Paris Street Style for Women Over 40 or 50
by Christina Gregoire
Whenever I go to Paris, I pack a lot of bright and light colored dresses. And, when I get there, I always say to myself, “What the heck was I thinking?” Well, if you are going to Paris in high summer, you can get away with more color, but if you are over 40 or 50, you should choose black (or some other dark neutral) for your main pieces.
Don’t Dress Like an American Tourist
I have updated some of the photos on this page. Check Photo Credits at the end of the article to find out which ones... and to read my thoughts... ummmm critiques.
I’m an American. I’m from the Pacific Northwest, so I’m used to seeing women out on the street in old jeans and jogging suits. Please don’t do that in Paris. And, don’t wear your fancy white Nike-style shoes. I’ve read that Parisians call them “marshmallows."
Anyway, I’ve been to Paris quite a few times, and what you should pack depends upon what time of year you are traveling. However, unless you are taking a guided tour, where your “luxury coach” will whisk you straight from your hotel to your tourist destination, you can expect to be very hot and very cold, off and on, all day, almost any day of the year.
And, to really see Paris, I suggest you avoid the bus tours unless you have a disability and can barely walk.
What to Wear in Paris
I am always jet-lagged on my first day in Paris, so I usually plant myself at a chic coffee house for a few hours to watch the natives and to take notes. [Tip: I like to go to Paris during the off-season when there are fewer tourists. It's cheaper and more fun. Also, the locals are on holiday during August.]
On my last few trips, I concentrated on what “older” women were wearing. Of course, I only paid attention to women who looked like they were Parisian. So, here are the styles and trends I jotted down from my last two trips, one in early spring and one in summer.
Pack Black Clothes as Your Base
It seems like such a cliché, but chic Parisian women really do wear a lot of black.
They wear quite a few other neutrals, as well, but I have a feeling if you peered into any closet in Paris, you would find that everything goes with everything else because it’s all black. And, that makes sense because elegant Parisian women buy expensive designer clothing.
And, if you were going to buy something that could truly be called an “investment” piece, you would not want it to show dirt from the grimy Metro subways and you would not want it to go out of style…ever.
Dark Denim Jeans
Alas, it seems that Paris has gone downhill… maybe it is the economy or maybe it’s just the trend… but you will see more older Parisian women in jeans than you would have in the past. Therefore, I won’t disparage you for wearing dark denim bootcut jeans, but make sure they fit and they aren’t old and ratty.
If you normally wear jeggings (jean leggings) at home, and you’re fairly certain they look good from all angles, dark denim jeggings or skinny jeans are fine, also.
If my notes are correct, half of the women in jeans wear them with flat shoes (such as ballet flats or some European style that looks a lot like a bowling shoe), and the other half of the women in jeans wear them with boots (either flat boots or high heel boots).
Wear Something Comfortable
If you are a typical American baby boomer (a bit chubby), you might be happier in comfortable, stretchy, black travel pants. As long as you cover up the elastic waistband and you choose a matte fabric, you can get away with granny pants. (Note: I wear stretchy travel dresses because I find them more comfortable. My second choice would be leggings under tunic tops.)
Other Neutral Colors for Paris Outfits
Parisians pull all their neutrals together in unique ways that somehow turn out gorgeous. I’ve seen several all-black ensembles worn with navy tights, so don’t be afraid to throw navy and black together any way you want. And, the Parisians do the same thing with brown, taupe, beige, burgundy, gray, navy, dark denim and any other color that feels like a neutral.
How to Add Bright Accents to Neutrals
Black can be worn with every neutral and every color as long as the outfit is mostly black and/or mostly neutral. If you want to fit in, only add one or two colorful pieces to your black ensemble. If you wear more colors, you will get more stares, especially when it’s winter, fall, or spring. Personally, I don’t always follow the rules, but I don’t care if people stare.
Here are some of the methods that Parisians (of all ages) use to add color to their basic neutrals:
- Red Shoes: I have no idea how this started, but older women (as well as teens) wear red shoes with their all-black outfits.
- Cool Shoe Colors: Women wear all-black or mostly-black outfits with purple, blue, metallic, pumpkin, cobalt, and other unique shoe colors.
- Colored Tights: Many older women brighten up their funereal-black outfits with royal purple, aubergine, or cobalt tights. Cheeky chicks of all ages wear beautiful lace tights. (If you don't have lace, try leopard or dots.)
- Colored Skirts: Some older women in all-black outfits wear colored skirts as accent pieces.
- Bright Coats: Beautiful coats in amazing colors punctuate many all-black outfits. I've seen cobalt, mustard, red, burgundy, and deep purple. So pack your red or pink trench or your crushable metallic raincoat.
Bright Accessories Like Scarves
Of course, most of you have been waiting for me to mention colorful scarves. And, Parisians do wear these everywhere. But, don’t worry about matching colors; it’s perfectly fine to wear a blue, orange, and yellow scarf with your black outfit.
Instead of matching colors, be more concerned with the total gestalt of your outfit and how your scarf balances your look. You should twist and tweak your scarf until it looks good in a messy way. Ask a salesgirl to help you. Look for natural scarves in silk, cashmere, cotton, or a good blend. I get the feeling some Parisiennes spend a month's take-home on a good Hermes scarf from time to time.
Other than adding color with scarves, you can push an outfit into the chic zone with colorful:
- Flowered Pins
- Large Leather Bags
Just remember to keep your non-black colors to a minimum. You’ll see what I mean when you get there, unless you’re going during high summer, when half the people are from China and the other half are from Florida.
Tweak What You Have
You don’t have to go crazy and buy a totally new wardrobe for your trip to Paris. However, make sure that what you pack is comfortable...and make sure your clothing looks like it has been tailored to fit.
And, bring flat shoes or boots (with cushioning) for daytime, because you will be walking up and down stairs all day. Needless to say, your footwear should be well broken-in or your trip could be a disaster.
If you're a woman over 40, 50, 60, whatever... or you're a plus size... and you don’t want to look out of place, wear mostly black. If you don’t like black, you can wear navy, burgundy, taupe, chocolate, charcoal gray, denim blue, and other dark colors instead... or you can mix those neutrals with black basics. But, unless you are in a cast, keep those marshmallows off your feet.
Whatever you do, you should wear mostly neutrals in Paris if you don't want to look like a tourist. However, you will always see me a mile away, because as much as I try to be good, I'm usually in a travel outfit with way too much color... and an adorable hat.
More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:
Some of my photos were lost when I updated my site. Bummer. If you came here from Pinterest, you might not see the photo you're looking for. All Pinterest photos not on this page are from LaRedoute.
- Main Photo: Boomerina.Polyvore.com.
- All other (updated) photos are from LaRedoute Prshots.com (2015).
- Iconic Paris Look for Pretend Parisiennes: Perfect travel outfit for skinny chicks.
- Perfect Paris Outfits & Colors: Mostly Neutrals: 1. Blue is almost like a neutral but skip the PVC pants unless you're young. 2. The outfit with the red jacket is an old photo but LaRedoute has a similar jacket now. 3. Navy is good and the jeans are the right color. 4. Dark purple is almost a neutral and a short skirt is fine at any age unless you're way too heavy.
- Travel Outfits for Paris in Plus Sizes: 1. Old photo, they no longer have this outfit but it's a great example of a perfect travel look. 2. This dress has just the right amount of subtle color. 3. This plus size coat is almost all black but the cute print keeps it from being boring.
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