French Fashion / Shopping

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When I first arrived in France, one of the first things I noticed was the sense of fashion the vast majority of French people have. We spent our first two days of orientation in Paris, and while enjoying the many wonders the city has to offer, I couldn’t help but notice the fashion along with the landmarks. By day two it was easy for me to distinguish natives from tourists simply by what a person was wearing.

In Paris, French people take pride in wearing black jeans, black shirts, black dresses, and black shoes. Some people are dressed head to toe in black while others throw in pops of gray or white. Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world, and while designer items will always be in style, for the average Parisien, it seems black will never go out of style.

I spent this past summer in New York City, another fashion hub, and I noticed striking similarities and a few differences in fashion. In both locations, people dress to impress no matter the day or time. In Paris I saw almost no one wearing leggings or sweatpants, however in America these articles of clothing are acceptable when paired with a chic top and a jacket or cardigan. In America this style has been termed ‘athleisure,’ however I have seen zero evidence of its existence in France, nor in New York City. As I mentioned, the differences in fashion are few between Paris and New York, however Parisiens seem to take far more pride in wearing black than the average New Yorker.

Though Parisien fashion first caught my attention, I can safely say that those who live in Rennes certainly take pride in what they wear day to day. In Rennes, the emphasis on black is not as great, however everyone dresses well day to day. I asked my host sister about this phenomenon and she told me that in France, dressing up and being presentable is a way of showing respect to the people around you. In her mind, by dressing up everyday, she is presenting her best image to the people around her because they deserve to see her at her best. I’m certain French people also like to dress for themselves, but the emphasis is genuinely on dressing for others.

I see this everyday while I’m walking to the Metro to go to class. I pass right next to a high school, and every single student is dressed like they put thought and care into their outfit. Even students who dress differently than the mainstream look put together, and this is a value that most places in the United States seem to be lacking. The desire to dress well for others is interesting to me, and I believe it can inspire people to put their best foot forward on a daily basis. When I put thought into the way I dress, I leave with an extra bit of confidence because I do not have to worry about how I look throughout the day. Everyone has made poor fashion decisions in the past, and I’m certain we all know how it feels to lack confidence in the way we present ourselves to the world. Here’s a solution: dress like the French!

I’ve fallen in love with the simple, classic, timeless sense of fashion of the French. My favorite French-inspired outfit has to be white tennis shoes, black jeans, a nice blouse, and an oversized blazer paired with a scarf on a chilly autumn day. I’m so happy that I chose to pack light so I’ll have room to bring home a few new pieces. I’m sure I’ll get so much use out of them, but I’m more sure the French mentality of dressing to impress will leave a lasting impact on what I choose to wear everyday.

Hannah Sawyer

WheatonCollege (IL)



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