I’m an American Writer in Paris, and These 13 Effortlessly French Styles Are Perfect for Spring — From $14

I’m an American Writer in Paris, and These 13 Effortlessly French Styles Are Perfect for Spring — From $14

On my first trip to Paris during spring study abroad more than 15 years ago, my overpacked suitcase looked similar to a scene in “Emily in Paris” — patterned tops, structured mini skirts, dresses with way too many ruffles, strappy designer sandals that could barely make it two blocks on the Champs-Élysées. A trip to COS in Le Marais — the land of light cotton summer dresses and Bohemian-style blouses — quickly solved my French fashion faux pas. In their place were boyfriend blazers, high-waisted trousers, and boxy tees that add functionality in addition to style. 

Masters of layering, Parisians know the value of basics — especially when you mix in a few standout statement pieces that give an outfit the je ne sais quoi that the French are famous for. As a travel journalist who has called France home for the past decade, I now follow the lead of my fellow Parisians when shopping for spring. This season, I’m alternating between comfy, retro-style sneakers and ’70s-inspired clogs, high-waist straight-leg jeans, feminine, pleated mini-skirts, striped sweater vests, and denim shirtdresses — pieces that feel Parisian but fit seamlessly into my travel wardrobe and can be packed for a weekend getaway anywhere from Istanbul to Istria in the Adriatic. And with items starting at just $14 at Amazon, Madewell, J.Crew, and more, I won’t have to dip too deep into this season’s travel budget to spruce up my spring wardrobe. 

Sézane Gabano Coat

Sezane


While spring seems like it would be the start of trench coat season, the reality is that, in Paris, there’s still a chill in the air that requires a heavier layer. This thicker coat from Sézane, however, embraces some of the best elements of a trench with its large flap pockets and classic collar, yet it will keep you warm when a breeze is blowing on the Seine. Mid-length with a front placket button closure and wide cuffs, this is a fantastic jacket for layering over dark denim and a thin tee or light sweater — plus, it’s easy to bring on a plane or pack, if you’re checking a bag.

The beige shade is a nice departure from winter black and gray, and it’ll pair beautifully with a camel- or tan-colored crossbody bag and boots, clogs, or simple white sneakers — the perfect addition to the Parisian “uniform.”

Everlane Utility Barrel Pants

Everlane


If there’s one adjective that defines the fashion in Paris it’s “relaxed” — and this goes for everything from dresses to pants. When styling an ensemble, women choose pieces that are tailored and have just enough structure to exude an effortlessly chic look (you’ll never see skinny jeans or anything too clingy). Case in point: these high-rise, slim-fit tapered pants whose curved legs don’t seem too boxy or baggy. 

Cropped at the ankle, Everlane’s organic cotton barrel pants come in two lengths — regular and tall — and most shoppers recommend sizing down for a more snug fit. According to one reviewer, “They’re able to wear again and again without feeling repetitive and boring.” Another added, “They’re flattering on a curvy body — great transition from work to casual.” I can’t wait to add them to my wardrobe to pair with cable knit sweaters on cooler spring days or striped tanks and fisherman sandals when the weather warms up.

Amazon Mesh Beach Tote

Amazon


Prada’s crochet tote is one trendy accessory that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve seen it everywhere from jet-set islands in the Caribbean like St. Barts and Canouan to Saint-Tropez and the French Riviera. In the South of France, mesh totes and basket bags are typically what you’d carry to the market or bring on a picnic. The crochet style elevates the look, but this mesh version at Amazon is just as chic — and only $14. Neary 8,000 reviewers are also fans: “It’s plenty big without looking like a suitcase hanging from your shoulder,” one shopper said. Another added, “This was a great option for cruise/beach vacation — it easily folded in my suitcase and was perfect for carrying items to the pool and beach. It also looked nice as a tote when dining at casual eateries.”

If you want to truly look like a local, throw a Turkish beach towel and a pair of espadrilles inside. And instead of a traditional wallet, opt for a patterned fabric pouch to hold the essentials like money and keys — it’ll add a nice pop of color peeking out of the mesh tote.

