Friday, 17 January 2014

Paris Getaway: What to Pack and Wear in Paris

I don't know about you guys, but nothing banishes the post-vacation blues like planning your next vacation!  It's been only a week since flying back to Toronto from sunny Miami and I've got vacations on the brain.  Luckily for me, my like-minded husband took to the computer and before you could say 'impulse buy' our next European getaway was planned: Paris, we will see you in late September.    

Paris will always have a soft spot in my heart.  I first fell in love during a life-changing Euro trip in my early twenties, and most recently solidified my admiration for the city this past September when I spent a week tearing through the streets of Paris on my honeymoon.  You just cannot describe the Parisian charm, and I highly recommend that everyone's bucket list include a trip to Paris. 

 "Dressing appropriately [in Paris] is not just merely a superficial task - it will actually guarantee you better service and hospitality in any Parisian restaurant, boutique or attraction"

That being said, sitting down and actually planning a packing list for Paris can be a challenge.  The Parisians are a proud bunch, and dressing appropriately is not just merely a superficial task - it will actually guarantee you better service and hospitality in any Parisian restaurant, boutique or attraction (trust me - I have learned this the hard way during my days of short-shorts and flip flops in my early twenties).  Luckily for you, and my trial and error life experience, I can now confidently formulate a list of essentials to pack for a trip to Paris, to stay comfortable and venue-appropriate.

Pack lots of Black and Stripes -

This is not just a stereotype - you will notice lots of simple black dresses, tailored black slacks or modest black skirts paired with a striped top. You really cannot go wrong with black, keeping all packed items simple and tailored.  This is not to abolish all colour from your suitcase - stick to one colour to add an accent to your outfits (both red and orange seemed to be the most popular with Parisian women when I last visited.)  Keeping all items in your suitcase in a dark colour scheme, mostly solids with a few striped prints, and one or two colours for accent pieces will not only help to blend you in with the Paris locals, but will also make packing and outfit co-ordinating a breeze.

Scarves -  

Make sure to include two or three scarves in your suitcase.  The time of year you're travelling to Paris will dictate the material the scarves should be - think light silk or cotton in the summer, heavier linen or cotton for the spring and fall, and thick wools for the winter.  Scarves are not only essential to Parisian style (honestly - it seems like every woman in Paris is wearing one sometimes), instrumental in outfit selection when working from a suitcase (a simple black dress can work for a number of days if you change your scarf) but are also extremely practical for the temperamental weather of Paris.  During our week-long stay in early September, the weather would be absolutely frigid in the mornings, warm considerably in the afternoons and then dip into the colder temperatures in the evenings.  Even a light scarf can make it so you're not shivering through your morning espresso.

A Sweater - 

For the exact reasons listed above.  Paris weather truly does have a mind of it's own and just because it's scorching hot in the afternoons doesn't mean that you won't be freezing once nighttime hits.  A couple sweaters thrown into the suitcase can remedy this - I would recommend a light cardigan as well as heavier pullover.  Obviously, should your Paris travel plans run over the course of winter then your suitcase will consist of mainly sweaters, but consider taking a few even in the spring and summer months.

Longhamp 'Le Pliage' Bag - 

I was absolutely shocked by the number of Longchamp 'Le Pliage' bags I saw on the streets of Paris.  Looking back now, it makes total sense - these bags are durable, light, waterproof and above all have a zipper.  Pick pockets in Paris, as in most major European cities, are no laughing matter and are very much active in most tourist attractions and public transit.  The Longchamp 'Le Pliage' bag not only has a zipper, but also a small leather flap and buckle over top of the zipper for further protection.  You could purchase one ahead of time or, seeing as it is a french luxury brand, visit their store in Paris proper and purchase one there (12 Rue Saint-Florentin, Paris, France).  A practical tote for your trip and also a beautiful souvenir afterwards.

A Travel Sized Umbrella - 

Did I mention that the weather in Paris has a mind of it's own?  Sunny one moment, raining another - do yourself a favour and pack a travel sized umbrella and keep it with you at all times.  You're welcome.

