If you're like me, your preparation for studying abroad includes packing, planning, and most importantly, research. Before I began my semester in Rennes, I googled how to best blend in and not be easily spotted as a "tourist". A fully immersive experience, I think, is best felt when we are immersing ourselves linguistically and culturally, but also when we are feeling French ourselves. For me, this includes how I dress myself.
While doing my research, I found lots of articles that included general advice on what to pack, but not as much about how French people dress daily; and if I did, it was an outdated resource. For you, this is where I would like to come in and help. I have lived in Rennes for about 2.5 months now, so I would consider myself a reliable source. I wouldn't go as far as to call myself a fashion expert, in fact I am far from that, but I do hope to give you some valuable advice from someone your age to help you decide what to pack, and what to wear, like a cool older sister.
At school in the United States, my style could be described as bright and funky, I was always wearing bright colors and wild earrings. I remember feeling like I had to completely throw my style out of the window when coming to France, because I had the misconception that Europeans only wear neutral colors. While I wasn't entirely wrong, I put the pressure on myself that I needed to change completely. I was hesitant to bring my favorite sweaters simply because they were "too much" for a country I hadn't even entered yet!
All styles can be found in France and in Rennes, just like any country. One thing I will mention as a difference is the formality of everyday wear in France. It is very unlikely to see someone wearing leggings, or any “athleisure” outside of actively exercising or going to exercise. While unfortunate, this is one of the biggest differences between France and the United States that I have seen. People almost get dressed up for class here, as compared to the sweatpants, leggings, and baggy sweatshirts commonly worn to class in the U.S. In the fall from what I have noticed, most students wear jeans or black dress pants, lots of button-down tops and sweaters, and long belted or button up coats. Most every student wears sneakers or boots daily, so those are essential to have. Keep in mind that living in a French city will require more walking than you might be used to in the U.S., so be prepared to walk in whatever shoes you do bring.
The idea of blending in and dressing “French” was something I wanted to achieve while abroad, because it feels like a win to me when people don’t question that I am from France, even after I speak! However, this could have been achieved without changing my style at all, and I realized that once I got here. I did buy a long winter coat because I didn’t have one, and some more neutral-colored tops, but I found that feeling French has nothing to do with how I dress, it is more about my emotions. If I feel connected to the city, capable of handling myself in a foreign language, and comfortable in my surroundings, then I really feel French.