The 12-Piece Paris Travel Wardrobe

Style blogger Susan B. shares her 12-piece travel wardrobe for Paris in the fall. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

It’s time to pack! As of this point, the forecast for Paris looks cool-to-mild, with a chance of rain on a few days. While I’ve put this wardrobe together with my upcoming trip to Paris in mind, it could easily work for any other city during the fall.

Travel Wardrobe For Paris

When selecting the clothes, I prioritize pieces that will pack and travel well, and will be easy to layer and coordinate. While this doesn’t make for the most exciting collection, it will be one that feels smart, appropriate, and comfortable (both physically and emotionally).

My neutrals are black, navy and grey, and I’ve included a couple of accent pieces with color and/or print. I challenged myself to pack a little less black and more navy this time. I’ve stuck to a long-over-lean silhouette, and my usual ratio 2-to-1 ratio of tops to bottoms. I don’t count shoes, accessories, outerwear or “underpinnings” as part of the 12 items. You can certainly pack more or less or include dresses or tweak the ratio to suit your preferences. This is just the formula that I’ve found works best for me.

I’ll also allow myself to add a “wild card” piece to be chosen at the last minute, based on the current forecast and my mood.

My 12-piece Paris travel wardrobe. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Some of the pieces above are no longer available; in those instances I’ve linked to similar items.

Shoes

I always start with the shoes when planning my travel wardrobes. I’ve decided to allow myself 3 pairs this time.

Aquatalia | Blondo | Johnston & Murphy | Vionic

  • Slip-on sneakers. These are just so darn comfortable. Here’s a similar style that’s waterproof and  budget-friendly.
  • Something funky. (Similar style) I purchased these Robert Clergerie brogues in New York last year, and logged several miles in them the first day. They’ve passed the Travel Comfort test with flying colors. They’re not for rainy days, but give me a fun break from black footwear.

Bottoms

As mentioned above, I’ve kept to slim-leg or skinny styles. This silhouette works best for me and is easiest to style. But again, go with whatever silhouette works best for you.

Tops

  • Navy blouse (similar).
  • Floral top. The “throw on and go” option.
  • Black zip-front blouse (similar). I’ve had this one from Theory for a few years, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces.
  • Cashmere cardigan (similar here and here).
  • Striped long-sleeve tee (similar).
  • 3 sweaters (v-neck and scoop neck). Mine are mostly no longer available, here are similar styles:

Eileen Fisher | Eileen Fisher PlusAqua | Eileen Fisher | Equipment

Budget-Friendly: Halogen | Karen Scott | Talbots | Uniqlo | Charter Club

Scarves

I’m still deciding. My scarf wardrobe has dwindled a bit and could use a refresh. I’ll be shopping in Paris for some solid, colored scarves.

Outerwear, Bag

Paris travel wardrobe outerwear and bag. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I’ll be taking my trusty Sandro utility jacket (which also works as a raincoat) and my navy wool topper from Scapa, which works either as a blazer or a lightweight overcoat. Both of these were purchased on prior trips, and no longer available. But I’ve found some similar styles:

Utility Jacket

J.Crew | Michael Michael Kors | Barbour | Mackage | Everlane | Kristen Blake

Navy Jacket

AYRPolo Ralph Lauren | J.Crew | Banana Republic | Old Navy | Uniqlo

The bag is the Pearl from Lo & Sons. And based on my experience in the spring with cooler-than-expected temperatures, I’ll probably toss in my packable down parka (similar).

Latest update: the latest forecast is showing cooler and wetter conditions. I’m tempted to bring my lined Burberry raincoat purchased a few years ago (similar). Stay tuned…

How far ahead do you plan and pack your travel wardrobes?

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46 Comments

  1. October 16, 2017 / 4:05 am

    So looking forward to your autumn Paris trip, Susan. I love it when we get to go to Paris with you. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to your search for scarves in Paris. Although my budget doesn’t often let me buy top-end, I’m an easy touch when Hermes scarves and shawls are available. I wear them every chance I get.

    P.S. Those Robert Clergerie shoes are way cool!

