Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Paris Retail Challenges my Capsule Wardrobe Plans

Une Femme has a great article on packing toiletries/cosmetics for carry-on. My own preparations were detailed way back here. I can happily report back that while I did have to buy new hair products in Paris, I anticipated this, given the six weeks-length of our trip, and I was easily able to find the same products (Aveda shampoo and conditioner, TiGi Catwalk curls amplifier) comparably-priced. And since we checked our bags for the direct flight home, we were able to bring these home, although I would have willingly abandoned them for the convenience of carry-on if a transfer were involved.

I've already written about my rationale for sticking to carry-on, and I outlined my travel wardrobe way back here. But the best-laid plans of mice and travellers "gang aft agley," especially when unexpectedly great weather arrives. As promised, here are some of the retail adjustments I made to my self-imposed capsule:

Everything I'm wearing the photo above, except my Maui Jims and my Roots bag,  was bought in Paris -- and you'll notice, as I ruefully consider back home -- nothing distinguishes itself as such at a glance, although I quite like the Ekyog (a French eco-label) dress, the reasonably-priced linen scarf from Galeries Lafayette is neutral and thus versatile, the ballet slippers, sturdily comfortable and reasonably stylish, have now become my go-to footwear around the house. The leggings were cheap enough and seemed necessary the first few days of sunshine when my legs just looked so pale; I did end up going bare-legged, as Pater pointed out how many well-dressed women were doing just that. And then I bought new Birkenstocks (the Gizeh model, in Bronze-Gold) in London, and comfort was truly mine!

The t-shirt above is the. most. expensive. t-shirt I am ever likely to wear. Pater slipped up to the Bon March´ after getting me settled in the apartment after a long day of walking in the sunshine, me complaining about not being able to wear my new dress (above) again because of the bra strap problem, but not managing to pass an appropriate shop to pop into for an inexpensive T to wear under it. He suggested we drop into Bon Marché, but I was too tired to navigate its Parisian hauteur, no matter how charming I otherwise found it. So unbeknownst to me, he made a detour from his grocery-shopping, and threw himself at the mercy of a vendeuse. Of course, a husband wanting to please and surprise his wife, sketching out her shape with his hands, in accented French. . . . a cute and winning picture, no? They took him under their wings and he came home with a T in a bag from Joseph. I'd drooled in the windows of the Joseph store on St. Germain. A body-fitting white T that I later found cost 70 Euros (!!!) had nothing other than a narrow practicality to offer, but the gesture was a lovely, lovely gift. And I'll try to ignore that the sleeve ends right at the part of my arm I'd least like to accentuate.

You've already seen this dress. I love it, but it did necessitate the purchase of a new bra -- that's a deep V. No hardship there, though, as I'd planned to purchase lingerie this trip. Visiting Laure Sokol, in the Marais, with a friend who's a regular customer there, was a great retail experience. Service was perfect -- friendly and helpful, but not intrusive or pushy -- and, considering the quality, the prices were very good, noticeably lower than for the same (French) brands at home.
Even with (or perhaps because of) the new bra, I ended up feeling too exposed wearing this dress during the daytime, hence a day keeping an eye out for a linen or silk scarf in an appropriate neutral -- the result you see in the top photo.

So, let's see: two new dresses, a t-shirt, leggings, a scarf, a small stack of lingerie (no one needs to know numbers, right?) ballet slippers, Birkenstocks, and a pair of black low-heeled (not flat) Repettos that I haven't fessed up to yet. And the black boots in the photo below, which I've shown you before.

And you still haven't seen the Eric Bompard long lightweight cashmere cardigan (another pre-planned purchase, not a response to inappropriate packing) or the dress I picked up for my daughter's wedding at Max Mara, where they also talked Pater and I (really, he was convinced as well) into another dress in grey knit jersey. I didn't wear any of these on my trip, and had planned for the purchases before we left, so I don't consider them a reflection on my packing. Except . . . they all took up packing space, and for all these new purchases, something had to be left out.

