And away we go! Though we’ll be staying in France on this trip, this wardrobe could work almost anywhere in Europe (or much of the Northern Hemisphere) during Spring.
France/Europe Travel Wardrobe For Spring
The biggest challenge for packing for this time of year is gauging the weather. Forecasts (especially beyond the next few days) change almost hourly. As of this writing, the forecast is calling for warm, humid weather for week one, and substantially cooler temperatures for our last week, when we’ll be in Paris. But it’s really anyone’s guess. What I’ve tried to accommodate here are temperatures from 50F/10C to 85F/30C and sunny, wet, and/or windy conditions.
While some might find a capsule like this boring, I find that keeping everything very simple actually saves me a lot of stress. When we travel, I place a premium on wardrobe cohesion. Having pieces that can mix and match easily helps me keep the wardrobe down to a manageable size and saves me from those Nothing To Wear freakouts. I’m not parading for street style photographers at Fashion Week; I’m trying to dress appropriately and comfortably for a variety of activities. And out of a single suitcase.
That said, I’m allowing myself a few more pieces this time to accommodate variable conditions, and to build in a little more variety. I’m still hewing to a mostly neutral wardrobe for maximum cohesion. Though we have a couple of nice dinners planned, we don’t have anything scheduled that requires clothing more formal than “smart casual.” I’m sticking with a mostly long-over-lean silhouette, and with pieces that can be layered easily. And as with past travel wardrobes, I’m allowing myself a “wild card” piece (or two) that I’ll add at the last minute based on weather forecasts and my mood.
Travel Wardrobe Details
First, my apologies for the photo quality. I was trying to shoot with natural light, which kept changing as I was working! I’ve lightened the images a little bit so you can see more detail on the darker pieces.
Boots: I really went back and forth about whether to include a pair of ankle boots (similar). On past trips, I’ve missed having them when I didn’t bring them. They’re my favorite choice for travel days as they’re easy to slip on and off going through security checkpoints, and will be nice to have should the weather turn cool. Though black is a little heavy for the season, this is the most comfortable pair I own. Mine are a from a few seasons back, here’s a similar style.
Sneakers: I decided to go with the metallic pair, as a) they’ll be less likely to show dirt and b) they’re easier to style than the white ones (for me, anyway). I replaced the white laces with dark grey, and like the look much better.
Sandals: went with another metallic choice (silver). I picked these as they’re the lightest of my walking sandals.
Loafers: These are my “dressy shoe” option. In the past, when I’ve packed heels, even low ones, I never wear them. These are comfortable enough to walk in, and will look dressed up enough when I need them to.
Knits: I’m bringing two pairs of the Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants (Plus option here) one of which I’ll wear on the plane. These pants are my favorites for travel; they dress up or down, are washable in the sink, and comfortable in a range of temperatures.
Blue Denim: I’m bringing two pairs of lighter weight, ankle-length jeans. Mine are from prior seasons, similar here and here.
Black denim. On the last couple of trips, I found myself wishing I’d packed a pair of woven black pants. None of my remaining styles of work trousers felt right, so I went with a smooth, non-distressed denim pair.
V-neck sweater. This lightweight wool sweater (similar) is a versatile layering piece. If the weather is as cool in Paris as currently forecast, I’ll be glad to have it.
Tees. I no longer bother with short-sleeved tees. I’ve learned from experience that I just don’t wear them. Even on warm days, I prefer a bit of coverage.
- Both of the black and white tees are from prior seasons. Similar here and here.
- Similar striped here.
Shirts. I’ve tried to include a few options with some pattern and/or color that will add some visual interest when it’s too warm to layer.
- Polka dot. Mine’s a few seasons old, similar here.
- Sailboat print linen shirt (similar).
- Denim. This can be worn as either a shirt or lightweight jacket.
- Silk floral print. From a prior season. Similar here.
Jacket, Cardigan. I’ve learned to bring pieces that are light enough to go underneath a layer of outerwear if needed.
- Silk jacket. Dresses up or down, doesn’t wrinkle. Similar styles: here, here (Plus), and here.
