(Okay, no, I don’t exactly suggest a béret).
Now I cannot say I am an expert, or perfect at blending in while in France, but I do have a lot of experience from living there for long stretches and dating a french for a couple of years. These are not meant to be hard facts, but simply observations and things I have learned from interactions in France. Of course there will be exceptions, but I do happen to remember what I was wearing anytime someone asked me for directions, then was shocked I wasn’t french!
Clothing: Even I can spot most Americans while in France. The french have an easier way about their outfits, even if they are elaborate. Part of it is how they wear their clothes with their own personality. I would say it is true in general that french people dress more in basic staple pieces and opt for more simple palettes. However, I have seen many of the younger generation wear more trendy, almost American styles. Many younger french teenagers are holding Zara, H&M, and similar stores bags on both hands. It’s a bit of a disappointment honestly when fast fashion has grown so much in the country with the best historic sense of a style (in my opinion). Also know that Parisian clothing isn’t necessarily the same as the rest of France. The north, south, and Paris are completely different subcultures inside France. In Paris I’d say roll out your best chic look and complacent glare. In the south, dressing simple and fresh is a lot more appropriate. Overall, I would say dress in basics with elegant accessories (gold earrings, a beautiful bag, a dainty necklace) anything with poor fabrics, tacky designs, brand names, and cheap silhouettes isn’t so becoming there. Also, men wear their shorts a bit shorter and many carry leather bags with them wherever they go. It’s also worth mentioning I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pair of flip flops in France.
Accessories: What I have observed are minimal and feminine pieces. A simple necklace, a quality purse, a leather notebook. I don’t see a lot of dazzling pieces in the north or south on the average day.
Hair: None of my french friends, or any girls I’ve met or seen style their hair. Even for parties their hair is relaxed and natural. I think curling irons, hairspray, or over styled locks is a giveaway that they probably are not from France.
Makeup: Most girls seem to wear a natural look. Maybe they will wear eyeliner and mascara, but a full face of makeup or contouring is usually a bit rare in France from what I have experienced. I wouldn’t bother packing more than one eyeshadow kit and maybe a red lipstick, every time I bring more I feel silly wearing it. Even to parties none of the girls had made up faces, so I learned to stay simple and relaxed when I wanted (frees up my schedule!).
Attitude: I love the attitude of french women. At parties I never observed them looking around comparing themselves to other girls or seeming to wonder what people were thinking. They seemed to be grounded and confident in themselves. Naturally, there will be women who differ from this, but overall I felt french women had a sense of inner dependence I would love to acquire. I really believe they focus more on charm than obtaining perfect features. When they believe in their own charm, everyone else does too. I think every woman knows she can be beautiful in her own way and stage of life there, at least a little more than other Western countries. Oh, and please oh please don't talk too loud, or exaggerate in France if you're trying to blend in i.e.: This meal is the best. It is soo delicious. I adore your jacket. They normally don't do that, trust me. If a meal is fabulous my boyfriend and his family say, "It's okay, but did it really have enough salt?" I simply don't understand it.
When in doubt a sexy white T-shirt, well fitted black pants, and a pair of sunglasses always has people asking me for the directions!