Earlier this year I took my dream trip to Paris for three weeks with only a carry-on suitcase, and I showed you what I packed in that carry-on here.
I started mentally packing for my next trip almost immediately upon returning home. Do you blame me?
Next time I’ll pack even lighter.
By the way, this is not a fashion post. I don’t claim to know anything at all about fashion. This is a post about how to pack light for a long trip to Paris. Packing in one carry-on bag for a three week trip is a game of trade-offs, organizing and imagination.
I was hoping to use the warm weather to my advantage, but Paris in August was cold! I had packed for the ninety degree, sweltering days that we are used to in August in Pennsylvania, but most days it never made it out of the high seventies (Fahrenheit). I’ve since heard that August is often chilly, and September often rebounds to warmer temps there.
The 5/4/3/2/1 packing method is a good way to think of what to pack. I usually get all packed, and throw in an extra shirt and sweater at the last minute just in case, which I almost never end up wearing. Using this formula prevents me from cheating (and over-packing). Here’s a plan that I might use on my next trip.
- 5 shirts
- 4 bottoms (jeans, black slacks, skirt, capris or a dress)
- 3 pair of shoes
- 2 sweaters
- 1 mid-weight jacket (even in the summer)
What’s different about this than what I actually took to Paris?
You must wear black in Paris. I had carefully chosen a colorful wardrobe because, well, I don’t love black. But black is definitely the thing to wear in Paris, even in the summer. Honestly, I felt very out of place some days, with my colorful outfits. How to stay chic? Layer a colorful t-shirt under your classic black pieces, add a scarf, or pair a black top with solid colored pants. We actually did go to a fashion show at the renowned Galeries Lafayette. Those fashion models know how to dress, but apparently only in one color.
Uh oh. It looks like someone is getting her catwalk attitude on.
Everyone wears black leather jackets. The more zippers, the better, it seems. Somehow, they don’t look harsh on the young women, nor chunky on the more mature 40+ crowd. Everyone just wears them. Or, if you are really chic like my friend Robin, then go with colorful leather, but the rest of the outfit will be black, of course. (Update, Robin has since started a bespoke tour company that you might want to check into, Paris Made for You.)
If you miss color in your wardrobe, no problem. Just add a scarf. Really, everyone does wear them. Even in the summer. Don’t look too carefully at this outfit. I might have been wearing nearly every article I packed on this chilly and windy day…because I did not have the obligatory leather jacket. Note to self…
Don’t bother with the maxi skirts. Not only has this American fashion staple apparently not taken hold in Paris, it can pose a real hazard getting on and off the public transportation that simply everyone uses in Paris. I would have been much happier to have my favorite pair of jeans along. And yes, despite what you may have heard, everyone but everyone wears jeans in Paris. But, look! At least I’m wearing black. (I never thought I’d say that!)
Also, unless you are visiting a friend or a hotel that has a pool, don’t pack a swimsuit “just in case.” Although Paris has a wonderful system of municipal swimming pools, they are notoriously hard to get into and around. We were absolutely surrounded with water by the Seine, ponds like this gorgeous pond at Château de Fontainebleau, and even moats, but I never once needed my bathing suit.
Yes, I said moats. Isn’t the Château de Chambord below to die for? Honestly, that’s not even the pretty side.
The one serious faux pas I made with my wardrobe was packing a lightweight rain poncho instead of a proper rain coat. Nothing screams “tourist” like a one-size-fits-all poncho, even if it is gray. A rain coat and packable umbrella is a must, since it will rain while you are there. Guaranteed. Take this opportunity to upgrade to a lightweight raincoat, either dressy or sporty depending on your style. In black, of course. Unless you are under 6 years old. Then you can wear all the color while you splash in the puddles!
What worked best in my travel wardrobe? Surprisingly, my shoes. My trusty Dansko sandals were amazing (See which ones in my last post about packing light for a long trip to Paris). We walked everywhere, only getting in a car once during 3 weeks. It was glorious!! A pair each in gold, burgundy, and white went with all of my outfits, so I could easily switch shoes mid-day if my feet got tired or wet. Next time, I’ll swap out the white pair for…you’ve got it…a black pair. My friend Sophie knows that en Français, you wear black.
The other thing that worked really, really well were my dresses, and choice of fabrics in general. I made sure that everything I packed was wrinkle-free and quick-dry. With a washer in our apartement, we would wash every other day or so, and hang clothes overnight to dry. Although I would have given up a dress for my jeans, as chilly as it was, dresses and lightweight sweaters like these were so easy to take care of!
Packing light is all about layering. I would never have layered my t-shirts over dresses like this at home, but I learned some new tricks. Oh, and see this dress? Even that was too much pattern. Parisians really do wear mostly solids, mostly black, most of the time. (Poor thing. The Musee D’Orsay did the little one in on that day.)
Confused at all about how to blend in? This gal is classic, complete with the rented bicycle that tout le monde uses to get around Paris. Take note…she’s sporting the black without being frumpy!
Do I look Parisian yet?
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i want to see lil Mlle practicing her catwalk!
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