travel in style: my 12 item wardrobe

France travel wardrobe 5

I’ve been obsessively checking the extended weather forecasts for the last few days, and while I know that trying to get an accurate picture of the weather in France beyond a few days out is a fool’s errand, it does help to at least get a sense of what range of conditions we might reasonably expect. While the lightweight layers I’ve planned to bring will work for a wide range of temperatures, I’m trying balance what’s now looking to be a cool-ish, wet-ish couple of weeks with a desire to incorporate some visually lighter pieces (it IS spring, after all).

There are a few new pieces in the mix, so I made sure to do some “dress rehearsals” over the weekend to insure that the outfits I was planning would all actually work together. After a few final tweaks, I’m ready to pack. (If this wardrobe looks suspiciously similar to last year’s, that’s not a coincidence. Other than a couple of sweaters that were too warm/bulky, it worked well and I believe in not messing with success.)

France travel wardrobe shoes
I’ve lightened the exposure a bit to get details on black items. All are darker in reality than they appear here.

Of course I start with the shoes, and have ruled out sandals for this trip. I’m bringing the Aquatalia by Marvin K suede ankle boots, as a) they are waterproof and b) work with both casual and dressy outfits. The Gentle Souls wedge boots worked well on last year’s trip, so along they go. These will be my travel day and touring shoes, as they not only are comfortable and supportive, but the texture of the leather doesn’t easily show scuffs and marks. The Taos sneakers are new and, I’ll admit, included mostly to give myself some variety, and an option for warmer days. These have awesome arch support and I love the pewter metallic finish. (They’re darker and less “bling-y” than they appear in these photos.)

France travel wardrobe 1

Working up from the shoes, for bottoms I’m bringing:

For tops, I took a lesson from last year, and chose lighter weight sweaters.


You’re right, that’s only 11. I’m leaving myself space for one “Wild Card” that I’ll choose at the last minute depending on whim or weather. I’m definitely bringing these 2 scarves, and will choose a third depending on my Wild Card, hoping to use both to add more color.

The necklaces are both from earlier seasons. The “statement” necklace is J.Crew, lots of options here. The longer one is LAUREN Ralph Lauren, similar style here.

What I’m not counting in my 12  items are what I call “underpinnings.” Those are pieces that I’ll wear as base layers underneath other tops for either warmth or modesty. This time I’m taking long sleeve layering tees from Adea, and a couple of silk jersey tanks from Eileen Fisher. Both of these are excellent choices for travel, as they are lightweight, layer without bulk, and can be washed in the sink and hung to dry overnight.

I’ll be bringing my Sandro utility jacket as my outerwear piece. It’s roomy enough that I can layer up considerably underneath if I need for warmth. And I’m now on the fence about which bag to bring. The one I’d assumed I’d use is suddenly experiencing potential hardware malfunction, so I hope to have my cobbler look at it today and advise.

I’m using packing cubes for all of my clothing, and it’s amazing how small everything packs down with these. I’ll share a photo of my bags once packed tomorrow.

How far ahead do you plan a travel wardrobe? Do you often make changes at the last minute?


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  1. I purchased two of the Everlane V neck cashmere sweaters on sale at the end of the winter–and I love them. Mine are black and a dark red.

    I think your travel wardrobe looks great! I know you will have a wonderful time on your trip.

  2. Why not make your wild card a pashmina, with lots of colours in it to give your wardrobe some fun and excitement?

    1. I plan to do just that. A black scarf for the plane and a colorful pashmina that matches my other clothing. It’s one I pack often because it is so versatile, adds that needed occassional color, and flatters my complexion. Then I plan to buy scarves while in Paris. I love scarves!

    1. Pam, it’s a combination of the fabric and the fit. They have a nice higher rise (hit right below the navel), just a little stretch without feeling rubbery, they don’t stretch out or bag even after several wears, and are so comfortable! I wear them even on weekends when I’m just hanging out at home.

