How to Dress in the South of France

Getting fancy in St. Tropez.

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.

Bandol boutique


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.

Scarves for sale at the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market.

Updates, January 2018:

-Tennis shoes are in style (& how!)

A big change from just a few years ago… it seems like you can find tennis shoes (known as “baskets” in French) on sale in every major store and pretty much everywhere you go.  Keep in mind that these fall into two basic categories:  1. Adidas and other running shoes (often black or white) that people pair with fashionable outfits. 2. “Glamorous” tennis shoes (I can’t think of a better word to describe them)… like Micheal Kors, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger etc… and the French version of those brands.

Of course there are cheaper versions of these “glamour-shoes” around in most shoe stores (like the shoe store Eram) and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that this trend had come to the south. I bought 2 pairs of New Balance tennis shoes and now they are my weekend favorites – ie. don’t be afraid to pack a pair, or two, of comfy walking shoes for your trip to France!

-Winter packing

I’ve had a few questions about what to pack in the late fall and winter months. Well, the truth is… Provence can get pretty cold, and in some places (even in Aix-en-Provence), really cold. You’ll need a thick jacket (a popular style here is the “puffy” down jacket – from ages 16-65, everyone wears them) and 2-3 heavy scarves. Packing a number of sweaters and / or sweatshirts is important as well. Boots are also worn a lot in the winter, long and short. But you can bring tennis shoes or closed-toed shoes as well (whichever is more comfortable). Like most things on this list, you can pick up any items you’re unsure about once you arrive. My favorite store for cheap(er) winter-gear is Camaieu.



*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.

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

  1. I just love this post – it is so spot on!


    • 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!


  2. Gotmyreservations

    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…


    • Anonymous

      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 🙂


  3. Anonymous

    Many thanks P.R.!


  4. Anonymous

    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


  5. Anecia Hero

    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!!


  6. 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!


  7. Cid Filter

    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!


  8. 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?)


  9. 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


  10. Hello, My family and I are going to France and will be in the south for several days. We had read so many things stating shorts were never worn by people in France and so were avoiding bringing them. Am I understanding you that for both men and women, a nice pair of shorts is perfectly acceptable? If so I will be adding a pair or two to my bag. .Merci Beaucoup….


    • Hello Mike,
      Yes, shorts are acceptable in the summer, mostly in towns that are near the sea. All has to do with the heat & the beach. Just not to be worn anywhere “fancy” & also as I mentioned not too short…I saw a lady the other day in IKEA with shorts so short that she looked like she’d stepped off a volleyball court in California – really stood out to say the least! Bon voyage, enjoy your trip!


  11. Hello, I am new to this blog and want to thank you for all the information posted. My husband and I are going to France for the first time in mid-end of September for two weeks. We are starting in Paris and then heading down to Provence and ending up in Nice. I am having difficulty deciding what to bring as far as clothes and shoes! Do you think walking sandals would be appropriate that time of year? If so, can you recommend a stylish, comfy sandal since we will be walking a lot? What are your thoughts on Birkenstocks? Also, as a side note can you recommend a charming bed and breakfast as a base to visit towns such as Avignon, Les Baux, St. Remy, Aix-en-Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue? Merci Beaucoup!


    • Hello Diane! Sandals are fine, I wear ones from the US, Naturalizer & Easy Spirit, it will surely still be hot in Sept! Birkenstocks aren’t really a thing here but you could still wear them, no problem. As far as B&Bs so many to choose from! We had a great stay at Mas Lou Figoulon in St. Remy, gorgeous place! Bon voyage !


  12. Nancy Dandridge

    This post was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you! I visited the south of France about 10 years ago – all the women wore darling skirts and I did not see very many jeans (on women). Has that changed? We will be visiting in the 2nd half of September (2 weeks!). Will it generally be warm?


    • Hello Nancy, thanks for your comment & yes, it will still be quite warm in September! Skirts are still a good idea, shorts are generally ok too…also dresses are the easiest way to look fashionable & stay cool! Jeans are fine, most likely you would be able to wear them in the evening. Bon voyage!


