Film still copyright Paramount Pictures.

In Praise of Packing for France Like An American

This is what I’m packing for a four-day stint in the City of Lights. It’s exactly what I pack for a four-day stint anywhere.

by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson
Apr 9 2019, 5:34pm

Film still copyright Paramount Pictures.

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.

American girls: this may be painful to hear, but you are not French, and that’s totally fine. We can reference (or not reference) Jane Birkin or Françoise Hardy as pillars of effortless style who stoked the French Girl craze in the 60’s, but we can’t forget women like Agnes Varda or Niki de Saint Phalle whose penchants for mixing bright colors, and strange silhouettes represented an entirely different kind of chic. In Paris, eclectic aesthetics share the exact same space as the minimalist sensibility that we’ve been conditioned to praise. And as a rowdy, loud American, I opt for the latter.

In spite of the innumerable “French Girl Guides” that dot our favorite sites, American Girl style is made for the City of Lights. Considering that, arguably, our nation’s greatest cultural export is the concept of cooI, I stick to the classics when traveling abroad. I’ll pair my slouchy vintage Levi’s with Converse or my decades-old black cowboy boots, concert tee’s and tie-dye pieces that have lived many lives, classic turtlenecks, oversized men’s shirts and one or two wild cards for color. Famed packing aficionado Tonne Goodman, taught me the joys of traveling light, so the edit is important if I want to make due with a carry-on. Strategy is key, but never at the expense of a little fun.

To wear on the plane:

1 Matthew Adams Dolan Denim Coat: Denim is my coat of armor all day, every day—it’s also great for plane to day-to-day activities. No wrinkles!

1 Everlane black turtleneck: his is great to double as an eye cover when the one guy on the redeye thinks it’s chill to blast his reading light at 4am EST. Alternatively, invest in an eye mask like the Ermenegildo Zegna version I have mysteriously misplaced.

1 Levis 501 High Waisted Jeans, light wash: These will be unzipped at some point between taxiing and max altitude.

1 Raen Flatscreen Sunglasses, black-out: These will give you completely unapproachable vibes in case you run into someone you know at Hudson News.

1 JW Anderson x Converse platform high-tops: In the inevitability that one spends a bit too much time at duty free, a fashionable and functional footwear option is key.

1 Tube socks: I like a pair that is really cozy and chunky but also maybe a little too small. It's important for my hosiery to doubles as circulation sleeves on the NY-Paris longhaul because no one wants to be the one who has to get up to “stretch their legs.”

To Pack:

1 Universal Standard x Rodarte Drawstring Dress, red

1 Vintage Le Smoking Tuxedo Jacket, black

1 Kwaidan Editions Tie Dye tee-shirt, many blues

1 JCrew Mens Striped Oxford shirt

1 Extra pair of Levis 501 Original Fit Jeans, light wash

1 Cropped Black Trouser I’ve had forever

1 Maison Margiela Tabi boot, black

1 old as dirt cowboy boots

3 Sunspel briefs, trust me

To Carry:

1 Old Celine Envelope Clutch: This #OldCeline clutch is the perfect length for a physical boarding pass if you, like me, hate folding it in half and truly loathe frantically scrolling through your phone to find the digital version you inexplicably elected to be sent to you).

2 Louis Vuitton Speedy 40: This is definitely a duffle and not at all a handbag. Even though it can sometimes feel too small, in actuality, it represents exactly how much one should carry-on to an airplane—which is not a lot.