- Tie cardigan. This is the one featured in yesterday’s post. Also available in a nude color here.
Scarves. I’m hoping to find some fun scarves en route. In addition to a travel wrap I’m bringing a lightweight cashmere-silk in pale blue (similar), and a mostly monochromatic printed lightweight modal large square (similar).
Outerwear And Bags
Lightweight wool topper. This is the jacket I bought last year in Italy. It can be worn either as a long blazer or as outerwear, is lightweight and looks sharp. I haven’t been able to find anything similar currently available online, but will keep looking.
Water-resistant utility jacket.This is one of the Energizer Bunnies in my wardrobe. It just keeps going and going and… Similar styles: Lands’ End | J.Crew | Charter Club (Petite / Plus)
Down vest. This is a just-in-case piece, but it weighs almost nothing, takes up a minimal amount of space in the suitcase, and adds a little bit of color, so why not? Mine is the color “Brown” (actually more of an ochre IRL) which isn’t currently available online, though stores may still have it.
- Travel day bag (similar). I’m going to be checking my main suitcase this time, and will be bringing a wheeled underseat bag for my camera equipment and carry-on necessities. So I decided to bring a nicer looking, but still lightweight bag. It also has a crossbody strap.
- Nylon daytime “excursion” bag. I’m road-testing this one. Intended for use on those days when I know I’ll be on my feet all day and want the lightest bag possible.
- Going out to dinner or “I-neeeed-to-wear-something-that’s-not-black” (similar) bag. This is another attractive and lightweight crossbody option.
I’m assembling a few accessories now, will share those in upcoming posts. Whew, I think that’s everything…
Hubby and I are leaving for Paris today. Laid clothes out yesterday hoping to pare down, but weather is so changeable. Tried to stay in color families that go together for mix and match, and brought dresses for hot weather. You are the experienced traveler and my suitcase looks similar. Toiletries take up a lot of space, bringing along for minor care situations too. After Paris, Switzerland; hope all bases are covered.
Enjoy your trip Susan.
Yes! I find that toiletries are so bulky. I use the Emme bag which I love. But that only holds about half. Then a simple bit of makeup. But I have to take several skin creams (dry, problem skin…) that are in small containers, not bottles! Then the hair dryer (small, to be sure) and then hair straightener. It all adds up!!
You are 100% right about the weather. It can swing from cool and damp to sunny and hot one day to the next.
Packing layers isn’t that easy–ideally you can wear several of your layers all at once (i.e., blouse + V-sweater + cardigan + topper if it’s cold and wet and at night–it might only happen once if at all, but it’s good to have the option). Heat is a little easier to deal with–shirts with long sleeves can be rolled up and don’t feel much different than short sleeves.
We are going up north from Florida in warm weather and then two weeks in Ireland! I am so excited! These travel plans necessitate me taking lighter clothes and heavier layers for Ireland. I hear it rains a lot in Ireland, so we are packing rain gear also. I am taking a lot of black as usual, plus a few bright things to wear out for dinner. Only 3 pairs of shoes, and one purse. I always take a crossbody so I can wear it all times. My husband freaks out if I leave it in the car. I don’t want to give up space in the bag for extra purses. I’ve added a few scarves instead of jewelry. do you have any other thoughts?
I just returned from Paris, the weather did change alot from rain to sun. Your advice on Smart wool socks and silk EF Tee’s and Indglo down, was extremely helpful. Oh, and Monoprix has silk tanks and Tee’s, so I got one extra. Question: why are their fabrics so nice, yet seemingly unavailable in the US.? And many more leather shoe options, not easily found here? I bought two lovely cotton dresses, wonderful fabric!
I’m headed to Paris and then the Dordogne next Monday, I’m happy to hear about the Monoprix items. Where did you find your dresses?
And Susan, your blog has been so helpful to me, particularly when planning for travel. I am so grateful!