Well, this BCBG skirt, although useful enough that you'll see it in several photos, has a quite deeply-cut slit. Discreet enough while standing, accommodating to a long stride while walking, it became embarrassing when I sat. I never noticed this when I bought it months ago, but have become increasingly aware of it, and took it along with the idea that I would happily discard it. It's convinced me of the value of a (not too) short black knit skirt, but I'll be looking for a better model.

As for the black v-neck pullover above, it's cashmere, and I loved its light warmth the first chilly days and the option of going coatless as the weather changed. But it was not the best quality cashmere (I got it on sale at Banana Republic a few years ago) and I could scarcely keep up to the pilling. Given that a black v-neck is a wardrobe staple, it was clear I would need a better model, and although this might have been good to keep for around the house, I passed it along as well.
I debated the Kenneth Cole dress above. It's a versatile knit, but I've had it for a few years and thought it might be time to let go. In the end, though, I brought it home -- it still looks fairly smart, especially with the jacket, and perhaps it will show up in next summer's pics!
These black NYDJ stretch jeans (Ponte-knit pant with jean styling) were very, very useful, but had to be washed after every second wearing to regain their shape. As well, I'm not convinced they're as flattering as other jeans I have. Perhaps I was influenced by having had to wear them one day too many in heat that made them feel heavy and uncomfortable. I have some regrets about this one, but in the end I left them behind as well. After two years of fairly regular wear, they were probably coming up to their Best Before date anyway.

And, as I'd planned, I left behind a black long-sleeved lycra Gap T, my running shoes and two running tops. And everything fit back into my little red carry-on suitcase, even the last-minute Paris purchase of a sweet little navy cotton dress, sized 3 ans, for granddaughter Nola, from Petit Bateau and a wee stuffed mouton (now named Baa). Perhaps a bit more zipper-coaxing, but we were able to board the Eurostar back to London as easily as we'd taken it over a month earlier.

And then, in London, besides the Birkenstocks, we made the challenge even greater with my purchase of new jeans . . . and not just a single pair. . . . But you'll have to tune in later to hear about that very good retail experience and my discovery of the best jeans-fitting store I've ever visited!

So my capsule wardrobe didn't see me through the six weeks as I'd hoped. And my discards might seem foolish or wasteful to some of you, my purchases profligate. But given how extraordinary the weather was, I'm glad I gave myself permission to adjust, and I'd say overall that my carry-on approach, with some retail help, admittedly, survived the challenge. What say you?


  1. Your purchases are right within your aesthetic, and are versatile pieces you can wear at home as well. Not profligate at all!

    With the Euro as high against the dollar as it is currently, I'll need to spend wisely and sparingly. There's an Eric Bompard lightweight cardigan on my wish list, and I do want to visit that lingerie boutique...

  2. Seems to me you actually practised quite a bit of restraint! And everything you bought I'd consider good solid items that you will get much wear out of!

  3. I say you look fabulous in all of your outfits, shopped according to plan for most items, and made practical decisions regarding what to discard. Brava!

  4. $^%&* Blogger seems to have eaten the comment I left yesterday too. Short version: you bought wisely, as these all fit in with your style and you'll get lots of wear at home too. (and some can go on the next trip!)

  5. I'd call your technique "pack and swap". I've used a variant, taking a carry-on and mailing some clothes back to myself as the trip (and shopping)progresses. Fairly cheap if you use surface post and don't care if you see the item for some weeks after your return.

    In India, I left much behind, laundered and given the to hotel maid who had readily said she would find someone who wanted it.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Pseu: Supposedly, those lot comments will be restored but I'm not holding my breath. Thanks for the support re my discards and purchases -- I think I did fairly well considering . . .
    Duchesse: I did think about posting items back and might try this in future -- good to hear that it's worked well for you. I'm sure your donations were well appreciated in India. We did the same with our discarded running shoes in Portugal last year (for those who are imagining grungy old shoes, stop -- running shoes have tons of wear left for walking, etc., long after they no longer have enough oomph for a runner)

  8. Who can resist Petit Bateau - a trip to France would be incomplete without a little soft cotton something in your case on the way back!

  9. Exactly, Lesley. It's become my Nana gift of choice -- and if I weren't doing the carry-on, I'd bring home a stack of striped baby somethings for the new babies I need to gift.


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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