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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.

This is a perfect outfit for paris travel if you're skinny enough to pull it off - read about travel outfits

Iconic Paris Look for Pretend Parisiennes

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.

Read about what to wear when you travel to paris

Perfect Paris Outfits & Colors: Mostly Neutrals

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.
read what to wear in paris

Travel Outfits for Paris in Plus Sizes

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:

  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Boots
  • 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:

Parisian Style Details for Women Over 50

9 Tips for 70s Style Retro Fashions for Women Over 40, 50: Fall 2015 - Winter 2016

10 Pantone Fall Colors for Autumn 2015 / Winter 2016

How to Wear Leggings if You're Over 40 or 50

Photo Credits:

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.

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. It won't show up until I approve it... someday when I have time.

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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37 Comments

  1. christine ward

    i love your site...just what i was looking for (i'm 60) and also a northwesterner. just have to figure out how to pull off steampunk tastefully at work.....and leggings in black (of course)

  2. Christina Gregoire

    Christine,

    Thank you so much for your comment. Steampunk is hip and can be cleverly disguised as Victoriana. You can wear a bit of the trend almost anywhere, with a smidge of imagination. And, all women of all ages should have black leggings...well, maybe women can live without black leggings if they reside in Hawaii.

    But, women in the Northwest probably should have one set of black everything: a pair of black boots, a black sweater, a black tee, a black skirt, a pair of black leggings, a black coat, etc. The beauty of black is that it goes with black. While there are subtle variations, most shades of black are close enough to go with each other. And, you can wear black with other neutrals...brown, gray, even dark navy...black and navy together was considered to be a fashion faux pas when I was young. Hey, if they do it in Paris...that's good enough for me.

    Personally, I'm too pale (vampirish) to wear black next to my face. I can wear black at night or if I take the time to add blush or lipstick. Actually, I'm kinda unique. I consider dark, grayed purple to be one of my neutrals. Also, any color that looks good on me is (in my mind) a neutral. Can fuchsia be a neutral?

    Tina Boomerina

  3. BC

    I can't wait to go to Paris next spring.

  4. Barbara Bell

    Yours is the first advice on what to wear in Paris that actually matches what I saw this September when I was there. I brought an all-black wardrobe with lots of colorful scarves on the advice of several travel websites, and when I got to Paris I saw lots of jeans, lots of color, and sneakers! On Parisians! The only women my age (60+) in all-black were the Muslim women, elderly Italian or other European women, and the shop clerks.

    However, I was not able to find flat shoes that would be comfortable so I wore black suede "sneakers" (walking shoes) and they saved my feet. I've never climbed so many stairs in my life as in the Metro! And with several walking tours and the Louvre, I could not have survived in sandals or ballet flats. Thanks, Tina! It's all true!

    • Tina

      Barbara,

      From what I've seen, and I've never lived in Paris although I've been there at different times of the year, people wear different things during different times of the year. Hey, it's the same in the US and Canada.

      When it's cold (about October - March-ish), everyone wears black and dark neutrals and jeans. In the tourist season (about May-September-ish) you can wear colorful stuff, but you can also wear mostly black if you want. Barbara, you may have felt out of place, but Parisians probably thought you were a local... until you opened your mouth (and they heard your rusty French... or if you're like me... your horrid French accent). lol.

      However, if you wear a lot of color when there are only Parisians and few tourists (in winter), you'll look like a tourist and gypsies will try to bug you...and you will feel a bit out of place. In winter, you DO want to wear dark stuff or mostly black and dark neutrals with a bit of color (if you want to) in one thing...like your shoes, your scarf, your purse, your coat.

      Hope this makes sense. I think the other websites were either written by people who copied others... or written by people who have lived there in the non-tourist season. Of course, things might change over time, so if anyone sees something different, let me know.

