|Grey waterproof. Practical, not stylish!|
I managed a fortnight in Burma/Myanmar with three pairs of trousers, five tops and a pair of flip-flops, though I did get the clothes laundered. However, for that trip we were were doing a lot of travelling so needed to be practical, and being taller and paler than most of the people we met we were always going to look noticeably different. My main aim with my Asia wardrobe was simply not to be in any way offensive. Paris is trickier, because my main aim is not to look like a badly-dressed tourist and I'm not sure how to go about managing it, based on how I dress normally.
I work in Bath, one of the most touristy cities in England. London definitely gets more visitors, and I suspect Oxford might also, but if Bath's not in the top five I'd be astonished. I see lots of tourists. And here's the thing: no-one really cares how they dress. Do they dress badly? Do they dress well? I honestly can't say either way. They dress like tourists, which means the following for women: jeans or cropped trousers, T-shirt or polo top, some form of walking footwear. School parties tote rucksacks, older travellers tend to carry cross-body bags. I am unlikely to dress like a tourist simply because I don't own many outfits that match the standard template, though I will probably wear my hiking boots (as I do round Bath anyhow) and a crossbody bag (to leave my hands free for holding maps and, importantly, pushing patisserie into my mouth). However, even if I did don cropped trousers and a polo shirt in Paris, I doubt anyone would give a rat's bum about it.
So, here's the next hurdle. Badly-dressed. I fear I will probably manage that without trying or even meaning to. And yet... I like my clothes. Badly-dressed might be the wrong way to put it. Uniquely dressed? I don't know anyone who dresses quite like me, when I allow myself to choose the things I like rather than the things I think other people will approve of. But does that make it bad? My frumpy-loud choices are never a problem when I go to London, a kaleidoscopic city with interesting and distinctive looks all over the place. No-one's going to look twice at the chubby middle-aged woman in her funny old dresses there. I'm probably doing Paris a massive disservice, seeing it as a sea of impeccably-tailored navy blazers and Breton tops and JUDGEMENT. The women can't all look and dress like Ines de la Fressange. The populace don't grab pitchforks and run sartorial disasters out of town.
I've been considering what to take, and trying to resist the urge to buy something completely not me but in keeping with my idea of 'Parisian' as camouflage. Mr Robot reckons I should take one of the pairs of trousers I got for Burma, and I can see his point as they're lightweight and dry quickly (100% pure polyester!) and will do for rainy days, but oh they are ugly! He suggested that and my equally ugly mint-and-grey waterproof, which I got for yomping around hills with my camera, not walking about the Global Capital of Style. I've always felt that being a bit plain and somewhat chubby, I need to make more effort on the clothes front merely to be acceptable, and the thought of going round in those trousers and that waterproof together makes me want to bury myself.
Anyhow, I got grumpy on Monday and treated myself to a 1960s dress. It's got a turquoise background with a large-scale print of lime green roses and olive green leaves all over. It's gooooooorgeous. Straight skirt, short sleeves, very Mim. Nothing like the waterproof or Ugly Trousers. It may well go in the suitcase. Mainly I'm torn between taking some of my more flamboyant fitted dresses and my tweedier combos. Maybe pack a few of each. Put the 'quoi?!' in 'je ne sais quoi'.
What would you pack for Paris?