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. 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.)
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!
Has your style shifted over the years? Have you learned how to dress French and does it matter?