      • Tina

        Actually, I should not say that fashion in Paris has gone to the dogs. It's still the most elegant place I've ever seen for women's fashion... even for casual women's fashion. However, I know that the Japanese are big on clothing, so I will have to check out Tokyo someday. London has nice clothing, especially men's clothing. And, I've heard that Milan is great, but I've never had the good fortune to check out Milan.

  5. Lbui

    Love your site, i m glad to find it before the trip, will share with my sis. Your experiences are great to share with us! Thanks.

  6. linda

    I have been to Paris in the spring and agree with all that has been said. Coming from San Francisco, my already black wardrobe did fit in. I could tell the tourists for sure, and was glad I did some research before my visit. I love the way Paris women embrace their age.

    • Tina

      Linda,

      I totally agree with you about the way Parisiennes embrace their age. I'm not sure what it is. To me, it's that Parisian women continue to be stylish, they don't get facelifts, and they don't wear much makeup.

      However, they don't wear only black. Sometimes, they wear black with a pop of color, like purple tights or red shoes. Or they wear dark denim with a black sweater and a greige coat.

      Cheers,
      Tina Boomerina

  7. Kathy

    I thought your site information helped me tremendously. I have always wanted to go to Paris and it looks as if I may be doing this next spring. I am so excited and ready to do a little shopping.

    Thank you so much!

  8. susan

    It would be nice to see some pictures of Paris fashion on an over 60 person on the slightly plump side. Otherwise the article is very helpful. Thanks

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Susan,

      Acccckkk! I was out of town for a week. Now I'm back and I'm sick. Can you remind me to look for photos later when I have a bit of time. I'm just slammed right now.
      T

  9. susie

    Great site! I am definitely a boomer chick (a little on the chubby side- or curvey as they now say!) Went to Japan and I must say the women and men over there of all ages do dress quite dapper. Can't wait to go to Milan and Paris one day! BTW, loved your fall fashion trend 2013 article especially about the "in color" being your color! So right on!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Susie,
      So glad you liked the "in color" article. It's true. And, you really should go to Paris. It used to be difficult to get around, but now all the signs are in French and English. Just get a Rick Steves' Paris book and it's just like going to Kansas only prettier.

      Now... as for Japan... I want to go to Japan someday. Unfortunately, I think Japan is quite a bit more expensive than Paris. But... I WILL go. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and I love Asian stuff.

      T

  10. Tina-Boomerina

    ps never been to Milan. it's on my list

  11. sophie

    Super site....been to France many times but not for the past 17 years.....thanks for the fashion.heads up!

    Sophie

  12. Tina-Boomerina

    Sophie,

    I wish I could go to Paris more often. One of the perks of my third husband is that he spoke French until he started kindergarten in the states. I love France.

    Best,

    Tina Boomerina

  13. Meg

    I love this web site - having been to Paris twice in March/April, I was concerned what to wear for my next trip with my 20yo granddaughter in July.
    She is from Arizona and I am from south of Perth, Western Australia.
    You have confirmed my thoughts that Black, Black and then more Black with colour accents is the safest way to go. Dark jeans, unless it turns out as hot as we have both experienced, will be great also.
    Are summer pants full length always or is 7/8 acceptable?
    Thankyou for your great web site and I will recommend it to other travellers.
    Meg

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Meg,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I saw mostly full-length (ankle length) pants but I have seen 7/8 lengths on many French websites lately.

      I am sorry to say that I have not been to Paris for 2 years, and my articles are not as current as I would like, so I am unsure. On the other hand, French women seem to be conservative with their staple items (like coats, pants, sweaters) and more experimental and frivolous in their accessories (scarves, hats, colorful shoes).

      You will be safe with ankle lengths, but if 7/8 lengths look good on you, that would probably be fine. It will not be as hot in Paris as it would be in either Arizona or Perth. (Well, I've never been to Perth, but I've been to OZ during your summer... everything north of Melbourne seemed hot to me - I'm from Seattle and our summers are like London's summers.)

