Travel Wardrobe Recap: Paris In December

cool weather travel wardrobe for Paris

No, I hadn’t forgotten. Usually I write and post my travel wardrobe recaps immediately after my return from any trip, but I had such a backlog of Paris posts, and then we were into the holidays….it just kept getting pushed.

(Early) Winter Travel Wardrobe Review

But better late than never, oui? This was the smallest wardrobe I’ve ever traveled with, and even then I didn’t wear everything. But I always felt well and appropriately dressed, if not particularly imaginatively. The weather was unseasonably warm for early December, so I didn’t need to bundle up that much.

enjoying lovely weather in Paris

You can see my original travel wardrobe selections HERE. I did leave the brown boots behind, and took a second pair of black low-heeled boots instead. For a wildcard, I went “safe” and added my black merino wool Uniqlo sweater (similar). No other changes.

So let’s review the roster:

MVP’s

mild winter travel outerwear

  • Lands’ End packable down parka. Wow, did this ever turn out to be one of my best decisions! It was light, it was warm, and it’s a good-looking piece of highly functional outerwear. It was the only outerwear I packed, and worked brilliantly. In fact, I’ve worn it a few times at home for open boat rides on cold nights and cold morning dog walks. The navy color is currently unavailable, but may be re-stocked at some point.
  • All of my pants choices (ponte knit dark wash denim black smooth denim) worked well, but the two pairs of jeans were what I wore most.
  • The two pullover sweaters, navy cashmere (similar) and “wild card” merino wool (similar). Wore one or the other of these every day.
  • The suede Chelsea boots. Comfortable, good-looking and (had I needed) weather resistant.

Pinch Hitters

Paris travel wardrobe for Winter

  • Navy cashmere cardigan. Wore this out for dinner a couple of times over the silk blouse (similar look).
  • The other pair of boots I took was a few-years-old pair of Paul Green’s similar to these. They were a bit more casual, didn’t wear as often.

Benched

  • The long-sleeved tees. It was too warm for this additional layer underneath the sweaters.
  • The cashmere hoodie. It retired in Paris. 😉
  • The gloves. Never needed them. I did wear the knit cap out walking one night, but that was it.

However I’d pack the tees, gloves, and hat again for cold season travel, as the unusually warm weather was the only reason they weren’t needed.

Wished I’d Brought…

  • A third pullover sweater, perhaps with a bit of color or pattern.
  • I’d also take a page from the Parisian women’s style book, and bring a bag in a lighter neutral (taupe or tan?) next time to play off my darker pieces.
  • If I’d been traveling for a longer period, I’d probably have wanted a second piece of outerwear for variety, maybe a wool coat in a brighter color?

I did not make any clothing purchases this trip, aside from this scarf.

Are you traveling this winter? Any favorites you pack for this time of year?

You can see all of my recent years’ travel wardrobes and recaps HERE.

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36 Comments

  1. Ann
    January 4, 2017 / 3:27 am

    Thank you for this post. I’ve never been able to travel out of a carry-on suitcase, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to do it. 😉

    • Isabelle
      February 26, 2017 / 7:05 pm

      I will be traveling to the UK in March I am struggling with what to pack. I want to just take a carry on bag and a tote. I have a choice of black knit Talbot’s pants or Calvin Klein camel cords. Do I take tall leather boots or ankle boots. I will be bringing only one piece of outerwear my Burberry trench coat in black. I will be traveling around the UK with a British Rail pass and staying at Airbnb accommodations..

  2. January 4, 2017 / 3:46 am

    It’s great to go over what worked and didn’t. You are very savvy about your choices.
    I think that having a pair of gloves and a couple of tees too many is just insurance. If the weather had turned cold you would have needed them. (We went from 55 degrees on Sunday to under 40 today with a biting wind.)
    Jeans are very forgiving of dirt and wear–it really doesn’t show the way it would on dressier trousers, and you can brush it off pretty well. I like black jeans, too.

    • Roseag
      January 4, 2017 / 6:03 am

      I agree, particularly about gloves/hat. If you need them they make a difference, and help you go with out wear that might not be quite heavy enough for a worst case cold snap.

      Did you not go with the yellow/green Eileen Fisher coat because it doesn’t pack small?

      • Susan B
        January 4, 2017 / 6:57 am

        Hi Rose, I didn’t take that coat because I thought it wouldn’t be warm enough. I’d been on the fence about keeping it, and once I found my leopard coat decided to return the EF one.