  13. We are headed to Villefranche for a month starting next Saturady thru Oct 9. I am getting ready to pack tomorrow and just wanted to confirm a few fashion questions since we will arrive in very warm weather and start transitioning I guess by later September to more fall clothes and shoes (eg. Closed toe flats rather than sandles?)?Are linen shirts and pants still being worn as much in September? Also, my husband and I plan to take advantage of the great hiking in the area and I wondered what your thoughts were on eating lunch at a cute cafe if we are still in hiking clothes and shoes? Thanks so much!


    • Hello! You might already be packed and ready to go! But you will find the the temperature in Sept is quite like the rest of summer, hot hot hot! Shorts are fine and so are light bt-shirts, etc… You will do really well in linen shirts and pants and hiking shoes / boots are just fine! Things will cool down toward Oct, so good to have some fall things packed. Have fun and bon voyage!


  14. Hi. I am planning on spending a week in Marseille over Christmas. Weather wise, what can I expect (hopefully warmer than Glasgow, where I am currently living)? I’m traveling with just a carryon so I want to be able to pack only what I will likely need.


    • Hi Ellie, I’d pack some sweaters and scarves for sure. It will be cold at that time, even if you might get some sunshine during the day, Marseille is right on the sea so gets chilly in December. That and you can wear your jacket on the plane to save space in your carry-on! Bon voyage!


  15. I like your post and even read all the comments and responses. I will go to Marseille next year in December 23 to Jan 1st. What would you recommend as chic clothing during this period. I know it’s like a year away but would want to consider this trip when I shop. Thank you.


    • Bonjour! Well, I have a kind of “winter uniform” I throw together every year – dark jeans or black jeans / slacks + a long-sleeve shirt. Then I layer with a coat (sometimes a sweater if it’s really cool out) & a scarf (thin scarf or thick one again depending on the temps). Then I can just peel off the layers as the sun comes out. Not my invention, learned from watching the French ladies!


  16. Thanks for this informative post! We are traveling from the USA to Montpellier, Marseille and Nice in late March. Are sandals a good option for this time of year/in these locales? Last year in Sicily all the city folk/locals continuously stared at my feet in sandals. Seems the closed shoe was de rigueur there. Is it at all similar in the south of France?

    Also, I am curious how the locals treat people who are not fluent in French. I took two years of French in college, but I am always hesitant to use it and mess up! Should I still try, or will it annoy people there? Will it annoy them more if I *don’t* try?



    • Hello Susan! Your trip sounds really exciting and those are all great questions. Yes, I have to agree about the sandals. I think it might be just a bit too early… and most importantly, your feet may get cold – can get chilly here in the morning!

      And your question about speaking French is spot on. I think I’ll even write a post about it because it is hard to know what to do and I think many people have the same doubts. Well, I say to definitely try! The absolute best thing you can do is start every sentence with “Bonjour” and use “si vous plait” and “Merci” as much as possible. You will have great results just using these few words! Bonjour is an absolute must when you enter a store, restaurant, etc. And of course “Au revoir” when you leave. For example, if you enter a bakery and you would like a baguette, you really only need to say, “Bonjour, une baguette si vous plait”. Politeness is really valued here, and even if you can’t speak more than that (or maybe you can!) in my opinion you will be treated just a bit better and you will certainly have a better travel experience. I hope that was helpful, have a wonderful trip!


  17. Laura from Canada

    Hello – I am staying in Nice with my 1 year old daughter for 2 weeks, and would like to purchase myself some nice clothes (nothing overly extravagant), and was wondering if you could recommend some clothes shops where I could purchase any of the above items without too much hassle. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hello Laura! Well, there are a lot of great mid-priced clothing shops in France, but my favorite would have to be Camieu. They are very reasonably-priced, very “French”, and all of my friends who have visited have loved shopping there. There are bound to be more than a few in Nice (there are 2 in our town). Here is the website to get an idea: Another favorite of mine is Promod – also found in every big city. I just checked and the shopping center (mall) in Nice called Nicetoile has a Camieu. Hope that is helpful and have a wonderful trip!