Flats - 

You are in Paris, you will be walking - a lot.  With so much to see and do, you will find yourself on your feet for the majority of the day.  A few good pairs of flats, in a soft leather and already broken in will rescue your throbbing feet while still staying within the Parisian dress-code.  Resist the urge to pack heels - I can tell you that I packed my most comfortable pair of heels with good intentions and never even used them once, wasting valuable real-estate in my suitcase.  Even in the most elegant of restaurants, a simple pair of flats will do just fine - in fact, my entire week in Paris I only saw one woman braving the cobblestones in 5 inch heels, which just screamed 'tourist'. Same goes for any thoughts of running shoes or flip flops - unless you want poor treatment and to experience the famous 'Paris attitude,' just don't - stick to flats.

The truth about Shorts in Paris - 

Do not even think about wearing shorts in Paris.  I made the mistake of taking to the streets of Paris in short-shorts and flip flops during a Euro-trip in my early twenties and still remember the cold stares and attitude I received.  I have since forgiven myself for the honest mistake (hey - I was twenty three and "finding myself"), but the lesson learned was invaluable. Parisians appreciate modesty, and shorts don't fit the bill.  The same goes for flip flops, looked at in Paris as sloppy and gives you a tourist bull's eye.  The no-short rule also applies to your male travel companions.  Save the shorts and flip flops for the cottage - don't bring them to Paris.

And so concludes my list of essentials for travelling to Paris.  Please let me know if I'm missing anything - talking packing lists is one of my favourite things to do.  If you're reading this in preparation for a trip to Paris then consider me jealous. My last piece of advice is to take a time-out from the manic sight-seeing of all Paris has to offer to really savour the moment.  Eat pastries from a corner boulangerie, drink espresso at a crowded bar top or people watch from a shaded patio.  Whatever you find yourself doing in Paris, remember to stop and really appreciate the moment - before long you will find yourself on a plane ride home and already dreaming of your next trip to this magical city.

Bon Voyage



  1. Just found your blog on weddingbee...helpful post, I'm planning a trip to Paris this summer...will be avoiding shorts now haha

  2. Oh wow, Paris in the summer is so beautiful. Consider me jealous, I can't wait to go back!

    I'm so glad you found this post helpful and yes - no shorts!!

  3. Love this - I'm glad you sent it my way earlier! I will now be wearing my Le Pliage bag with pride, and have never been more thankful that I have a closet that consists mainly of dark neutrals. You give honest and wonderful advice!

  4. Thank you Allison! You guys will have a great time in Paris, and I hope you post lots of photos on the blog!

  5. This post was so helpful. I have been scouring blogs and sites as to what to wear to Paris. My husband and I are going in August and you were so helpful!!! Lots of dresses and skirts will be in my luggage (and scarves). Thank you! :)

    1. I'm so incredibly jealous! You will have the most amazing time - especially in beautiful August weather :)

    2. Love it! Thank you for the clever tips. I totally agree with them flip flops and shorts belongs to the beach not the city! Going to Paris with my daughter. Any tips on not too miss places?
      Any tips for Barcelona too?
      Thank you and love your writing style!

  6. What a helpful post! I plan on travelling to France for the first two weeks of this upcoming September. I will be using this as my packing guide :)

    1. I'm so happy that you found this post helpful, Sophia. Have a great time in France!

  7. Ugh! My whole comment was deleted. Here goes again. This is the best blog post I've read on this topic. Most blogs are recommending all the wrong things. This how I packed for our trip to England and Italy last year, mostly neutrals with a pop of color, like a scarf.

    I have a few questions for you:

    1. Shoes. This is my struggle. I have very tender feet. It is the part that I really feel like I have to sacrifice bc I don't want my trip ruined by painful feet. Last year I took some red Clark's sandals that were ok looking but pretty comfortable, and a pair of Teva sandals that were also ok looking. Cuter than your average Tevas, but still Tevas. I also took a pair of black flats for dinner. No way could I have worn those particular ones all day. If I were to wear regular flats all day, I would be in tears by dinner time. Just not worth it for me. If I could find some super comfy black blacks, that would be ideal. I need super awesome cushioning. Suggestions?

    2. If you could only bring back one souvenir, what would it be? In England I got an antique copper tea kettle. In Italy I got a great leather bag in Florence, a pair of earrings in Murano, some olive wood kitchen utensils in Tuscany. I want to be on the look out for something that says, "I went to France" when I look at it.

