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Apr 26, 2009 04:47 PM

Dressing in Paris [Moved from France board]

We will be staying at the Park Hyatt in Paris. I have been reading all the posts I can find and I have the Pudlo Paris. Hopefully, that will get us to some interesting places to eat. However, I don't recall seeing anything about the dress in Paris and the restaurants. If someone could give me direction in that area I would appreciate it.

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  1. Everything is relative. Parisians tend to dress well and have smart casual off to a tee. People will dress up to go to a top restaurant, that doesn't mean a suit and tie but will usually involve a jacket or similar. For a mid priced restaurant men will usually wear shirt and trousers, maybe smart jeans in a casual place (but usually with a shirt). It is best to avoid sneakers/runners in anywhere that is good - OK on cafes (in fact avoid all sportswear). Generally only tourists wear shorts in Paris, and never in a restaurant.

    The centre of Paris is quite a wealthy area, with lots of residents living in the actual city. So expect locals residents to dress as the wealthy do throughout the world.

    1. As a point of reference, I went to "L'Atelier Joel Robuchon" last September in a clean pair of jeans, nice shoes, shirt and a nice jacket (veston). The fun thing is that I went to the restaurant at lunch time to make my reservation dressed in "tourist" attire, t-shirt, bermudas, and my trsuted birkenstock sandals, and got a weird look from the staff!

      Me think I could go to at least 90% of all restaurants in Paris dressed in the same manners. and 99% of them by switching from a jean to a dressed pair of pants.

      1. I think 'smart casual' is a good guideline. My husband typically wore jeans, a blazer, and semi-dress shoes and was dressed fine for day, for bistros, etc. I wore things like casual skirts, jeans with blazers, and slim black pants, and always felt appropriate. You certainly do not need to "dress up" for most places, but I would avoid dressing down - shorts, athletic wear, etc. is probably not going to fit the bill.

        If I were going to a place like La Table de Joel Robuchon, or any starred resto, I would probably avoid jeans. But, that is my policy for any nice restaurant anywhere in the world.

        19 Replies
        1. re: shopwinedinefine

          I would love to read answers to this question on a french food blog. Of course, you can walk into any restaurant in Paris wearing jeans: I have seen such dress in ADPA as well as L'Ambrosie. However, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I believe that the appropriate dress in a three star restaurant in Paris is at very least a Jacket and Tie. I think you show respect for the chef and your fellow diners if you are dressed in such a fashion. I can tell you that the older Belgian couple was horrified watching two man eating in L'ambrosie in jeans and sneakers. I am sure the staff wasn't too happy with them either.

          1. re: sethd

            Sethd - you make a very, very good point: "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". You won't have a bad experience if you don't dress-up, but the chances are you will have a far better experience if you do.

            Paris has a reputation for serving staff with attitude, but a lot of visitors don't understand how vital good manners are in French society. In effect you reap what you sow. Showing respect by dressing well is seen as good manners, my guess is that as a result the experience will be far better for doing so.

            1. re: sethd

              As PhilD first said, only sportwear is out of line. French fashion is such that jeans can be very sophisticated outfits and do not necessarily mean casual, far from it. Also those black sneakers are not considered sportwear anymore, assuming of course they're clean and shiny. They even became part of the normal attire in many serious work situations.

              Sense of fashion and what respect means is very different in France and in the US. Dress code is a codified reality in the US, it is a feeling in France. It is a powerful formal and independent constraint in the US, part of a general attitude in France. With that in mind, I'm with PhilD -- manners are vital in French society. But they are to be understood as general attitude and culture, not a series of must and must nots (to a point).

              Formal wear has become uncomfortable in many situations. Only lawyers and financiers still wear ties. Accordingly, the standards changed for what showing respect means. I don't have a nice suit anymore and rarely wear ties. But I have the utmost respect for restaurants and they feel it when they don't know it.

              All that said, most palace places still have a dress code in the sense that you'll need a jacket and you can't take it off (when you're a man, that is). The other day I wanted to improvise a lunch at Le Cinq and had no jacket so I called them in advance and they said "no problem". When I arrived, they welcomed me "Ah, Mr. Souphie, you forgot your jacket last time!" and they had one exactly my size.

              As far as I know, only Taillevent still requires a tie.

              How is that for a French food blogger response?

              1. re: souphie

                Everything Souphie said is spot on. FYI We went to Taillevent last year and my father wore a sports jacket and no tie. No one batted an eye and he wasn't the only one in the restaurant not wearing a tie.

                1. re: spacesasha

                  as I said, standards are evolving. And in anycase, those who require you to wear a tie or jacket will provide you one if needed. Not necessarily a good-looking one, though...

                  1. re: souphie

                    Thank you souphie. I feel more comfortable being more formally dressed when I eat in Paris; especially as a single American diner with almost no French to my credit.

