NOTE: this post speaks more directly to girls, as they tend to have a much more difficult job of packing to do than boys. Sorry, guys.
Now that the holidays are nearly over, I’m sure many of you are overrun with new clothes. In addition to all the super cute new stuff you got, you can’t wait to put your entire wardrobe into an enormous suitcase and take it off to Paris where you can look super hip and show off all your miniskirts when you go out. This is wrong.
If you’re like me, you’ve been stressing about this for months. I actually had anxiety dreams in which I arrived at the airport and realized I hadn’t packed any underwear or pants. I started packing almost three weeks before my departure date and I probably still overpacked a bit. I think the best way to avoid this is to know how the French, more specifically Parisians, dress before you leave.
- Black. All black. Black pants with a black top and a black blazer with black shoes and a black coat and maybe, just maybe, a colored scarf is the norm in Paris. They don’t like color. They wear black when the go out, when they go to work, basically pack lots of dark colors. I would often wear a basic color tank (white, neutral, etc) with a black blazer with jeans and you fit in just fine. Wearing bright colors will make you stick out like a sore thumb and they will know you’re foreign.
- Scarves. I once sat on the metro and couldn’t find a single man, woman or child without a scarf. No matter the weather, they put one on. It’s very stylish and you can find lots of pretty scarves in Paris. I was never a scarf person so I bought two while there–it was very worth it.
- The French always look put together. You will NEVER find anyone walking around in a sweatshirt and jeans or sweatpants. They are classy, timeless, effortless. Obviously this can be somewhat difficult to accomplish and I don’t understand how they do it every day, but just be ready to step up your fashion game this semester.
- I would suggest packing 1/2 less than what you think you need. What you need is space. You need space to bring back gifts, to pack your new Paris clothes and any keepsake items you may have collected. Paris is the fashion capital of the world. You will want to shop. And you should! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are plenty of places where you can find Paris level fashion at college level prices (Zara, Pimky and Camaïeu, to name a few). Your wardrobe will most likely change the longer you’re there and the more you pick up their style, and you’ll probably notice you’ll be wearing fewer and fewer items from your suitcase. Just remember you have to put all of it back into that suitcase, and airlines have weight limits.
- The French are open-minded, but very modestly dressed. They don’t wear anything above mid-thigh unless it is tastefully accompanied with tights or leggings. They don’t wear anything that is low-cut, and generally they choose to cover more skin. This is part of why they have their chic, sexy, put-together look, because everything is modest and the focus is on the shape and cut of the clothing, not how much it reveals. Keep this in mind.
Definitely bring these things:
- Running shoes. I’m talking Nike, Addidas, actual real running shoes. One, you might want to work out. Two, you need good walking shoes that actually have support. Plenty of people wear them, women even wear them to work and put their heels in their purses, so you won’t look weird. But your flat-footed Converse and Vans just aren’t going to cut it. Bring them on your excursions for walking tours, etc.
- Varying weight of jackets. Bring a light jacket, a raincoat, and a heavier jacket. That should be all you need. It does get the most cold in January and February, but the weather in France is the epitome of “moderate.” I survived with my rain jacket and a peacoat and never really needed much else.
- Rain boots. To be honest, the French aren’t really into them. But with how much it rains in Paris, I found them really useful, especially since I hate wet feet and ruined shoes. If you’re not into rain boots either, at least have a pair of regular boots that are relatively rain resistant, maybe with a heel.
- A large over-the-shoulder bag. I bought mine there which was great, but you’ll need a bag to carry your books to class and over-the-shoulder is convenient for the metro and walking around all day. If you have a camera, it’s also better to keep it in your bag rather than a camera bag so it’s not obvious you have a nice expensive camera.
- Comfy clothes! Sometimes when I’m packing I’m thinking so much about what outfits to bring, I forget how much I need my sweatpants and comfy sweater. You will miss your lounge clothes if you don’t bring them.
What’s more important is what NOT to bring. For example:
- Bring going out clothes, but don’t bring the nicest dress you have. Buy one there. It’s worth it.
- Don’t bring a zillion shoes. They are heavy, take up space and you won’t wear all of them. If you need shoes, buy them there. Again, worth it.
- Don’t pack shampoo or soap or other things that can be easily found in Paris. Again, those things take up weight in your checked bag.
- Shorts. No one really wears them. Yes bring athletic shorts, but again, the French don’t show much skin and rarely wear them. Pants and dresses with tights are the way to go.
- Just please, I beg you, don’t overpack. If you’re debating whether to throw in that last shirt, don’t. You won’t need it and it takes up space.
Lastly, when packing, roll your clothes in your suitcase and wear your heaviest items on the plane (if you’re bringing rain boots, wear those on the plane, too). Don’t pack any coats, just carry them with you.
And don’t stress too much! It’s not worth having nightmares over, I promise.