  3. JacqB
    January 4, 2017 / 4:22 am

    So helpful! Going to be there March 1 and unsure on warm vs raincoat….thoughts? Also – how many days was your trip? Thank you!

  4. Ann
    January 4, 2017 / 5:23 am

    Happy New Year, Susan. I am hoping to hear your observations on Sisley prices, whether you found much difference at the pharmacy or airport duty free shop.
    Thank you, Ann

  5. Thea
    January 4, 2017 / 5:49 am

    I bought the LE coat and am looking forward to taking it on a trip in Feb. I usually travel with a big cashmere cape/wrap that I keep in an outside pocket and can throw over me as a blanket on the flight. Susan, each and every travel wardrobe you post is a reminder to scale it back…Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. January 4, 2017 / 6:37 am

    Given how unpleasantly damp Paris can be that time of year I would have packed the t-shirts as well. Being warm enough can make a big difference in your day.

  7. Valerie
    January 4, 2017 / 6:38 am

    You are just so put together, Susan. An inspiration. I did travel with carry-on only for a month in the fall of 2015. It was my first time doing carry-on only and I wasn’t completely happy with all my choices. I think being able to pack properly comes from having the right wardrobe in the first place, and I don’t. Not yet. I go into my closet loaded with clothes and feel like I have nothing to wear! One of my intentions for 2017 is to (once and for all) get rid of things I don’t love or don’t wear, choose new clothing pieces very carefully, and ensure that any piece I buy could work for travel.

  8. Hallie Fry
    January 4, 2017 / 7:25 am

    Great choices, Susan. Definitely an inspiration. I will be traveling to Southern California the end of January. Any packing suggestions for a Midwesterner that wants to escape the cold? Most of the week will be business casual but we are hoping to golf at least once! Think it will be too cold?

    • Susan B
      January 4, 2017 / 7:43 am

      Hi Hallie, thanks so much! It shouldn’t be too cold to golf here. We usually have some rainy days in January/February, but it rarely rains steadily for more than a couple of days at a time. Weather can vary depending on how close to the coast you are. Further inland you’ll have slightly warmer days and cooler nights. It’s likely to be in the high 50’s to mid 60’s during the day. Hope you enjoy our beautiful state!

  9. Mary
    January 4, 2017 / 7:39 am

    Wondering why you retired the cashmere hoodie. Thank you for your posts, very helpful on keeping travel packing under control!

    • Susan B
      January 4, 2017 / 7:56 am

      Hi Mary, it was about 12 years old and coming apart at the seams. I’d figured I might leave it if I found something in Paris and even though I didn’t, when it came time to pack I just couldn’t see bringing it home again.

  10. January 4, 2017 / 8:08 am

    We are (already..) thinking of a trip to Paris next year over Christmas. Friends were there this year and highly recommend it! So I will refer back to this post, for sure!!

  11. Mary
    January 4, 2017 / 8:39 am

    Thank you for the update–timely for me. Lovely Parisian scarf choice–hope to peek in on E.Bompard next week as I head to London. Will pack very light–likely several pieces less than you because as you note, even when packing light, it is still possible to find you don’t need it all. Everything with fit in a 17″ carry-on and a midsize tote bag. I have traveled in winter to UK/Europe before, so know what I need–while keeping an eye on the forecast for last minute adjustments. I pack a smaller crossbody handbag for use after arrival and keep what I need in the tote while in transit. One less bag to worry about. Fortunately, my hotel provides an umbrella which eliminates the need to carry one. Scarves and earrings will add the color to change the look of my few basics for events like the theatre/ballet, but as it is a solo trip, I don’t have to worry about people seeing me in the same thing twice.

    • Valerie
      January 4, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      Mary … several pieces less than Susan??? I can’t imagine.

  12. Nanci
    January 4, 2017 / 9:43 am

    Just returning from London using a similar list to yours Many thanks! I took 3 pairs of pants and 3 tops. Skinny dark blue jeans, EF skinny ponte pants and some old EF grey waxed jeans which I only wore once. 3 tops which were a grey cashmere t neck, light blue cashmere t neck and a grey and black striped sweater. Brrr it is cold here in the 30’s. Uniqlo long underwear tops and bottoms have kept me comfortable. I wore a Patagonia very light down jacket under my rain coat for extra warmth since I don’t own a wool coat. 2 colorful scarves, one cashmere stole and black waterproof ankle boots. Gosh plenty of room left for souvenirs! I had to buy a beanie since it is so cold here. I enjoy your packing lists and recaps.