                    1. re: sethd

                      That is the real rule -- be comfortable.

                      1. re: souphie

                        Ate at Guy Savoys thursday for lunch. Sport coat and tie. All french speaking diners had ties. Brits had ties. Only the couple american fellows had jeans and golf shirts. To me very little respect was shown by my fellow americans.(typical). I agree you have to be comfortable but also think of the people serving you and your fellow dinners. smart jeans and a nice shirt(jacket or not) seem to be very common in most of Paris. My father always said error on being alittle over dressed then under.

                        1. re: kevin25

                          Bravo Kevin25. I agree with you 100percent!!!

                          1. re: kevin25

                            Agreed! When my fiance and I are in Paris (he is a born Parisienne, now a US Citizen), we LIKE to dress up when we go out to dine. Our lives here are very casual--so it is only fitting that we dress it up a notch in Paris. It is respectful and the right thing to do. I like to compare it to travel on the airlines. I dress when I travel--and by doing so I have been upgraded many times. In addition, staff is more respectful if you show some respect.

                          2. re: souphie

                            I agree with Kevin and Seth. Souphie, being comfortable is not the real rule. Reaching out and trying new ways and things is the real rule. Were you comfortable when you had your first oyster, or artichoke or cognac?

                            1. re: beaulieu

                              Er... yes. I don't think I agree with that. Fine dining needs be a fine experience. As I wrote earlier, I do think that respect is important, I don't think it is, in France, shown through simple formal codes like wearing a tie or not. Of course it's out of place to be casual for dinner in a three stars. That does not meet you need to dress like it's Citi's board meeting.

                              1. re: souphie

                                having watched my husband literally drip sweat from his head during our dinner at a sweltering Pierre Gagnaire several years ago, I have promised him I will not reserve anywhere that requires a jacket. Further, i don't want to go somewhere that doesn't exactly REQUIRE a jacket, but where most male diners will wear one.

                                Can you give me some idea of what sort of restuarant i should look for to get fantastic food, but in an atmosphere where slacks and a dress shirt will be the norm?

                                1. re: danna

                                  Few "require" a jacket, and these will generally be three stars. That leaves lots of choice.

                                  I generally wear a jacket at a one star or above, as it makes me feel comfortable, because I fit in with the local diners and it shows respect to the restaurant. If it is hot I wear a linen jacket, and/or take it off. I am puzzeled why didn't your husband remove his?

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    I'm under the impression (as was he) that when a restaurant requires a jacket, they require it to be worn. I have actually seen a gentleman get scolded in a local private club as he was slinking his jacket off while seated at the table.

                                    So...avoid anything with a star and we're good (as a general rule)? I don't want to just slide under the rules...i want him to be comfortable.

                                    We'll be in Paris the Sat night before the final stage of Le Tour...i imagine everything will be packed and I need to pick someting and get a reservation soon?

                                    1. re: danna

                                      I think you misunderstood what I said. Only the three stars will have "rules", others don't have rules, he should wear what he feels comfortable in i.e. comfortable physically as well as comfortable sartorially.

                                      1. re: danna

                                        So you are reserving for 25 July. It easily could be extremely humid and warm and not cool off in the evening. When I am in Paris in late July, I usually am reserving for dinner outside if it's possible, but you may want to add in an unusual criterion- places that have good air conditioning (climatisation).

                                    2. re: danna

                                      Does your husband really sweat that much? PG is air conditioned and I can't imagine it being "sweltering"... and I sweat a lot! I must admit that we were in the private room in the back and didn't have a jacket on.

                                      Atmosphere at L'Atelier is very relaxed. I wore a black jacket, black polo and a pair of jeans and I was fine. Le Cinq would want to see a jacket and no jeans, but a number of people didn't put on a tie. I actually took my tie off in the middle of dinner.

                                      1. re: Peech

                                        I supposed HAVING ac and turning it on are two different concepts ;-) I myself was wearing a sleeveless silk sheath dress and even so was uncomfortably warm. It was a watershed moment for me in terms of taking pity on the (admittedly hot natured) husband.

                                        In PG's defense, it was an unseasonably hot weekend in May, I suppose they just hadn't turned it on yet.

                  2. My regular trips to Paris involve most meals eaten with family. But, I am all over town, shopping at markets and slipping in an occasional lunch out. I am never eating at Michelin starred spots, instead I focus on local bistros. But as a female, I make sure that I have two tailored dresses, one of which is always black. My husband brings one pair of dress pants, a tie and at least one suit coat.

                    This is the dress code for family meals, especially when everyone gathers for Sunday dinner. With the new luggage charges, we will probably drop this to one dress and one suit coat. This is far more than I do here in the States where I am somewhat frumpy.

