How to Dress in the South of France

How to Dress South of France

Ahh, the South of France: beachside cafes, Mediterranean waters, and a sense of style that seems so effortless it’s almost a crime.  If you spend enough time watching French women, or men for that matter, they appear to have just stepped right out of a fashion magazine.  The following are a few style essentials that make it easy to create that chic-in-the-South look.

1. The Cardigan

The French love their layers, and the cardigan is a perfect example of how one piece of clothing can help shape several outfits.  Warm enough to be placed under coats in the winter and cool enough to be tied around the shoulders in the spring, this light affair is also a perfect travel companion.

Stuff one in your oversized tote and you’ve got an emergency layer when your café hours spill into aperitif time.

2. The Collared-Shirt

It’s easy to be chic in a well-tailored, collared-shirt and that’s probably why you’ll spot plenty of folks wearing them seaside, at cafes, or even out to dinner.  They’re easily paired with jeans, khakis, and/or shorts, and also perfect to wear under the ever-popular French cardigan.

3. Leggings

Have leggings, will travel (& in a great deal of comfort).  These knee and full-length wonders are made for long, leisurely afternoons in the South. Throw on a pair, add an oversized T-shirt and some Tropezienne sandals, and you’re set for a day at the beach or crawling through your favorite antiques market.  Also work well under dresses & skirts during the cooler months.

4. The Scarf / Foulard

Ah, the French scarf.  In the cooler months, it takes on a fuller aspect – wrapped snuggly under trench coats or thrown casually around sweaters. In warmer times, the foulard (a lighter, thinner version) is tied artfully around necks or paired with everything from T-shirts to summer dresses.

The famous French scarf is famous for a reason – it’s worn everywhere.
5. Tuniques

Light, stylish, and just the thing to accompany those fab leggings, tuniques are also very simple to accessorize with a pair of oversized earring or a chunky, leather belt.  Made of cotton or similar “sheer” fabric, they also make terrific cover-ups for those long days at the beach.

6. Ballet Flats / Sandals

While it can be a wonderful idea to sport a pair of sleek heels when pursuing the boutiques of St. Tropez or cruising the streets of Aix-en-Provence, it’s also perfectly acceptable to pair ballet flat or sandals with your relaxed, southern style.

7. Sunglasses

It goes without saying that the South of France is a sunny place.  Even when temperatures dip into single digits, sunglasses are the essential accessory for any season.  There are no obvious rules for your choice of shades. Although, sunglasses that are large, chunky, & baring the label of a certain designer named Coco will certainly serve you well.  Alternatively, Ray-bans are also a perennial favorite & sure to get you a few extra Southern-style points with the younger crowd

*If you’ve forgotten to stuff any of these essentials in your suitcase, no worries, many affordable versions can be found at local markets or boutiques around the south.

13 comments on “How to Dress in the South of France

    • Thanks so much Marianne, I had a lot of fun putting this post together. Not to mention that I’ve just switched to the S of France “fall wardrobe”…scarves, scarves, and more scarves :) bon dimanche!

  1. I just subscribed to your blog and loved this post about what to wear. I have a question for you — what do women “of a certain age” wear in April in Provence? We are traveling in April 2013 with a group of Americans celebrating our 60th birthdays and I question whether women of our age wear tunics and leggings…

    • Hi there and thanks for subscribing! Well, to be honest, you’d be surprised what ladies ‘of a certain age’ wear down here. Actually, the dress is very ‘young’ so I say you can definitely wear what you like! If you are coming in April, it won’t be too hot yet, so I would recommend to bring things you feel comfortable in like cotton trousers and some comfortable sandals for walking. Tennis shoes are okay here too…it’s all very casual in the end! We just returned from Aix en Provence where there were A LOT of tourists…almost everyone had on what they would wear at home, no problems! If you want to look more like the French ladies though, I would opt for the above tips :)

  2. Hello there and glad that you found this post helpful. Lucky you to spend a week in Provence in September…. it’s quite the best time of year. Fantastic weather and you’ll beat the tourist crowds. If you have any questions I can help with please let me know & bon voyage! Tuula