Sézane Pleated Midi Skirt

Sezane


While I follow the lead of the French with ensembles heavy on neutrals, brown is a shade that you won’t find in my wardrobe. I typically prefer rust or burgundy, but this cognac-colored skirt from Sézane has me reconsidering my closet. A gorgeous way to tie in brown sandals or tan leather detailing on a purse, this ’70s-inspired shade looks good on practically any skin tone — and doesn’t clash with my chestnut-colored curls. 

The pleated mesh is a nice alternative to silk (which often snags and stains easily) and the elastic waist creates room if you want to tuck in a sweater. I’m looking forward to wearing this over knee-high patent leather boots with a cream cashmere cable knit for trips to Champagne and Burgundy for a look that can easily take me from day to night.

Dr. Scholl’s Time Off Retro-Inspired Sneakers

Zappos


If you haven’t heard the name Dr. Scholl’s in some time, you’re not alone. The brand known for its tech-savvy and custom-fit shoe inserts has gone a step farther by creating cushioned sneakers designed around comfort. Unlike the orthopedic shoes of decades past, these look to modern trends — and eco-friendly materials — for a silhouette that you’d never guess came from Dr. Scholl’s. 

Here, the insoles are designed with both odor and moisture control, and the water-resistant faux leather fabric is crafted from recycled plastic bottles — plus, it has durable outsoles that offer support and traction. Great for city strolling and sightseeing, this pair looks as fashionable as some of the trendy designer brands on the market, yet it offers that unbeatable all-day comfort that you need in a city like Paris.

J.Crew Emilie Striped Sweater Vest

J.Crew


Exuding Coco Chanel vibes, this soft sweater vest is a versatile take on J.Crew’s classic V-neck. Machine-washable and 100 percent cotton, this piece is a great addition to a wardrobe since you can layer or wear it solo. Accentuate the polished gold buttons with chunky gold bangles and a matching buckled leather belt and you’ll be ready for a trip to the Riviera. As spring kicks off and the weather is still on the chilly side, I plan to pair it with high-waisted, wide-leg jeans, a white boyfriend blazer, and black Chelsea ankle boots. The finishing touch? Red lipstick, of course.

Gap Linen Cropped White Shirt

GAP


It took me years to get on board with linen, but last year while in Ibiza, I stocked up on a few staple pieces that have been my go-tos while traveling. The one item that I’ve been looking for is a white button-down that’s breezy without being too baggy. When I came across this cropped linen shirt from Gap — a brand that I’ve long been a fan of for basics — I was sold. 

Lightweight and breathable, this tailored top with its oversized front pockets and pointed collar is structured without being stuffy. Whether you wear it with straight-leg denim pants, wide-leg linen trousers, or a pair of patterned shorts, this simple white top goes a long way in a wardrobe. Transitioning with the seasons, it can double as a cover-up over a bikini on the beach in summer — which you’ll catch me doing when I’m down in Monaco for the Grand Prix or island hopping in Greece in May. 

Madewell ’90s Creased High Waist Straight-Leg Jeans

Madewell


The ’90s comeback has trickled into Paris fashion (you wouldn’t believe the number of ribbed spaghetti strap tank tops I saw at the Buttes-Chaumont Park last summer!), but as someone who tends to steer clear of trends in favor of more timeless options, these Madewell jeans are the perfect compromise. The higher back rise is a flattering fit for curvier girls like myself, while the high waist helps hold everything in, and the deep creases down the sides add a subtle design touch that elongates your legs even if you’re on the shorter side.

“If you are looking for straight-leg jeans to replace your skinny jeans, this is it,” raved one shopper. I can already see these becoming my daily staples with a tucked-in tee, a more form-fitting crop top, or a bodysuit. The straight-leg cut also makes these jeans versatile enough to pair with nearly any type of shoe, from chunky mules and penny loafers to leather sandals or heeled clogs.