I am finding your travel wardrobe posts very valuable. I am starting to put together a wardrobe for a river cruise this October. We will travel through Germany, Austria and Hungary. I’ve not been to this area so I am not sure what the weather will be. Also, this time of year can be so changeable. any suggestions would be so appreciated.
Our daytime temps were around low 70s on that trip (same time), but ranged from 50s to 90s, so layering is key. I brought a few lightweight buttoned cardis in dark solids from J Crew for layering. I like tops that can be washed easily and brought some thin jersey tops as well as some polos (solid color golf polos in matte fabrics without any logos work well). The new “performance” fabrics in athleisure clothes are great for traveling. I no longer pack anything in 100% cotton. A few lightweight scarves to change up your look are good. Since you’ll be walking a lot on uneven surfaces without a chance to change footwear during the day, comfortable shoes are a must. Take something with a supportive sole that holds your foot well but still expands with heat, so no ballerinas or leather soles! The two things I wished I had brought and bought on site to deal with temperature extremes were a thin packable windbreaker and a straw hat. Gute Reise!
We leave in two weeks for London and then Isle of Wight…so packing is easier if just more cohesive. Just hoping they don’t have a heat wave that was there last June during my garden tour!
I was born and raised on the Isle of Wight! I left in my early twenties to live in the U.S, both my mum and sister still live on the Island. Enjoy your trip, we leave for Italy in two weeks.
I love seeing your travel wardrobes, comparing to my own & learning from your experiences. Thank you for sharing! Those Paul Green shoes are so perfect that I clicked straight through to order them immediately!
I wish I’d seen this before my trip on the Pacific Coast Highway two weeks ago! We started with 80s in Los Angeles and ended with San Francisco’s chilly 60s, and hit everything in between. I thought I brought enough layering options, but was way off this time and didn’t bring a warm top layer (ie my lightweight puffer jacket). And, my suitcase was way heavier than I like. Great trip; disasterous wardrobe. No problems packing for business. Nothing but problems packing for leisure!
I am going to Paris mid-July-early August. I will note the predicted forecast before packing but like your helpful capsule above, Susan, I would surmise I will be packing for sun and some rain in Paris. My palette’s base color, despite the summer season, is black; the color I will add with tops and scarves. I do love scarves for interest (and warmth, if I need it for changeable weather). I am going to try out new-to-me ‘dress yoga pants’ from Betebrand for plane travel with cashmere blend scarf and prana type wrap. I need to be comfy on a long flight and warm. I am going to try out your Eileen Fisher crepe pants–those sound ideal for travel. I’ve tried out so many travel shoes so far that it’s embarrassing and sent most of them back. Low volume fussy feet. Perhaps, next up, those metallic sneakers! You should see the look on my husband’s face when the doorbell rings, another shoe delivery? Yea for returns and triple yea for comfy pain-free feet in all-day walking shoes. Some would call this picky, I would call it discerning . . .
Cheryl, I couldn’t help but respond to your post about the shoe deliveries! I have been there with my husband, not to mention the UPS guy. Both with running shoes and travel shoes/sandals, it takes me multiple tries to find something. Good luck!
The weather can be so frustrating! Last August we went to London and that week they had record breaking heat in the 90’s! Not one drop of rain. Almost everything I brought to wear was wrong. Luckily we had an Airb&b house with a washer & dryer. Love your tips. I need to get a lot smarter about packing the right wardrobe. I’ve got to check out those Eileen Fisher pants.
Susan, any tips on packing silk blouses to avoid wrinkles? Last time I tried this (with a Classiques Entier stretch silk), I rolled it with other tops so that it wouldn’t be scrunched too tightly. That definitely did not work.
Hi Jeanne, my suggestion would be to use a packing envelope like this one: http://bit.ly/2IYmU9G I use these for woven shirts and pants that are prone to wrinking. They really do work!
I’ll try it – thanks!
Thanks for the tip! Do you recommend the small size of this envelope for blouses? Or the large? Thanks! Love your selection for the travel wardrobe!
Hi Leigh, it depends on how many items you plan to pack in it. For this trip I used a small sized one that currently has my woven shirts and a pair of pants. 6 items total, and the size is fine. Check the recommendations/specs on each size, and also factor in the weight of pieces.
