Thursday, May 28, 2015

What Did I Wear in Paris, You Ask?

I wrote this post before I wrote the post on Running Paris which appears before this -- partly because I felt, after writing my first paragraph here, that the topic needed expansion. I'm actually no longer very fussed at all about what I wear in Paris, and not at all about what we wear in the weeks we're lucky enough to spend in Bordeaux, although I don't want to stick out as an obvious tourist. I prefer to get as many opportunities as possible to chat with locals and practice my French, participate in neighbourhood life as much as I can, and this begins to happen when one's attire isn't making announcements about where one comes from. . .That post on Running elicited a lively conversation, which was so much fun for me, so rewarding, but I hope this might put the position I adopted there in a better context. 

Whether it's because I've run through its busy streets and visited some of its less polished corners, or whether it's because I've visited quite often, or whether it's because I'm lucky enough to know a few Parisians or observant enough to notice many more whose garb is really not so different from what I see at home . . . I'm not sure. I do know that while I don't want to stick out as a tourist anywhere I travel, some of our activities mark as as such immediately. Walking around during the daytime with one's husband? or sister? And speaking English to one another? Even when I'm out on my own for a few hours, and even though my French is not bad, the fact that I approach someone with my North American open smile is often a dead giveaway, and the switch to English is made automatically (I keep the conversation in French anyway, pleading my need to practise). Besides, much of the fuss that's made about dressing for Paris involves often unexamined issues of class that I find, well,irritating at the very least.  Plus, hey, it's a very cosmopolitan city, and its residents are comfortable with much more diversity than often gets imagined in those "What Can I Wear in Paris" scenarios.

But that's not to say that I don't want to look presentable, nor that I don't enjoy trying to channel a certain amount of that Parisian "je ne sais quoi." As much of it as one can fit into a carry-on case, at least. I think I did okay this visit, especially considering that the contents included a pair of running shoes, two short-sleeved technical tops, a long-sleeved ditto, a running bra, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of socks, AND my running belt with its two plastic water bottles! I could have managed with one of each, and generally do when I travel with Paul, 

We had a few days with temperatures in the mid to high 20s (Celsius, bien sûr), and I was very comfortable in this long silk skirt (light, sheer silk layer over a cotton lining -- so pleased to find it in Rome last year as so many silk skirts have their ventilation properties ruined by a polyester lining). The JCrew linen sweater was perfect with it -- cool enough, but arm-covering to ward against sunburn. I was able to squeak two wearings out of the white top without having to wash it, and I didn't notice anyone looking aghast at me that second day . . .

I loved wearing my new Levis. A slimmer boyfriend in a really light wash (Rolling Fog, it's called), I loved this particular mix with them. The creamy scarf, the dove-grey merino "sweatshirt" (J Crew) and the nude flats (Vince).  Honestly, I could have worn this every day, happily.

 I was also really comfortable in this Vince dress which I snapped in the hotel mirror, in case I didn't get a shot during the day. I began the day with a scarf, which was generally enough to keep the chill off for that first hour, and then it would get tucked in my bag.
 and then I'd look like this, as photographed by my sister. The dress has a shirttail hem, which I really like. It's also got pockets, which doubles my love for it, is easy to wash (delicate cycle, hang to dry), and I think it looks okay with flats, as above. It's Vince, as are the shoes (I wore these most days, although my Birkenstock Gizehs also got lots of street time).
 The one wild-card piece I debated bringing was this great vest I picked up at Club Monaco a couple of weeks before I left. Tricky because it really had to be worn on the plane unless I wanted to find an iron as soon as I arrived. . . But I think it was worth the trouble because of how much it changes up and polishes a casual look. Like a blazer but without the bulk or the warmth. And it's a colour I didn't know I could wear, but which I often am drawn to, that whole mustard to ochre range seeming so sophisticated to me. . . (The friendly server at Le Temps de Cerises in the Marais offered to take this photo for us -- mille mercis)
 Here's a shot I took in the Vancouver apartment before we left -- you get a better idea of length and drape and the cool moto-like opening.
I don't have photos of me in my trenchcoat. It would have been great to have worn the day it began pouring -- and I do mean pouring, the kind of rain that made Noah very nervous -- but, of course, it was in the hotel closet that day. I think I wore it one evening for dinner because it did cool down at night, but it could easily have stayed home.

