The 5 rules for packing for a workout in Paris
Without looking like a tourist, s'il vous plaît.
The hardest part about visiting Paris isn’t nailing the accent or tracking down a deliciously affordable bottle of Bordeaux; rather, it’s figuring out what to bring with you to wear that won’t have you looking like a tourist (Clark Griswold-style). And if you’re planning on daily runs along the Seine or stopping by an infrared hot yoga class post-Pompidou, you’re posed with a real sartorial Sophie’s Choice: What the hell do you pack?
The stereotype about French dressing standards is true—at least, it was up until recently. “I would have never walked around Paris wearing sneakers and leggings in the streets before moving to New York,” says Cassandre Mugnier, whose digital agency sent her to Manhattan to open up an office stateside five years ago. When she returned home to open Reformation Pilates in 2017, she was surprised by what she saw. “Spending the whole weekend in your leggings is something people do now,” she says, admitting “I’m probably going to leave the studio wearing my leggings right now—I’m still debating if I should change or not!”
“The French are not ones to walk around in their Lululemon leggings.”
Of course, ensembles you’ll see are a far cry from the bright neons and in-your-face prints that line treadmills in the US. “Yeah, don’t do that,” says Jeremy Derrien, a Paris-based model and member of Paris Run Club. His friend (and PRC member) Maxime Papin, agrees: “You have to look good.”
But it’s not all bad news for your not-so-spacious suitcase: You can definitely get away with repeat wearings during your trip. “It’s not like French women have 20 pairs of leggings,” says Moraima Gaetmank, owner of A-list-beloved Pilates destination Studio Kinetique. “They buy one, and they use it. It’s like how I buy one good bag, but I don’t have 20 bags.”
Here are the five rules to follow when you’re packing for Paris—and plan to work out:
Rule #1: Keep it neutral
Florals, stripes, even mesh inserts: leave them all at home and opt for your simple, classic leggings. “If you’re too flashy, [Parisians] might look at you but they won’t say anything,” notes Gaetmank. Bored with just black? “The French are about blue, gray,” she adds. Even better, pack a pair from a French-approved brand. (Currently on heavy rotation in boutique studios across the city is anything from Outdoor Voices, Lululemon, or local label Satisfy, headed up by the guy behind April77 and the ridiculously Instagrammable café Ob-La-Di.)
Rule #2: Toe the line
It’s not that wearing sneakers as you walk along the canal or ride the Metro will automatically brand you as a tourist—in fact, you’ll see locals rocking lace-ups across the city. But the big difference is they’re keeping both fashion and function in mind. So even at a boot camp you’re most likely to see a sea of black Nikes than a single brightly hued option. “If it’s a cool shoe? Okay, no problem—Asics, Adidas, Nike. You can wear it all day long and then run with it at night,” says Derrien. “But,” he adds with a laugh, “if it’s ugly, with a lot of colors? Just run with it.”
Rule #3: Think beyond the sweat-wicking
Good news if you’ve maxed out on space in your carry-on suitcase: At studios in Paris, you see a lot of people wearing items that aren’t traditionally thought of as activewear, meaning your pieces can work double duty during your trip. Think simple cashmere sweaters instead of high-tech sweatshirts (which was exactly what Mugnier was wearing the day she taught my Pilates class, paired with an arm full of understated gold bangles). This rule applies for when you leave the studio, too—get smart about your styling. For example, Sam Guelimi, owner of yoga studio Ici and wellness latte bar Glow on the Go, doesn’t mind wearing her leggings around town; she just pairs hers with over-the-knee leather boots and a perfectly tailored Acne coat.
Rule #4: Be a bag lady (or dude)
The busiest part of any boutique fitness studio in Paris is definitely going to be the locker room—because, yes, Parisians wear athleisure, but the average person is still only doing it when they’re actually working out. “The French are not ones to walk around in their Lululemon leggings,” says Gaetmank, whose clients include a slew of big-name magazine editors, designers, and photographers. “The fashion people come in and change.” Bring an oversized leather tote that can fit your sneakers and sweaty threads (and then all the souvenirs you need to somehow haul home on your flight back).
Rule #5: Don’t forget what lies beneath
It’s the easiest thing to forget about, but also the one thing that will definitely indicate to your workout classmates that you’re an out-of-towner: underwear. In the bustling locker rooms you’ll notice that everyone changing out of their A.P.C. trousers and Isabel Marant boots is wearing really, really nice lingerie. Think thongs you’d save for that one night a year when you want to feel like a dime. So when packing, skip the comfy cotton undies with the knowledge that a room full of women (or men) will probably be judging not your burpee form, but your bra or boxer form.