  2. Ann Marie
    October 16, 2017 / 4:18 am

    Instead of our packable parka or lined rain coat, why not bring a packable down vest you can layer under the two coats you are bringing? That way you can take it off if it warms up during the day.

    I bought a couple of scarves from Monoprix when I was there in September. They are pashima size. I bought a blue and a nice muted yellow (good for fall).

    • Tess
      October 17, 2017 / 6:59 am

      I agree with the vest idea. I usually go to Paris in September or October and the weather can range greatly. I had stressed over packing a large enough range of tops and coats to handle this, then swapped out some of the warm sweaters and heavier coat for a vest for layering. Lots more flexibility and less stuff.

      • Susan B
        October 17, 2017 / 7:03 am

        I thought that was a good idea too. I’ve nixed the heavier raincoat idea and added a lightweight insulating vest to the mix.

  3. Jan
    October 16, 2017 / 4:20 am

    I have just returned from a four week trip to the US and was thinking about and planning my wardrobe for months but failed miserably!
    We knew it would be warm to hot for the first 9 days (from mid September) in California and Las Vegas but were completely thrown by this weather continuing when we flew to New England where we expected autumn leaves and mild to cool weather. The final week, last week, in New York was hot and unbearably humid.
    All of my cooler climate clothes stayed unworn in my suitcase and I rotated 5 or so summery tops and 3 pairs of pants for the entire trip! Luckily things dried quickly due to the heat. Had a fabulous trip, nonetheless but as they say, the best laid plans…

  4. Jan
    October 16, 2017 / 4:37 am

    Hi Susan! Just returned from Austria/France trip-it was cooler in Austria as expected but layers & EF charcoal knee length anorak worked great. Paris was warmer than usual so tunic length black knit jacket worked well. Did take 2 short knit dresses in charcoal & burgundy, wore w leggings & ankle boots or flats- saw lot of same in Vienna & Paris so I fit right in! Also the “new” green is everywhere in the good shops & that was my wild card piece, a long cardi so I was able to get some cool accessories. I took similar sneakers & saw often in Paris so ok with skinny jeans when foot fatigue sets in-have fun in Paris! Wonderful beyond words as always!!!!
    Jan

    • vtaloni
      October 16, 2017 / 1:04 pm

      Jan, I’m curious as to what kind of knit dresses you took?

  5. Sue
    October 16, 2017 / 4:43 am

    I was interested in the “in-flight” pants comment. Are the EF ponte pants sturdy enough to avoid damage from the seats on a long flight? The in-flight outfit is a dilemma for me, because I want something polished, comfortable, with fabric that won’t pill or get worn from my restless shifting. One flight to Asia wrecked one of my favorite pairs of pants!

    Thank you for all the great ideas.

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 6:06 am

      Sue, I’ve found both these and the EF stretch crepe pants to work well for long flights. I’ve never had any problems with them snagging or pilling.

  6. October 16, 2017 / 5:42 am

    That looks like a good wardrobe. Down here in the south the weather is still balmy–windows open even at night–but Paris is considerably cooler.
    I love your brogues. Interesting shoes are very in.

  7. Diana
    October 16, 2017 / 6:02 am

    I love these travel wardrobe posts! Have you considered doing one for travel to a resort? I know that it should seem simple, but I’ve never seen anything that’s “age appropriate.” I can just bring a bikinis, cut off denim and flip flops. Please?

  8. October 16, 2017 / 6:05 am

    Hi Susan
    How were you able to “dwindle” your scarf collection?
    And what makes a great scarf in your opinion? especially for travel?
    Great posts re the 12-13 pieces for travel–
    thanks—

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 6:11 am

      Hi Mary, some just plain wore out, or were in colors that no longer suit me. What makes a great scarf for travel depends on the season, but I usually like to have one cashmere stole or large scarf for the plane, and then will choose the rest based on weather. I find oblong rather than squares are easiest for travel.

  9. Bonnie
    October 16, 2017 / 6:17 am

    I am going to London and then Antwerp in early November and am really stressing about what to wear. Some people have said that jeans and sneakers (even nice ones) are not appropriate. But we are going to be doing a ton of walking and I know my feet will be killing me if I don’t have the right kind of footwear.