  3. Your travel wardrobe looks ideal for Paris and the Loire Valley can be chilly so you might need your layers. Bon voyage! I’m off to Shetland Thursday where I will certainly need my layers!

  4. All your planning and careful thought about each piece and how they work together have paid off! Your packing looks pretty perfect to me. I love the new trainers and I’m so tempted by the Vince leather jacket 🙂 I plan way ahead adjusting several times and make final adjustments in the last couple of weeks.

  5. I start packing [in my head] almost as soon as I’ve decided to take a vacation. I’ve been capsulizing my wardrobe over the years so my packing is usually a matter of picking the right layers for the season in which I’m traveling with few worries about what will mix and match. Like you, I start with shoes. I lay out items about two weeks before my trip and make adjustments if needed based on weather reports. My sisters are always amazed (and annoyed) that I can travel with a carry-on bag and still have a variety of outfits for all of our planned activities. 😉

  6. Looks like you have covered all the bases. I like those new sneakers as they are dressier looking than Converse but by the sound of it, very comfy.
    Good luck with your bag repair and I must ask which bag you find the best option as that is one purchase I will be making before I go abroad. Cross body for sure but large enough for my passport IPhone etc.

  7. I traveled to Paris last month and packed a similar wardrobe. Good news and bad news….good news was the beautiful warm spring weather…bad news was that I ended up only wearing the first layer of my layering pieces and none of my cuter sweaters and pashminas…it was just too warm except in the evening. If I were you I’d throw in a couple of short sleeved options.

  8. Love your choices – the color palette and clothes that look both stylish and comfortable. Everything is just perfect. I hope you and yours have fun.

  9. Thank you so much for your travel wardrobe posts. They have helped more than I can tell you. I’m (already) getting ready for a 10 day trip to Ireland in late August. I’m planning lots of lightweight layers. And I just bought my first pair of ponte knit jeans. I expect they will get a lot of wear on the trip.

  10. How long will you be gone for with 12 pieces? Also, I have issues keeping my pants fresh, do you do wash while you are gone. Last time I traveled I took all leggings to keep the bulk down as I needed a pair for everyday and had no place to wash.

  11. It has certainly been much cooler here in France than usual at this time of year. I seem to be wearing jeans, 2/3 trousers and layers of T shirt with a cardigan to hand and a light leather jacket.

  12. SO PERFECT. I pack with much less precision, by piling things on the sofa in the 3 days before I leave, and actually packing the night before. I get close enough, and it makes me sad to be exact, so it’s my little eccentric system:).

  13. This travel wardrobe looks eerily similar to the one I took with me to Paris and Sweden last month, but only because I modeled mine on yours from last year. I stuck with dark bottoms and lighter, but neutral tops. Limited myself to heeled ankle boots, a chunkier pair of Blundstones, which were unbelievably comfortable, though not quite your style, and a red pair of Supergas sneakers, that served me well during an outing to the Champagne region. I imagine you’ll be glad you brought the skirt; it will bring relief from the day wear and make you feel feminine and fancy at night. Plus, I find skirts to be really comfortable. Have fun!

    1. I think Lady Light’s suggestion is brilliant. I will keep that idea in mind for my trip to London in the Fall. Excellent strategic wardrobe plan. Just wondering, will your Sandro jacket double as rain gear? Don’t forget a brolly!

    2. I often bring this too, and have found it to be a lifesaver if the days are damp and cool. But in addition to all of use femme’s choices, I also always bring a cradigan sweater, i wear it on the plane, I use it over my sleepwear in the hotel room, and in place of a jacket if the weather turns warm. It is usually the most worn piece of clothing that I take with me, regardless of the destination or time of year.

      1. I prefer cardigans too. Wear it open, wear it closed, wear it over your shoulder or stuff it in a purse. Lots of ways to control temperature. It makes for a nice slinky top when worn buttoned up by itself and a cute skirt. Add a scarf or statement piece and you’re good to go.

