Not Ready For Paris… Why I’m Stressed About What to Wear

We leave for our long awaited, many times postponed trip to France in three weeks. France. For a month. In the spring. Sublime. We’ll probably miss the cherry trees in bloom. But it will still be France. Arras, Avignon, Provence, the Loire Valley. And Paris.

Paris in Spring

Paris. Hemingway ‘shrines’, Shakespeare and Company, the Marché Aux Puces. I’m so stoked about Paris; I can hardly wait. The history, the culture, the food. The fashion. The incredibly fashionable women, who will be everywhere… I’m sure. Looking intimidatingly chic and perfectly soigné.

Akkkkk. Wait, wait, I’m not ready. What the heck will I wear?

Eh bien. When in doubt, it’s time for research. So, I’ve been doing my homework. Following fashion blogs and reading articles. Like the one last month on by Liana Satanstein. It’s about “Real Parisian Style,” which, according to Ms. Satanstein is all about “artfully rumpled hair” and  “perfectly tailored basics.” She says “Parisian Style” is simple and polished, seemingly effortless, and without designer labels or added bling. Apparently stylish Parisian women achieve a “look of gamine insouciance,” all without even trying to look gamine or insouciant.

Okay. All this information sounds very helpful. But I simply don’t have time to perfect a look of “gamine insouciance,” and then get so accustomed to looking that way that I stop looking like I’m trying to look that way. Are you with me? And then it dawns on me that I’m suffering from information overload. Just like back in university when I’d researched an essay topic soooo much that I eventually just sat and stared at pages and pages of notes of other people’s ideas; so many ideas that I couldn’t remember what my own ideas were, or even if I’d had any ideas.

This is silly. Hubby and I have travelled lots of places and I have never before stressed about what I would wear. I’ve researched, planned, shopped, and packed. But not stressed. I wasn’t intimidated by Sydney or Melbourne, by Edinburgh or Dublin, or even London or New York.

I mean really. Maybe I’m not soigné, or devastatingly insouciant. But I can certainly do simple and tailored. For crying out loud, that’s what I have been doing for years. So I start an “inspiration file” of images that I like, and shots of Paris “street style” that don’t include outfits with sky-high heels, or shots of “it girls” at Fashion Week who are definitely NOT not trying. And I create a “Travel Fashion” board on Pinterest. (You can check it out here if you like.) And then I weed out the looks that could never possibly be “my style.” And I apply a wise question that I learned from the blog Une femme d’un certain âge last year….”Would I wear this in Paris?”

D’accord. Here are a few of the looks to which I will aspire. When I’m in Paris.

Ines de la Fressange in chic white pants, sweater and flat sandals.
Ines de la Fressange on
Ellen Claesson in chic white coat and jeans. #parisianstyle
Ellen Claesson on
Ellen Claesson in chic blue suit with flats.
Ellen Claesson at
Annette Haga on Just the Design. Blue pinstripe pants, white shirt, blue sweater and sneakers. I'd wear this in Paris.
Annette Haga on Just the

Maintenant. Now for the list. I need good jeans, white cropped pants (probably jeans), black pants (maybe navy…but probably black), a good coat or raincoat, a light jacket (maybe a blazer), a white shirt. Scarves. Long sleeved tee shirts, one striped. A couple of sweaters. One dressy top to wear with both white pants and black. Sneakers, sandals (flats) and one pair of comfortable shoes that can also be dressy.

Some of these items are already in my closet. But not all. And I have three weeks… to try everything on that I already own, mix and match for day and evening outfits, ask the question “Would I wear this in Paris?” Then… identify gaps… and get shopping.

So. I guess I need to get cracking. I’m going to Nordstrom tomorrow to visit my friend Liz who’s the personal shopper there. If you’re planning a shopping trip to the Rideau Center in Ottawa, I highly recommend you give Liz a shout before you go. Here’s her contact information: (613 567-7005 Ext 1350)

C’est tout. With a plan of action, I’m not as stressed about what to wear in Paris as I was. Maybe I will be ready after all. But now, it’s late and I need my beauty sleep if I’m going to be power shopping tomorrow.

Bonne nuit, mes amis. Mon dieu… sometimes I am just so darned insouciant.

Have you been to Paris? Any wise fashion advice to pass on? I’m all ears.


