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Figuring out what to wear in Paris for winter and fall can be a headache, especially if you like to pack light and aren’t exactly into fashion. In the City of Light, appearances are everything. Author David Lebovitz hilariously writes in his memoir The Sweet Life in Paris that he knew he had truly become a Parisian when he got dressed up just to take out the trash. (The pressure is real, y’all.)
Before my trip to France, I began furiously googling what to wear in Paris for winter and fall. One of the first articles I found informed me that I am not to wear sweatpants (my signature clothing item) and commanded me to exude “femininity and edge.” Here’s the exact quote from the troubling paragraph of this article:
“…avoid items like original UGG boots, clunky tennis shoes, flip flops, and sweatpants. You should look presentable at all times; your goal is to maintain a comfortable look, while exuding femininity and edge.”
At this point, I considered canceling my trip altogether. I mean, I have a hard enough time looking “presentable” SOME of the time, much less while exuding “femininity and edge” (whatever that means).
Figuring out what to wear in Paris for winter was particularly challenging for me because
- I was determined to bring ONLY carry-on for my five-week trip to Paris.
- I am a minimalist and not really into fashion.
- I went to Paris in November and December, and cold weather clothes are bulkier and therefore harder to pack.
In the end, I managed to pack for one month in Paris (5 weeks, to be exact) in one carry-on backpack (plus a purse. Okay, a very large purse).
Everyone said it was impossible. But I like to prove people wrong. Mission accomplished.
So what did I end up packing for Paris?
My Paris Packing List for the Winter & Fall (Specifically November and December)
Below I’ve included my exact Paris packing list for winter and fall, including links. I tried to link to the exact item I purchased when possible, but most of these links are to similar items. If it’s the exact item I purchased, I will make note of it next to the link.
- Striped navy blue long-sleeved shirt
- Short-sleeved pink dress shirt
- Gray tank top
- Long-sleeved black shirt
- Long-sleeved white scoop back shirt
- Striped black 3/4-sleeved shirt
- Gray T-shirt for sleeping in
- Black pants. I specifically brought H&M’s Slim-Fit “Treggings” which are magical because they’re basically pants with elastic waistbands so wayyy more comfy. ;) I can’t find a link to them, so I’ve linked to black pants with elastic waist bands (I love elastic waistbands, as you can tell…).
- Burgundy pants. Same pants as above, but in burgundy. And ladies and gents, let me let you in on a little secret: Burgundy or red pants are all the rage in Paris. No idea why. I never wear these now that I’m back in the States. Haha.
- Black yoga pants. Ladies, get black yoga pants that are THICK and not SEE THROUGH, so they will be extra warm during cold autumn nights and can double as leggings underneath things like sweater dresses. I bought a sweater dress from H&M when I got to Paris, and wore the leggings underneath it. I also used the yoga pants to sleep in at night.
- Two-toned knee high boots. When figuring out what to wear in Paris for winter and fall, knee high boots are your best friends! I wish I could find the exact boots I wore to Paris (I still wear them a lot these days!), but it’s no longer for sale online. :( But seriously, I would order these boots if I weren’t traveling abroad right now! I was a little nervous to wear two-toned boots because I felt like black would have been safer…but Parisians LOVED my boots. My Parisian host, when I first arrived at her house, took one look at them and said, “Those are fabulous boots.” I immediately was proud of my decision to bring them!
- Black ballet flats
- Black flip flops. These were just to wear around the apartment. (What? You think I wore these out in the streets of Paris? Sacrebleu! <–And no, the French don’t actually say that…)
- Black cardigan. It was great for layering over shirts as the days grew colder.
- Red raincoat. To be honest, I don’t know if I would pack this again because I didn’t like standing out like a sore thumb among the sea of Parisians wearing black, gray, or blue.
- Navy blue puffer down jacket
- Leather jacket
- Lightweight Calvin Klein jacket
- Teal scarf
- Pair of earrings
LOL I just realized as I wrote this post that I legit only brought those two “accessories.” Told ya I’m no fashionista…
Shop the Parisian Look!
The Carry-On Bag I Brought to Paris
I chose the Timbuk2 Aviator Backpack specifically for my trip to Paris, and it is now my favorite carry-on!
The Essentials for What to Wear in Paris for Winter and Fall
Stripes. The French love their stripes. A classic navy blue and white striped boatneck shirt goes a long way in Paris.
Black (or gray or navy blue). I thought it was just a stereotype, but Parisians really do wear black, almost all the time. If they’re feeling particularly daring, they’ll opt for gray or navy blue. When I landed in Paris and walked to my Airbnb, I was swimming through a sea of black coats (thankfully, I was wearing dark gray, so I fit in somewhat). One day I decided to go all out and wear my bright red raincoat, and I ran into only ONE other person wearing red that day, a fellow tourist at the Eiffel Tower. :)
Dark jeans or pants. Yes, Parisians wear jeans. Everyone stop freaking out.
Scarves. Scarves pair well with so many things, can add class to an outfit, and, oh, keep your neck warm! I noticed lots of Parisians (men and women alike) sporting those HUGE, chunky knit infinity scarves. I actually ended up buying one while I was in Paris, but never wore it once I returned to the States.
Burgundy pants. I noticed lots of Parisians, particularly men, wearing burgundy or red pants.
Boots. You can’t go wrong with a classic black riding boot or two-toned ones like I showed above. Plus, since Paris gets rainy in the winter, it’s nice to have these to protect your feet and calves from the rain.
Long black coats. While I didn’t pack one for Paris, I did end up buying a black wool coat (which you can see in my photo at the top of this page) in December because it started getting WAY too cold for my little gray jacket.
Additional Tips on Packing for Paris (If You Want to Pack Light)
Use packing cubes. These are a game changer, and yes, they do make a difference.
Don’t underestimate just how much down puffer jackets can be compressed. They are FULL of air. The trick is to stuff them into a tiny “compression” bag. I used a small pouch. You don’t need to worry about rolling it up perfectly. Just start stuffing the down jacket into the pouch and keep going. Keep pressing down, and before you know it, the down jacket will magically fit into the pouch. When you arrive in Paris, immediately take it out though so it doesn’t get wrinkled.
So there you have it! How I packed for one month in Paris using only carry-on. I hope this helps you solve your dilemma on what to wear in Paris for winter and/or fall. Enjoy the City of Light!