I just wrap my items in the dry cleaner clear thin plastic wrap. It keeps it from wrinkling.
I heard a few years ago about a packing trick for silk. Pack it in plastic bag from dry cleaners. You just put shirt inside bag and make small holes for long sleeves to extend through, and then fold or roll it. Just used this trick and it worked beautifully!
I always travel with this, placing almost all of my clothes in it. My clothes look great.
Thanks for the fab tips, Susan! We’re going to Amsterdam in June and I appreciate the guidance!
Trying to understand the logic so I can use it for my next trip. Two pairs of EF black washable stretch crepe? Why two of the same or are they different? Also why two pairs of jeans? Why not one and wash (or have laundered if you are in one place long enough?
Hi Neats, the EF pants are actually slightly different cuts. One is longer and closer-fitting, the other is a lantern leg style. And I find I wear the jeans quite often. The washes and hems are different. I suppose I could do one pair of each, but this way if I don’t have an opportunity for laundry it won’t be a big deal.
Yay! Your list is here! I’m headed over next Wednesday for a four-week trip and will be packing for similar conditions.
Your comment about short-sleeved tees made me reconsider my plans; I had three on my list but am going to ditch them. I will bring several long-sleeved linen shirts which can be worn in a range of temperatures – as a base when cool and by themselves, with rolled-up sleeves, when it is warm. I’ll also bring a few tanks which can similarly serve in a variety of temps.
You don’t usually wear skirts, do you? I find them invaluable when it is really warm. I will bring two, along with four pairs of pants (one on the plane) and one black tank dress. Yes, I am checking.
I’m vacillating right now on the boots, which I usually wear on the plane. I have a pair of Aquatalia similar to yours (I thank you for helping me discover this wonderful brand) but not sure if they will be worn. I’m betting that this trip will be warmer vs. cooler. However, the memories of my trip to Sancerre in 2016, and the California winter weather I experienced during the first two weeks of June, are strong. The problem is, if not my boots, what shoes to wear when it rains?
By the way, I think your vest is a brilliant idea! I am bringing a couple of light cashmere sweaters just in case.
Finally, THANK YOU for the recommendation of the little BlkBox speaker. I’ve been grading semester-end projects for the last week and as I do that I tend to carry my computer with me to different places in the house – I’ve been taking the speaker with me. It’s nice to have amplified music wherever I am! I know I’ll be grateful for the little guy in France.
Hi Susan! This viscose blouse in navy clover in made me think of your Joie floral blouse: https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/hinge-print-popover-blouse/4726025
I can’t do most synthetics, but viscose seems okay.
Good catch! I find viscose is one of the better synthetics, usually quite breathable. I believe it’s made from plant fibers, which helps.
Viscose is Rayon; made from wood pulp. The name alone is no guarantee, and neither is the price nor the manufacturer: it can behave like a dream or be a disaster. Tencel and Bamboo are made similarly. All of these plant based fibers are washable, but behavior varies and there should be a trial run before you pack them for a trip.
Wow — once you decided to check a bag, you opened the floodgates to lots of extras. I just got back from 12 days in Paris and the Loire Valley with only an 18″ carry-on and a sling bag. 1) My first pair of Eileen Fisher washable crepe pants lived up to all the hype. 2) A good raincoat is non-negotiable. Mine will take me from out-to-dinner to casual jacket duty, and it keeps me dry in a 2-hour downpour without an umbrella. 3) My Uniqlo compact down jacket, on its own or under the raincoat, took me from 45° to 70°. I saw others all over Paris. 4) You don’t need heavy layers, just lots of light ones. 5) Merino 6) I took a good pocket camera with programmed and manual settings. I can use it one-handed, and don’t have to worry about dropping my phone or draining its battery. The one downside – it’s an older model with no instant-share. Finally 7) Remember that sooner or later, you will have to haul all of your baggage up a flight of stairs. Bon Voyage!
