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8 Style Tips I Learned From the Fashion Girls of Paris While Traveling Abroad

Over a spring break trip to Paris, I found myself increasingly obsessed with Parisian girl fashion. Now, I’ll start by saying I’m a bit French-obsessed. For years their outfits dotted my Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds. Once after a few too many glasses of wine, I declared my love for French culture by signing myself up for beginner French classes. Though not for a lack of trying, I finished with a B-. Summer picnics required a bottle of rose and an attempt at a charcuterie board on a college budget. But with each stab at emulating my Parisian icons, I felt something was missing. There was a French air I could never fully fabricate. 

The art of dressing like a Parisian is difficult to put into words. Outside our stereotypical Americanized image of stripes and berets, it’s hard to articulate what makes their style so enviably iconic. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it so frustratingly impossible to recreate. So in an attempt to characterize the seemingly undefinable, I concocted a list of observations on what it is that makes Parisian girls look so damn cool.

They live in their sneakers. 

First things first, let’s get something straight. When I say sneakers, I don’t mean some crisp white Nike Airs. I mean those dirty, scuffed up sneakers that have seen their fair share of mud puddles and dirty bar floors. Though the idea of pairing sneakers with summer frocks and vintage denim is nothing new, it’s essential to the Parisian girl’s wardrobe. The beat-up sneakers are a momento of the places their wearer has been and the memories they made wearing them.  

They throw everything in a straw market bag. 

Paris is known for its open air markets, magical places that leave you feeling like you just stepped onto a movie set. Sundress clad locals scour the aisles for their daily baguettes, cheese, and vintage treasures. The highly underrated accessory these fabulous women all flaunt? A straw market bag. A smarter, chicer version of a canvas tote, these summer-friendly carryalls hold everything from red lipstick to brie cheese. 

They flaunt their natural beauty. 

French girls tend embrace the no makeup-makeup look. This may include a touch of blush, a swipe of mascara, if that, and they’re out the door. At night they swipe on red or poppy lipstick that leaves a stain on the rim of their Aperol Spritz. In the heat of summer, their minimalist look not only saves time and prevents acne but it exudes self-confidence. These women are geniuses.

They appreciate a great cardigan. 

I decided cardigans are underrated in America. Fashionable Parisian girls really give them new life. Here are some observations on the ideal Parisian cardigan: they should be pastel, have artsy buttons, and must be a lightweight open knit that provides zero warmth. All in the name of fashion, amiright? 

They invest in their lingerie. 

A great-fitting black lace bra is the foundation of many Parisian women’s wardrobe. The go-to ensemble of the hip twenty-something Parisians I saw is, undoubtedly, an oversized collared shirt, black lace bra peeking out, structured denim and the aforementioned dirty sneakers. 

They’re unafraid of print.

In a city overflowing with vintage shops and emerging designers, unique prints set each Parisian women apart. Their uniquely printed garb defines them as more than another stylish Parisian women. They’re artistic, bold, understated, one of kind. These exceptional prints dot the bustling streets of Le Marias, blending together into an art form of their own. 

They’re proud to show they’re Parisian. 

Tried and true Parisian staples — berets, striped tees and the like — hold an equally important place in the closets of the Parisian girl’s I saw. They are worn with the same pride as a die-hard Yankees fan wearing his beloved baseball cap. In another act of Parisian girl magic, the appearance of the occasional beret or neck scarf never comes off as cliche. Instead, they proudly declare “I’m Parisian and proud of it” to mesmerized passerbys such as myself. 

Upon returning to New York, I was determined to uncover what exactly defines the elusive Parisian girl style I want to emulate. I googled, pinned, and followed with fervor but felt no closer to solving my futile hypothesis. In the end, I’ve come to a sobering conclusion that maybe what defines Parisian women’s style is actually their lack of trying. Many of them come across effortless because they did, in fact, get dressed without a second thought. They don’t look in the mirror and ask themselves if they look Parisian — they simply are Parisian chic. Though the duality of this conclusion is frustrating, it is also freeing. 

Moving forward in my never-ending quest to nail Parisian style, I’ve decided to stop trying so damn hard. I figure if I simply allow myself to think with the carefree nature and self-confidence of a bare-faced, messy-haired, sneaker-clad Parisian that the rest will come naturally. As the French put it, ce la vie!  

Sarah Maberry is a fashion writer based in NYC. She is graduating in 2019 with a dual degree in Fashion Business Management from FIT and Apparel Design and Merchandising from Seattle Pacific University. Sarah started her writing career at the SPU Chapter of Her Campus and has since worked with various publications for event coverage and style writing. When she isn't busy writing she loves running, watching That 70's Show, and finding the best $1 pizza in Manhattan.