The Items No One Is Wearing in Paris

In late September of this year, I traveled to Paris to spend a couple of weeks of vacation in one of my most favorite cities in France. I dined at delicious restaurants (Le Baratin, Clown Bar, and Frenchie—to name a few), strolled in charming parks and gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin des Tuileries), and in general soaked up the glorious ambiance that this so-called City of Light boasts that the rest of the world (IMHO) cannot. And, because I'm a fashion writer, there was a fair amount of style-watching going on as well.

Year after year, I'm always surprised by the fact that our notion of "French-girl style" isn't quite on the mark. I think that's because it's not possible to encapsulate a woman with a prescribed wardrobe of separates. We think she wears only berets, ballet flats, Breton stripes, and blazers when, in fact, as I observed further on this trip, that a French woman's wardrobe isn't as predictable as we think. Rather, it's the (yes, I'm going to say it) je ne sais quoi that makes the woman. An effortless air that transmutes into her beauty (bedhead and red lips still abound) and whatever she's decided to wear for the day.

Thus, homing in on the topic of today's post, while in France I brought along a few of these Parisian-inspired separates previously mentioned, one of which being a Breton-stripe three-quarter-sleeve tee. Anyone who knows me or who looks at my closet knows pretty instantly I'm a big supporter of stripes. So much so that I have put a temporary ban on all stripe purchases because I simply don't need anymore. Anyway, I styled my Kule Modern Long Tee ($98) with a pair of black cropped trousers and high-top Chucks thinking it would be the perfect insouciant yet polished look for a day about the Seine.

As I made my way there, picking up a croissant et café and gliding down the dreamy cobblestone streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I slowly realized there were no others wearing these stripes. No men, no women—just moi. Scroll down to see my outfit and for more Parisian style observations.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Nicole Kliest)

For the remainder of the day and the trip, I observed not only what others were wearing but now also what they were not wearing. This continued to include Breton-stripe tees as well as other stereotypical Parisian pieces like berets and ballet flats. Rather, when I would spot these items, it was apparent they were being worn by tourists, which, for the record, I'm 100% on board with.

All that being said, if you've never researched the history of why we associate these stripes with the French, here's an extremely abbreviated rundown. St. James's Breton-stripe jersey became the official uniform in the French navy in 1858. Skip forward to 1913 when Coco Chanel introduced the popular sailor tee to the fashion world and it was cemented as an iconic piece reflective of French heritage and craftsmanship. In other words, there is ample reason to embrace the Breton stripe. To illustrate my point, I scoured the web for images (older and newer) of French women in these tees. While they may be on a slight hiatus in the Parisian's wardrobe, I doubt this closet classic will ever go out of style—scroll down for proof.

Jane Birkin

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Jean Seberg in Breathless (Honorary Parisian)

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Brigitte Bardot in Cette Sacrée Gamine


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Emmanuelle Alt

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Caroline de Maigret


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Jeanne Damas

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Clémence Poésy


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Camille Rowe

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Sabina Socol

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AnneLaure Mais Moreau

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Camille Charrière

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Keep Scrolling to Shop Striped Tees

Want to see what more women are wearing in Paris right now? Right this way.

Nicole Kliest
Freelance Contributor

Nicole Kliest is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City who focuses on fashion, travel, food, wine, and pretty much anything else that's amusing to write about. After graduating from Pepperdine University with a bachelor's in journalism and creative writing, she started her career back in 2010 as Who What Wear's photo editor and throughout the last decade has contributed to publications including Fashionista, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, The Zoe Report, PopSugar, Fodor's Travel, and several others. She also copywrites and has worked with clients such as Frame, Sea, 3x1, Intelligentsia, and others to develop brand voices through storytelling and creative marketing. She's very passionate about the ways we can improve our sustainability efforts in the fashion industry as well as cultivating content that's diverse and inclusive of all people. When she's not checking out the latest restaurant opening in her West Village neighborhood or riding her bicycle along the West Side Highway, she can be found scheming her next trip somewhere around the world. (Up next is Vienna.)