  13. Evelyn
    January 4, 2017 / 11:58 am

    I love your blog and, in the few months since I’ve signed on, I must say I’m definitely becoming a bit more fashionable. I like how you make fashion accessible and every-day wearable by pairing nice tops with jeans and interesting footwear, for instance. Your 12 piece travel wardrobe is brilliant; I used your guidelines for a trip to France a couple of years ago. Never would I have thought I’d fit everything for a two week trip into a carry-on sized suitcase and have room to spare!

  14. January 4, 2017 / 1:00 pm

    What is the difference between Dark wash denim and black smooth denim/…I couldn’t tell from the photos…

    • Susan B
      January 4, 2017 / 2:17 pm

      Hi Mary, dark wash is indigo blue, and the other is a true black.

  15. Beryl Meiron
    January 4, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    What a thoughtful recap post, Susan–much appreciated. I diligently read each of your earlier posts because we were headed to Rome, 1 day in Naples and 2 days in Paris just a week after your trip. The LE coat was perfect, merci! Who knew light could be so warm? I checked 1 bag, but went spare–2 pairs of jeans (EF blue and AG black), 1 pair black wool tapered pants (Vince–2 years old), 1 pair EF ponte pants (didn’t wear), taupey-camely Vince cashmere v-neck sweater (1 year old), black wool asymmetric Theory sweater (thin), velvet Madewell blazer (your recommendation), black, red and white tees (MVP=J. Crew boatneck b/w stripe with shirt fabric cuffs), 1 black silk shirt (Theory), 1 black cotton buttondown shirt (Brooks Brothers no-iron). I did not do laundry this time. Rotations were easy with scarves (plus I bought 1 silk in Rome and 1 wool/alpaca and beanie in Paris). Rome was 50sF, but 30sF at night, and tees with coat and a scarf or sweater were perfect. Paris was 40sF-30sF, and I layered with tee/blouse, sweater, jacket. I did not have a warm hat, scarf or gloves, and found all in a tres chic little boutique near Odeon Metro stop on Christmas promotion–40% off. I wore black Ecco booties every day; old, worn but comfy Geox flats were buried in Paris. Wish I had taken one more pair of dark jeans. Merci, merci, merci for all your insights and invaluable travel wardrobe posts. Happy new year!

  16. January 4, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    Your post resonated with me so well. Being in Paris the week before you, it was unseasonably …freezing! And although I traveled with all my clothing in a carry on, like you, there were items I never wore! My goal for our next trip in June is to travel with even less! I love the way you plan everything out in such a pragmatic way. You are my reference!

  17. January 4, 2017 / 5:39 pm

    Happy New Year! 🙂
    So, did you end up purchasing something lovely in Paris? You said you retired the cashmere sweater; did you bring back a replacement? 🙂

    • Susan B
      January 4, 2017 / 6:08 pm

      Hi Nellie, no I didn’t purchase any clothing, just one scarf and a necklace.

  18. January 4, 2017 / 6:48 pm

    Gonna give my LE parka like yours a spin in WashingtonDC for the inaugural….should be very cold back there, but I like to try to follow your packing list!

  19. Jill Ann
    January 4, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    I live in a warm climate, but have recently been traveling to colder climates (NYC in December!). Have found I tend to pack the same few things: black and navy cashmere pullovers, with silk tees for an underlayer; blue jeans, black jeans, gray jeans, black ponte knit pants; a marinere, either navy & white or red & navy. Another lighter weight sweater or knit top, in gray or light blue. I have a navy & grey Hermes wool scarf that goes with all the navy & grey stuff, and a black cashmere wrap that can be a scarf or an airplane blanket Black leather coat, black moto boots, black Clarks sneakers that don’t look like sneakers. Always pack too much, but I’m working on paring that down!

  20. Sue
    January 5, 2017 / 3:32 am

    Ditto the comments over the LE down coat; mine is the most useful item I have ever bought! Other garments that help reduce winter travel baggage for me have been: Uniqlo Heattech underpinnings and one of their lightweight, but waterproof and breathable raincoats. It packs down to nothing and provides extra insurance over the down coat if it is wet, or particularly windy.

  21. Anonymous
    January 5, 2017 / 3:38 am

    The weather in Paris can be so hard to predict. We spend over a month there every June after a few weeks on the Riviera first. The Riviera is always wonderful at that time of year- pleasantly warm but not hot. Some years in Paris it can be stifling in June, real heatwave territory, others it’s really cool and frequent showers so we need waterproof coats and quite warm clothes. Last year we arrived during the floods! So we go prepared for almost everything except snow and ice!