                    And if you enjoy shopping, leave a little room in your bag and buy something in Paris that fits right in.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: smtucker

                      Smtucker, I have often attended family meals in Paris and elsewhere in France, and I haven't found the code quite as strict as you say. Young people of both sexes often wear jeans at bistros. Since I'm middle-aged, I feel better dressed wearing a skirt and nice top, but not necessarily a tailored dress (I don't exactly understand what you mean by that, except sort of businessy, not in pastel or loud colours, and not frilly). I think this depends on the milieu you are part of, as everywhere. has some nice pictorials.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        Must just be my family then! Lucky me! As to tailored, that means not my hippy-dippy dresses that I love here in the States.

                    2. In Paris- dress to express who you are... I live demi-demi L.A./Paris. In L.A. I rarely think about what I wear in LA and it often shows. Here, you realize that if you do not think about it shows something about yourself - that you.... do not respect yourself/ have not had sex in a year and may never again/are bored with your life/depressed/or just are boring... or perhaps all of the above! Do not feel intimidated in having to dress luxe- but avoid boring.... think just gap -t-shirt, jeans - very plain.... it is the accessories that will show so pack lightly but bring lots of scarves, jewelry (necklace, bracelets, earrings) that work together. And leave the white sneakers at home. The French work very hard to be the best- food, ambiance.... it is not a weird look-- it is one of disbelief that you would walk out like that, frustration that they work so hard and you show up in something boring or ugly and will ruin their place. So go, and have fun playing "dress-up" like you did perhaps when you were a little girl..

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: haveforkwilltravel

                        I was reading about David Liebovitz's new book "The Sweet Life in Paris". He puts on a freshly laundered and pressed shirt to take out the garbage. Paris IS a stylish city...!

                        1. re: PhilD

                          @PhilD I'm reading that right now, it made me go out and buy my boyfriend some nicer shirts! Now to convince him that something other than jeans should be brought along as well...

                          1. re: faycat

                            We're just starting planning a family trip to Paris for December and, of course, I'm chomping at the bit and have started reading chowhound posts. Some of our meals will be nicer restuarants, just my husband and me, and this thread has been very useful. Let me add a twist. Many of our meals will be much more casual, with our 8 year old. We'll likely be staying in the Marais and I assume we will find casual, family friendly, hey it's Tuesday night and I don't feel like cooking let's go grab dinner sorts of places. Will we be ok in places like that in jeans, casual sweater, sneakers or Merrells?

                            And, in the interest of keeping my hates to dress up husband as happy as possible and also saving suitcase space, are there reasonably nice places where it wouldn't be rude or disrespectful if he wore a cashmere sweater over a dress shirt, rather than a jacket? Or does he just need to suck it up for 1 or 2 nights? Can I assume black wool dress pants and a dressy blouse or sweater are ok for me at nice restuarants or do I really need a dress if I want to be appropriate at a 1 or 2 star place?

                            1. re: marcia2

                              Black wool pants, with a dressy blouse and nice jacket will be fine for you; just wear shoes and accessories that dress the outfit up.

                              For your husband, bring the jacket. He won't regret it.

                              As to casual meals, the jeans and casual sweaters are fine, but wear something other than sneakers. They scream tourist.

                              And, as a parent who took our son to Paris when he was 8 (and other European cities through out his school age years), bring along some "nicer" clothes for your son -- collared dress shirts, Docker/ khaki pants, a pair of loafers (or at least black sneakers), and maybe even a navy blazer. Even if you don't take him anywhere terribly fancy, I assure you that you will be treated so much nicer if your son is spiffed up. And, it gives you flexibility on where to dine en famille.

                              1. re: masha

                                Although, I am one who always dresses more rather than less formally when in Europe, I have this great memory of a father and his young son (about 8 years old) eating last May at Louis XV. The young gentleman was dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. He was treated like a valued guest by the restaurant. What fun I had watching them dine!!

                                1. re: masha

                                  Perfect advice, thanks. I'm thinking about the weather in Paris in December and footwear, wanting something practical for walking around, yet appropriate for restaurants. How would Merrells be for my son and husband in the casual restaurants? Oh, for that matter, me too? I have terrible feet and just cannot walk around for any serious amount of time in thin soled shoes. Merrells are warm, provide support and, at least in my mind, are a tiny step up from sneakers while still, of course, being casual.

                                  1. re: marcia2

                                    I'd never heard of Merrells so I just googled them. They look far too much like athletic shoes in my mind for dinner in Paris. When we were there last fall (granted still October), I wore a pair of black nylon, slip-on shoes that had a one inch stack heel (don't know the brand, but I'd call them trouser shoes, as they look a bit weird with a skirt) that are waterproof and have a treaded sole, with trouser socks underneath, when the weather was poor.

