This was our second trip to France. We visited with a tour group in 2001, this time we made all our arrangements ourselves. The first trip was just a couple months after 9/11. We have traveled to other European countries between these two visits and have found each country is different in its own way, but they all have similarities. They are all different from the US, but in some ways are similar, too. One thing is that no matter what country we were in, people are willing to help give information if asked. People usually were willing to at least try to understand our questions, and most of them were very patient.
On our first trip to Paris, almost everyone spoke English. This time, many fewer people spoke English with the exception of hotels and restaurants in Paris. In Bordeaux, there was very little English spoken, but we managed to get around and people were still pleasant to us. We did remember to always say "bonjour" and "merci" which I am sure helped.
Black is the color to wear in France. I arrived with a predominately black travel wardrobe, but part of my reasoning was that after 10 days, the dirt was less likely to show and it is an easy color to coordinate. I estimate that seventy percent of the women I observed had some black on and many were black head to toe. Our tour guides at the vineyards in Bordeaux were all dressed in black with the exception of the American guide. Checking out the Satorialist and other French fashion sites contradict this, but the masses were wearing a lot of black during our visit. Everyone seemed to own a black winter coat.
In spite of the fashion magazines, stilettos are not the norm. Low heels and flats were much more common. Shoes were also usually black, and lots of boots were worn. People in France walk a lot, so lower heels make much more sense anyway. I only can remember seeing one woman wearing very high heels, and she was with a conference at the hotel so if she was just going from room to room, and meeting to meeting, then the heels probably were not uncomfortable. I saw very few platform shoes. They must be on their way out.
More than half the women wore a scarf. All styles and colors were acceptable. On my first visit to Paris, I estimate that 25% of the women were wearing scarves. This time women without a scarf of some type around their neck were in the minority. The longer, colorful wool or pashmina scarf tied in a European loop like on the right was the most common way to wear one. I had brought five scarves to wear and always had one on. I felt like I belonged! but I also wear lots of scarves when I'm home.
Lots of jeans. On our first visit I could count the number of pairs of jeans I saw on one hand. This time there were everywhere. Skinny dark denim jeans was the norm. No faded, ripped or baggy jeans anywhere. Jeans are a wardrobe staple, but they must look reasonably new, not worn out. Also, jeans were usually highrise.
If you wore a skirt, you also wore black tights. I did not see any bare legs or even flesh colored stockings. This may had been influenced by the weather since the temperature was usually in the mid 50's while we were there.
The big purse is popular over in France, too. Lots of big purses with lots of hardware. The purse always looked in proportion to the woman carrying it rather than a purse with a woman attached. Purses were one items that was frequently a color and not black.
From what I saw and if France is the leader in what's ahead in fashion, these trends have either already hit the US or will be easy to adapt (except maybe skinny jeans).