I'm an American Who Just Moved to Paris—5 Things Parisians Wear and 5 They Skip


(Image credit: @cinnamonryan)

The experience of moving to a brand-new city in another country can be daunting but also an exciting, fresh chapter in your life. There's nothing like roaming around your new neighborhood and taking in all the sights—including everyone's fashion sense. And that's exactly what Ryan Norville did when she and her family decided to move abroad and live in Paris. "I've always loved escapism through travel, and when I made the decision to leave New York, it was mostly for the quality of life of my two kids," she said. Luckily, Norville and her son are fluent in French, and though she was born and raised in NYC, Paris felt familiar due to her many travels there. Norville is a content creator, artist, and owner of Oat Cinnamon Studio—a design studio based in Brooklyn—so she still plans to travel back to oversee larger projects when needed. Why be bicoastal when you could be bicontinental, right? 

After settling into her new surroundings, she noticed immediate differences in the outfits and styles of Parisians. Most importantly, it's more than just the stripes, basket bags, Chanel slingbacks, and berets often depicted in films and television shows. (Looking at you, Emily in Paris.) The culture is so rich, and Norville has some key observations and insights about what "French style" really is. Keep reading below for her takeaways about five things Parisians gravitate toward... and five others that have them saying "non merci."

Wear: Uniforms 

Skip: Maximalism


(Image credit: @cinnamonryan)

"I kind of miss the kitchen-sink style of dressing seen in New York City. The people-watching in certain neighborhoods is so good because the streets are runways. Here, it's very rare to even see bright colors being worn. You may find a little bit of riskier styling in younger and fashion-centered neighborhoods in Paris, but overall, maximalism is hard to find. The more time I spend here, I definitely notice some patterns and schools of thought in dressing, and function is definitely a priority for Parisians." 

Wear: Classic Sneakers 

Skip: Impractical Shoes


(Image credit: @cinnamonryan)

"A quality overcoat and a comfortable pair of classic sneakers are the true staples of most wardrobes. Almost nobody drives, and there's a pretty efficient public transportation system, so life is centered on being very mobile and comfortable. While many people may consider Paris to be the fashion capital of the world, you won't quite see locals making a sacrifice in the name of fashion.

"I think Americans, myself included, are not above giving into the idea of discomfort for a really cute item of clothing, whether that be a designer item we've saved up for or a pair of shoes that seem to give us blisters every time we wear them, Maybe that is why our French counterparts seem to have a bit more effortlessness in their style."

Wear: Spring Layers 

Skip: Shorts


(Image credit: @anoukyve)

"After spending over 30 years in NYC, one thing we get very excited about is warm weather. We live for it. When temperatures get above 55°, it's a full-on party everywhere you go, and people dress like it's practically summer. With that ingrained in my DNA, I quickly found out that was not the case in Paris. Even when we get warmer spring weather, people will just open their coats a little bit more but still keep on a sensible scarf. The first day the weather was over 60°, I wore shorts outside, and people looked at me like I was absolutely crazy. So hold onto your layers because they are worn well into late spring." 

Wear: Vintage or Heirloom Pieces

Skip: Trend Dressing


(Image credit: @emmanuellek_)

"It's very normal for young adults to wear clothing and jewelry previously owned by their parents or grandparents. High school kids frequent thrift stores or 'fripperies' that are pure treasure troves. Garments often range between €1 and €55. I've walked into other clothing shops where the owner is creating the clothing in front of me and can speak to all the materials. The culture is digital as well. My French friends often brag about their finds on the secondhand app Vinted, so there really isn't a sense of chasing trends."

Wear: Scarves

Skip: Berets


(Image credit: @sylviemus_)

"This city can often be overcast, which makes it chilly. It feels as if almost everyone wears a warm, layered scarf, typically worn with a wool or down coat and a hat.

"In America, we have this idea that if we would like to pull inspiration from French style, this means we need to wear a beret, get a Jane Birkin–esque basket, put on red lipstick and Chanel slingbacks, and then it's French. But in reality, the culture is so rich here, as are the style influences, so I think the American idea of Parisian dressing can definitely use an update."

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Up Next: I Just Got Back From Paris—7 Basics Fashionable Women Wore

Lauren Adhav
Freelance Fashion Editor

Lauren Adhav is a freelance fashion editor based in Los Angeles. Originally from Orlando, Florida, she always wanted to work at a fashion magazine. After finally getting an internship at Town & Country in 2015, she moved to New York City and continued to get her footing in the industry with stints at Cosmopolitan, W magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Moda Operandi. In 2017, she returned to Cosmo full time, starting off as the beauty and fashion editorial assistant and working her way to fashion editor. She contributed to both the website and print issues, pitching new ideas, forecasting trends, covering red carpet events, and informing the overall coverage and brand voice. After five years in NYC, she moved to the West Coast for the sunshine and the change of pace. As a freelance fashion editor, she still contributes to Cosmo and now Who What Wear. She's always trying to get ahead of the next big trend before it goes mainstream and loves discovering fashion brands with a unique point of view (Chopova Lowena, Sandy Liang, and Bode being some of her current favorites). She also spends an unhealthy amount of time online shopping for the perfect piece, and now that she's in L.A., she's rediscovering her soft spot for malls. On the weekends, you can find her walking around the Silver Lake Reservoir, trying to catch up on her tan at Venice Beach, and probably ordering a Chinese chicken salad at Joan's on Third.