  14. I leave for Italy, Turkey and Greece in two weeks and planned a lighter version of what you’ve packed. I started seriously thinking about the wardrobe in January, and have really enjoyed following all your brilliant suggestions! I do pack a suitcase as my carryon has my laptop and some files that I need while I’m gone. I’m only hoping that I’ve got the right combination of light and breezy and warmish for evenings on our cruise. We’ll be gone a total of three weeks and w e’re taking a sailboat from Istanbul, through the Greek islands to Athens for 7 days – and that’s a whole different wardrobe. I’ve planned lots of layering pieces and keeping fingers crossed that we get good weather.

    As for bags? One rather large navy blue bag for all our flights and one very light leather beige bag which I’m hoping I will “have” to replace either in Turkey or in Italy. A nice leather Italian purse makes for a great souvenir!!

  15. Looks perfect. I actually have quite a few of the pieces you’re bringing. I start on my rolling rack a week or so in advance, depending on how long I’ll be gone. Have a great time!!

  16. Your travel wardrobe seems so streamlined, something I aspire to. I will be going to Paris mid June for the first time in my life and would really appreciate if you have any recommendations as to what to pack.

  17. Jaye, who commented above, and I might be secretly related. I too start laying out pieces in the guest bedroom at least two weeks before a trip. I’ve simplified over the years and have made peace with the fact, that I will be seen in the same thing more than once. Also, I have finally admitted that I don’t work out on trips (city or beach), and have stopped packing workout clothes and shoes. Honestly, that’s made a difference. On a beach vacation, I also just bring one or two coverups. In the past, I would pack 5 or 6. Who was I kidding? Now I only pack what really looks good and is flattering and comfy.

  18. Who cares if it looks like last year’s travel wardrobe? It would make sense to take the same things if they work well. I’m curious to see the travel cubes!

  19. These look like great pieces that will all play well together and look fabulous out of the bag. I’m more of a grabbity-grab-grab last-minute packer. Sometimes I have packed nothing except the absolute essentials with the intent to shop when I arrive, although I haven’t had a big trip in a long time.

  20. I’ve learned so much from your packing strategies. I’m more chaotic, and lay things out beginning about a week in advance. The hats are my priority! Then I narrow down. I admire your system and hope to create habits from your approach.

  21. You are the master planner, and a strategist of note! I will be returning to this post soon again to take a few pointers, since it is so crucial to pack correctly. I find your tips very useful, and oh, ever so envious of your impending trip! I hope you enjoy every moment and bring back a bumper pack of information and stories to share! Great post Susan! I love the fact that you have “dress rehearsing”, I will follow suit!

  22. Weather is not that cold here in Europe at the moment! I would replace the wedge booties ( too warm) by a pair of ballerines and one of the cashmir sweaters by a cardigan. I.m in Amsterdam at the moment for work and i left my booties back home in Paris!

  23. Your wardrobe looks perfect. I tend to pack about two weeks in advance, or at least to pull and plan. I also do a chart or a spreadsheet, its the only way I know I haven’t forgotten something. But I also remain open to changes until the last minute.

  24. Let me say (again!) that I love love love this wardrobe. Absolutely love it! Thank you for your wonderful website and knowledge! XO Sally

  25. I hope you are enjoying your wonderful trip! You’ve talked about clothes, shoes & accessories – I am wondering what makeup you brought with you? I have problems with taking way too much and would really love to simplify! I always feel like I might need this and I might need that. Thanks!

    1. Alexandra, I’ve received a few requests to do a men’s travel wardrobe so will work on something soon. 🙂

  26. I love this concept and all of the suggestions! I’ll be studying your site to translate the ideas for my own travel. I’m looking for the post on the packing cubes… help?

  27. Do the packing cubes actually fit in your suitcase? My suitcase is usually packed tight in every corner and I wonder whether these cubes can really help. Please comment. Thanks. Susan

    1. Susan, I find that if I use the cubes for most of my clothing items, and pack them first along with shoes and other bulky items, they fit just fine. They also can help compress softer clothing items to actually take up less space (experiment with folding or rolling clothing to find what works best for you).