What the French girl really wears
It's not berets. Let's get that out of the way first thing. As hard as Gucci, Sonia Rykiel, Versace, etc are working to bring back the epitome of cliché French fashion, the Parisians aren't buying it. Or hats in general, really.
I recently returned to the States from my first trip to France, and my biggest takeaway is that French women, on the whole, dress like everyone else. Quelle suprise! Yes, athleisure was almost non-existent (except in Bordeaux - more on that later), but I did spy a pair of Ugg boots on a train platform just outside Paris. The weather stayed chilly the whole trip, with high temperatures in the 40s, and I saw no one except tourists sacrificing comfort for style.
The Parisian fall uniform seemed to be a black, oversized sweater, blue or black straight jeans, ankle boots or Adidas sneakers, a voluminous scarf, and often a puffy coat. I felt a little conspicuous running around on rainy days in my London Fog trench. On sunnier days, I wore a lovely Isabel Marant Étoile long wool coat, which was less out of place.
Something I was not expecting to single me out as a foreigner was tucking jeans into boot socks. I was oblivious to this style rule before arriving in Gare du Nord, but Parisian women never tuck their jeans into their socks. I saw exclusively jeans-over-socks, often slipping into the top of their color-coordinated ankle boots. Perhaps this is to elongate the line of the leg, but I am still a fan of spicing up an all-black outfit with leopard-print socks. If that marks me as an American tourist, so be it!
Another trend that surprised me was sleek, center-parted hair, typically tucked behind the ears. I did see girls with the oft-emulated bed head look, but the chicest women wore manes more reminiscent of Kim K and Ariana than Caroline de Maigret.
I saw the most sleek hair in Bordeaux, which had a unique and underrepresented style of its own. To balance out her polished tresses, the Bordelaise takes a more laid-back approach to fashion. Black jeans are de rigueur, best if faded and a bit frayed. Pair with a chunky knit or skater tee somewhere on the cream to charcoal spectrum, and top with a black structured coat for the more ladylike or a Carharrt-style workers jacket for the very cool. Footwear is the standard ankle boot or Adidas, unless you're going all in on the casual punk vibe and wearing skater sneakers. I say embrace it! The casual utility creates artistic contrast with the medieval architecture of the Porte Cailhau. Plus, it's ridiculously comfortable.