This might have been the first trip in which I arrived home, pulled everything out of my suitcase, and smiled. I had packed just right. (Well, save for one extra item. I’ll tell you what it is.) I had achieved a French Capsule Wardrobe. So let me tell you what to wear for a week in France.
The back story: the French heritage brand Saint James invited me to go on a trip to Normandy and learn about the culture of the region, plus tour their factory.* I will write another two posts talking about the slow lifestyle in Normandy, and how Saint James is made, but for now you need to know that I had to pack enough for five days of a high of 78 and a low of 65, the beach, doing walking tours, and nice dinners out. I needed outfit changes, layers, comfort, and style.
Luckily, I’m familiar with ze French style, having spent a total of four months over three trips, in Paris and the south of France. I also have continued to observe French style from afar, pining over their wardrobes as they pop up in Instagram, Pinterest, and fashion sites. The French like things simple, classic, and quality, with feminine, upscale touches. I like things simple, classic, and quality, with feminine touches. I would venture to say I like French style better than the aggressively experimental and androgynous New York City style.
While I am so far from having a capsule wardrobe (too many good things in my closet! Don’t make me get rid of them!) I’ve been organizing it and getting familiar enough with my style that I can quickly assemble a capsule wardrobe in a matter of an hour. And that is exactly what I did.
I obtained the holy grail of packing: a rolling carry on with just enough.
13 pieces of clothing and 11 accessories. They mixed and matched for two comfortable yet chic airplane outfits, four days of walking and touring Normandy, and four dinners – and I could have easily gotten three more full days out of it! If I had access to a washing machine, I could have kept going indefinitely. And I even had enough room in my carry on to add gifts for my sister and nephew. Lots of gifts.
So, here is the perfect capsule wardrobe for a week in France. I’ve added in suggestions for where to get certain items. Everything listed is sustainable and/or ethically made. And it is heavily weighted toward French and European brands, so that you get a truly authentic French style. You’ll look so French, natives will be surprised when you open your mouth!
The Packing List:
1 navy or cobalt blue-and-white striped shirt // The quintessential French look, no summer outfit would be complete without it. The most authentic French brand is Saint James, who knits and sews quality tops right in Normandy. They’ll even fix your shirt for you if it gets ripped or snags.
1-2 loose fit white, black, or grey t-shirt(s) // For the plane and day tripping. Try: Alternative Apparel,
1 pair black athleisure pants or leggings // For the plane. Try: Alternative Apparel has a large selection of flattering sweatpants to choose from, and prAna sells sweats and comfy leggings, or you could go for cashmere bottoms which can double as fancy pajamas.
1 dressy black tank // This should be sort of sexy, to bring your outfit from day to night. Try: Reformation
1 pair classy black shorts or trousers // Depending on the weather. Try: Oh Seven Days.
1 day-to-night dress // For when you don’t have time to change in between walking around and dinner, or if you go to the beach, as a coverup. Try: Saint James, Emerson Fry, Chinti & Parker, Amour Vert, Everlane, People Tree.
1 pair distressed, loose fit blue jeans // wear them during the day with tennis shoes or sandals, then pair them with heels at your sexy tank for a night look. Try: Re/Done.
1 leather motorcycle jacket // to wear to the airport, and out at night when the temperature drops. Here’s my roundup of leather jackets.
Bras and underwear // Here’s my capsule packing list for undies.
1 pair haute tennis shoes// For the plane, for walking around. Try: The French brand Veja. No other choice.
4 pairs of white ankle socks // Try: Farm to Feet
1 camel bucket bag // for during the day and at night, it’s spacious enough for all the things you need, but small enough to keep you from looking like a tourist. Try: Danielle Sakry
1 hat // For protecting against the sun and the rain. Make it foldable, so you can stick it in your suitcase. Try: Wyldaire
1 pair sunglasses // Here’s my shopping guide to the best eco sunglasses
1 lightweight, large scarf, any color or pattern. // You know the French love scarfs. Wrap it around your neck if you’re cold, or drape it around your neck with the ends hanging down in the front and tie it with the belt. Make it a bright one for a pop of color! Try: A Peace Treaty.
1 bathing suit // Here’s my roundup of eco-friendly bathing suits.
*Saint James financed this trip. As always, I only accept free items or experiences from brands I believe are doing good things.