Instead, if the day was a bit cool, I wore my blazer and carried a tiny just-in-case umbrella in my bag. This was really not enough the day that it poured, but for a few hours' discomfort, I managed alright. I should say that I really dislike this photo for the goofy expression of my face and for the possibility it suggests that I need to throw out all my skinny jeans or, at least, only wear them with boots. But I'm trying to stop doing that thing, that self/selfie-hating thing. In fact, my sister and I resolved not to do that, so when she sent me this photo from her camera, I tried just to think, "Oh good, there's a photo of my blazer-and-skinny-jeans-and-scarf-tied-in-that-new-way, all in Père Lachaise Cemetery." So here it is. btw, in this, and in all the photos, you can also see that my hair is perhaps my biggest impediment to appearing Parisian. Observant though I generally am, I don't often see anything comparable on Paris streets. Mind you, I don't see too much of curls like mine back home either. Everyone's so damn handy with a straightening iron or their curls are more neatly articulated. . .

At any rate, that gives you a pretty good idea of What I Wore in Paris, although somehow I didn't get any shots of my denim midi skirt (by Mother, so perfectly faded, and with an unfinished hem -- I love it! but it's not particularly comme il faut for Paris wear, perhaps).

And then my sister sent me this, taken at night as we walked along Rue Soufflot, I think, towards Blvd. St. Michel -- she was trying to catch the twinkling Eiffel Tower, but of course the camera was overwhelmed by all the lights between us and The Iron Lady. The denim-wearing lady's back, though, that she got. . .


Didn't end up wearing two white t-shirts, nor white tank, nor white-and-navy striped T. Had another linen sweater, taupe, that I did wear but isn't shown here. Ditto a grey T with a gold metallic elephant design and my long-ish Vince tissue-weight merino pullover which was great for layering on coolish days that warmed up. Silk pyjama bottoms and a long black T for hotel-room lounging modesty. Left the runners behind (an old pair, brought with abandonment in mind), so there was room for my few purchases. I could easily have done a second week, even without laundry facilities. And with laundry? Easily a month. For different versions of a Paris-suitable wardrobe that fits in a carry-on, check out Sue at Une Femme -- she's the champion, and she's leaving for Paris this week. Leslie at Hostess of a Humble Bungalow just got back from a very well-planned first visit to Paris, and she looked very smart there in a black-and-white palette. And Susan at High Heels in the Wilderness put together a simple, chic, very packable travel wardrobe for a trip in France she's just finishing up and which included a week in Paris. Both Sue and Leslie do a more polished Paris What I Wore than I do -- what about you? Where would your comfort zone be? Or do you think it's all very Tempest in a Teapost? Mountain/Molehill? (As I note above, I wrote this before I posted my piece on running in Paris, where the comments indicate that some of you, especially Brits or other europeans, feel the latter.)


34 comments:

  1. I think you hit the right note. Especially like the long silk skirt and the silk pyjamas and black t. The problem with being a tourist is you do not want to look like a hick, complete with straw out of side of mouth but you want to be comfortable and very much yourself. After all, you wouldn't dream of turning up in Paris in a beret and stripy top, plus tight black skirt or in Rome dressed like Gina Lollobrigida. Clogs in Amsterdam. I am a huge fan of the capsule wardrobe, based round neutrals with lovely scarves. Works for me so I do not have to spend all day worrying about suitability. The pashmina: modest, cool, cosy and beautiful.

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    1. Well said. Annie. It's really about maximizing enjoyment of a visit.

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  2. I don't really fuss about what I take to wear on vacation. I mean, I need to hit the practicalities. I must have comfortable shoes and ensure warmth and protection from elements. But I figure, I'm chic in TO - I'll be chic wherever I travel to. :-) And, if I have to embellish, that's what stores are for!