    And Jan, sorry you ran into our horrible humidity. I live in Mass. – it just now today is finally cooler out!

    • Jane2
      October 16, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Wear what’s comfortable – you’ll see everything in London from sneakers to Laboutins.

    • Mary
      October 16, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      Bonnie, there was a time (and still may be) when many Americans went all over the world wearing white athletic sneakers. This was really not what anyone else in the world was doing, hence the warning you received. I believe the more modern “city” sneakers are more acceptable now. My last trip to Europe was two years ago and I was surprised by how many people everywhere (on the way, airports, etc.) were wearing white-soled sneaker- type shoes.

    • Jan
      October 16, 2017 / 11:55 pm

      New England was thankfully as beautiful as ever Bobbie!

      • Jan
        October 17, 2017 / 1:55 am

        Darn that autocorrect Bonnie!

  10. Brit
    October 16, 2017 / 7:25 am

    @ Bonnie, I have never been to Antwerp but have visited London more than once as well as other European cities. I have never felt out of place wearing jeans or sneakers for sight-seeing. We saw so many Adidas sneakers in France this summer! Except for a very nice dinner or occasion, jeans and sneaks should be fine.

    • Bonnie
      October 16, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Thank you! 🙂

  11. October 16, 2017 / 7:59 am

    Thank you for sharing your travel wardrobe. And have a wonderful time in the most beautiful city I have seen.

  12. Jane2
    October 16, 2017 / 8:16 am

    The 12 piece travel wardrobe has been my travel saviour. The first time I did it, I approached packing like a military exercise – it took a month of choosing and honing – and I still took things I didn’t wear. Now that I’ve used the rule a few times, I can pretty much leave the planning until the week before I leave.

    Neutrals really are the key – it’s like a travel uniform.

    My only piece of advice is, like you, to pack tried and true footwear. We North Americans seem to obsess over whether we’ll fit in footwear-wise – why wreck a trip you’ve paid thousands of dollars for to meet some stranger’s perceived expectations? I’ve never noticed if anyone looks at my feet or cares – I’m too busy sightseeing/shopping/dining!

    • Angela
      October 16, 2017 / 11:33 am

      Haha Jane2, you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding footwear and perception! I have lived in New Zealand for over 40 years but still carry some silly British notions in my head about appearance.

    • Bonnie
      October 16, 2017 / 11:48 am

      Thank you for this! This makes me more confident in my footwear choices. I will have nice black sneakers and a nice pair of booties to wear when absolutely necessary. You are so right – we are paying a lot for this trip. My husband will not be happy if I am whiny and in pain! 🙂

  13. Martina
    October 16, 2017 / 9:18 am

    I hope you’re planning to see the Christian Dior exhibit. I was there yesterday, and it was out of this world. Truly, truly fabulous. I bought my ticket in advance so I could skip the long line. Have a great trip!

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 9:20 am

      Yes! Josephine and I have tickets. Can’t wait!

  14. Cind
    October 16, 2017 / 10:27 am

    Enjoy your blog. I am currently in Venice…. I am with a carry on and find that my skirt/dresses are taking me everywhere. I see more skirts/dresses than I see pants. For me I am far more comfy in my skirts than pants. I as well see the Italian women in a skirt over pants. I even fly in my dress (with leggings and a wonderful jacket/leggings and scarf— I come away from the airport and am ready to visit the city, as my Hotel room is rarely ready). Works for me. Have a great time!

  15. Sandra
    October 16, 2017 / 10:27 am

    Mentally, my head is always in Paris 🙂 When physically going there I start planning six weeks prior and pack three days before my flight. When I was there in early September the weather was quiet cool with two rainy days. The Dior exhibit was the perfect antidote to the rain.

    Your wardrobe looks lovely and appropriate. Jeans and sneakers were everywhere!

    Bonnes vacances, Sue.