  3. Love the dress lesson!!!

    Prior to departing for Paris and the South of France, some of my American friends told me to take jewelry to wear–even at the beach. So, I found jewelry for every outfit and lugged it through the airport and metro (ugh…the jewelry was quite heavy.) BIG MISTAKE!
    In my four days of Bistro-sitting-sipping-people-watching in Paris, I did not see one woman with jewelry–Not One.
    As we moved to the South, I presumed I’d see lots of bling in St. Tropez–Not So. Well, I did see lots of bling, but only in boutiques. None of the French women wore jewelry!
    I thought about donating (leaving) my weighted faux bling to my hostess, as I didn’t want to lug it home. Unfortunately, she was not interested in my jewelry as she had no use for it. I brought it all back to the States and now, I have nowhere to wear it!!! Final word of advice: Leave your jewels at home and stock up on Lavendar Honey!!!
    Au revoir!!

  4. I am traveling to Paris and the south of France in August. I know it will be very hot during that time. Are walking shorts and sandals appropriate or do I need to dress up more? Are Athleta type athletic dress and shirt acceptable? I know we will be walking a lot so I need to be comfortable but I don’t want to look out of place either.

    • Hello Robyn,

      Yes, walking shorts and sandals are completely okay… you’ll find that everyone is really casual at that time of year because, well, it’s too hot not to be! An athletic dress should be fine too… just remember to think: cotton, cotton, cotton. It does get very hot and you’ll want to be in as light of fabric as possible. Hope that is helpful and bon voyage!

  5. Hi! I just stumbled upon your site/blog and love it! Hubby and I will be in Nice/Cannes/etc. for over two weeks the last half of October. I plan on bringing all the items mentioned in your “how to dress” article (that’s how I always pack), but I am curious about what the weather will be like then, and what to wear on my feet!!! Will locals still be wearing sandals, or does it become “boot weather” because the temperatures have dropped?? I know when I lived in Florida we took advantage of “cool” weather to bring out the fun fall/winter woolies and boots!! Thanks so much for any help you can give me!

    • Well, for October in Provence it should be a bit cooler but still fairly warm – hard to say if it will be boot weather or not, but most likely yes. I wear boots in the fall and so does everyone else.

      It can be quite warm still, so yes, bring a pair of lighter shoes too. Most people have stopped wearing sandals at this point, so flats are fine – lots of women wear ballet flats and other “slip on” shoes. I wear loafers to work, but that’s just me!

      A light jacket should be fine and pack a few light scarves. Jeans are great too, everyone wears them and easy to pair with some cotton shirts – bring a few longer sleeved shirts as well for the evening. People do dress up sometimes for dinner but generally folks are all pretty casual in the south of France!

      Hope that is helpful and bon voyage!

  6. Planning our trip to South of France. We have the weekend to play before heading to Avignon for a 5-day work congress. Where would you recommend? We are flying direct into Nice on Sept 5th. I was thinking of The Carlton in Cannes? Also, while my husband works in Avignon…what excursions would you say are not to be missed…I will be on my own. Thanks so much (Would you also use the above fashion info for September?)

  7. Hi Denise, sounds like a fantastic trip… yes, the Carlton in Cannes would be great – you could also make a quick stop-over at Antibes… the center of town is very pretty with lots of good restaurants & a lively, international atmosphere. For Avignon, I would say to hit all of the principle sights – especially the Palais de Papes (you can get a self-guided audio tour there and do the whole thing yourself). Number 75 restuarant is also an excellent place to eat, great setting. Other than that, if you have a car, make sure to go to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – gorgeous (very chic) Provençal village not-to-be-missed!

    Of course there is much more to see in the area, depending on how much time you have!

    (Also, I could spend at least half a day at the big, indoor market in Avignon – Les Halles)

    And the same fashion info applies for September… but it will definitely be summer-like in the beginning of September. Here the link to “summer-dressing” :

    Have wonderful trip! Tuula

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