Tuesday, March 6, 2012

April in Paris: Traveling in Style

Even under leaden skies, an enchanting vista

Today one of my great friends, Deja Pseu, creator of the highly literate and very stylish blog, Une Femme is guest posting for us. She and I have a date in Paris in April to shop and gossip and now I know what she'll be wearing. I never tire of reading an intelligent woman's guide to packing and that's what we have here. (I would really like to own that black raincoat.)

Merci, chère Tish, for the invitation to post about one of my favorite topics, Packing For Paris!

Run an internet search on "what to pack for Paris" and the results will probably yield hundreds of links. Due to its history as the birthplace of modern fashion and reputation for stylish inhabitants, probably no other city provokes such angst for some travelers about what to pack and wear.

On our first two visits to Paris, I let that anxiety get the better of me and overpacked horrendously: heavy garments that needed pressing, pieces that didn't mix with the rest of what I'd packed, different outfits for every contingency (most of which were never worn), shoes that weren't comfortable to walk in for more than a few blocks. Our multiple pieces of luggage were large, heavy and unwieldy, and one checked bag went missing and didn't turn up for a couple of days after we arrived. I've since learned to pare down, pack wisely and bring no more than will fit in a carry on bag (at least for the trip over...on the way home I'll be checking a bag full of skin care and fragrance goodies).

Before I get into what I'll be packing for our upcoming visit in April, a few general tips (and some myth-busting):

Think lightweight layers, neutral colors. Weather can be quite changeable, even within the span of a few hours. Being able to add or remove layers as needed will help keep you comfortable. Basing your travel capsule wardrobe around one or two neutral colors will make all of the pieces more wearable and versatile. 

Leave the really dressy clothes (and the high heels) at home. For almost any venue, you'll be fine in "Smart Casual" (neat, coordinated separates).  And you'll see plenty of "sensible" shoes on stylish ParisiennesParis Myth: legions of leggy femmes wearing the latest designer fashions, teetering over the cobblestones in towering heels. Reality: A rarity unless it's Fashion Week. (And even then, they're removing those shoes as soon as they're out of camera range!) Be certain your shoes have been "road tested" with several hours on your feet on various surfaces before they go in the suitcase.

Lose the angst over "looking like a tourist." As soon as you pull out the camera and start snapping photos of Notre Dame or the fountains in Jardin de Luxembourg, your cover is blown. Focus instead on looking like a stylish tourist, and on behaving like a courteous and gracious one. There are no Fashion Police handing out tickets!

Don't forget...a few scarves in various sizes, colors and weights, a folding umbrella, a cross-body bag for daytime excursions. 

Don't bother with...lots of jewelry, elaborate makeup or hairstyles.

"Polyvore on the Floor" - last year's travel capsule for 2 weeks in Italy and Paris in May
Though we're still a few weeks out, I've checked the average temperatures for April and have started mentally planning my travel capsule. I may adjust an item or two as we get closer. 

Tops. I'm a huge fan of Eileen Fisher's silk jersey tops for travel. They are lightweight, washable (hang to dry overnight) and layer beautifully under sweaters. The tanks are also great as a base layer for warmth. I'll probably bring one or two each of the tanks, short sleeve and long sleeve versions, in black and grey. 

Sweaters. Probably one grey cashmere v-neck, and one or two longer cardigans of varying weights. Lighter weight silk blend tunic sweater also a possibility. All in black or grey.

Skirt: Black stretch pencil skirt from Eileen Fisher. Can dress it up or down. 

Pants. One pair black ponte knit, again from Eileen Fisher. (Similar here.) One pair cropped palazzo pants from Babette for warmer days. Third pair TBD depending on weather forecast as we get closer to departure.

Jacket. A lightweight cotton/silk blend knit.

Dress. A dress that can go from day to evening in a lightweight knit fabric is also under consideration. 

Shoes: (Two or three pair max, one of which will be worn on the plane!) Black mary-janes. Mine are an older pair from ECCO, but these from Munro American are similar style-wise. These will get me through most days and evenings. If mary-janes aren't your style, a pair of simple black loafers is a great alternative, or even some comfortable ankle boots with a bit of edgy style. Depending again on weather forecast as we get closer, I may inlude a pair of low-heeled boots that are comfortable for walking and will work with the skirt, and probably a pair of sandals. Check out brands ECCO, Think!, Dansko, Naot, Rieker, Beautifeel, and Arche for walking shoes that combine comfort and style.

Outerwear. lightweight black raincoat, also from Eileen Fisher. This one also does double-duty as a chic evening topper. A heavy coat shouldn't be needed this time of year, and I can always layer up underneath for warmth. Rain is always a possibility in April!