  16. Kay
    October 16, 2017 / 10:43 am

    We go to France nearly every year because we have family there. Not every trip includes Paris, but we have been many times. I find that an issue I have with packing is over-thinking it. I will sometimes take an item because it works in the “theory” in my head, but it doesn’t get enough wear in the real world to justify having packed it. I’ve been working on that one now for decades, and I am getting better! I take only one bag for a month-long trip, my trusty Lipault carry-on, doing lots of laundry along the way. One horror story I can share is the time my one bag did not arrive in Paris when I did and showed up four days later. My answer was Monoprix, and I got one scarf there I have now been wearing for years.

  17. Diana
    October 16, 2017 / 12:07 pm

    Can you fit all this, including one of the coats, in a carry-on?

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 12:10 pm

      I can fit all of this and one of the coats into a carry-on, yes. I use packing cubes for compression which helps save space. I’ll wear some of these items on the flight, and usually the bulkiest of the shoes.

      • Martha
        October 16, 2017 / 1:21 pm

        Your packing-for-travel posts are so helpful! How many days are you packing for here, and what size is your carry-on? I’m leaving for 6 days in Vancouver, BC, the day after tomorrow, and think I’ve fit everything into a 21”x 14” 4-wheel roller bag. But I have’t fit in everything that you have.

        • Susan B
          October 16, 2017 / 2:40 pm

          Hi Martha, I’m going for 8 days, but this is the same wardrobe I’d pack for a two week trip, and probably just do some laundry at a halfway point. The carry-on I normally use is 20″ x 14″ x 10″. However, because I plan to do some shopping on this trip and will also be bringing home some skincare and other liquids, I’m taking a slightly larger hard-sided bag that I’ll check.

  18. Joanna
    October 16, 2017 / 12:59 pm

    I love your brogues. They will add a playful touch to your outfits. I’m happy that brogues/oxfords made a comeback. So comfy!
    Can you recommend a packable rain jacket/coat for travelling?
    I love your packing posts. It is always the most stressful part of the trip for me. Lay out…put away…add…take away… I’m exhausted before I board the plane.

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 2:43 pm

      Hi Joanna, thank you! I just did a post on packable raincoats HERE. 🙂

  19. Marie
    October 16, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    Since you’re only traveling to Paris, I think you could replace the sateen blue pants with your leather leggings. It seems to me that it would combine very well with everything else in your wardrobe and bring that “city chic” with you… From a French girl 🙂

    • Susan B
      October 16, 2017 / 2:37 pm

      Funny you mention those leggings…I had just made exactly that swap! 😉

  20. Nicole
    October 16, 2017 / 2:55 pm

    Helpful guide and very similar to what I’m packing for New England! I’m just bringing one jacket and I’ll use that for colder temps and sweater(s) for fall chill. I picked up a very soft merino wool sweater at Costco, of all places, while browsing as my daughter shopped (I tag along as my daughter’s guest). I ordered EF denim leggings when they were on sale and we’ll see how they fit when they arrive, and if they make the cut. Otherwise, no denim for this trip. I prefer cotton tops and layering for warmth over that. I cannot remember the last time I wore a wool sweater top on its own, probably when I lived in NH! Speaking of sweaters, so much no on the Gia sweater with holes. Even if I sound too prim and sensible, “holes in wool/cashmere” is all wrong, even for fashion, and it even looks strained, sagging open on the pressure of the shoulders. Ugh. Also, because we take so much care to not get any in our beautiful sweaters in the first place. I personally feel that holes in clothes, as in all the denim, is a conspiratorial joke on the masses by the industry, “let’s see if we can get them to wear clothes that look trashed.” And they did! Important to remember to not lose one’s sense of style and individuality which, to me, is a fashion statement.

  21. Paula Evans
    October 16, 2017 / 4:38 pm

    Just retuned from Paris this evening. The color that was everywhere was mustard gold/yellow. Handbags, scarves, sweaters and shoes. Looks great with navy or black.

    • October 16, 2017 / 9:45 pm

      Ooh, thanks for this! Mustard/gold is one of my favorite colors, and I wear it a lot for work (school colors). I’m glad to know I’ll also be au courant while I’m wearing it!

