Planning A Winter Travel Wardrobe For Paris - une femme d'un certain âge

Advance Travel Prep: Paris In December

the iconic Eiffel Tower, Paris

Beginning To Plan My Next Paris Travel Wardrobe…

My December trip to Paris is just a few weeks away, and I’ve already begun thinking obsessing about what to pack. Living in Southern California, I don’t usually have to dress for cold weather, so I have to plan (and shop) ahead.

The last time I visited Paris in December was two years ago, and they were experiencing unseasonable warmth. (And some serious air pollution. In an effort to discourage driving, the city made the Metro free for several days.) So I’m reviewing the wardrobe recap from that trip, but keeping in mind that anomaly. Average temperatures for the time I’ll be visiting range from a high of 51F/12C to a low of 37F/3C. But as always, I’ll keep an eye on the forecast in the days before I leave, and pack accordingly.

Winter Travel Necessities

I’m always harping to “start with the shoes” when planning a travel wardrobe, so I’ll take my own advice. For the last few years I’ve relied on a stylish and comfortable pair of suede Chelsea boots from Aquatalia. They’re now worn beyond repair, so I’ve been looking to replace them. I find black boots are most versatile for travel, but some of these styles are available in other colors too.

Weather-Resistant Boots

This pair with the interesting buckle detail (c/o) is on my short list. They’re good-looking and really comfortable. But I’m thinking if the weather’s more foul, I’ll want something that completely covers my ankles as well.

These are very similar in style to my previous pair, and just as comfortable, so are also on my short list.

But I’m also crushing on this wine patent pair

If you’re looking for more budget-friendly waterproof option, here’s one with a nice low heel and a sleek look.

This one has a nice high shaft, and a lug sole for extra traction. Also available in Chestnut leather.


Silk long underwear in Misses, Petites and Women's sizes. Details at une femme d'un certain age.The last time I packed for Paris in December, I brought along the “performance base layer” (long underwear) I usually pack for skiing. I was glad I didn’t need it, as it would have been bulky under my clothing. I decided to invest in some silk long underwear and was happy to find an option offered in Petite sizes. (This style also available in Misses and Plus.) These can double as sleepwear, and are washable. (I also sprung for the top, better safe than sorry. Love that it’s a scoop neck, rather than a crew!)


J.Crew Cameron wool pants in black. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

One of the items I always find myself wishing I had in Paris is a pair of trousers with a bit more structure. Now I will! These are the “Cameron” pants in stretch wool. They’re lined, and very comfortable while having a nice polished look. They have enough ease to slip over the long underwear too if needed. They’re available in Misses, Petite and Tall sizes, and also in Navy and Grey. This style is cropped, and my legs are long for my height, so I went with the Misses rather than Petite length. If you’re of average height, you may want to try the Tall option.

I’ll also be packing some down pieces: my Uniqlo vest and compact down jacket as mid-layers, and my Lands’ End packable down coat as an outer layer. All of these are warm, incredibly lightweight, and pack down to nothing.

Going on a cruise this winter? Here are some ideas to dress up your cruise wardrobe.

Shop Stylish Travel Wardrobe Options

What items do you always pack for winter travel?

You can see all of my prior travel wardrobes and recaps HERE.

Stay in touch.

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  1. Kurt Hoffman
    November 3, 2018 / 4:49 am

    I am un gentilhomme d’un certain ȃge. I have enjoyed your posts for several years now, sharing your love of Paris & style. Over the past 45 years, I have been lucky enough to travel to Paris 10 times, about half of them in winter months. Airfare from Minnesota (my home) is cheaper; hotels are cheaper, crowds are smaller. I like dressing for the cooler months in Paris. I like layers: turtlenecks, vests, cardigans. Decembers is a delight: the French approach Christmas in a stylish way, not quite as brazenly commercial (although it’s turning). One year, Christmas trees were flocked cardinal red, with golden decorations, or BLACK flocked with silver and blue ornaments & lights. Magazines with Christmas issues were nice souvenirs. My favorite times were late January. The Sales were at their height; men’s fashion collections are then; & the couture is being shown: it’s is reported on the evening news & in the daily newspapers. Fun! Bon journée!

