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

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