Accessories. One or two pair of earrings, a necklace or two. One pashmina-type scarf, and two or three other scarves of various weights and colors. One cross-body bag for daytime, one smaller bag for going out to dinner. Mixed metal watch. Folding umbrella.

All of the above includes what I'll wear on the flight. With the wonderful knit pieces available these days, there's no need to sacrifice style for comfort, even on a long overnight flight. Remember, if your flight arrives early in the day, you'll be wearing this outfit for the better part your first day in Paris, so skip the sweats, or anything that will look rumpled after 6-12 hours in an airline seat. I find a bit of Darjeeling tea to be an amazing antidote to killer jet-lag and carry a few bags with me. Set your watch to Paris time before you take off; it gives a mental boost to help your body adjust to the time difference.

LA to Paris - Overnight Flight

See you in Paris!

--déjà pseu


California Girl said...

Good Morning Femmes! Nice to read your blogs first thing today. I would like to compliment the packing posts as I have learned much. I like to travel lightly but have, on occasion, broken that rule in favor of the fear factor, not having enough "choices".

Lucky you two, April in Paris. Sounds so lovely. If we're lucky, northern New England snow will finally be gone!

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Great post...I hope I can put some of this to use in the next year!! You girls will have so much fun!!

Villette said...

Finding Deja Pseu and other good bloggers here means I'm becoming reconciled to Tish's book-sabbatical. Une Femme's tips today are spot on, and I speak as one who has been lucky enough to spend lots of time in Paris. If you get the shoes wrong, the whole trip becomes miserable...

sanda said...

Love these "what to wear" posts, especially if it involves travel, and to Paris, no less. You will look tres chic in your wardrobe. Eat a few macarons for me, please, and I hope you have a wonderful trip and visit with Tish.

Vicki Lee Johnston said...

Thanks so much - just what I needed .. I will be travelling from Western Australia for my first trip to Paris and France in April ... shall print this up and checklist as I pack! Very excited .. great tips

Catherine Robinson said...

Great post...have a wonderful time the two of you ;-)
And don't forget that black raincoat, Tish!
Have a good week.

Pearl said...

I'm going to be in Paris in June, followed by teaching in Oxford in July. I am already mentally packing my bags, as well.

Marguerite said...

Nice and informative post, Pseu. Your packed bag could be mine! I travel with mostly Eileen Fisher in my carry on bag. I'll be traveling to Prague and Vienna in May. Have fun with Tish!

metscan said...

It is always fun to read these, what-to-pack posts, especially so, when I travel so little myself.
You have become a professional packer over the years!
I agree, that the shoes must be extra comfortable.
We´re I to travel, I´d take along only the jewelry, I´d be wearing all the time, just to play it safe.
Have you ever considered carrying your credit cards, etc. in a safer place than the bag?

Virginia said...

Great post! I agree with all of it. After being stranded in Paris twice with no luggage, long story I should write a book, I know only travel with a carryon and a big tote bag. I'm hauling a camera with big lens and usually a laptop so I've honed my wardrobe down, down , down. For me it's all about my feet and I"ve found some black slip-ons with rubber soles that look nice with my black pants and will last for full day and night of walking. My only big tip is to roll everything. I think you can get more in that way. In winter, nobody really knows what's under my long black wool coat so I don't take as much.
I"m going to find those shoes now!

Virginia said...

I forgot one more tip. I now found a great big duffle that folds into a pouch online and on the way home if I have too much "stuff", I put dirty clothes etc. in the duffel and check it. That way It doesn't matter if it shows up at home two weeks later!

French Girl in Seattle said...

Great tips, all. I noticed your photo of the Longchamp pliage bag at the end of the post, a favorite of mine when I travel. Just noticed Virginia's comment: I also agree with all her travel tips. The most important thing in Paris are comfortable shoes, whatever they may be (let's forget Birkenstocks though, right? ;-) I use the s duffle bag trick during the return trip ;-) Veronique (French GIrl in Seattle)

kathy peck said...

Great post, and what you say is so true. I've never seen the streets with loads of women in towering heels.
For me, I'd add dark rinse jeans to the mix, and leave out the dress (because I wouldn't get enough use out of it) - but it's a perfect capsule list.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I love all the Eileen Fisher pieces and that raincoat is perfect. Great packing post and superb advice from a seasoned Paris traveller.

laurieann said...

I'm going to go back and read the post but first I want to say: How Wonderful that You Can Meet in Paris! What a fabulous thing to do.

Lorrie said...

Wonderful tips! I heartily concur that less is more. I'm so envious of your trip to Paris, and of your opportunity to meet up with Tish! Lucky ladies!

déjà pseu said...

@Virginia, yes I tried the folding duffel on our last trip and it's a brilliant solution, especially once we're loaded up with gifts for folks back home.

déjà pseu said...