    • November 3, 2018 / 11:41 am

      Bonne journée à vous aussi, monsieur! As I live in Montréal, both of us are actuallly travelling somewhere milder if going to Paris in December or January. I also prefer the less gaudy French holiday season.

      Pseu, I’d been looking at those silk long undergarments and am pleased that you are happy with the quality, and so nice to know they come in petites, as those are a garment that is very hard to shorten properly. They would be even more welcome if I’m facilitating in Amsterdam, colder and rainier. Those range from xs to 3x; the only size I find missing in that range is xxs, for “gamine” types (including many Asian women). Love the deep red.

      Since I wear skirts, I don’t really need trousers dressier than black jeans (or my deep port red jeans).

  2. Patricia
    November 3, 2018 / 5:18 am

    A large cozy scarf and a ruana that if I get really cold I can wrap around my coat as an extra layer!

  3. Laura Lesieur
    November 3, 2018 / 5:21 am

    Susan, recently you asked for current museum exhibit suggestions in Paris. We just returned from Paris last weekend. Decided to concentrate on smaller exhibits this time around. My absolute favorite was the Atelier des Lumières. They have a fabulous “projection” exhibition of Klimt, primarily. It’s housed in a repurposed foundary. The art is constantly moving on all surfaces, including ceilings and floors. The experience is somewhat like being in a fantastical waking dream. It runs into early January, in the daytime hours. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

    • Marie Fritz
      November 3, 2018 / 6:04 am

      Yes, I agree with Laura! The Klimt exhibit is being held over until January and it’s a must-see. I attended in June and it was a very moving experience.

    • Chris Mayer
      November 3, 2018 / 6:38 am

      I second Laura’s recommendation of Atelier des Lumières, it’s amazing!

      • Sandra
        November 3, 2018 / 11:34 am

        Atelier has a similar offering at a former quarry in Les Baux de Provence, if anyone is traveling to southern France. The current show at Carriere de Lumieres features painting by Picasso. Well worth a visit!

        • Alanna
          November 3, 2018 / 12:47 pm

          We visited the exhibition in Les Baux de Provence several weeks ago. It is simply stunning. A fully immersive experience in an underground quarry. I can’t recommend it enough.

    • Susan B
      November 3, 2018 / 11:44 am

      Thanks for the reminder, just booked my tickets!

  4. Mary Claiborne
    November 3, 2018 / 5:44 am

    Planning for Paris is almost as fun as going! I was there last year with my daughter and we had the best time. Some suggestions for your trip: lunch at Maison Baccarat, the new Henri Cartier-Bresson museum opening in a few days on Rue des Archives, stopping in for a Georges Fizz at the Georges V, Alix D. Reynis (porcelain shop on Rue Commines—Alix was the girl I looked after when I was an aupair years ago) and down the street “Come In” where we had the most delicious risotto, cooking class at Les Secrets Gourmands de Noemie. Happy Planning!

  5. November 3, 2018 / 5:47 am

    I’ve been to Paris a lot in December, and have found that black pants, a crewneck cashmere sweater over a tee, and an Hermes scarf off of Ebay will get you just about anywhere. It’s generally cool and damp–bring a hat! I also bring a knit midi skirt and a Chanel-style jacket (that I made myself) for going out.

  6. Velma
    November 3, 2018 / 6:37 am

    I hope you have a wonderful trip!

    I am pondering what to pack for a trip to London in the second half of November. I’m an East Coaster, and to me, the usual London temps look like damp fall weather (40s and low 50s F). I’m on the fence about outerwear–wool coat? leather? ultralight parka? unlined trench with layers?

    Definitely not cold enough for the serious down coat I wear through the winter here.

    The rest of what you’re planning for Paris in December looks like just what I need for London. Thanks for the good ideas.

    • Jill Ann
      November 3, 2018 / 9:15 am

      Velma, I’ve been to London & northwest England in November several times. I’ve worn a lined trench, a leather hip-length jacket, and a packable down jacket, and been comfortable in all three. If you have sufficient underlayers in case of nasty weather, as well as hat/scarf/gloves, you should be fine without your heavy-duty down coat.