    3. The forecast says early August is high 70s/low 80s. Is that true? That seems really cool for that time of year in Europe. When we went to Greece in August it was scorching. Even Rome at the end of September was really warm.

    4. Do you recommend cardigans or lightweight pullover sweaters?

    5. Some recommend a trench coat for rain. It seems pretty warm to wear a trench coat. If yes, what color? Tan? Black? double or single breasted? Hood or not?

    6. Should I take scarves with me or buy some there to wear and bring home?

    7. Would a Longchamps bag be less expensive here or there?

    8. I carried a Bagallini black nylon crossbody bag on our last trip and loved the pockets, the size and the safety of it. Is that awful?

    9. Would nice, ankle length, dark , straight leg jeans (J Crew matchstick) be a no no?

    Thanks for your input!

    1. hello April - did you ever get a reply? your questions read like EXACTLY what I would be asking!!

  8. Hello! thanks for your advice! Would you say this applies to southern Spain as well? I have red hair and am trying to find ways to blend in as much as possible while I'm there this coming summer!

  9. Helpful tips! Was thinking what to bring when we travel to Paris in SEPTEMBER! I might see you there! :)

    It's also good to know that shorts and flip-flops are Paris-inappropriate. I grew up in tropical countries (Manila and Singapore) and around beautiful beaches so these two are my most comfortable outfit. Hihi! I may need to shop for basics before Paris!

    Thanks Joelle, following you now. :)


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  12. You look so cute in the photos and I'm loving your sunnies. Where are they from?

  13. I love your article and tips! I totally agree that you can't pack just anything. Your ideas are adorable. Thank you so much for sharing. Greetings

  14. Nothing can be better than Paris for going on a vacation. Great article! Will keep this in mind, all your tips for my visit to Paris this April.

  15. Great article. I've never been to Paris and would never have guessed that shorts and flip flops are a faux pas - good to know.

  16. Those outfit looks great and as guy I often appreciate more flats worn with style and knowledge than heels.
    I have to differ about guys not wearing shorts in Paris, I'm sure they do and I'd be one of them, but hey, I'll wear them with style, not slobbishly, both with shoes and leather sandals (not flip flops!).

  17. I just came back from Paris 3 days ago. I followed your advice, no shorts, didn't bring heels. My ballets flats became unbearable to wear with all the walking! I also brought a pair of skechers flats (but not the gym shoes type), which also hurt my feet after a day of walking. I ended up buying a pair of gym shoes there, and then I can walk all day wearing those. And I didn't feel I got a poor treatment for wearing gym shoes:) I've seen a lot of ladies wearing sneakers/gym shoes. You were right about flip-flops and shorts, I probably saw one or two wearing shorts and flip-flops. Even the local teenage girls wear jeans and flats, no shorts. And I only saw 2 women in my whole week in Paris wearing a scarf, and I didn't get to wear mine because it was warm, 70's to 80's. But a lot of women were wearing dark blouses or shirt. Don't forget to bring an umbrella.

    1. Rissa you are so right about ballets - they have nothing between your foot and the pavement except a thin piece of leather sole! I can't wear them for any extended walking. Since I am miserable if my feet hurt, I end up wearing European walking shoes with the "minimalist" socks (show above the shoe but not much). I get blisters on my toes and Achilles tendon area very easily, so socks are a necessity. Ah well, I am not there to teach the Parisians about fashion! and when I go out to a nice restaurant or other occasion, I am not going to walk for miles and I can wear a dressy shoe for just those hours. It means packing one more pair of shoes but that is just what has to happen!

  18. Great post with useful information. My sister is going to Paris nest year, so this post is very helpful for me.Thanks for sharing the information.
    Fashion Haul

  19. wow! thanks so much for the tips.

  20. wow! thanks so much for the tips.

  21. Almost all of these tips are just so amazing to live up to summer season. Loved the thin layer idea….this one is absolutely I wold love to adhere to.
    Thanks for sharing.UpdateLand

  22. This post is so informative and makes a very nice image on the topic in my mind. It is the first time I visit your blog, but I was extremely impressed. Keep posting as I am gonna come to read it every day! how to wear a white dress


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