Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Who wants to be a badly-dressed tourist?

Grey waterproof. Practical, not stylish!
Mr Robot and I are going to Paris next month. Holidays always cause me a bit of a dilemma, as I'm never entirely sure what to pack, hence the fact I'm starting to think about it now. (This also gives me time to get any essential dry cleaning done, and ensures I don't stuff random items into the suitcase at the last minute, only to arrive at my destination without socks or moisturiser.)

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?

20 comments :

  1. My impression of Parisians is that they do neckwear better than anyone. Plain tee shirt-massive scarf. Plain jumper-massive scarf. Tailored dress...you get the idea. That said, whatever you wear it will look better than the tourist uniform of cropped trousers and sporty shirts. No one should wear that, at home or away.

    Okay, enough about the clothes-what perfume stops have you got planned? Are you going to Guerlain? Do tell!

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    1. I AM planning to go to the Guerlain boutique. We haven't made firm plans for anything, as I hate 'tickybox' holidays, where people charge around seeing all the things they think they should see, but I did say to Pete that I wanted to get a photo there for you! I'd like to fit in Caron and Serge Lutens too, if possible. There are lots of little perfumeries round Paris, so I'm hoping to stumble across things without actually looking for them.

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  2. How fab! I wouldn't get too hung up on French style, I've never been that impressed by the way Parisian women dress, far too conservative for my tastes. I've only met one woman whose style was fabulous (and she lived in Africa for 20 years and Frome for the last 5).
    Take three dresses that make you feel beautiful (the new one sounds splendid and that fab 1960s shift needs a trip abroad), a fitted tweed jacket (just in case there's a nip in the air), comfy footwear (and maybe a smarter pair if you're having dinner somewhere swanky), a cross-body bag, sunglasses, a fold-up brolly and buy yourself a knee length PVC mac with a hood you can fold in your bag and pull out if it lashes it down).
    Show us your packing when you're done, I love travel planning! xxx

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    1. I'm planning to pack my black velvet jacket, it's a real old favourite of mine, and goes with more or less everything.

      The new dress is on its way! I can't wait for it to arrive.

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  3. I can't say I remember Paris as being chockablock with particularly chic people. Maybe because of the inordinately large numbers of tourists when we went (always August) and the fact that most of the locals will be on holiday elsewhere. I would dress for the weather. Paris is hot and sticky this time of year. Nothing worse that being uncomfy wandering round. Your dress sounds fabulous and the colours will look beautiful with your colouring. On a different note is this just a woman thing? Most of the blokes I know will wear anything if it is a) doesn't smell b) is not too crumpled and c) is mostly stain free. I think that I am getting more like that as I get older but I always take ages to pack and then never have the right things so have to admit defeat. Hope that you have a lovely time away. :)

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    1. Yeah, I'm hoping it will be cooler mid-September.

      His nibs usually looks better than I do on holiday - he takes a lightweight linen suit and a few linen shirts and rocks the 'Our Man in Havana' look.

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  4. I went last October and it was SO hot it was ridiculous so I'd recommend layers, a cardigan and or jacket so you can layer up if it's cold and not be too hot if it's warm. For the time I wasn't working I just took a couple dresses that didn't crumple too much and comfy footwear!

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    1. Oh, cool, that's useful to know. I was preparing to take my woollen autumn clothing, so I'll abandon that idea.

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  5. I say wear whatever you like, I always do! I never dress appropriately but am always happy with my choice because it was my choice and I'm not conforming to any else's idea of how I should dress.
    I've been to Paris twice and, depending on where you go, you're more likely to bump into other tourists rather than actual Parisiennes. The movie version of what we expect them to look like doesn't really exist these days, so don't get bogged down with it.
    The main thing I remember about the residents there was they often grab their crotches in public and have a good old scratch. Men and women!! Just so you're warned :)

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  6. Haven't been to Paris in years, but I think the same guidelines are appropriate for there as for any destination - why dress any differently than you do at home? I understand covering up for the sake of being respectful, or dressing for the weather or particular activities, but since you are visiting a European city, I say wear what you would wear at home! Vintage dresses, layers, something waterproof or an umbrella, comfy shoes, and you're done. Simple! xxx

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    1. Yeah, I guess I'm used to Spain - people dress very well there, very co-ordinated (the accessories shops are to die for) and I'm used to dressing to match, albeit with pasty skin and hiking boots!