      • Velma
        November 3, 2018 / 12:45 pm

        Thanks for the London-specific tips!

  7. Cynthia Mignella
    November 3, 2018 / 6:47 am

    I am living vicariously through your trip 🙂 Susan, do you speak French? I studied French when I was high school and college and recently started relearning it. When I go back to France I hope to be able to converse in French as I once did when I was young.

    • November 3, 2018 / 2:49 pm

      Cynthia, if you are boomerish, there are far more resources for practising and improving your French (or any other language) than when we were young. Language lessons, translation and vocabulary software and sites (I particularly like reverso context) and simply material in the language or languages you are studying. Anything from news to sport to recipes.

      Your last name is Italian, I believe. Parla italiano? If you do have a background in Italian or any other Latin language, that will be a help.

      Language learning is also very good for the brain.

      • Cynthia Mignella
        November 4, 2018 / 8:23 am

        Lagatta, I have been using Duolingo and it has been fun way to relearn. Thanks for the language learning tips 🙂 My husband is Italian, I am mostly Scottish and Irish (which are the next two languages I plan on learning) so unfortunately no help from a similar language.

        • November 4, 2018 / 10:43 am

          Scottish and Irish (if you mean the two major Gaelic languages, not the dialects of English that are often considered separate languages) are very close, so be careful about studying them at the same time – though it can be an interesting study of language itself. They are very beautiful languages.

          • Cynthia Mignella
            November 5, 2018 / 4:32 am

            Yes I mean Scottish Gaelic and Irish. I believe Irish is on Duolingo so I will start with that first. I have many languages on my bucket list but I plan on learning them one at a time. I will learn a romance language then a Gaelic language, then another romance etc. That is my plan anyway 🙂 Not so sure how far I will get.

  8. Margot
    November 3, 2018 / 6:48 am

    I think your silk LJs are a great idea. I don’t have silk – only Cuddl Duds – but am amazed at how well they fit under my jeans and pants. They actually seem to slip on easier. My husband and I visited our daughter in Versailles at the end of February a number of years ago. We thought we had done our homework so well and Paris wasn’t so bad but we nearly froze to death in London (the damp). We started planning our next “warm up stop” as soon as we left one. It did enable us to try lots of wonderful teas and delicious treats!

  9. November 3, 2018 / 7:12 am

    That Klimt exhibit sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Just wanted to say that my new Uniqlo down vest I first saw here on your blog worked wonderfully for cooler days (and evenings) when we were in Italy. And I second your idea of packing ski underwear. Except in the summer, I never leave home without it. I find on damp days even when it’s not terribly cold it makes me feel comfy for lots of outside walking. Plus it doubles as loungewear in our hotel room. And sometimes I even wear it to bed under my nightie if the room is cool. I hate to be cold! Hope you have a great time!

    • Marie Fritz
      November 3, 2018 / 9:12 am

      I bought that rust colored Uniqlo vest and the black jacket – I love them both! I took them to Ireland I. September and the vest was a great layer, especially at the Cliffs of Moher, where it was very windy. It can get raw in Ireland any time of the year when the rain and cold air are mixed. I find that Susan’s suggestions are really spot on when it comes to layering and traveling with classic, basic pieces.

  10. November 3, 2018 / 7:15 am

    I am into Uniqlo stuff myself now. Very good stuff for layering. I am very enthousiastic.
    And sad that I won’t see you.

    • Susan B
      November 3, 2018 / 8:00 am

      I am sad too! 🙁

  11. Christine
    November 3, 2018 / 7:58 am

    I love those wine boots! We visited Paris the day after Christmas through NYE. I’d like to go back again either at that time of the year (knowing how the weather will be) or when it’s warmer (even though the latter will cost more).

  12. Cathy McMann
    November 3, 2018 / 9:04 am

    I’ve visited Paris in December before, it has never been as cold as I thought it would be, though best to be prepared. The only time I wore my “under layer” (fleece tights and a tshirt) was the morning I went to an outdoor flea market. Rain is another matter, do take an umbrella (or buy one there in a museum gift shop as a souvenir). Short boots are great, especially if very comfortable. Oh, just thinking about my last visit, I wish I was going too!

