How to Pack for Paris in the Fall (without looking like a tourist)
Leah Walker October 10, 2016

In my August article, “5 Ways to be a Better Tourist in Paris, “ I interviewed Parisians regarding their biggest pet peeves concerning visitors. Along with the loud talking, most mentioned sloppily dressed tourists as an annoyance. OK, so it’s not just enough to ask visitors to dress better, without defining what better constitutes {at least by Parisian standards}. It can seem daunting picking out clothes to visit the fashion capital of the world, but I promise you, the majority of people are not ripped from the pages of Vogue.

How to Pack for Paris in the Fall

Dressing better isn’t about money, but rather style. Odds are that you already have the basic pieces hanging in your closet. Thus, here is my simple guide of how to pack for Paris in the fall without looking like a tourist.

Leather Jacket

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No matter your choice of color and style, a leather jacket is classic.

Last week, a friend of mine from Texas was in Paris on business. As we sat on a terrace catching up, she casually said, “People sure love their black leather jackets in Paris, don’t they?” I looked around, spotting at least six people sporting the look, along with myself. Yes, Parisians love their black leather jackets. It’s classic, and there are styles to suit anyone’s taste. There are also faux options for those who don’t do leather. Whether you prefer black or brown, a leather jacket looks as good with jeans as it does over a dress, eliminating the need for another space-hogging outer layer.

Bottoms

Before I started traveling so often, I thought pants needed to be washed after every wearing. Now, with the exception of stains, horrendous sweat, or the worst cigarette smoke smell you can imagine, I now wear my pants three to four times before washing them. Since jeans take up so much suitcase space, I try to pack just one pair: a dark washed skinny jean. The indigo color works day or night, and the tapered leg goes with a multitude of shoe types.

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Dark jeans with a tapered leg are extremely versatile.

I don’t wear nearly enough skirts, but they are truly great when trying to condense what’s in your suitcase. For fall in Paris, I suggest a black skirt that hits just above the knee, not only for warmth, but Parisiennes aren’t known for showing a lot of skin. Plus, wearing a short skirt while walking up the metro steps is liable to give the eyes below a show. A skirt works for sight seeing, as well as aperitifs and a nice dinner.

Dresses

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A black jersey dress is easy to pack and wear.

The secret to packing is finding great dresses that are multi-functional. Changing shoes, jewelry and a handbag can take a basic black dress from lunch to evening cocktails. As an added bonus, dresses usually don’t take up much room in a suitcase. Opt for a dark colored jersey dress. It won’t wrinkle, and the fabric works for a number of occasions.

Shoes

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Tall or ankle, black or brown, pack a pair of boots.

Probably the biggest space hog, shoes are my vice. They can make or break an outfit, and should be considered carefully. Honestly, unless you’re going to an event or have a fancy dinner, leave the heels at home. The cobblestones aren’t easy to navigate in the best of circumstances, much less teetering on five-inch platforms. Whether black or brown, I suggest bringing a pair of boots. I wear tall boots pretty much all winter, so in the fall, I prefer short ones, which also go with jeans, skirts, or dresses. Adding a bit of ruggedness with a more polished and/or feminine look is a good thing.

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White tennis shoes aren’t just for Forest Gump and your grandpa.

You might think I’m crazy, but if you want to blend in with Parisians, buy yourself a pair of white athletic shoes. For the last couple of years, the Stan Smith model by Adidas have graced the feet of men and women, both young and old. Low top Converse All-Stars are always a classic choice, too. The kicker is to pair these athletic shoes with clothing items that aren’t athletic or necessarily casual at all. Don your stark-white Adidas with a black dress/skirt, leather/denim jacket, and black tights. I thought it a bit odd when this look first emerged, but it’s grown on me.

Accessories

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A small bag, scarf, black tights, and leather jacket are basics. Heels are now for Uber only!

No matter where I’m traveling, I always bring two handbags. One is medium to large in size that holds my camera, notebook, and other day essentials. I prefer a satchel or tote, which is more comfortable for me to carry. A zipper is imperative, as pickpockets love to poke their hands into open-top bags. The second is a clutch for night. I often put smaller items such as my wallet and makeup into the clutch, which then fits inside of my larger bag. The items are easier to find, plus it keeps my credit cards and cash even further out of the reach of pickpockets.

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A non-wrinkle black dress, Ray-Bans, scarf, and Adidas on one of the last warm days of fall.

The weather in Paris can be quite spastic, so it’s important to be prepared. Warmish days can be sandwiched between cool mornings and cold nights. Blue sky or a grey sky with rain, there doesn’t seem to be a typical fall day in Paris. Thus, I never leave home without sunglasses. And after mid-September, my legs don’t see the light of day until May, unless I’ve escaped to the South of France. Wear a black pair of tights to keep the legs warm and to create a sleek look under skirts and dresses. I wouldn’t call a hat essential, but it sure comes in handy during a downpour or a cold snap.

