How To Pack For A Short Trip
“The essence of a sound style is that it cannot be reduced to rules – that it is a living and breathing thing with something of the devilish in it – that it fits its proprietor tightly yet ever so loosely, as a skin fits you. It is, in fact, quite as seriously an integral part of you as that skin is. . . In brief, a style is always the outward and visible symbol of a person, and cannot be anything else.” – H.L. Mencken
I went to Paris on a three-day trip. I love short intense trips – a quick jaunt to a fabulous city is such a treat. Even though it’s a business trip, it still requires the phenomena of aligned stars, synchronicity and last-minute doggie care. My mission is to meet, inquire and connect. My travel wardrobe has to be good looking, pulled together and still comfortable. And it’s got to pass the French test. To maximize my opportunity, I needed a packing strategy.
Good packing is assembling a mini-wardrobe. It requires the same three steps of any thoughtful wardrobe process:
- An understanding of how my style works in the environment.
- A color palette that allows flexibility and consistency.
My first thought is my schedule when I’m in Paris. A stylish city where I won’t be a blended in tourist, I’m there to do business. I’m a stranger in a new land with no credibility and no language skills. The areas I need to cover are small enough to make cabs ridiculously expensive and time consuming while not far enough apart to do the Metro unless I’m changing Arrondissements completely. That means lots of walking, –yikes, the travelers’ Achilles heel. What shoes are comfortable enough to walk miles yet avoid an over-exuberant athletic look? They also must look good enough to coordinate with my professional clothes. Weather is cool and maybe rainy. Wet feet are an inconvenience.
My second thought is my luggage. A checked bag is definitely out of the question. With only three days in the city, there’s no time for testing the fates of holiday travel. Three days is a little too long for just one outfit because including travel time it’s really a total of five days. I need to take at least three separate outfits and I want it to fit into one carry-on bag. I’ll have to use layering to create different looks on a base silhouette. It ends up being nine separate mixable pieces.
The Plan: I’m going to shape my plan around what I know from The Profile®. I feel great and know I look good in a loose turtle neck sweater and a good quality pair of slacks. I also know it’s an authentic style for me; I look and feel natural in that combination so I can relax and pay attention to what I’m doing. Shoes are one of the toughest things to solve on any trip. For Europe I recommend Hogan shoes. They are amazingly comfortable and the basic style is a cross between a shoe and a boot, great for walking on uneven cobble stones, unpredictable weather and climbing stairs. They come in dark neutral colors that blend into slacks of dark neutral colors. Your foot also sits higher with a very cushiony soul underneath, the sole is not waterproof, but it works well on wet pavement. Avoid standing in puddles.
As you may have guessed, my selected color palette is dark neutral colors leaning towards the cool side. I’ll take one pair of black double face wool slacks that fit like a dream and recover like they don’t know the meaning of a wrinkle. The other pair is dark navy James Jeans with a slight boot cut. After acknowledging myself profusely for having the insight to choose and buy my Fall sweater pieces in the summer, even though I had to wait eight weeks for custom, I delighted in anthracite grey as my accent color. It’s a grey richer than charcoal with a little green to the undertone that picks up my eye color. I packed my loose neck, fitted waist long-sleeve anthracite sweater that nicely accommodates a thin silk undershirt. The sweater is a tighter knit and with fresh undershirts, an evening airing, it can be worn for three days. I also took my anthracite suede boots which are a somewhat extravagant use of space. With a 2.5″ heel, they have nothing to do with walking but I know for cocktails and dinner they’ll be perfect. The color transition from hem to boot is more subtle than black or brown so they make my legs look even longer. A couple more undershirts and some tights for the cold complete the list. For the plane I’ll wear a black long sleeve cashmere turtleneck, jacket, jeans, boots (don’t have to pack, warm and amazingly easy on and off) and cashmere scarf that doubles as a blanket.
When I’m in Paris visiting each new venue, my coat makes or breaks the entrance. Most everywhere I go, I’ll be walking directly in from outside and won’t take my coat off before my introduction. My favorite travel coat is from an Italian design house in Milan, Robert Avolio. Their warmth to weight ratio has no equal. Super light, tightly woven cashgora fabric makes it heaven to touch and wear. My coat has previously staved off the cold, the wind, the rain and a snow storm in Milan where I had to walk eight blocks back to my hotel. I’ve crushed it into overhead compartments, duffle bags and scrunched it into a pillow. You’d never know to look at it. My palette is neutral to the cool side using the color anthracite as an accent to the base. I brought my cayenne color swing coat. It’s my wow factor. A total “me” color, bright but not loud, it’s warm and inviting. No one will forget I’m there. I feel incredible when I wear it.
I have a passion for Hermes scarves. I treasure and collect them. In colder weather I love the silk cashmere blend. It’s luxuriously warm and light. I chose one of my favorites (they’re actually all my favorites) that my sister gave me for my birthday. This scarf has a proud Native American figure woven into gradations of warm charcoal with cayenne accents. A blend of warm and cool colors, I wear it inside my collar next to my neck. I can adjust my temperature by opening it up or wrapping it a bit tighter. I pull the scarf up so it shows over the edge to tie all the elements together.
The last thing to do is to get my skin care routine and make-up together. Good clothes will never replace good grooming, so I gave up a little sleep during the week before Christmas and managed to get my nails, brows and hair color done. Even though I am seriously committed to my skin care, I went to the drugstore to purchase small prepackaged skin care basics for two reasons. It’s a really short trip and I don’t want to waste my good product on repackaging into ridiculously small containers. My make-up wardrobe for the trip is for a neutral face and matt red lipstick in a soft warm shade.
The trip was fantastic; some ups, some downs and some very funny parts. I found great places and some unexpected treasures. The best part was I felt like myself, looked like myself, had all the right clothes.
Three things I learned from Paris:
- Paris is a city of good basics – a well-cut coat, sweaters that conceal what’s necessary and open up the neck line, slacks of quality fabric, boots in good standing and a great bag that can take you almost anywhere.
- Parisians know how to work style with a twist; they understand the “wow’ factor.
- Paris is filled with the known and unknown. It’s worth seeking out the pieces of a wardrobe that resonate on a deeper level and choices that reflect authenticity. That style goes for anywhere.