The perils of dressing in Paris--what do real French women wear?

When I went to Ireland, I wore jeans (that by the end of the trip were baggy AND dirty), thick earth tone sweaters, a blue fleece, a tan raincoat, another tweedy brown coat, a brown scarf and the ugliest pair of brown leather walking shoes you've ever seen in your life. Sometimes I wore them all at once. And then, to top it off, I bought a wool hat ... with sheep on it.

And never once did I worry what people would think of how I looked. Nor did I get dirty looks, pick-pocketed, kidnapped or even murdered.

Go figure.

This is what I consider a matching outfit. 

Good thing it wasn't hunting season. 

The full Irish ensemble. I'm pretty sure no Parisian woman would be caught dead in it.

Packing for Paris is a slightly different endeavor. First of all, if you Google "What do women wear in Paris?" or "Paris street fashion," you'll get the impression that all the women there wear haute couture even for a trip to the post office--one blog said that wearing casual clothes to Le Post is a sign of disrespect.

Another theme: If you wear white sneakers you will instantly be spotted as a tourist and targeted by pickpockets or possibly kidnapped and/or murdered by a fake taxi cab driver. ("It has happened!" one site warns.) Other dangerous clothing items include hoodies and matching sweatpants, shorts, bright colored nylon windbreakers, and "the comfortable clothes that suburban American women live-in (sic)."

(Here I am conflicted. That's pretty insulting. But then again stand in line at a U.S. post office and, well, you can kinda see where they're coming from. But then again, again--would the woman I saw yesterday, who was wearing short short cutoff jean shorts, flip flops and a wife beater with her bra straps hanging out, really wear that if she went to Paris?  Then again, again and yet again we've all seen that one dude who shows up to a wedding in jorts.)

Some more wisdom from the blogs: 

"The average Parisian is usually flawlessly put together."

(No pressure there.)

"If you don't wear black high heeled shoes and a scarf (or sweater) around your neck, you'll be spotted as an American from a mile away."

"Scarves are ubiquitous in Paris - Parisian women know they are a quick and easy way to pull an outfit together."

"Don't make yourself an easy mark for pickpockets - leave the white tennis shoes at home."

One poster admits that the "no jeans" rule is no longer true but warns this does not apply to American mom/ Obama jeans: No high waists and no pleats, S'il vous plaît.

I wore the same outfit, more or less, that I wore last time. I brought the same simple black dress with different tops, pinks and oranges, to go with it. Black flats, black leggings, a black trench coat, a black messenger bag. A small silk scarf when I felt like it. I did bring one pair of jeans--neither high fashion nor high-wasted and pleated, but yeah, I kinda looked like a tourist in them.

I did NOT intend to go to a museum the one day I broke down and wore them--I just happened to pass the musée Carnavalet and popped in. And yeah, I did get a VERY dirty look from an older woman sitting watch over the French Revolution exhibit. 

Anyway, I'm glad I did bring jeans, not only because I got really sick of that dress by the end of the week but because all of the scary warnings and the quotes above are complete bullshit. Or at least partial bullshit. Not every woman wears a scarf--see how many you do not see in the pics below. I did see stretch pants/leggings (no sweats, though), jeans and sneakers on women I am 99% sure were locals.

White sneaks and stretch pants, but as my friend Noelle said, the bag makes up for it.

I did a lot of people watching and, honestly, although most French women do look fabulous whatever they wear, I also think they more or less wear whatever the hell they want. And it was not so easy to spot the tourists. Take the picture below ... tourists or locals? 

I walked behind these four for a couple blocks, so I know the answer. What do you think?

So fuck yeah, this woman is a local. Don't let those sporty sneaks throw you off. The rings, the bag, the flowy top and the messenger bag. And, guess what? NO SCARF. She's in Marais, though, an area that's packed with the "bourgeois bohemian," or "Bobos." Basically it means they have enough money to dress as though they don't have any. 


Très Bobo.

Not even a little Bobo.
This woman is the "perfectly put together" archetype but a) she's in the shopping mecca near the famous Printemps department store and b) I did not see a lot of this even outside of Marais. 

Biggest Paris trend spring 2014: Black and white in stripes and polka dots. Also long sheer black skirts with leggings, a long top to cover the bum or another short skirt under. Gladiator sandals, too, but I think those are from a couple seasons ago. I'm assuming Parisian women don't just throw their entire wardrobe away and start fresh every single year. 

OK, those red high heels, dark skinny jeans and trench coat are pretty effing French, too. (Also near Printemps, as are the ones below.)

Rando cutie patootie.

Back to Marais. She has the scarf, the gladiator sandals and the black and white color scheme going on ... but what's with that giant backpack? Tourist or local? Status: Undetermined. (Of course, she could be both French and visiting the city... or German, etc.)

Status: Probably local; or French or otherwise European. Black and white top, skinny jeans, non-sporty sneaks and a big bag. Another point for no scarf if she is local. 

Status: Definitely local (they came into the cafe). Definitely adorable. 

Status: My guess is the girl on the left is a local entertaining the girl on the right, a tourist/visitor. No tourist would wear boots like that to Paris, even is she was trying to blend. Just a sense on the other one. 

Status: Definitely local--You could just tell she was on her way to work even though the only hint is the flats and maybe the bag. Proving my point that Paris women are not all fembots in uniform.  

Status: Undertermined, but I saw this look a lot. Converse low- or high-tops with leggings, although I never saw anyone wearing it with a baggy tee-shirt.  

So, ready for the answer to the first picture?

At first I thought all four were locals, but the two on the right were Brits (the short skirts are a dead Brit giveaway, I've heard). They are trying so hard to blend with the black clothes and flats and the single pop of color in the bag (girl on the right) and the pink shirt. But that hat! I never saw one French woman wearing a hat.

They'll be lucky if they only get pick-pocketed.

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