'll be sure to keep an eye out for your recommendations and basic shoes and outerwear. Re: the first anon, I don't think I'll be able to catch the sales so I'll probably get most of my things in my home country.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that you bring a nice wool coat as well as (or instead of) a trench coat. It can be quite chilly in winter. And it does snow occasionally.

If you have the money to buy some clothes when you're there, do it. That will be a nice souvenir when you're back, and you can see what everyone wears so you'll be sure to get something to fit in. There's some good markets and secondhand stores to be found.

Have fun!

Stephanie said...

The girl in the Nordstrom ad sort of looks like Gina from ANTM Cycle 6...or is it just me??

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate said...

I studied in Paris in the fall/winter of 2006. The trends I remember the most (if you don't want to look like a tourist, that is) are scarves, skinny jeans tucked into equestrian boots, lots of layers, and Converse. French teenagers seem to love their Converse, but they're almost (if not more than) double the price over there, so if you want a pair, buy 'em stateside. I also had a pair of driving mocassins that I ended up wearing everywhere because they were comfy but still stylish. Bon voyage et bonne chance!

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with the trench, wear lots of layers, a cute long scarf maybe instead of the pashmina would be a bit more Parisian, and the ballet flats and boots are spot on!
Check out my blog for more Paris tips!!

xox Girl and the City (in Paris!)

Anonymous said...

omg is this eunice from nus

Anonymous said...

I have to second the messenger bag with a zipper suggestion. Preferably with a flap over the zipper. We found the perfect bag that we always take on trips abroad. Great for a carry on, fits bottled water (or wine), etc.

Also the converse suggestion is good. Or the Sketcher-type shoes without laces. Anything but big, bulky, white sneakers. Darker colors are best.

And I also want to second the comment about Paris not necessarily being as fashionable and chic as you'd expect. So true - Italy too.