Monday, May 9, 2011

Mais franchement . . . travel wardrobe revisited . . .

I've already shown you the camera's evidence that I shouldn't belt my Burberry trench and I've also already posted a travel wardrobe evaluation at the halfway point of our six-week trip. At that point, the too-bright turquoise of my scarf was my biggest packing mistake other than the obvious mismatch between the carry-on's contents and the unexpectedly warm weather. No one could have predicted that the average daily temperature for the entire month of April was a full 9 or 10 degrees Celsius higher than normal -- even if I`d brought a larger case, I doubt I would have packed for such an eventuality.

So at the point of my last evaluation, I was still feeling pretty good about the travel wardrobe, even though I`d had to buy a very pretty, new, silk dress (somewhat pricey), leggings (inexpensive. almost negligible) and comfortable ballet slippers (not badly-priced, don`t take much suitcase space, and will get lots of wear at home).

But then the weather got even warmer. Yes it did, and who complains about that? Well, you might, too, if you realized that one new dress does not a warm-weather wardrobe make. So the day I lingerie-shopped with my friend Andrea, I found and purchased this (washable silk) tunic/dress. I felt good about it until I saw these photos. . . This one's not too bad, and I'm working on loving my healthy, working arms.
But this one reveals that the tank top I'd bought to obviate any bra strap display wasn't doing its job.
Meanwhile, the French women heading to the Grand Palais exhibition of landscape painting seemed impervious to heat. Their hair doesn't frizz, their crisp jackets are apparently equipped with cooling panels, and, collectively, they returned me to an inner state of awkward adolescence.
Amidst such groomed landscapes, such regulated architecture, I felt unworthy, gauche, and in immediate need of a trainer and a few months on a Weight Watchers regime. I have felt this way in Paris before. It makes me grumpy. It makes me a less-than-stellar traveling companion. And it gives Pater the opportunity to prove, yet again, what a patient and supportive spouse he can be (he took several opportunities to prove the opposing position as well, I assure you -- why, for example, did he take that horrible photo above?!).

I'd prefer to airbrush myself right out of the picture, as below . . .
But then look at these two:  obviously, the menopausal fires have stopped burning by their decade, so they can tolerate the heat . . .  and they do channel a certain French chic, but in a more rumpled, less crisp, manner. Primarily, they're just enjoying life, each other's company, and the anticipation of rooms full of splendid paintings.. Truly, that attitude is more important than the style (although style and joie de vivre are admittedly not mutually exclusive).
So I managed to follow their lead, stop my whining, and make some necessary adjustments to my wardrobe. These did stretch the budget a bit, but not unreasonably, and we still came home with only the carry-on suitcases (although, since we were on a direct flight home, we decided to trust/chance the airline's baggage handlers and we checked our cases this time).
Next post, I'll tell you what I ended up buying and what I discarded, to make my carry-on wardrobe work in such extreme circumstances. For now, I'll just say that despite the shortcomings of my packing, I have no regrets about sticking to a carry-on. Indeed, I'd say that my experience proves that even with unexpected weather and less-than-ideal packing, a carry-on can work for six weeks. And it only takes one cross-town trip switching from one Metro/Tube line to another and then onto a train to convince a traveller that the lighter load is worthwhile. Beg to differ? I'm always happy to get your feedback. Agree from experience? You know I love to hear that as well.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this final evaluation!

    First, your arms look *fine.* I love the pockets on that silk tunic dress, looks like something you'll wear during the warmer months at home too. You look like a well-put-together traveler, and I'm sure someday we'll discover where to buy those jackets with the cooling panels! I find warm weather much more difficult to pack for than cool weather.

    I've been known to get into the same "I look WRONG" funk in Paris. Those two women in your picture look wonderful, and seem to be enjoying themselves, always the best accessory.

    I know what you mean about the too bright scarf, and am sticking with neutral accessories this trip. In the past when I've tried to incorporate color, even subtle colors, it's just felt like Too Much. It will be interesting to see if there's more color in Italy.

    Thanks again for giving us this detailed and honest analysis!

  2. "Why, for example, did he take that horrible photo above?" - actually that was my first thought (not that it's horrible) when I saw the photo after reading your concerns! But let's face it, the guys just don't see (to us) faults like that!!
    Never mind, the fact is you had 6 wonderful weeks AND the opportunity in future to say, "what, this old thing, oh, I got that in Paris!" :0) P.