      Also, black is safe and will make you look like a local but there are many tourists in Paris during the summer months, especially in August, so you can go a bit more colorful. Dark jeans and dark blues are also perfect. However, you don't need to go all black unless it's the dead of winter... even then you can add color.

      Now I wish I could have gone to Paris this year. I would know the answer to your question. Whatever you wear you will have a great time. Get a museum pass and buy a Rick Steves' Paris book for tips. You can buy an old one on Amazon for a few dollars. And, if you feel like you need more color once you get to Paris, buy a few scarves in a boutique or on the street up in Montmarte... you lucky people!

      Best,

      Tina Boomerina ps I am sorry that my reply is so late. I was sick for a few weeks and then something happened in my family and then something else and normally I reply sooner. Please let me know what length jeans they are wearing in Paris if you get a chance. It's my favorite place on earth... but OZ and NZ and Switzerland are also my favorite places.

      • Tina-Boomerina

        Meg, I just checked and the last time I was in Paris was in 2012... I think... with my daughters. From what I remember, all of the really chic Parisiennes wore long jeans, dark wash. Younger girls may have worn lighter jeans.

        Now, I really want to go to Paris. I feel "homesick" so I must have lived in France in a former life.

        That's it! I'm cashing in my miles and looking for a cheap hotel room. You and your granddaughter will have a total blast no matter what you wear!

        T

      • Meg Waddell

        HI Tina. Many thanks for all your tips. I have a great collection of scarves to brighten up the basics. I will take one of each length pants :-) Play it safe!! On my return I will tell you my findings in Paris for Summer. No doubt my 20yo granddaughter will have quite different ideas.
        My accomodation I found on VRBO in the 10th Arrondissment which I chose as I am familiar with this area and it is close to main Metro stations. At E80 per night for a self catering appartment, I felt it was a great find. It is modern but tiny. I don't mind as we will only be there to eat and sleep! Good luck for your next French adventure.

        • Tina-Boomerina

          Meg,
          That sounds fabulous. Your granddaughter will freak out with joy. My grandmother took us to Paris once and I really loved it. Amazing trip.

          I'm going to look up the arrondissement you're in... be right back... Okay, we usually stay in the 3rd Arrondissement in the Marais in an el cheapo hotel, but I kind of know where you'll be. As long as you can get on the Metro and figure out the signs (it's all in English now and it's easy-er) you will be not too far from where we stay. I really want to know about your VRBO (rental) because it would be great to find a little apt. That's a fabulous rate. Please, please let me know what you think. I'm sure your granddaughter will be surprised by how small the flat will be but Paris ain't Arizona... that's where she lives (I think I recall).

          Anyway, I'm excited to hear about your trip. You'll have a ball.
          T

  14. Debbie

    Hello Tina!
    I have enjoyed you tips on here, I am 56 and a little fluffy lol I am taking our daughter to London for a college graduation gift. She lived there for three months however I've never been and am a bit nervous about how to dress. We are California ladies and coming the first week in September 2014. PLEASE can you advise me as to what style I should be wearing for touring and for the condition of the weather that time of year, remembering I'm at that "hot" always stage in life :-/ in need of knowing type of pants , shoes for lots of walking, coat/jacket /sweater and a night out for dinner for a casual dinner and maybe to a pub? Please help :-)

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Debbie,

      I haven't been to London for a while, but the weather is similar to our weather in Seattle. Let me think about it for a bit. I might ask someone from the UK in our writers group. I have a pal who is our age and she would know exactly what to tell you but I'm not sure I can reach her.

      If I don't get back to you in a few days, leave another comment here or email me. You'll get my email when I email you.

      Tina

  15. Bridget

    I love the styles you have. I travel to Paris a lot and I like to find out about their style.

  16. Christie Stacker

    Thank you, thank you! I'm going to Italy and then Paris this spring, and it's very likely my last European vacation. I'm another Northwesterner in my 60s who forgets to dress her age. Your advice has helped me nail down what I'm taking with me.