    • Thank you so much! I have seen a Camaieu store, and will definitely look into the other one you mentioned. Cheers!


  19. Sheri Schroeder

    Bonjour! I will be staying in Saint Remy with a Parisian friend who recently purchased a home there. We will be hiking, biking, touring, and dining out with her local friends. I am having a difficult time imagining the style of dress in particular for touring and for evenings out and with friends whom I have never met. What would be your “go to” outfit? What type of outerwear style will be most versatile while still being chic? I’ll bring hiking boots, tennis shoes, and ballet flats. Any other shoes needed? Thank you very much!


    • Hello Sheri, first, sorry for the late reply! Well, that sound like a few different outfits are going to be needed… For hiking and biking, I would say that whatever you normally wear for those activities would be fine, maybe justed toned up a bit with French taste in mind. Like I can see khaki pants and nice tennis shoes (stylish ones that is) working really well – paired with a t-shirt or polo shirt. For evenings out, I would think “casual-chic”. I don’t know if that sounds silly or not… but people do like to get dressed up at night but it’s not really as fancy as Paris, so I guess I would try to find a middle-ground. Pointed-toe flats would work well, and I always dress up my outfits with a scarf – just an easy thing to do and you can whip it off as needed. I hope that is helpful, sounds like an amazing trip! (ps. hiking boots are fine!)


      • Sheri Schroeder

        Merci beaucoup! I am now in Saint Remy and loving it. 🙂 Your suggestions are all great – especially the pointed toe flats and scarf. Best regards! Sheri

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Awesome Sheri, so glad the tips were helpful! Hope you have a fantastic time, easy to do in St. Remy! All the best, Tuula


  21. Hello we will be in Paris for a few days and then down to stay at la reserve du bieuleau the first week of October. Here in Texas that is the hard time to dress. Still warm but need a fall look. Question – the first week of October on the cote d’zur,have they transitioned to a fall look with boots or does it remain beach ire look, bright colors, sandals? I’m a little at a loss on which season to expect and style of dress. Your help is great. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Sally, Well, it’s safe to say that they will have transitioned to fall dress in October. The temperature has dropped here, and this week is unofficially the end of “sandals” – too cold. People are putting on light sweaters in the morning, soon scarves will come and boots. Hope that is helpful, have a great trip!


  22. hi I’ll be in Nice for a few days from 19 Sep onwards. Footwear wise, would sandals still be appropriate?


    • Hi Jamie, Things have cooled down here a lot, I think sandals might be out! I’ve put mine in storage… check the weather before you leave, but I’d bring close-toed shoes. Bon voyage!


  23. Hi there! I just found your blog and I love your tips. I will be traveling with my husband on a business trip in early/mid February to Marseilles for a week. What should I expect for weather at that time? Also any clothing tips for that area would be wonderful! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jody! Lucky you that you get to tag along 🙂 There are a lot of nice things to see & do in Marseille. I would say that it will still be cool / cold at that time. We are having unusally warmer temps for January, but not sure that that will last. It’s still certainly cold at night, so either way, I would plan to bring a jacket and some scarves. Jeans and pants are okay, and you could pack some long sleeve shirts or thin sweaters and you’ll be fine. It’s boot season, so that always works – low ones or high ones. Or you can pack another type of close-toed shoe. Tennis shoes are okay around town as well, just think about having a pair of shoes that you would be comfortable in if it rains. Hope that is helpful, bon voyage! Tuula


  24. What should we wear as a couple to a meditteranean white dress code party for a friend’s 60th at her villa in Mandelieu la Napoule? June 2018. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Evelyn, that sounds like great fun. If I were you, I would get a long cotton dress or cotton blouse / trousers combination for women and cotton slacks (pants) + a cotton dress shirt (short sleeve) for men. I am thinking of about half a dozen shops along the coast where you can find these if you can’t get it at home. There is a boutique, Blanc du Nil, that sells all white clothing (cotton & linen) – they have shops in Cassis, Bandol, Marseille, Antibes, etc etc… Bon voyage!


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