Veja V-10 Colorblock Sneakers

Madewell


Don’t get sticker shock looking at the price. Sure, these sneakers are on the higher side, but the colorblock leather low-tops are designed to get comfier with every wear — and they will last as long as some of your other much-loved leather loafers and flats. According to one shopper, “Once they were broken in, it was smooth sailing. I haven’t taken them off since. Trust me, you need them.” Other shoppers have declared them the “best sneakers I have ever purchased.”

Nearly every person I know in the city has a pair from the Paris-based brand, but this one (available only at Madewell) is a celebration style in honor of its 10th anniversary — and the white sun peach colorblock couldn’t be more fitting for springtime in the French capital.

Free People Kelsi Dagger Totally Groovy Clogs

Free People


Retro platforms are having a major moment in Paris and I couldn’t be happier. A welcome departure from wedges and block heels, these round-toe wooden clogs still have a chunky heel that can tackle Paris’ cobblestone streets without getting ruined (or being uncomfortable). The structured silhouette with its thick adjustable buckle ankle straps and wide leather uppers give your feet the support they need in a city designed for walking, yet they still look elegant and can dress up a pair of jeans or midi skirt. 

Even better, you can sport them everywhere from the capital, to the French countryside, or along the coast. If I’m packing light and only have space for one set of shoes in my carry-on (in addition to ankle boots or sneakers that I would be wearing on a plane or train), these are the ones that I’ll be bringing this spring.

Zilcremo Distressed Denim Shirtdress

Amazon


One of the easiest looks to pack for a trip to Paris, a denim mini shirtdress is a classic staple that you can keep reinventing with accessories and shoes. With more than 4,000 perfect ratings (and 400-plus orders in the past month alone, according to Amazon), you know that this version from Zilcremo is a winner — and since it’s only $44, you can even stock up on one of the other dozen-plus shades. “I can’t get over how cute this is,” one shopper was happy to report. “I wore it with a pair of short western boots and received so many compliments.”

Cowgirl-style boots are one option for footwear (I just got a suede pair from AllSaints that I’m loving), but more casual white sneakers are often what you’ll see Parisians sporting. I’d order the dress in a size up for a looser fit that you can cinch with a chain belt or wear over leather pants or leggings. The sleeve tassels give it a relaxed, vintage feel, making it a great daytime option for an outdoor music festival like Glastonbury or one of the many jazz events taking place around France in spring and summer.

Rouje Short-Sleeve Buttoned Marin Midi Dress

Rouje


French influencer Jeanne Damas is the founder of Parisian brand Rouje, which is about as “French girl cool” as you can get. If you compiled Paris street style into a seasonal capsule collection, this would be it. The vintage-inspired looks are feminine and flirty, bearing the tagline: “Created by women for women.” When a friend of mine launched a business in the city, she bought nearly a whole season’s worth of pieces to celebrate — and continues to wear the French staples on repeat. 

One style that I’m eyeing this spring is this floral short-sleeve buttoned midi dress. The cherry red shade is sure to turn heads this season — especially when paired with a Chanel red lipstick — and the lightweight material is easy to layer with over-the-knee boots and a leather jacket. Throw on a cropped knit sweater or cardigan and it takes on an entirely new look. Dress it up with woven sandal heels or keep it casual with white tennis shoes and a denim jacket for a style that will feel right at home during an afternoon of gallery-hopping and shopping in Le Marais.

Madewell Essential Mini Bucket Tote

Nordstrom


One of the first things that caught my eye when I came across this mini bucket bag was the raving reviews. “It holds more than I thought,” one shopper wrote, followed by another reviewer who said, “It’s a very cute bag with plenty of room.” While I love the shape of a bucket bag, especially one with a structured silhouette like this leather option from Madewell, the size can often be deceiving. Part of Madewell’s new leather bag collection, this purse snaps shut with a magnetic closure and has an interior pocket, offering more than enough space to hold essentials (thus the name!) like your phone, keys, and wallet, plus other daily must-haves like sunglasses and hand sanitizer. 

The shoulder strap can be adjusted so you can wear it crossbody, a huge plus if you’re cycling around the city or taking the metro. And the flat base allows it to stand on its own if you’re placing it on a table or chair while having lunch — making it look just as expensive as its pricier Parisian counterparts.

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