Back in college, I vividly remember getting dressed one morning before a haircut appointment I had with a new stylist. The salon was a 10-minute walk from my apartment across cobblestone streets.
In Greenwich Village, there were all different types of people and styles so I should have been comfortable in anything I put on. But for some reason, I decided to throw “college chic” out the window and deck myself out in 4-inch heels, a pinstripe pencil skirt and a nice blouse that I carefully ironed. Why? I have no idea, but I guess I wanted to look good for my new haircut.
As I hobbled to the salon, cursing my new blisters with every step, I vowed I’d never try to walk more than 10 feet on city streets in heels ever again. I’ve mostly stuck with that and when I wasn’t at work or required to be dressed up while living in NYC, I dressed casually. Totally decked out for a hair appointment, no way! That was a one-time thing and I learned my lesson.
Let’s talk about changing style when you move abroad and how to dress French.
How to dress French when you move abroad
So now you might think that my move to France has thrown me back into my old ways of trying to look put together even if I have nowhere special to go. French women look good and even their casualwear is slightly elevated above regular American casual — and never sloppy. Check out this entire guide on how to dress in France with lots of examples.
I see women in France wearing chic booties and skinny jeans in the grocery store (even senior citizens) and beautiful dresses and knee-high boots on Sunday walks to nowhere. People in France seem to dress up just to leave their house even if they’re just running a few quick errands.
Has life in France upped my fashion game? Not really. I am who I am.
In my younger years, I used to care more about fashion and was the high schooler wearing blue tights and trying out trends no one else was wearing. It felt cool to be different and people respected my fashion sense.
I was still figuring out who I was.
But as I’ve gotten older and more comfortable in my own skin, I figure the only person I have to impress is myself, and I do a decent job at that for reasons that have nothing to do with my fashion choices.
I really don’t care if total strangers on the street find it odd that I’m wearing patterned gym leggings and shiny Nikes to the grocery store. I like my sporty style. I like that I’m no longer mangling my feet in the name of looking chic. Cool and comfortable = 2016 Diane.
Now of course if I have lunch plans or am meeting someone for coffee or going to my in-laws’ house, I dress up and wear dressy casual clothes that don’t involve a t-shirt, sports bra, yoga pants or gym sneakers. But when I’m out walking Dagny? Why would I risk scuffing up beautifully expensive boots (or stepping in dog poop, as you do)?
No way. There’s fashion sense and then there’s common sense.
Sometimes my fashion sense is hidden behind my need to be comfortable, but there’s a happy medium. I just don’t care as much as I did in college.
(I may not be in New York anymore, but at least I have my mug, a morning must.)
Ask Tom Tuesdays: Differences between French and American women >>
So let’s go back to that day in college at the salon. I walked home after my cut with beautiful hair but my feet looked like something out of a horror film. I gave my high heels to my roommate 2 minutes after walking through my dorm’s door but still managed to dress up (just without the painful heels) most of the time even when running quick errands. New York is that kind of city. You dress to impress.
Little did I know that 6 years into the future I’d be in France doing the exact opposite even though it was commonplace for women to be dressed to the nines.
If you’re wondering how to dress French, it’s more about feeling comfortable in your own skin and that’s something I’ve mastered.
As time has gone on, I’ve gravitated to my original, post-college NYC style mantra, which is comfort wins but that doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable. Despite the stylish French ladies all around me (to be honest there are a bunch of frumpy ones too, and everything in between), I have to be myself and wear things that I’m confident and comfortable in.
Maybe my personal style has shifted slightly as I’m influenced by what I see in France. Sporty casual with a little French flair never hurt anyone. Let’s not forget that every outfit looks better with a warm baguette tucked under the arm!
Check out my no-BS guide on how to dress in Paris and click the graphic below:
Has your style shifted over the years? Have you learned how to dress like the French and does it matter what you wear in Paris?
Taste of France says
Sorry but leather jacket, scarf and hightops make for a cool outfit, even in France.
I moved to a village in the south of France from NYC, and went from suits and heels to jeans and Stan Smiths. My French friends dress nicely even when they don’t leave the house. They do it for themselves. “Nicely” can mean comfortably–it just means color-coordinated, maybe a scarf (which they wear to ward off drafts), maybe favorite earrings.
