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WHAT TO WEAR IN PARIS

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Planning a hiking trip in the mountains? You are thinking rain ponchos, hiking boots, moisture-wicking long underwear and sun-protecting hats; everything needed to keep you happy and dry while enjoying the pleasures of nature. Each adventure, no matter what part of the world you are exploring, requires a certain mentality and forethought, regarding what to pack and what is right for that particular environment. Paris is tricky. While in Amsterdam or Lisbon, your slouchy Adidas sweats might go unnoticed, in Paris they will stand in the way of decent service in a classy bistro.

It’s not like you have to bring all of your fanciest clothing, or dress ridiculously uncomfortably, but come on, you are going to the fashion capital of the world. The city wreaks of beauty, grace, and aesthetic perfection, like a fairy tale.


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This might seem unreasonable, but Parisians react favorably to visitors who dress as though they have significant respect for the sophistication of the city. Likewise, they are disdainful of those who don’t. Say you’ve always dreamed of teatime at the Ritz. If you dare to enter this bastion of glamour and pomp, wearing a pair of schlumpy jeans, fine for raking out the barn, with a pair of dirty white tennis shoes (I know, they’re comfortable!) a tee shirt sporting the logo of your daughter’s pre-school across the front, with a bulging fanny-pack hanging from your belly…you will most likely join the ranks of disgruntled Americans returning from their first trip to Paris, laden with stories about French “attitude” and arrogance. However, with a little thought and a slight tweaking of your wardrobe, you will find yourself suitably dressed for any outing, without forsaking comfort and your own personal style.

Contemplate the following:

1. Sweatsuits, unless you are a svelte model on your way to a shoot, should not be worn outside the hotel room. Svelte models, please ignore this advice. You can actually wear anything you like.

2. White tennis shoes, even if new, seem to immediately infuriate all restaurant and shop personnel. It’s as if one has a sticker on one’s forehead proclaiming, “I’m a tourist with no sense of style”. If you have already purchased a pair of deliciously clean white sneakers, thinking that you have made a wise choice for trekking the French capital, return them immediately. Sneakers have become quite acceptable on the streets of Paris, just not white ones. But with tons of uneven pavements and cobblestones, who wants to walk around in a pair of heels all day?

For both men and women, many footwear companies offer lines of comfortable casual-wear that are hip and more dressy. Converse, for one, Ecco, Mephisto ,Dansko, Puma, Nike, and New Balance, are some of the brands to investigate.

3. Let’s talk jeans. They used to be a no-no, but now they are oui-oui! Jeans have achieved haute couture status due to techniques such as special washes, enabling a brand new pair to look just like the worn and tattered ones you threw away when you were a hippie.

Straight-legged, bell-bottomed, chartreuse, grey and even, yes, blue jeans are hot. It’s the fit that counts. If you are a jeans person, bring along a pair that is flattering, stylish and comfortable. Leave the funky looking ones with the saggy butt at home.

4. Now, what about shirts. Is it possible to replace the beloved Hanes with the campy motto stamped all over it, for something, let’s say, more subdued? Shirts that have buttons, for example. Many travel companies specialize in clothing that is wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying and fashionable. It is quite easy to build a simple, wardrobe with a few interchangeable pieces to go from day to night. A couple of basic travel-friendly shirts that can be dressed up with a sweet piece of jewelery or a scarf , or simply buttoned a bit higher for the men, might be all you need. Check out these sites for inspiraton: www.magellans.com , www.territoryahead.com , www.exofficio.com , www.patagonia.com , www.travelsmith.com

5. Switch that fanny pack out for something else…anything else. Real men do carry shoulder bags and some have straps long enough to cross over the chest.

6. Women must make tough footwear choices. Those strappy little evening sandals are gorgeous, but walking in them is pretty much out of the question. They’re ok when going from a car into a restaurant, but remember the night you had to walk 10 crosstown Manhattan blocks in them, when there were no cabs to be found? Nasty blisters, aching arches, is it worth it?
When you get to be a certain age, the answer is, no! Nowadays, both American and European shoemakers are coming up with feminine designs, made for walking. Soft soles, cushioned innards, pretty dyed leathers, not to mention the ubiquitous ballet flat, which has made a comeback.

Those can be worn day or night, with jeans or dresses. Say goodbye to pain. Department store shoe departments are full of delightful alternatives. Even Ecco now has a full line of dress shoes for women.

7. True today as it has been forever, you can’t go wrong with good old basic black. You can accessorize it, depend upon it for evenings out, dress it down for day.

That little black dress or pants outfit, with a cool purse and pearls. Yes, I said pearls. Dig them out of the pile of stuff your mother has passed down to you. If they are going to work anywhere, surely they will feel right at home in Paris.

8. Men, bring a suit jacket. Pack a tie. You will secure a better table at the restaurant your partner has been looking forward to dining in, and if tickets to the opera are miraculously snagged by the concierge, you’ll be good to go.

9. Remember, the scarf is the ultimate French accessory. Buy one in Paris. A cheap one from the vendors outside Printemps ,the department store, or a veritable collector’s item from the quintessential purveyor of French scarves, Hermes. A visit to the flagship Hermes store on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, should be on the itinerary of every mother bringing her daughter to Paris for the first time.



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