  3. Well, mater if you felt like a chunky monkey in Paris what the hell do you think I feel like? Well I actually feel great because I confess as this is the comment section that I am not a fan of the French, few in England are they would sell their grandmothers soul to stay looking like they do and that to me just sucks the fun out of living. I have also been out with a Frenchman and my god their vanity, their high opinion of themselves, and boy do they set the bar high. Trust me those women have to rock their look in public because they get bloody short shrift at home. When I'm in Paris I'm laughing.
    I have said it before but photographs never tell the whole story, they never capture the fluidity of a garment and that to me looks like what you had, were that me I would layer over a very silky thin top though and right now Uniqlo have some amazing ones that are meant to keep the body cool. I tried one on yesterday and it was OK but best of all I felt far less self conscious as it was covering enough flesh to retain my modesty.
    I agree with Deja, colour is best left to more tropical climes, although as you said it is pretty tropical here but even so the light in the Northern hemisphere will always make colour look like the gauche cousin at a weeding.
    I always applaud your carry on mantra and will at some point adopt it when finally we are not filling up the cases with contraband unavailable in Cyprus. Emin even brings loaves of bread back in his!

  4. Love the photo of the two women and suggest you use that as your model, b/c it's always SO much easier to dress well when you have your entire closet to choose from.

    You take most any woman, put her in a thin, sleeveless silk top, sit her on a bench and photo her from rear and... guess what? WHO is going to wear a strapless bra on vacation? :)

    Really liked outfits you posted and would love to see the silk dress. (If I missed it, sorry.)

  5. Pseu: You're so kind. I do love the way the tunic/dress feels when I'm wearing it -- sadly, it has an unfortunate gathered-dropped waist (which can either sit at the hip or higher up, for a shorter look) -- a charming opportunity to display my muffin-top, should I decide to let go of my ab muscles in order to, say, breathe!) - BUT it was fitting my new rule of trying to stick with more sophisticated Paris neutrals. On that count, it's much more appropriate than my turquoise scarf.

  6. Patricia: To be fair, he was taking a slew of photos from various angles -- he'd been trying to overturn the tendency for us to get home and find out we have lots of photos of him in Paris but none of me. And I think he was just trying to get a different p-o-v and, as you say, doesn't see the flaws that glare at me.
    Alison: Yes! and I hit this point every single trip to Paris. Didn't feel it in London at all, although perhaps if I'd hung out more in Knightsbridge or Kensington. Your mention of bread in the luggage reminds me of a funny story from my trip to England as a 14-year old. An 18-hour flight (turbo-prop, back in the day, stopped for re-fuelling) with my bag full of bread, the kind my grandma had loved when she visited us the year before. My dad wanted to send her some, not thinking, obv. of the time it would spend en route. Surprisingly (or not, given the additives pumped into good ol' Wonderbread), it was not in bad shape and she appreciated the gesture. The suitcase smelled yeasty for the rest of my trip!

  7. Duchesse: Again, thanks for the kindness. You're right, I would have done much better at home and I will now wear this tunic as it should be worn and enjoy it. I'll post another photo of the silk dress when I follow up this post to show my purchases and discards.
    Thanks for taking time to comment -- I know you must be overwhelmed with packing right now and with processing moving emotions. Exciting times for you.

  8. i've seen pater twice now, biking to and fro .. so happy you're home .. and you know me .. the clothing is irrelevant .. lol .. you were in paris, yet again .. good going!

  9. I find it helps to remind myself that if I look like a tourist, dressing out of a suitcase, it's because that's what I am; if anyone has a problem with that, then (happily) I probably won't know about it because I am not fluent in anything other than English and therefore cannot evesdrop easily when in France. I think your dress, and arms, are fine, admirable.

    At least you haven't experienced my adventure of wearing my standard traveling costume of crisp white blouse and black pants in a store at home (but no scarf because it was too warm), only to have a fellow grab my arm and ask me where he could find the laundry soap. Ahem.

  10. Jane: Looking forward to bumping into you -- perhaps tomorrow morning, in "Phil's garden."
    Marsha: Yes, your reminder is a wise one. And how silly of me to let my sense of what the strangers feel affect my behaviour to the only one around who will continue to matter to me.
    Funny anecdote -- at least your crisp attire portrayed competence ;-)

  11. Lovely post. I know so many of these feelings so well.

  12. I haven't been to Paris since I was 16, but I was deeply in fear of looking 'wrong' or 'frumpy' in New York last year. As it turned out, it wasn't one long parade of Sartorialist models (who knew?!) and I felt mostly fine, except that I wasn't wearing quite enough black. (Harlem was another story.)

  13. Lisa: Although the feelings are exacerbated by Paris' reputation as a stylish city, I suspect they're universal to the sense of being in a new environment.
    Tiffany: I know! We do tend to people the imaginary streets with those Sartorialist-model types, don't we?! Cities as large and cosmopolitan as Paris and New York obviously have many, many citizens who don't come anywhere near that level of stylishness.


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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