  13. Jill Ann
    November 3, 2018 / 9:06 am

    Some nice choices here. The footwear is always a concern…stylish but comfy for a lot of walking, and ideally weatherproof. I have Aquitalia moto boots which check two of those boxes, but they aren’t quite as comfy as I’d like. I’ll be in NYC for a few days at the end of Nov so I get to wear all the clothes I never need here in TX…I bring a packable down jacket, cashmere wrap, and various cashmere sweaters with camisoles or silk tees as underlayers. I’m not usually cold enough to need silk long johns, but those are a good idea! Went to England & Germany in late Nov 2 years ago, & wore basically the same things. I loved how we still sat outside for a drink, since they thoughtfully provide patio heaters, sheepskins, & blankets at the cafés!

  14. Jan Whichard
    November 3, 2018 / 9:26 am

    Going to hristmas markets in Germany the day after Thanksgiving and on in to early December. Cold there. I wear Icebreaker underpinnings (and some outer and socks too). They are the finest merino wool and are soft and non scratchy and thin…much like cashmere. I find them warmer than silk. Purchased UGG Kesey boots….warm and waterproof and kind of combat boots gone feminine and cool. Because it’s damp, I won’t take my fur but will wear my Land’s End 3/4 down coat with a Uniqlo best underneath and a cashmere scarf or my Scottish tartan (never fly without it). Leggings that are heavier and jeans will keep my legs warm. I intend on packing in a carry on which makes the packable down and the merino layers even more important.

  15. Deborah Porter
    November 3, 2018 / 1:22 pm

    Layers, layers,layers!!! We have had an unseasonably mild Autumn in Europe although weather can change quickly. Although it may feel cold outside hotels, restaurants and art galleries,museums can be extremely hot.. A waterproof trenchcoat and a warm liner or down waistcoat covers all possibilities. If you wish to escape the ‘black trousers nice top’ formula why not a smart tweed skirt or midi dress with black tights and short boots?
    And yes check the weather forecast just before you leave!

  16. Sharon Wadsworth
    November 3, 2018 / 6:20 pm

    I bought that Lands End packable coat that you recommended for a trip to Paris in January and it was perfect! So thankful for your suggestion!

  17. Dianne
    November 3, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    Susan I’m going to be in Paris early December..Didn’t see your dates..I know we stay at same hotel. Hoping you will be there then

  18. Dianne Estes
    November 3, 2018 / 7:06 pm

    Susan I’m going to be in Paris early December..Didn’t see your dates..I know we stay at same hotel. Hoping you will be there then

  19. Sandi, New Brunswick, Canada
    November 4, 2018 / 3:45 am

    Was in France – Antibes – last two weeks – wore sandals week one – down jacket week two! Arrived London today for a week – 13 C cloudy, windy, everyone out walking in jackets and gloves – some even with wooly hats! Going up to 17 tomorrow – cashmere sweaters and Barbour jacket on for this week. Saw in France – sneakers on everyone, jeans, down jackets – almost a uniform for men and women and children! Lot of down vests over heavier sweaters too. Best items for this trip – LLBean perfect pants – bought navy, grey and jeans – don’t wrinkle, no belts etc for airport sercurity – think I will get the black ones as well – had to have them taken in and up but they hang well and look smart. Hope these hints help.

  20. Carol Montanti
    November 4, 2018 / 8:37 am

    It seems like in Paris when it is cool, everybody is wrapped up in blanket scarves, (nobody seems to wear a hat) worn over their black puffy jackets. I’ve visited London the last couple years, once end of October and once at Christmas, and the black puffy jacket was like a uniform, almost comically. But I think you have to have waterproof footwear with you, both places are wet and damp in winter.

  21. Carol
    November 4, 2018 / 9:07 am

    I’ve been to Paris twice in January (January birthday , what can I say?) and wonder if your long underwear isn’t overkill. I found I did just fine (even in the year of record snowfall) with tights under my pants, and I find tights to be far more versatile. This last year I did become a convert to the down vest layer, however (in my case the Eileen Fisher one from last season), so much so that I’m buying the burgundy Uniqlo one that Sue wore in Italy, just for variety and a different cut.