Packing a few pieces of jewelry helps round out and mix up your wardrobe. I’d focus mainly on earrings and rings, rather than necklaces, because let’s be real. Possibly the single most important item to pack for fall in Paris is the scarf. No matter the age, gender, or socioeconomic status, just about everyone in Paris wears a scarf. I love them, having more than thirty different scarves. Not only are they utilitarian, but scarves punch up a wardrobe by bringing colors, patterns, or interest to an outfit. There are a million ways to tie them. Look online for tutorials, then get in front of a mirror and practice styling the various shapes.

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Channeling my inner Audrey Hepburn with all black and ballerina flats.

This post is certainly not a guide to how to dress like Parisiennes. I’m all for keeping true to your style, with a bit of tweaking. Don’t like black? Choose navy, grey, or brown. White makes you look like Casper? Go for cream. The key to packing, no matter the destination, is to find pieces that are practical, stylish, and work together in a multitude of ways. The best advice I have for packing for fall in Paris is choose classic pieces with slim silhouettes, which can be layered for warmth and various outfit options. There you have it! How pack for Paris in the fall {without looking like a tourist}.

 

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This capsule wardrobe is perfect for a weekend or even a week in Paris. Mix, match, and layer these basic pieces until your heart’s content. Plus, by eliminating any unnecessary items, there’s more room in your suitcase for your purchases. Click on the photos for more details on each piece. Bon voyage!

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Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Another Note: The really good photos in this post are by Art’no Shoot, and the clothes are from Ells Collection, one of my favorite new finds in Paris.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

26 Comments

  1. You have some very stylish selections here. I particularly like black jersey dress suggestion. This is so versatile. It’s pretty mild and not too wet here in Northern Europe at the moment, but this could change any time. So I’d definitely recommend and umbrella and decent waterproof too.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, loved the combination of fashion and travel! Sounds like you’ve nailed Parisian dressing, that’s for sure. You always look so stylish! I don’t have an Autumn Paris trip on the horizon but sure wish I did so I could pretend to blend in 😛
    I once wore black tapered trousers, a black top, ballet flats and leopard print scarf to college and was told by 5 people that I looked French haha!
    lily kate x
    jolihouse.com

  3. Ohh, you definitely look stylish during your travels! I don’t usually even bother to bring multiple bags, dresses etc, unless I go to a warm country. Dress with the weather forecast in mind is my main priority. But I gotta say, I look a little less stylish in my pictures now 😀

  4. Nice post. I’m personally a dress fan and I think a pair of booties can be so perfect for traveling (and comfy). Also add in some red lipstick and some red for fall!

  5. Awesome Post! I am a digital nomad and living out of a backpack and still trying to be stylish is always a challenge. I totally agree with your style choice and I find backing neutral colours and basics is a lifesaver! Shoes are the hard part tho! They take up so much space but you are right they are so essential when it comes to making or breaking an outfit. In my backpack, I have short black boots with a small heel, black Nike running shoes, black sandals and one pair of black flats. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    – Brit
    StayCuriousDarling

  6. Excellent advice, Leah! I purchased a pair of silver Addidas sneakers in a Paris a few years ago and felt like a local (sort of). I opt for the dark wash skinny jeans too – very light weight and I find they travel well. My current favourite is J-Brand, but I will keep an eye out for MadeWell.

  7. Honestly Leah I think you’ve nailed it. I usually groan at these posts, but yours was spot on, leather jackets and jeans, and even the white tennies…Love it!

  8. Great tips! I have found the same thing with jeans as well–I used to wash them after every wear but realized they can be worn more than once, especially when traveling and packing light! I need to get better at accessorizing and pack more like a cute small purse or scarf. Cute outfits and suggestions!

  9. I love your style and the clothes. When I am in Paris I am always surprised it is not the city I see the best dressed people though (more Italy, Milan) but your style is lovely.

  10. Fun post! I never mind too much about the way I look when I travel but for Paris, yeah I always try to be a bit more sophisticated … thanks for the inspiration!

  11. I’m making my first trip to Paris next fall-a trip I have been waiting to go on for over 30 years. Other articles I have read state that Parisians hate white tennis shoes and that is how they ‘identify’ tourists. Have you found that not to be true, or is it those horrible white and neon and striped ones? Since I’m only doing a carry on, I need to pack as smartly as I can.

    Thanks for any advice 🙂

    1. Classic athletic shoes like Chuck Taylor, New Balance, and Stan Smith by Adidas are seen everywhere in Paris. It’s the running shoes you’d wear to the gym that should only be worn when exercising. Those are red flags that you are a tourist.

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