  22. Patrish
    October 17, 2017 / 5:40 am

    I totally agree with the over-thinking it comment. Once, when my luggage remained state-side and I landed in Paris I had only what I was wearing and my carry-on with one change of clothes. Black pants, black cashmere crew neck and a Hermes scarf. (and undies) My checked bag took 3 days to arrive. I learned then my carry-on plus my great looking water-proof coat, great short boots and great bag were really all I needed and I looked as good as I did after my bag arrived. Tired, well worn (though comfy) jeans and tops are never a part of my city wardrobe. Simple, chic, monochromatic, pulled-together items are key.

  23. October 17, 2017 / 8:55 am

    By the way, have you taken the tram (T3) around the edge of Paris yet? It is cutting edge, and can provide surprising access to different parts of the city each a short walk towards the city centre. It is also a great boon for disabled people.

  24. Lynn
    October 17, 2017 / 9:24 am

    Having traveled in the autumn/spring to find unexpectedly cool weather I alway pack a pair of silk long underwear.- camisole and pants. They have saved me from freezing several times. Can also be pair of backup PJ’s. Just a thought.

  25. Kim
    October 20, 2017 / 5:26 am

    I’ve found scarves to be my workhorses, as they add interest and color near my face, even when having to wear raincoats and such, and the shirts can be solid color…

  26. October 21, 2017 / 9:22 am

    Always better to pack too much and be over prepared than to pack too little and be left wishing you’d pack something you didn’t!

  27. November 4, 2017 / 9:39 pm

    My husband and I just returned from traveling for one month visiting Berlin, Paris and Dublin. We both carried an Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel backpack 21X13X9. We travel independently using public transportation in cities, trains between countries and airbnb. We are 59 years old. My husband always used the back pack, but I always used the rolling small carry thinking I was too “old” for a backpack and the rolling carry on was “easier”. After several trips with the carry on, I decided this year to try the backpack. Too say the backpack is easier is an understatement! I know many women have back issues and cannot physically handle a back pack, but if your back is in good condition, I can heartedly recommend this alternative! The rolling carry on is not convenient for those of us who use public transportation. The buses, metros and cobblestones make life so difficult with a rolling carry on! I pack light when we travel to Europe in the fall with black, gray and burgundy neutrals: 1 black knee length dress, 1 dark denim skinny jean, 1 EF knit straight pant, leggings, tights, silk underwear, smart wool socks, 1 pr thick cushioned ankle socks (double as slippers in the airbnb apartments), compression socks, 1 pair ankle boots (Try English made Hotter boots for out of this world comfort and European chic!), 1 merino wool cardigan, 1 burgundy cashmere V-neck sweater, 2 tank tops, 1 short sleeve t’s, 2 long sleeve t’s, 1 yoga pant for bedtime, 1 solid burgundy, very large dense wool scarf (I call this scarf my “secret weapon” against any surprise cold weather in the fall) & one patterned burgundy cashmere & silk scarf. C’est tout! I take one dark navy slightly above knee belted trench coat with detachable hood and layer underneath as needed with the merino wool & cashmere sweaters. I have learned to layer for unexpected cold weather or just wear less underneath the trench coat for warm temps. I use a “travelon” black messenger bag from ebags that has the same safety features as the well known pacsafe at half the cost. I always bring a small packable tote to carry our groceries back to our apartment and a large packable gym bag to carry our souvenirs on the plane & we check our backpacks on our return flight. It is true as another reader pointed out, I just don’t need that much! If anything, I tend to wind up wearing the same building block pieces & using a colored sweater or scarf to change the look. What I have learned over the years is that no one is looking at me! It is me having the privilege to meet and talk with many wonderful people, gaze at the awe inspiring architecture, learn about the centuries of rich European history, share the European culture, and eat sumptuous food! So long as I am comfortable, have somewhat a European “continental” style, and I’m wearing clean clothing which is appropriate for the weather, it doesn’t matter to me that I am wearing the same outfit! I know this will not appeal to everyone….but going with a few neutral, comfortable, well made pieces of clothing has taken the anxiety, worry and spending too much money for “travel clothing” out of my travel!

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