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46 thoughts on “Not Ready For Paris… Why I’m Stressed About What to Wear”

  1. Your packing list sounds great and I think you can only do so much planning and thinking before you hit overload. Your friend at Nordstroms sounds like a great advisor and I am confident that you will fill in the gaps..I leave in 2 weeks and have a similar list and am picking a LBD and a black skirt with some short leather boots that are super comfy for walking….I plan to leave room in my carry on for some spontaneous purchases. I hope that you have a fabulous time in France!

  2. I think perhaps too much is made of 'Parisian Style' these days but I understand how you feel . I'd say simple is best , then you can forget what you are wearing & just look around you . Anyway , with legs like Ines you are halfway there
    Wendy in York

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I agree about too much being made of Parisian style…. that phrase is everywhere. I always over plan everything. I'm looking forward to looking around and not worrying about what I'm wearing.

  3. My experience of Paris is that most of the women do not live up to the myth. Depends of course where you will be staying. Avenue George V is very smart and also very expensive.

    1. I guess that's the way with all myths.We are staying in Le Marais area. We'll probably take a wander own Avenue George V, just to look….not necessarily to shop.

  4. Having been living in France for 6 years (not in Paris, but near Lyon in the Southeast) and still visiting France each year I can tell you that with your wardrobe as you show on your blog you will be perfectly dressed for France. Je trouve, "French Chic" is over-estimated through the media . For me, the Italian women have much more sense in style. – I would recommend comfortable shoes for the kilometres of strolling around the cities and villages, and layering of clothes – the weather can change quite often during the day. Your itinerary sounds wonderful! My favorite area in France is the Provence, Avignon is definitely a highlight, what else do you plan there? Have a great time in France!

    1. Comfortable shoes will be a must. We find we do more walking in cities when we travel than anywhere else. Even to dinner. I'm looking forward to Avignon, and Provence….and well, everything. Thanks for reading, Mary-Rose.

  5. I agree with Wendy in York – you are already half-way there! I've been to Paris several times and agree with everyone else – the average woman on the street and the metro does not live up to the myth. Between a day with Liz and reading Une Femme's blog, you will do just fine. Have a great time!

  6. I chuckled when I saw your title, because I think you are already prepared! We all have such high expectations of French fashion, I suppose. I envy your trip. Our trip to visit my daughter during her French study abroad has morphed into everywhere-but-France…we are meeting her in Zurich, not even Geneve! Hmmmm. I'm looking forward to your photos and travel notes.

  7. We've been to Paris many times, and although I often get to a point (especially anywhere near Les Grands Magasins) when I feel dowdy or gauche in comparison to some of the natives, I can always rally back by visiting some of the more "Real" parts of the city. We were probably lucky that we began knowing the city from the 13th. . . I enjoy looking at the Parisian women of style and I like to dress so that I don't stick out as a tourist, but most of my life is not in Paris and I'm not going to build an entire wardrobe for a city I spend a fraction of time in. Your packing already sounds very much on point, and I know you'll love your visit!

    1. I totally agree. I'm only buying new things that I would have bought anyway. After all, post retirement my wardrobe needs have shrunk so much. We're staying in Le Marais…which I'm guessing is not in the high end fashionable district.

  8. From what I've seen your wear on the blog, you'll be FINE. Simple, neutral, one color accent at a time, don't sweat it. The very most important thing is SHOES. Be sure you have comfortable shoes with support and a bit of cushion in the sole that you can walk in all day. Because you will walk in Paris. And walk. And walk. If if comes down to choices between cute and comfortable, choose comfortable. You'll see plenty of "sensible" shoes on women there. And yes to what everyone has said about the myth and reality. Depending on where you go in the city you'll see a wide variety of styles worn.

    1. Hope you don't mind my using your "question." It came in so handy when choosing what to buy and take. I read your post a while ago on shoes. I assumed we would be walking a lot. We always do when we travel, particularly in cities. Good thing is…not need to exercise when one is done for the day!