    But then we always take checked baggage. Not sure why it seems to be such a problem. It isn’t for us. We check our bags at Sydney airport and don’t see them again till we arrive in Nice or Marseille. They don’t take long to appear on the carousel. Also we always organise an airport to hotel transfer so the driver loads the bags into his car and out again at the hotel where a porter takes them to our room. We hardly handle them.

    Because it’s usually quite cool when we leave Oz and will be even colder when we arrive back we take really warm jackets. I usually take a hand knitted mohair/wool combo long jacket – each piece unique and designed by an artist (have had French women chase me down the street in Paris asking where they can buy one like it). I have several so take a different one each year. A couple belonged to my mother – who had similar tastes in colours. They’re soft and warm and cuddly and can just be bundled up and stowed in the overhead compartments during the long haul flights, no worries about crushes or creasing. Underneath I wear a white cotton long sleeved shirt and a black knitted cotton sleeveless vest with black NYD jeans, mostly cotton with a hint of stretch. So comfortable for long haul. They survive the 30 plus hours trip well and don’t look crushed or travel worn at the end. Accessories include a long silk scarf in colours that work with those of the knitted jacket, a large designer black leather cross body bag, black leather lace-up sneakers and a black Longchamp nylon pliage. I also take folded up a large red pliage in nylon in case there’s ever a problem with awkward ground staff complaining about how many bags I have. I just open it up and put my handbag, the small pliage and any other small bag inside – and hey presto I have only one bag to carry on. But of course I was very careful when buying this to select the maximum size allowed for carry on. Usually I also take a smallish red hard shell Samsonite spinner bag on board, if they accept it- almost always they do – but am prepared for it to be relegated to check-in baggage. Best wishes, Pamela

  22. January 5, 2017 / 5:39 am

    Thanks for this post, Susan, I’ve been looking forward to it!
    You did so well. I bought a similar Uniqlo coat this winter and like you, I adore it and wear it most days (colder here than Californian). And I’ve just been reflecting on my fave travel carry on capsule, (similar to yours) so will aim to do something similar when I do some spring travel.
    It helps to post-analyse and you always lay yours out so well.
    So, great job, Susan (I’m typing that in my best American accent!).

  23. Sara Harvey
    January 5, 2017 / 6:31 am

    Thanks to your great review of the down coat, I purchased it (in a different color) and love it! Great for travel, but also super-warm for the Wisconsin winters. Sara

  24. Whitney
    January 5, 2017 / 6:52 am

    I bought the LE down coat based on your recommendation, and it was the best purchase ever! Fantastic on a family trip to a bitterly cold and windy Washington DC over Thanksgiving and expect it to be useful for the rest of the winter. I have a very similar coat purchased several years ago; the difference in the fabric and down now makes the LE coat incredibly light and packable in comparison! Thank you!

  25. Elaine Miles
    January 6, 2017 / 4:09 am

    Very helpful. I always pack far too many things and never wear them! Will be following your advice in future.

  26. January 6, 2017 / 8:45 am

    I am quite surprises you didn’t buy another coat in Paris. You could have worn it on the plane and stuck the other coat in your bag as it folds so well. You did buy one afterwards when you got home, didn’t you? The black and white one? Or did you already have that?
    Anyway, you did ever so well.
    Greetje

  27. January 13, 2017 / 1:48 pm

    Just ordered that LE down coat after weeks of turning it over in my head, then letting all the colors and sizes disappear . . . Christmas gift of Hamilton tickets in Chicago made me revisit the topic. Delighted to report that sizes and colors have been restocked, they are on sale, AND there is an additional 25% off through the weekend. $63 makes this a total no-brainer! Did struggle over two things: 1) Slate or Black (decided on my standard black – even though I have a black Barbour in the same approximate length) and then 2) wondered if the slightly longer version would be better (downside: no detachable hood). So I ordered both and will see which length works best with the clothing I intend to wear underneath. The second one was only $60 (I ordered the patterned coat, silver/black, loved the look). Easy return at Sears for the one I don’t keep (assuming I don’t keep both ;-))

  28. January 14, 2017 / 10:08 am

    I immediately ordered the packable parka in Slate, in a P-XS size. It’s perfect. For you petites out there (I’m 5’2 and slender), it’s tapered but not too tapered – still lots of room for layering. Also, as someone who does a lot of overseas traveling, the parka is very light (yet warm), and can easily be folded several times so that it does not take up too much suitcase space. Thanks for the great tip!

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