  17. Sam

    Well Hello All,
    I am an Aussie so I hope you can get used to my way of communicating. I am off to Britain in a few weeks and maybe a couple of days in Paris thanks Tina and all for the fashion advice. I am really glad to have found this blogsite, if you will have an Aussie baby boomer?
    As a boomer who really really enjoyed the late 60s and 70s the world was never about fashion for me - I was one of those daggy hippy types who wore anything colourful, long, soft and clingy or else leathers and jeans when I was on the back of a bike. I do love my boots though! And can remember every pair I have ever owned.
    I love the idea of this blog and I am hoping there is a lot more to talk about than fashion (get that is your passion, Tina) but my passions run to many: patchwork, quilting, writing, copywriting, walking on the beach, visiting wineries all over the world, love long long movies and Diana Gabaldon. I want to find more heroes (and sheroes) in this life, I am a Shift Mindset Architect and a lifestyle coach - I help design the journey to new purpose in their future for my clientele through re-discovereing their gifts and re-claiming passions.
    So that is me - oh and I live on the gorgeous Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, 2 minutes from the beautiful Pacfic ocean (the whales will be passing in the next few weeks!) and surrounded by protected national forest. I don't play music anymore I just listen to the amazing bird chorus all day long and enjoy all sorts of wild-life sightings.
    Here's my beach - oh well, couldn't figure out how to attach a picture, maybe I'm not allowed!
    to glorious women, miles of smiles Sam

  18. Tina-Boomerina

    Sam... sorry, I'm not sure if you are a Samantha or a Samuel. I'm going to guess Samantha,

    I've been to Port Douglas, Queensland. It's gorgeous. I was a little freaked out by the (unseen) Salties and the python "speedbump" in the road, but other than that it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to.

    My husband and I even thought of moving to OZ, but unless you're part of the Commonwealth (ie from Canada or the UK), it's not easy to become a citizen once you're over the age of ______ (fill in the blank). We loved Australia. As I'm from Seattle, I think I'd feel right at home in Melbourne or someplace cooler than Queensland, but I DO love sunshine... so I could adapt to your northern areas in order to be near those beautiful sandy beaches... and those hunky eye-candy lifeguard boys... woo hoo! Maybe in my next life...

    I had to look up "daggy" and "Diana Gabaldon"... but other than that... you're coming across loud and clear. And, when you say "on the back of a bike" I'm assuming you mean a motorcycle-Easy-Rider-kind-of-chopper thing... so correct me if I'm wrong.

    I'm glad you found our site. I know JACK (nothing) about patchwork and quilts (other than I think they're beautiful), but if you're in the mood to write about them, or you know someone who's into that stuff and has time to write about it, I would love to include more DIY articles, so we can all make beautiful things for our homes... or learn how to make things and sell them or give them as gifts.

    Also, my dear friend from the beautiful part of the world, if you want to write about what it's like in Queensland (for holiday-makers and/or for people thinking of retiring there) or write about some of the wineries around the world or in the Antipodes that you've liked (and why) or write about anything you think would fit in with the ex-hippie, adventurous, baby boomer audience... just let me know.

    I write mostly about clothing because I have a terrible time finding non-daggy clothes that fit. And, when I find good stuff, I get all excited. If I knew anything about quilts or patchwork or jewelry-making, I would have more articles about that.

    I'm sorry I was unable to approve your comment before you took off for the UK, you lucky person. I've been moving house and I'm still unpacking. Uggggggh! So, I hope you'll send a photo of your beach or your trip when you get back.

    Tina

  19. Tina-Boomerina

    Thanks for the backlink. T

  20. Marsha Dotson

    The very best information for travel I have ever found. Thank you so much for the"marshmallow " alternatives!!
    Being short dumpy and over sixty this helped so very much. Looking for red bowling shoes to break in now! Lol

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