  22. ParisGrrl
    November 4, 2018 / 9:24 am

    We’re having a lovely autumn so far, and just a note that the Christmas market that usually takes place on the Champs Élysées will take place at the Tuileries this year.

  23. Janice
    November 4, 2018 / 9:49 am

    My husband and I are planning our first trip to Paris in May. Where is the best place to stay that is close to most of the sites (or easy access to most of the sites?) I would love to stay at an Airbnb to have laundry access. Thanks for any suggestions that will make our planning easier.

  24. November 4, 2018 / 11:01 am

    One point I really appreciated was footwear with traction. It rarely gets icy in Paris, though it can happen, but even cold rain can be treacherous if you are doing walks on cobblestone as at Père Lachaise (I go there every time I’m in Paris as a friend is buried there but also because of my background in history). A shoemaker can modify boots with a smooth sole without this being visible.

    Janice, there are many short-term rental companies, not only Airbnb. I agree; unlike Monsieur Pseu, I hate staying at hotels and they remind me of lonely nights working at conferences and sleeping alone in a room with two double beds! Not just laundry but the joy of eating in. No, you don’t have to do serious cooking; there is very good prepared food and easy-to-prepare food of high quality throughout Paris. Where you stay depends on what kind of neighbourhood you like. Nothing is very far by métro but remember that the métro, wonderful though it is, is EXTREMELY crowded at rush hour. If you look back, you will find good advice on this and related sites.

    There are also apartment hotels with kitchenettes and often a small washing machine.

    • Janice
      November 4, 2018 / 11:25 am

      Thank you so much for your reply! We would enjoy eating in for some meals. I will check into apartment hotels with kitchenette and small washer. Is there a neighborhood you prefer?

  25. Robin W.
    November 4, 2018 / 2:04 pm

    Susan, what do you take for rainy weather, do you put something light and rainproof over the down coat, or take a different coat entirely?

  26. Marla
    November 4, 2018 / 2:13 pm

    Hi Susan!! We did a Dec trip to Paris just a few years ago. We have visited many times over the last 20 years but this was our only cold weather trip. It was indeed old. Down in upper 20’s a couple of days!! My Eileen crepe knit and p re pants were great. I had 1 pea coat from Talbot’s and a long lined black trench from Marina Rinaldi. I was able to layer attractive sweater and jackets under these coats plus great scarves, bien sur! Loved my pull on hats but oy my hair. Cold weather and snowing was great pour ma coiffure!
    Do the black and wine boots. I had pewter and black and needed no other foot wear although I packed a pair of cap toe AGL ballerinas. Have a fabulous trip!!

  27. Marla
    November 4, 2018 / 2:20 pm

    Oops typos in my comments! My Eileen ponte knit and crepe knit pants is the correction. And the weather was TERRIBLE on my coiffure everyday. It was very cold and snowy which is unusual for Paris. Hats kept me warm and a good conditioner gave me a hairdo when we went out at night! Sorry for the typos

  28. November 4, 2018 / 4:27 pm

    Phew, reading your readers comments makes me want to go to Paris in December. They all have lovely comments and ideas. Great group you have here. Wish I could see the Klimt exhibit. Enjoy!

  29. yasmara
    November 5, 2018 / 11:24 am

    We are going to Paris in February so a lot of these suggestions apply for our trip as well.

  30. Duchesse
    November 6, 2018 / 5:23 pm

    It’s just a wonderful time to be in Paris! If you need new boots, buy immediately so you can break them in!

    • Susan B
      November 6, 2018 / 5:24 pm

      On it! 😉

  31. Gwen Guthrie
    November 14, 2018 / 12:42 am

    Hi Susan, I don’t know if this comment is too late to help. With lined wool trousers you may find that tights (I think panty hose for you) are heavy enough to keep you warm. For the second layer on your feet, fine knit cotton socks. I find this is often enough for the chilly south-west coast of Scotland. Thans for a great blog which I love reading.

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