Known as the fashion capital of the world, French “haute couture,” or high fashion, is renowned for its craftsmanship and quality. Visitors to France may note that even the children are remarkably well dressed. Although clothing tastes vary widely by personal style and budget, several general guidelines apply for the kinds of clothing that French children wear.
With the globalization of culture and the rise of clothing available for purchase on the Internet and at American chains (such as Gap Kids) around the world, French children no longer dress as distinctively as they once did. In fact, many French children’s outfits may be indistinguishable from those of their American equivalents. However, children in France still wear various items (such as pea coats, or wool coats with toggle fasteners) that Americans consider more appropriate for adults or slightly too fancy for children.
Clothing popular in the United States, such as jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers, once considered extremely casual by the French, have become quite normal as everyday attire. However, French children distinguish themselves from other nationalities by the care their parents take in selecting these clothes carefully, so that even casually dressed children still look stylish. Jeans are still less common for children in France than they are in the United States, especially for girls, who often wear dresses or skirts with blouses. Instead, children may wear khakis or slacks of slightly higher quality.
Many schools in France still require their students to wear uniforms. Thus, it is very common to see groups of schoolchildren all dressed the same. These uniforms vary from very simple ensembles of a skirt and blouse or slacks and a polo shirt to the kinds of uniforms common in the United Kingdom or at private schools in the United States, including a blazer and skirt or slacks and dress shoes. Most schools, even more progressive schools without uniforms, usually have a dress code of some kind that enforces conservative dressing, forbidding shirts that are too low-cut or skirts that are too high.
Children in France have separate clothes for special occasions. French clothes can vary from dresses and slacks to elaborate outfits an American might expect to see only on an adult. Young girls are expected to wear dresses or skirts on special occasions.
The kinds of clothing that Americans might expect to see on a typical French child are very rare nowadays. For example, the beret, which was a very common style of hat worn in the early part of the 20th century, is rarely worn except by Americans who hope to be considered French! Some traditionally “French” items, however, are still popular, including a striped shirt, usually in navy and white, which is common in the north of France and has made its way into the wardrobes of French children and adults across the country.