In Praise of Packing All Black
Joan Didion didn't specify the color of the clothes on her packing list, but I'd wager they were monochrome.
Harrison Ford in Sabrina, 1995. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Joan Didion is popular because she is smart, and a great writer, has great chic, and wrote a cool packing list. That the packing list, which first appeared in her book The White Album, is offered as a symptom of her descent into mental illness seems to be forgotten: the orderliness is taken as a sign of her refinement rather than her obsessive-compulsiveness; the bourbon listed above the shampoo as a stroke of glamour rather than an omen. Forty years on, our new column Packing Lists explores how modern people get themselves from A to Z, and hopefully back again.
When I'm traveling, the idea is always black with one colorful thing. It could be a scarf or a tie or a Sies Marjan faux astrakhan coat in lilac (thank you, Sander). More often than not, the color comes in the form of a patterned shirts that Derek Blasberg fondly refers to as my “blouses.” (Here are a few examples.) So black is the base layer, but it always needs a little jush, lest I be mistaken—or, rather, be mistaken again—for a waiter.
Specifically, I wear either my motorcycle jacket or motorcycle boots every day, but never at the same time. One good reason for that is that I’ve never been on a motorcycle; another reason is that, worn together, they make me look like I just left a callback for the role of Kenickie in an off-Broadway revival of Grease. But separately, they work. I wear the boots (a single zip up the inside) with a suit, toughening it up, and the jacket with Nike trainers, which soften it. I feel like I can go to pretty much any dinner in any city wearing that suit with those boots. It’s not easy to find a look that lets me feel like myself in both Brooklyn and the Upper East Side, or Notting Hill and Shoreditch (the home of Vice's London office).
I don’t wear black because I’m depressed, though I avidly follow @gothsdoingthings. Nor do I wear black in rebellion to the training that I received at American Vogue, where color is non-negotiable. And I definitely don't wear black to fit the New York City stereotype. I wear black in part because deciding what to wear brings me stress, rather than joy, and also because my mom always told me it looks good with blond hair. Joan Didion never specified color in her seminal packing list, but I’d wager those leotards were black, black, black.
To wear on the plane:
1 Saint Laurent leather motorcycle jacket, black
1 J. Crew hoodie, white
1 pair Acne trousers, black
1 pair Nike sneakers, black
1 '47 baseball cap, black
Ray Ban Wayfarers, black
Hermes Cape Cod watch, black on black
To Pack (in a black Rimowa):
1 Alexander McQueen suit, black
1 pair Saint Laurent motorcycle boots, black
1 Burberry trench, black
5 Uniqlo crewneck t-shirts, (4 grey, 1 white)
1 P. Johnson made-to-measure dress shirt, white
1 Balenciaga pullover sweater, black
Nike gym kit, all black
Calvin Klein boxer briefs and socks…also, black
+++ 3 colorful things (ties, aforementioned shirts, outerwear, scarves)
Minniemuse notebook and Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen
3 cards of Cartier monogrammed stationery w/envelopes
Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones
13” MacBook Pro, iPhone X, chargers, adapters for every country and the moon
Louis Vuitton show invitation envelope, recycled as a passport case
GARAGE Issue 15