After living in Paris for nearly two years, I’m still amazed at how well European women dress. It is rare to see anyone who isn’t well-dressed — even if they’re just buying some milk from the grocery store. We lived down the block form an elementary school and every day we’d see moms with high heels and skirts pushing their strollers down the street.
That’s why I thought I would share some of my women’s European fashion observations from living in Paris and from my travels throughout Europe. Hopefully, these fashion tips will help you choose which clothes to bring on your next trip and give you an idea of how to dress like a European.
Note: Most of my observations are from Paris since this is where I’ve lived the most, but Parisians are considered some of the best-dressed people in Europe, so they are a good group to take fashion advice from.
THE GOLDEN RULES FOR WOMEN’S EUROPEAN FASHION
Honestly, there are no “rules” and there really isn’t a true “European” fashion. You’ve probably heard that Parisians only wear black, but if you walk around the streets of Paris you’ll see fashionable people wearing all kinds of colors.
That’s why this guide will highlight the general fashion trends that I’ve observed but I urge you to add your own personal style into your clothing choices. My main goal is to give you a taste of European fashion and to provide you with some ideas of what you might want to wear when you visit.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FIT
People assume Europeans look great because they have closets full of designer clothes but this isn’t completely true. They may have a few higher-end items, but they shop at H&M, Zara, Mango, Gap, Topshop, and other multinational shops just like the rest of us. The secret is that they purchase clothes that fit well — and if the fit isn’t quite right, then they’ll get their clothes tailored. I feel that it’s much more common to have small alterations done in Europe and those little changes make the clothes fit better.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
European women keep their wardrobes simple and classic. They choose timeless pieces that don’t scream for attention. Then they’ll add a bright accessory (scarf, shoes, jewelry, etc) to bring the outfit together. I also saw a lot of contrasting pieces used together — like pairing a slightly oversized, chunky sweater with a tight skirt or skinny jeans.
Jeans are a staple of any European wardrobe. Most women I saw wore skinny or slim jeans. In general, they mostly wore dark jeans without a wash or with a minimal wash (i.e., only a small amount of distressing). Grey jeans are also a popular choice. But Europeans don’t just wear black and grey, so don’t be afraid to wear a pair of bright red jeans/trousers.
European women have an amazing ability to have great looking hair that looks effortlessly natural. I have no idea how they do it, but it seems like they don’t fuss with it too much — it wouldn’t surprise me if they roll out of bed and just tousled it with their hands. Long hair is definitely in-style, so start growing! When you’re visiting Europe, just throw your hair into a sleek high ponytail or a messy bun and be on your way. Check out this post by Hair on the Brain for some tips on how to create the perfect messy bun.
Photos from intotheglass.com and haironthebrain.com
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SHOES
Europeans live in shoebox-sized apartments but they still manage to have an amazing collection of great shoes.
European women, especially city-dwellers, live in high heels. But beware… these fashionistas have years of practice navigating cobblestone streets and tricky city sidewalks, so you might find yourself really struggling if you choose to wear a pair of sexy stilettos. Wedges are also a very popular and a bit more practical option since they offer extra walking surface.
No shoe collection is complete without a few pairs of boots. During the winter, you’ll see tall leather boots everywhere, but cute ankle boots are a popular choice during the rest of the year. Check out our guide to Best Waterproof Boots for Women to some cute and comfortable boots.
When the weather gets warm, it’s time to break out the lightweight shoes. Strappy leather sandals, flats, loafers, and casual sneakers are all great choices.
That said… if you’re going to be traveling to Europe, I suggest leaving the uncomfortable shoes at home. But that doesn’t mean you need to bring ugly running shoes. I suggest a pair of cute sneakers, flat boots, and a pair of comfortable sandals. If you do bring a pair of impractical shoes for going out, make sure they’re not going to kill your feet (blisters are no fun). Also, remember that a quality set of Superfeet insoles can make shoes more comfortable.
Check out our guide to travel shoes for some examples of fashionable and comfortable sneakers, boots, sandals, and more.
Photo courtesy of Chictopia
SHOW OFF SOME LEG
European women love to show off their legs. Tights, stockings, and pantyhose are year-round wardrobe staples. Even in the winter, you’ll see plenty of women wearing above-the-knee skirts and stockings.
Photos from Fashionista World and The Sartorialist
Nothing is more European than a scarf and they’re the perfect way to pull an outfit together. A warm and cozy scarf is perfect for the winter, and a light silk or cotton scarf is great for the summer. Want to know how to wear your scarf… check out this guide from Scarves.net
Photos from HIP Paris and Toronto Girl West
A classic trench coat is a chic way to look amazing during those cold and rainy European winters.
IT’S IN THE BAG
Whether it’s a tote, messenger bag, or purse, you can’t leave the house without a cute bag. A bag is a great accessory for adding a little extra color or style to an outfit.