What to pack for Paris so you can dress like a Parisian

So what should you pack for a trip to Paris? Me, I have no idea. But maybe you’ll learn something from this guest post by Paris-based shoe designer Lina Nordin Gee, co-star of The Honeymoon Season of The Earful Tower podcast. 

When you’re a foreigner living in Paris, you end up receiving guests from back home on a regular basis. These guests always ask the same question before their arrival: “What should I pack to wear in Paris?!”

Here are my top tips for what to bring to the City of Light if you really want to blend in with the locals.

Note: This story is mainly for women (though men may learn something too!). And while the pictures below feature the trendiest women in Paris, these tips are for everyone, regardless of age, shape or size!

UPDATE: Lina was a guest on The Earful Tower podcast talking about this very story. Listen here.

1. Pack smaller accessories 

Parisians are naturals when it comes to making a simple outfit look ultra chic using only a few accessories. Instead of overfilling your suitcase with clothes, focus on the accessories. They generally take up less space, and can transform an outfit in an instant.

For example, a silk scarf can be worn in infinite ways. Lately I’ve tied my little hand-stitched silk square around my ankle when wearing cropped trousers, but it can just as well be worn around your wrist, ponytail, bag-handle (à la Jane Birkin) or neck like Brigitte Bardot below.

2. Bring a big(ish) handbag 

Parisian cobblestoned streets and winding stairs look fantastic in photos, but the reality is that they’re a nightmare for heel wearers. Trust me, I’ve ended up walking said cobblestones, barefoot late at night, stilettos in one hand while the other is frantically searching for closest ride home. To avoid this scenario, bring a pair of soft ballerinas in your handbag.

Bag-related pro tip: Pack your toiletries in a cute toiletry bag, it can double as a handy little clutch!

3. Pack for the rain

While rain in Paris is often a (picturesque) reality, you shouldn’t let it spoil your look – even if it does ruin your chances of marching around the Marais in that silk suit.

So imagine: You’re dressed up in a trench coat and boots, but you don’t want to look like a clone. Simply add a pair of statement earrings (preferably which hold a great affectionate value to you, as Parisians might love their heirlooms even more than their morning coffee). A headband, hat, or my personal favourite, the silk scarf, also work perfectly for this scenario. And always, always have a pair of sunglasses ready, even in the rain. Aside from protecting your peepers, sunglasses are Parisians’ no.1 trick to instant chicness.

4. Focus on matching neutrals

Parisians are more often than not dressed in a palette of neutrals. Beige, black, white and navy is the general dress code, and I can understand why. It’s much easier to combine a successful outfit if your cornerstones match.

This is also a great tip when packing. Bring clothes that can pretty much be matched in any sort of constellation, you’ll maximise your outfits as well as blend in with the Parisians (… if that’s what floats your bateau).

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Mystery walk

A post shared by Monica de La Villardière (@monicaainleydlv) on

5. Don’t forget your red lipstick

After four years in Paris, I’ve picked up a few sartorial cues from the natives. One of my favourites (as I’m inherently lazy at heart) is to wear the same outfit when you go out in the evening as the one you’ve worn during the day, with one exception – red lipstick!

Imagine you’ve been wearing a black turtleneck and some vintage jeans, now add a red pout. Voila! You’re ready to hit the terraces for a bit of people watching (you may even become the subject of said activity). I’ll often switch up my shoe game for the apéro hour, but hey, that’s just me 🙂

6. Leave your hairbrush at home

This goes for both men and women (and it’s not just a way to save precious space in your suitcase). Parisians have a knack for looking like they just rolled out of bed, in the best way possible. There’s something unexpectedly chic about a ruffled head of hair teamed with a sharp, tailored suit (and don’t forget the mandatory scarf, guys!), or a quick, slightly messy chignon with a lbd (little black dress).

Well there you have it, my top six Parisian packing tips. Now all you need is the ticket over. See you on the terraces!

Lina Nordin Gee is the founder of Deuxième Studios, a Paris-based shoe brand. She is better known in Paris circles as Parisian Postcards on Instagram here

13 thoughts on “What to pack for Paris so you can dress like a Parisian

  1. I was in Paris in mid-October and so I missed your tips, but you’ll be happy to know that I was en pointe: red lipstick, big(ish) handbag, no hairbrush (proof here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BpB8ZbpA4Qw/). AND I sat right next to Lou Doillon at Caviar Kaspia one evening! Thank you for a great podcast!

  2. Some great tips that I think are great but i would cross off a few: No need to pack stilettos–save the space and if the need arises, that’s what you buy in Paris! And I’ve wondered why Parisian women carry big, heavy leather bags! Yes, they are lovely, but are lopsided shoulders going to fashionable when you are 40? I’ve noticed lots of beautiful fashionistas carrying the equivalent of the Earful Tower’s Crocodlle or Lunchpak of Notre Dame bags around during the day–are their ballerinas inside along with their evening clutch? I pare down to the bare minimum and sometimes only carry my credit card and a few euros in an inside coat pocket, along with my lipstick of course!
    As for shoes, lovely Lina, I see a business opportunity jumping out of the comments! There is a need for a fashionable shoe that looks like a ballerina or an ankle boot but functions as a trainer/comfort walker. Comfort brands have not found the magic formula so if you are game why not give it a go?

    Timely article in the Wall Street Journal:

    1. Vionic makes some shoes that have great arch supports but look pretty good. I walked in a pair (looked like ballet flats) from Ave George V to Chatelet and then across to Notre Dame one afternoon in April last year.

  3. LL/Oliver, my daughter is in her 3rd year at The American University of Paris, and I have spent about 6 weeks there over the past 3 years. Always amazed at the amount of black clothes people wear. Being from Palm Beach, Florida, the home of pink and green clothes, I may be jaded, but people look drab to my eye. Especially with such a beutiful city with flowers everywhere. My daughter suggested your Podcast. Love it; listen in the gym. Best regards.

    1. Thanks for listening, your daughter sounds like she gives great recommendations. And you’re right, there’s a lot of black clothes here. If you’re wearing your colourful clothes from Florida you’ll stick out, but perhaps in a good way 😉

  4. I basically live half my life in Paris and only today I was looking out the window of the car assessing the way people dress and how I have kind of got the hang of it now and this advice is spot on! The neutral colours especially – this is one of the things I always have in mind when I pack my suitcase. New follower 🙂

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