@kathy peck, I'll probably end up with a pair of jeans, unless it looks to be unseasonably warm (as it was last year).

The Gold Digger said...

You are so wise to choose dark colors! I traveled with a friend to Bolivia. (We were living in Chile at the time.) I noticed when we unpacked the first night that all her clothes were white and all mine were black. I look awful in black but not as bad as I do in white that needs to be washed!

But when I went to Paris for the disastrous Week With The Moroccan Millionaire, I packed unwisely. High heels and miniskirts. I didn't realize that he was a cheapskate millionaire who wouldn't want to take a taxi out to dinner. "What's wrong with walking?" he asked. That should have been the final straw. Oh, I was so foolish. And my feet hurt.

Karen said...

I love all these ideas! I am going in april too, for seven days. I only bring what i can fit in a carryon. No checked luggage to europe ever. So my capsules must be extremely tight. We worry so much about all the packing prep for a good reason. Once we're in paris we can really "get outside of ourselves" knowing we are comfortable and presentable. Thats when we can really enjoy ourselves.

A thought on the makeup and hair. Knowing my clothes may be more functional than stylish while travelling, I try to start each day with great hair and makeup. This way i feel even more exuberant in beautiful places, and photos will be lovely!

so said...

The last time I was in Paris was about 18 years ago when my children were young. It seems so long ago but it was lovely. I pack my clothes in the large zip bags before putting them into the suitcase. It keeps them dry and clean.

I lived in England for several years and was able to take a couple of trips to France. I was exhausted while in Paris and didn't get to enjoy it as I would have liked. I like the clothes you're taking. I wish I could go with my husband before we get to old to travel. Have fun and really enjoy yourself.

BigLittleWolf said...

I want that coat! Even suitable for munchkins!

Some excellent advice here... especially the umbrella, the scarves, not too much muss or fuss. Okay - all of it is excellent! But I admit, I always bring too many, well... eh oui... shoes!

Paris Rendez-vous said...

Really good post.......but I take a few extra fab scarves/shawls....they can change the look of even the most basic outfit instantly. Will be touch down in Gay Paree in only a few weeks!!! Mon dieu!

Duchesse said...

Nice! Like Paris Rendez-Vous, I always take shawls, much easier to pack than jackets. You need less than you think and after all, you are in in Paris- if missing something, you are in the midst of the most wonderful choices.

Worthington said...

One cannot go wrong with Eileen Fisher, I think. It is such a reliable, elegant, classic and travel-friendly brand. I always travel long distances with jersey... Never lets me down.

Paris in April will be cool but lovely. Hopefully little rain!

Carol said...

What brilliant packing advice you have given.. l love the coat and the Eileen Fisher silk jersey top, and the shoe advice to save poor ' ouch ' feet !

Cindy at enclos*ure said...

I love the recommendations. They will help me with my trip this month. Regarding good manners (which is the main thing everyone should carry to Paris), tourists should remember to greet the owner/salesperson when entering a shop with, "Bonjour, madame/monsieur." A French teacher once told me, "if you don't add the 'madame' or monsieur', it's like you don't really mean it." Also, preface your requests with, " I don't want to disturb you, but . . ." [Je ne voudrais pas vous deranger, mais. . .]

La Maison Boheme said...

Absolutely fantastic post for any woman traveling anywhere. Love all the Eileen Fisher pieces and the "Polyvore on the Floor" is inspired!

MelD said...

Definitely comfortable shoes - and the weather can be nothing like you imagine "spring in Paris" to be in April!! I got soaked and was freezing and my feet hurt. Lesson learned. Shoes, warmth, umbrella.
I was really disappointed in the Parisiennes - dull, grey, beige, colourlessly sick-looking women, not a beautiful, groomed, elegant (and certainly not cheerful) woman in sight and crowds of off-putting touristy types! Otherwise the trip was special and wonderful and we were mostly away from the "must-see" places.
As a non-American, I thought I knew "how" to go to Paris but next time will be very different and I will also probably use the "Six Items or Less" method, no matter how long I go for... oh, and the overdressed girls were usually American, too!!

Spiral Style said...

Thanks for the tip on the Eileen Fisher skirt. Went out and bought one, along with some pants for a trip to Australia...then Paris.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Fabulous Tish. I'm emailing this to myself to file for future reference. Thanks for including that little email icon at the bottom of the post. Works like a charm for something you want to save.

Susan Tiner said...

Susan, I love your packing posts! I packed pretty well for our trip following your advice from previous posts but I really, really wish I'd invested in a stylish rain coat.

Footzyfolds said...

Add light-weight foldable flats to your suitcase that are comfy & stylish. Footzyfolds has all the latest styles & colors for every fashion season. www.FootzyFolds.com

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