                                    1. re: marcia2

                                      I'm certainly no Paris expert, but I thought I'd chime in that not all Merrills look like athletic shoes. i have a pair that look like black Mary Janes, and I wore them all over New York last year with a very nice embroidered silk skirt and a black T. I thought it was the perfect mix of luxe and casual for daytime, and my feet were happy. I'm planning to take the same thing for day on my trip to France this summer.

                                      Otherwise, I've been known to carry a fairly large purse when I'm in a big city so I can whip out a pair of dressy shos at the last moment before heading into a restaurant.

                                      1. re: danna

                                        Danna, those are fine to wear in almost any restaurant in Paris.

                                        1. re: lagatta

                                          I'm not trying to argue with people, just surprised that black sneakers (a look I personally hate, but I'm not a French waiter, so who cares?) would be ok, but these wouldn't cut it for a man or a child.

                                          Interestingly, while I think of that style as the basic Merrell shoe, it's not a style they sell in France, based on their French website.

                                          So what does the appropriate French tourist, male or female (I assume there are French tourists in Paris) wear to walk around all day comfortably yet not get sneered at when stopping in for a casual lunch or dinner?

                                          1. re: marcia2

                                            Are you old enough to remember the term "sensible shoes?"

                                            The French truly don't wear sneakers except in the gym.

                                            1. re: marcia2

                                              no one said anything about black sneakers (the horror!)

                                              The link you provided doesn't go to a specific shoe for me, so this one may not for you either, but I'll try:

                                              if you can see that, and you still think it's innappopriate for a nice, but not overally formal, restaurant, do let me know.

                                              1. re: marcia2

                                                I am going to gently disagree with some of the other posters. And perhaps there is no disagreement at all, maybe confusion between the different situations described in the various posts.

                                                For Marcia2's question- for Paris in December (cold, often wet, sometimes snow) and going to casual restaurants- for her husband and son, I think Merrell's Jungle Moc style shoes are fine. More refined, but similar French brand shoes are Mephistos,

                                                For women, I find it a bit more of a challenge. I am a dress and skirt person, rather than a pants person, and would rather err on being overdressed, rather than underdressed.

                                                I have comfortable knee high boots I wear on the plane, and ankle boots I pack. In bad weather, I find boots, heavy tights, a dress and overcoat, and a scarf, looks and works better in the rain than pants and low shoes that can get splashed and soggy. Some of my boots are similar to these:

                                                In warmer weather, there are stylish and comfortable sandals that I wear to walk around, and like Danna, I usually stash a pair of delicate nicer shoes in my bag if I am not going to be able to change before I go for a nicer meal.

                                                Souphie made the point earlier, it's difficult to give exact rules. Sometimes, the description of what a person is wearing sounds casual, but the overall impression is different (nicer) when things are put together well, fit well, accessorized carefully.

                                                1. re: souvenir

                                                  You've nailed it perfectly. Jungle mocs for the guys at casual places, that's what I was getting at. Nicer shoes for nicer places. I was thinking the mocs for the casual place we stop for a croque monsieur for lunch, not a starred dinner.

                                                  Susancinsf (post below, I think) you'd be surprised how warm the merrells are. I live in NY and, unless there's actual snow on the ground requiring snowboots to keep me dry, they're what I wear around all winter with jeans. It's got to be COLD before I need socks. And once the weather hits 50 or so, they're too warm. Around here, they're like a small step up in formality from sneakers.

                                                2. re: marcia2

                                                  Marcia - wear what you feel comfortable in when touring the city. There are plenty of casual dining laces for lunch that will not bat an eye if you are dressed as a tourist, that is what a lot of people are.

                                                  But if you want to go out for a smart lunch, or head out to a good restaurant for dinner (anything starrred) it is wise to dress up a bit. If you look like a tourist with sneakers etc you are likely to be treated as one: which is not always a good thing...! If it looks like you made an effort, it shows respect, with respect you probably get better service. Few places have a strict dress code, but if you dress to fit in, you will fit in, and feel more comfortable because of it.

                                                  Take comfortable shoes for the day, and something more chic for the evening, and no, you don't need a pair of Louboutin's to fit in (however it does help).

                                            2. re: marcia2

                                              personally, regardless of whether the Merrells are dressy enough or not, they look to me like they wouldn't keep my feet warm enough in cold, damp weather (such as Paris in winter). Perhaps that is just me. When I went to Paris in February I invested in a very good pair of lined leather boots, with flat heel (ie no heels) and a type of sole that gripped well, but didn't look anything athletic. They kept my feet toasty, were very comfortable for walking and looked good. For our nicest dinners, I put on pumps, but the boots went almost everywhere.

                                      2. re: PhilD

                                        But that's just him. It has nothing to do with Paris.