Hi Lyn, yes I’m building in a little more variety. I wouldn’t categorize as “opening the floodgates” though. 😉 The capsule has one more bottom than usual, and two more tops. I can still easily lift/carry my suitcase.
Yes, I have to laugh at “opening the floodgates.” I haven’t yet found a way to carry on everything I need for 3 months on the road at a time. I take probably 3 times the amount shown above in toto, plus a bag for camera, computer, peripherals, tripod goes in the check-in, plus more, more, more. And yet I have an onboard rolling bag, one check-through, and a crossbody bag. If I have to have more, I mail it to myself. Susan has shown tremendous restraint in her packing choices, which is very wise. I see absolutely nothing wrong with checking a bag. That’s what the cargo hold is for.
Totally agree Alison. It seems like it has become some sort of badge of honour to NOT check a bag. And if one admits to checked baggage one is not considered a”real” traveller! As long as you can lift your bag easily into trains and buses and generally manage it without assistance, have no shame in checking it. And it keeps the cabin space uncluttered and safe as well.
Love seeing the Uniqlo vest in this round-up. I have the exact same one, same color. It really is a neutral.
I live live in Paris, and today, started warm and then poured rain. I have a lite weight poncho that weighs less than an umbrella but I also needed the umbrella. It rains here more than London, you have been warned.
I’d bring one purse, I own many and don’t bother to change from my black one. You’re going to buy those light weight bomber jackets in a print. They are everywhere and at 68, I even bought one.
Hi! Thanks for the bomber jacket tip. Are they silk? Or all fabrics? I love to know what the trends are before they hit the USA.
They are mostly fabric, and since it’s summer, lightweight. I bought one in silk and black velour by Lafayette 148 at Nordstrom’s rack in March that was begging to be picked up. $200 but originally $600. The one I got in Paris is in a bright lightweight African print for around $40. African prints are huge in Paris this summer, but I like the more subdued ones.
Colorful printed shoes are also a trend. Subtitle colors are very Parisian so I don’t know who is buying the bright look!
I’m a flight attendant, and go between NY and Paris. Buy in NY or US, it’s cheaper!
Mine is polyester subtitle African print fabric. African print this summer is HUGE in Paris. Parisians like subtitle colors so I don’t know who is buying this!
Really didn’t find silk but Ted Baker has some. Bought a silk black and velour Layfayette 148 bomber at Nordstrom’s rack in March for $200 from $600.
The Parisians are embracing the Le jogging look, but keep it sophisticated. I wear it with a long pearl tassel necklace.
As a fight attendant living in Paris, I shop in NY because prices are better!!
I’m heading to Berlin in a few weeks. So far, the weather looks to be in the 80’s which makes packing so much easier and lighter! I’ll still bring a raincoat, and a sweater or two, but will focus most of my packing around dresses. I’ve been experimenting with traveling with silk as the pieces are so light and fold up to almost nothing. Have fun on your trip. I love when you do your analysis after the trip.
Hi Susan, your wardrobe looks perfect. I just returned from a 21 day transatlantic cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Copenhagen and then a week in Barcelona. En route, we stopped in the Azores, Cobh Ireland, Le Havre, Brugges and Amsterdam. I packed a lined raincoat for Ireland and then had the best weather day ever. And I’ve been 3 times. However, I was glad to have the wool lining on the very cold mountain top in the Azores. On shore days and in Barcelona, the shirt I wore the most was a long-sleeved JJIll Wearever black and dotted item. I was gone for a month and that shirt never wrinkled. It was also just loose enough that I felt comfortable hiding my money/card lanyard under it-especially in Barcelona. Don’t let JJill find out, but, I consider the brand to be the poor woman’s Eileen Fisher, which I wore pre-retirement. Both great classic clothes choices. As for your shoes, personally, I’d leave the light flats home. I saw lots of gold and silver sneakers and Birkenstocks. I’d also leave the black, going-out-to dinner bag home, just to save space and weight. That might be because I was so paranoid about being pick-pocketed in Barcelona that I always left my bag across my body even while eating. Having said, that, I brought two checked bags on my trip! But, I did have 21 days of cruise activities to plan for. I know you’ll have a great time, especially because you’ve been to France before. One last thing, you probably already have a list of supplies to buy in Europe, but it was a revelation to me to find out that Diclofinac (Brands Voltaran and Voltadol Forte) can be purchase OTC in Europe and throat lozenges there, have lidocaine (wish I’d bought more).