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    1. Oh, you'll be chic anywhere 😉 and yes there's always shopping! (Although I hate having to buy if I'm merely duplicating something I've forgotten)

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  3. I think that "feeling comfortable" in a city involves feeling comfortable about yourself. If you are wearing clothing that seems right to you, you will "fit in". One of the "ah ha" moments that I had this year in Oaxaca was when waiting to cross the street, a Zapotec woman (4 feet tall with grey braids) remarked to me in Spanish that "those cars never stop." Although I am not Zapotec, I was a neighbourhood lady of a certain age. I think that you could easily stay in Europe for several months with the wardrobe that you packed because you have some versatile pieces there. You could wear any of them in any city in the world. My family and friends who visited me in Paris remarked about the diversity of style. It really is about being "comfortable in one's skin."

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    1. Yes, the, feeling comfortable and the fitting in seem to go together, although some feel comfortable without caring whether they fit in, perhaps. But that sense of comfort in oneself communicates somehow so that locals might even take us for their peers of sorts, as with your Zapotec neighbour. To some of us, that means the world...sweet anecdote, thanks.

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  4. I like your Paris wardrobe perfect for any city break with similar temperature I would think. Comfortable footwear essential. Again clothing very much suited to city pursuits. I admire your ability to travel with carry on only and still have such a variety of outfits and running gear and even you managed a little shopping as I understand it! Mary

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    1. Thanks, Mary. And you're right. Husband and I are in Seattle for a few days and I've packed a smaller selection of the same gear. Comfortable footwear is key.

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  5. In the USA we have certainly been bombarded by Do Comme Les Française every which way from Sunday. So it's bound to make one feel a little daunted, if one hasn't been before. You've traveled often enough to France to feel comfortable, as a familiar and acculturated tourist. Which is what you are, and is a nice thing to be:). I will say, I love your outfits, and I find them quite French, in that neutral, monochromatic, nonchalant stylish kind of way.

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    1. In fact, I would only hope to carry off a visit so well-attired.

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    2. Thank you, Lisa! Too kind, as always. And thanks also for putting my two posts in context.

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  6. I think your choices here are marvelous, and so very "you." BTW, was that the same Vince dress you wore last night? Meant to tell you how great you looked!

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    1. Thanks Sue. yes, that's the Vince dress. So versatile. They did one this spring in a cobalt-y blue. If it ever comes out in another shade that works for me I'm grabbing it. Btw, meant to tell you how great your new haircut is.

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  7. The best advice I have received is not to invest a lot of time searching for the perfect travel item. 90% of your carry-on can be items from your current wardrobe that you feel fabulous in and are comfortable and appropriate. Save a little room for purchases, but if they don't happen, no big deal. All you need to bring home is good memories. I love your outfits!

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    1. That's great advice. I no longer spend time shopping for travel unless there's an obvious hole in my wardrobe that I'd be filling anyway. I'm also more careful than I used to be about shopping while on vacation. Too easy to forget the reality of my real life and what works for riding my bike on dirt roads or for clambering down the dock and onto our boat...

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  8. You look comfortable, suitably attired and bien dans sa peau. I find that I spend an equal amount of time deciding on which clothes to pack in my carryon whether I'm off for a week in Mexico, a week visiting family, or 10 days in the Maritimes beginning next week. The goal is always to look presentable, with enough play in my wardrobe to accommodate a variety of activities. I think that the next time I go to Paris will be the same.
    Not wanting to look like a tourist is hopeless although I was thrilled to have a couple of French-speakers in Paris ask me for directions.
    Perhaps the "not wanting to look like a tourist" relates to the obnoxious (North) American so often derided in travel articles.

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    1. We've had a few of those gratifying moments of being asked for directions by French speakers (doubly cool when we actually know the directions!
      I agree that no matter the destination or the length of travel, packing takes care and planning. I say that having come to Seattle for two days without my curl-taming hair product! Can you say big wooly ball?!

