How to Pack for Paris in the Fall (without looking like a tourist)

From by Leah Walker
How to Pack for Paris in the Fall (without looking like a tourist)

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
how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker5No 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.


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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker8Dark 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker3A 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker9Tall 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker4White 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker1A 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker7A 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.

how-to-pack-for-paris-in-the-fall-by-leah-walker2Channeling 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!



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.

The post How to Pack for Paris in the Fall (without looking like a tourist) appeared first on Leah Travels.