Regarding the list of supples to buy in Europe, I’ve also been seeing a lot of articles recently about how much better European sunscreens are. I guess that’s kind of a fashion item, definitely important for the “certain age” crowd!
I’m going to use this as a template for my up coming road trip to Seattle from No. California….possibly, lots of varying temperatures and conditions to deal with along the way up and back.
I have been in Paris these days and what I saw was that a lot of women wore sandals! How do they do that without blisters?
Good quality with “a thickish sole”! Try: L’Amour des Pieds; Arche; Taos
Hoping to see a couple of lovely new scarves from your trip. The moment we hit temperate weather seasons I plunder my scarf drawers! Bonne vacances.
We are mid way through a 2 week stay in the UK. My JCrew sweater blazer was awesome for the plane and for our garden tours in Kent. In London now, and most of my layers are too hot in the middle of a sunny day, but need my jacket at night. Love my Emme bag, but it doesn’t hold a ton. I used packing cubes and rolled everything. So easy to pack and unpack. I use a crossbody Bandolier phone case with Pouch for my purse and they are fantastic. Free hands and no so shoulder, plus no chance of losing. Ditched my raincoat because non forecast. Wish I had brought my Uniqlo vest for the country. It was cold! Thanks for tips. Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants rule!
Really great advice that I’m making a copy of and placing in my passport for the next journey prep. Thank you so much, Susan – enjoy your travels!!!
I love your style and especially appreciate your travel wardrobe recommendations. What about le monsieur?
Does he follow a similar capsule wardrobe approach when traveling? My husband and I are traveling to Prague, Vienna and Budapest in early September and could use some guidance.
Thanks, Debra. le Monsieur is adamant in his preference for having more options and choices, and prefers to take a medium sized (checked) bag. Though I have been able to help him pare down somewhat, he still probably packs about twice as many pieces as I do. 😉
Since I’m always on the hunt for the perfect bag (and haven’t found it yet) I noticed you are traveling with bags you haven’t traveled with before. I’ll be interested to hear how they worked out. I don’t like wearing bags cross body in warm weather because without a coat to buffer, the strap digs into my neck and the rubbing of the bag wears on my clothes. I prefer a tote in warm weather, but a tote weighs on my shoulder on long site seeing days, plus it’s not as secure as cross body. I’d like a bag with both shoulder straps and a cross body strap so I can vary my carry.
Enjoy your trip!
Your travel wardrobes are some of my favorite posts (but no, not really, I love every post). This one is particularly useful to me, because I *always* check a suitcase. It makes everything easier. I really love your clothing choices–practical black with some interesting tops for variety. The only change for me would be to bring one purse only. It’s my old reliable Louis, which is indestructible, lightweight, and has both crossbody strap and handles. Have a wonderful trip, Susan!
I can totally see how this would work. I imagine I’d wind up going for some monochromatic impact – double denim and black boots, or black top and pants with white Birks, etc.
Love your blog. Your travel wardrobe post here is great but I need to know how how many days are you planning for? I’m leaving for a trip planned mid Dec./end of December brief stop in London, Paris, Switzerland with longer time traveling through Italy. I am determined for once not to overpack. Watching for your new mid-December travel wardrobe post & hoping it arrives in time for packing.
Hi M.W., most of the wardrobes are intended for a 2- to 2-½ week trip, though they could work for longer periods. I’ll be posting some winter travel wardrobe ideas next week, and will be finalizing my own wardrobe toward the end of the first week of December.
I love your capsule suggestions. I am traveling to New Orleans for a week in early February and assume this plan would work to the variable weather I expect. Looking forward to any suggestions, however.