  9. Agree with all the above especially the comfortable footwear though I think that's a given for sightseeing anywhere.You are extremely stylish and well travelled. You have nothing to fear. Mon Dieu there is way too much hype about french style. Not all french women are chic although there will be many wonderfully stylish people to observe. There is a lot of nonsense written about french style. I suspect your post is a little tongue in cheek and of course if you forgery anything you have the perfect excuse to go shopping. Your itinary sounds wonderful. What a lovely trip to look forward too and it's a great time to visit. Iris

    1. Thanks, Iris. I must admit…I was being a tiny bit ironic, or maybe hyperbolic. And about the walking…you're right. We walk hundreds of kilometres when we travel. Even at night to go to dinner and after. That's why I never take heels.

  10. My tip? Go to Galeries Lafayette the day after you get there and ask a saleswoman for some cheap accessories. Voilà instantly au courant et très française.

    1. Thanks Lisa. Duly noted in my little travel journal….. Bonjour madame, avez vous les accessories au courant et trés française? Ha ha. Maybe I better go practice that:)

  11. Hi Susan! I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and that from the photographs I've seen you have lots of clothes that are just perfect for Paris! Don't worry, you'll be fine! I m visiting there this week and the weather is amazing. Lots of sunshine and 27 degrees. That'll teach me to buy a trench coat to take with me! Like you I was concerned what to wear and I expected the weather to be chilly with some rain! I hope that you and your husband have a wonderful time and that the weather remains good.

    1. Thanks so much, Rosie. I feel much better about my choices. Hopefully we will have good weather as well. You can always wear your trench coat at home. April in Paris…'ll get to see the cherry blossoms for sure!

    2. Yes the cherry blossoms are beautiful. We have a beautiful cherry tree in front of our house that always blossoms for my daughters birthday in April…the main branches touch her bedroom window! We always joke that she should get married in April and we could scatter the blossoms like confetti!!

  12. Clean lines, mostly neutrals, scarves and black…you'll be fine. I always try to dress as myself and not blend, but I don't want to look like a touritst either. Although why not, I couldn't say except they have such a bad reputation of wearing flip flops and shorts in all the wrong places.

    1. No danger of me in flip flops. I have enough trouble trying to keep real shoes on my narrow feet. Hubby always laughs when I "throw a shoe" enroute to the laundry room…aka my slipper falls off and I've got such an arm load of laundry I can do nothing about it. "Throwing a shoe" is what my stepdad always said about his horses. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer.

  13. I just got back from Paris yesterday, and I'll tell you that ALL the women are wearing fashionable trainers (a la Stan Smith, Nike Airmax, etc) with short trench coats, skinny trousers, and whatever top underneath. That seems like the Paris uniform for Spring. Your inspiration photos above all look perfect, and now I need that Vince striped sweater! I live in Paris a few months of the year, so if you need any tips or help, please feel free to message me. xx

    1. Thanks for the info. I have a pair of Stan Smith trainers, already! And thanks for the offer. How wonderful that you live in Paris for part of the year!

  14. Scarves, scarves and more scarves! And an oversized pashmina….French women are the authorities on how to wear " l'écharpe". Between that and comfortable shoes (Munro, Mephisto etc) you will be set! Can't wait to see and hear all about it…

  15. Having been quite a few times and lived in France I also used to get stressed about what to wear particularly in Paris. Not-so-much anymore.

    I agree that scarves are a must. Every French woman owns them and wears them. Also comfortable shoes as everyone mentioned. Walking non-stop is what happens in Paris, London or New York no matter what.

    I'm a huge fan of dresses and skirts. I wore quite a few classic vintage pieces the last time we were there.

    Have a wonderful time! I know you will : )


  16. I think your list sounds perfect (I have never been to Paris, but I have read all the books!) Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday, and have a wonderful trip!

  17. I dream of going to Paris someday and I would definitely be just as nervous! From the looks of those pics I'd say you will fit right in! You could just take it all and decide when you get there!

  18. Aaack my comment was eaten by my evil computer. We just returned from Paris, one of many trips we've taken there. I agree that Parisian style is often over-hyped in the media. I used what I already had, simple classic pieces easy and comfortable to use, layering (it was chilly in mid March) and extremely comfortable walking shoes which easily converted from day to night if needed. Also lots of scarves. I've been following your blog and you have some amazing outfits so I wouldn't worry. What did help is I layer everything out prior to the trip to ensure I could combine everything I was taken with all the other pieces ( I think pseub recommended this and it worked). We were there for 10 days and managed with one carry on bag only. Have a wonderful trip and ENJOY !

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