I like to see, and sometimes buy, traditional clothes when traveling in a new country.

Though you seldom see people in poncho and sombrero in Mexico (at least in the Federal District), you can see many people in kimono in Japan, and some people in hanbok in Korea.

What about France ? What is the traditional French costume? Are there places (religious buildings, ceremonies, festivals,...) where I have a reasonable chance to see them?

In all my time in France, I could only see the typical Western modern combination of jean/pants+t-shirt/shirt/polo.

  • 10
    Labeling people as Muslim or Roman Catholic is quite inappropriate when speaking about contemporary secular France. Although the population coming from Maghreb or Western Africa, or their descendants, is an integral part of French modern culture, I don't think anyone would consider boubou or djellaba as a French traditional costume. France had been historically mainly Roman Catholic, but I am not sure how this factors in how French people traditionally dressed... and, except if Lithuanian has another meaning I am not aware, I don't think it is "easy" to see Lithuanian in France.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 5:43
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about travel.
    – fkraiem
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 8:10
  • 13
    No need to closevote, OP mentions that they want to buy a souvenir while in France and are therefor looking for the 'national costume'.
    – Willeke
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 8:35
  • 14
    @fkraiem: is finding how to experience the local culture off-topic?
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 9:20
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    I'm french, and as @Willeke said, we don't realy have a traditional costume. But the image of us is a bald man wearing a beret cycling whith a french baguette in the hand :) hope i've help you.
    – verbalki
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 11:32

4 Answers 4


France has been unified as a country for longer than many European ones, and the 19th century didn't see the development of a specific French national costume (unless you see the international influence of French fashion as a costume issue).

Even though there are some surviving bits of regional costume, there is no one French national costume. These regional costumes were largely codified in the 19th century, pretty much as they were disappearing from general use. Some regions have held on longer, for instance it's less unusual to see older Breton women in lace caps on holidays than to see Alsacian women in their corresponding butterfly hats.

The things that American think of as 'national' were just fashion fads (often based in former regional costumes) at times when Americans were around France a lot. So the post-WWI fad of Basque berets is perceived as specifically French, even though it's equally Spanish, and nobody bats an eye at pairing it with the Picasso-led fad for Breton striped fishing shirts (or the overlapping 50s bikinis). To this day the French are much more fashion-oriented and conformist in clothing than Americans, which can lead to endless books about how little black dresses or tan raincoats are national costumes. The authors of these books usually go home and ignore the fact that the following year the same people will all be wearing red dresses and black quilted coats, or whatever.


France does not really have one national costume.

There are many regional costumes, although not many or even non is/are still used as daily dress.

In the last half of the 20th century, the 'typical' French male item was a beret.
And it is still used as a cartoon image for the French.

If you are on the French coast you will likely also see a lot of striped shirts. I have never seen them inland and I have seen them on the coast of other European countries, but they do fit with the English 'French guy' image. (Results of image search here.)

It is likely as 'traditional' and 'national' as the poncho for Mexico.

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    I would second the Beret. About as stereo-typically French as you can get without putting garlic around your neck and holding a baguette.
    – SGR
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 9:12
  • @SGR the garlic stereotype is only present in UK tho...
    – Antzi
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 10:20
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    @Antzi I'd say the garlic/baguett stereotype is quite populra in both Sweden and Germany as well.
    – Spade
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 10:26
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    Not just Brittany, but Alsace, Basque country, Normandy, Burgundy ... Like many large countries, France is a patchwork of areas with different cultures coming from different places, most of them having their own traditional costume, local gastronomy, and some of them even retaining their local dialect to this day.
    – spectras
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 12:12
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    have a look at this: topito.com/top-costumes-traditionnels-ridicules
    – Max
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:30

As your question doesn't specify it has to be in France, you may want to try Little World Museum of Man, which is in near Nagoya, Japan. You can't purchase clothing, but you can wear clothing for a small fee. Look for "Alsace village" within the park. The women's dresses there are very similar to those for Alsace in Nic's answer. Even though the place may sound like a theme park, I was pleasantly surprised at how informative it was.

I don't have a clue as to whether France has national dresses, or mainly has regional dresses. I assume regional dresses are just as good as national dresses for your purposes.

As rather generic advice, rural areas or small towns and former colonies often keep more of a region or country's (or coloniser's) cultural heritage than the big cities. I suspect that the colonies in the Pacific are more likely to keep France's heritage than those in Africa, because the former may have less enmity towards France than the latter.

  • 1
    There is neither French nor German dress. And Alsace is a fairly independent region, after being yanked back and forth against their will so many times. As to colonies, obviously the further ones would be less influenced, seeing how air travel didn't get really widespread before they got their independence.
    – user61942
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 16:23
  • @GeorgeM The comment about Alsace was intended as a joke (I learnt about it while studying the treaty of Versailles), but I've removed it.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 11:19

Some styles can be recognized as French, meaning that you can realistically expect some French people to sometimes wear it, and if anywhere in the world you meet someone wearing that then there is a slightly higher probability that they are French:

enter image description here

But such styles are not typically described as "traditional".

"Traditional" costumes exist, but they differ widely from a region to another, here are a few examples from various regions:

enter image description here (Bretagne)
enter image description here (New Caledonia)
enter image description here (Basque)
enter image description here (Alsace)

As you can see, they have very little in common.

  • Thanks for the Alsace images. Very similar to the ones in Little World, but I didn't want to upload them because they're of strangers.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 11:25

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