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  9. I'd like to word this so it doesn't sound churlish but it may not be possible . Why do so many bloggers in the U.S. drop French phrases into their posts ? I don't seem to see it happen in any other language & , if we do it in the UK I would say it is thought to be rather ' affected ' . Not being nasty , just curious - is it done in conversation too ?
    Wendy

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    1. Thanks for being so careful, Wendy. It's a difficult medium for conversation sometimes, isn't it? I do know what you mean, and sometimes I find the practice irksome myself. It's all context, though, and I must say that I picture many friends in the voices I read here. Somehow, those friends (I hope you might be, or become, one) get when I'm using French phrases for fun, when just tongue-in-cheek, when I'm indulging my Francophone self, however nascent and flawed her French might be. As Duchesse points out, I have a long family history with the language and a long personal history of trying to speak and read and write it. C'est tout.

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    2. I'm sorry , first time on your blog & I didn't realize that you are Canadian - that makes sense , but there are a lot of French phrases used in the blog world outside Canada . Hence my confusion
      Wendy

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    3. No need to apologize, Wendy. I'm just happy a first-time reader took time to comment. I hope you'll visit again and find something you like. There's such a great community in this virtual neighbourhood.

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    4. Have been thinking abut this. Could it also be (cannot speak for materfamilias, but this is true for me) that certain expressions such as "bien dans sa peau" or "je ne sais quoi" do not precisely translate into English? They can be approximated but something is lost.

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    5. I've been thinking about it as well. For me, there's a certain kind of joy that comes with the French (I'd better not say "jouissance" but the language definitely taps into something). As well, I'm interested in the way different aspects of personality are revealed in a second language. The first time I heard my husband tell someone, in a conversation en français that he "adored" reading Le Monde while he had his coffee, sitting at a cafe's sidewalk table, I spluttered in amuseent and astonishment. My husband is simply not the "adoring" type. I'd be surprised if he's used the word more than twice in his life (and both would be directed at me, right?). But in French, he gets to do that and it seems right. . . btw, I love having the conversation continue (Non, J'adore ça!)

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  10. Wendy, materfamilias is Canadian, not American. We have two official languages in this country, French and English, and she has previously written of her familial French-Canadian heritage. So while I cannot speak for American bloggers, it is not thought to be "rather affected" here in Canada.

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  11. I no longer pack a trench coat, either. A short jacket is all I need, given a wide-enough umbrella. It's actually a second or even third pair of (dry) shoes that I appreciate. Great packing choices.

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    1. Yes! I've had shoes put completely out of commission by those May Parisian downpours!

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  12. You look lovely - cool, comfortable and appropriate, and that IS French style, right?? However, I must say, I think you look particularly pretty in the silk skirt and linen sweater (top photo). BTW I love reading your travel posts - did I gather you stayed in a hotel on the Ile St Louis? If so, lucky you - such a gorgeous spot and I've always wanted to do that. Some day ...
    Rosemary

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    1. Thanks so much, Rosemary. That silk skirt, linen sweater is so comfortable, very modest, and the skirt's swish and hint of hippie days give it just enough personality to please me.
      We did stay on the Ile St Louis, my sister's choice and one I very much enjoyed although a bit busier than I'm used to. More on it in an upcoming post, I hope. I also hope you get there some day too...

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    2. I agree, that silk skirt and sweater outfit is perfect! You look absolutely lovely in it.

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  13. You look lovely and I love your curls! Please keep writing as this is my favorite blog.

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  14. Great packing...love that vest. I have tried to comment twice, but i-pad mini is being irksome and won't let me correct mistakes..hence I just delete the whole darned thing. Thx for the mention. Not looking so polished now as I sit in lobby of Ibis CDG in my baggy jeans and bags under my eyes to match. A month of travel can take it out of one. We'll be glad to get home...but even gladder we came!

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    1. Oh, I get so frustrated with typing on my iPad mini, although I love its convenience most of the time!
      Hope your trip home goes smoothly -- I'll be looking forward to more posts on your experience. . .

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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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