We went to a chateau to buy some wine, and the vignerons were busy gardening when we arrived unannounced. Madame, in her 70s, wore brown jeans, a brown leather jacket, an orange and brown silky scarf and had numerous diamonds on beneath her brown leather gardening gloves. It wasn’t for show; it was for her.
Yup, it’s gotta be for yourself, whatever that means to you. 😉 I’ll never be one of those ladies who wears heeled boots walking through a muddy park! How you wear something goes a long way. My gym clothes never look messy or sloppy — just casual — and that’s good enough for me! Thanks for stopping by!
Hi, Diane–I think confidence goes a long way in pulling off your own personal style, though I’m a firm believer in looking pulled together when leaving the house. My husband calls it “stylin'”! I am a young 63 and one of those senior(I hate that word!) women in the skinny jeans and booties because I feel wonderful when I wear them. Also do a lot of apparel sewing because I’m too cheap to buy the beautiful well-designed things that I’d love to have.
We are returning to France in September(Colmar)and believe me, the sewing for that trip is well under way. More than once last visit, someone asked me questions in French, so that was pretty exciting, even though I flubbed the response slightly! Love your blog…Penny from Ohio
Hi Penny, no idea why I never replied. Sorry for the delay. I hope you have a wonderful trip next month. Keep on stylin’! And thank you for being here. 😉
Just last week I was in my country neighborhood (in Provence) jogging and the elderly lady was gardening…in a dress. I was thinking – that’s something you see in France! Maybe Americans did that in the 30’s or 50’s but I doubt you still see an elderly lady in a dress planting her spring garden.
LOL – when I moved here (Provence) 20 years ago I came from “grunge” Seattle. Oh the looks I got with my plaid boy shirts and REI hiking boots! It’s a good thing I changed my look!
Hi there, no idea why I never replied. Sorry for the delay! So true what you’re saying about women dressing up to do what I consider housework and tasks where you wear old clothes. Like gardening. Or sweeping outside your house. I see it all the time. Like why are you wearing that? You’re going to mess up your “good” clothes!
haaaaa ! I love this post ! This is so funny ! You remind me of myself ! As a performing artist and costume designer I’ve never followed fashion other than my own. I think your own identity is what’s most important and as you say: feeling comfortable in your own skin !
Yup, we have to wear what makes us feel comfortable. In general and in the moment. Of course if an occasion calls for a dress and heels, no problem, but you won’t find me on a leisurely Sunday walk all dressed up just to “fit in”. Totally not me!
I have to say that this was bloody funny and make me smile and giggle just so you know, as for changing style well as we age it is normal for our style to change but sadly you see older women wearing clothes that are more suited for someone half their age. Not me I hope
Loved your article on style. I think it may well also be a generational concept. I’m a young 60ish & never a fan of gyms or gym clothes but having a much older mother it was stressed that one never left home badly dressed or without at least lipstick & perfume. I’ve managed this so far & while I do have casual clothes for home I’d never leave it without changing. Yes I do please myself but neat & tidy doesn’t mean sloppy & I have casual flats for walking all my dogs. After all its easier to wipe dog poop from leather than canvas…lol
Yup, can totally be generational too. I notice it’s the women 70+ who seem to garden in dressy clothes the most and younger folks wear clothes they can move in.
I hope you haven’t encountered any dog poop lately. So far so good over here in my neck of the woods. Always keep my eyes peeled
So happy to provide some entertainment for you. Giggles are always good!
Psychic Nest says
Interesting read about your style! Well college is college, right? We all make specific choices about our clothing so as to look different from the other students.
My style has not changed much from college to be honest. I always liked different clothes depending on my mood. The same goes today.
I hope you enjoy your time in France! Keep it up with the great posts!
Thanks Zaria, your site looks really interesting by the way.
I don’t think my style from here on out will change much either. I am who I am at this point. Even in “winter” here (quotes because it never feels that cold) I wear layers and never a big, bulky sweater because I start sweating. Now maybe if I lived in Montreal…. 😉