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  7. What fun, I'd love to go, all those wonderful galleries!
    Do you like brogues? I wear them a lot if there's walking to be done, either shoes or boots. But the eccentric Beatrix Potter crossed with Edith Holden is my default for prowling, as long as it's not too hot. Then I just stay in a dark room and wilt!
    I'd just go with your vintage dresses with little cardies, and skirts with pretty blouses or jumpers and your jacket if it's colder. I haven't worn trousers for donkey's years so can't advise on them.
    Perhaps a special frock for evening, if you plan on going anywhere smart.

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    1. I need a new pair of flat shoes - I got some penny loafers on a whim when I had vouchers to spend and have worn them loads. More loafers or brogues would be a good choice.

      We are considering one smart dinner, as we'll be away for our anniversary.

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  8. How fabulously exciting!!! I would pack some French themed or appropriate items, such as 1950s poodle brooches and some of my berets, perhaps a Breton striped top and anything else that made me think of France, as I'm huge on trying my travel outfits to wherever I'm visiting.

    I hope that you guys have a safe, fun filled, awesome trip!

    Bon voyage!
    ♥ Jessica

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    1. I should have a look back through Laurence's blog and see what she's worn/got up to in Paris!

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  9. I went in August 2 years ago and went for crazy printed dresses or stripy tops with jeans and ballet flats. My friend wore more fitted dresses, pencil style and I think looked a bit overdressed and uncomfortable. I say wear your usual stuff!

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    1. :-D You will be the one who knows. You have a certain French chic.

      To be honest, I'm blowing all my disposable income for September on stagewear (I'm performing twice in the show, so need two corsets, new dance shoes etc) so Paris will have to live with some combination of whatever's in my wardrobe.

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  10. My dear, darling, friend.
    I'm so happy to hear you'l be travelling soon (not on business, but a holiday!). Last time I traveled for my own sake was years ago.. most of my travels nowadays are business-related - hey, I don't complain. What I'm trying to tell you is: due to the fact that majority of my waking hours in a day I spend abroad, I'm on business meetings and conferences, so there's not much thinking about what to pack: fill the suitcase with office-friendly attire and you're done.
    HOWEVER, whit this said, I have never purchased clothes for that occasion; I wear my regular ones, the ones I'm comfortable in, the "go to uniform": skirts (not necessarily black ones), shirts and cardigans. When I put on my "regular" clothing, I know how I look, I know how мѕ clothes"moves", and I feel like myself.
    ..
    Paris?
    Packing for Paris?
    To tell you the truth, you've got me thinking there.. and to be hones, I'll always pack my regular clothes. Not just because I like to be "me" all the time, but the fact is that I don't really have a lot of clothes (for instance: no pants in my wardrobe - I'm uncomfortable with handling them, wearing them and they don't make me feel great).
    As for "badly dressed" - I've seen a lot of that.. I drove in a bus with THAT. :D Every time we went on class trips, all the folks went all "old sweatpants and hoody" kind of style; without giving a second thought to what an appearance them emit.
    ..

    Your letter arrived.
    I moved home.

    Lots of hugs my dear!
    Marija

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  11. How exciting, I hope you have a marvellous time. I say wear what you normally wear, I'm sure that Parisian women can learn a thing or too from you. Your new dress sounds fabulous. I always find shoes and raincoats the hardest part, need to be comfy and practical which seems to equate to not super stylish!

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