In Praise of Packing a Lot

Joan Didion is celebrated for packing a little. She is wrong.

by Rachel Tashjian
Dec 27 2018, 9:37pm

Joan Didion is popular because she is smart, and a great writer, and 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.

Here is an opinion that will be as unpopular as Joan Didion is popular: I like to pack a lot of stuff. It is not uncommon for me to hail an Uber at an airport in a foreign country with a soft suitcase, a hard suitcase, a garment bag, a hatbox, a handbag, a tote bag, and two cigarettes. Maybe not the last part, but whatever: I pack a lot of stuff, and who knows? Maybe it helps me stay a little bit sane.

I understand that an entire cottage industry has emerged in the service of packing less, and that an entire way of living has emerged in the service of having less. But at the risk of sounding so dumb that I’m genius: stuff is cool. Stuff brings me joy. And I want to have that stuff when I travel. Traveling is a time to play dress up. If you have to go on a bunch of business trips, as I often do, you want to feel comfortable. I want to have fun. And getting dressed is fun.

Not only do I like to pack a lot of stuff—but I think you should pack a lot of stuff, too. To be fair, all of my winter clothing is black, gold, deep red, or green, and therefore I can wear almost everything I pack with every other thing I pack. But if something doesn’t get worn, so what? And if I get to the last night and I have a leftover “night on the town” outfit: all the better to take myself out on a date to cap off a trip well traveled. Here, for example, is the packing list I’ve put together for Paris Couture week in January. Sit back and light two cigarettes: it’s long!

Vintage suede Dirndl dress embroidered with baskets
Quilted green skirt by A.W.A.K.E. (it’s like a medieval Barbour for your legs!)
Ashley Williams tiger-print cargo pants and matching shirt
Lafayette 148 taffeta dress (you can scrunch it up in an extra suitcase pocket and it emerges perfectly intact)
Japanese souvenir jacket (a Christmas present from my brother—I have wanted one for years!)
Green Alaïa bolero sweater jacket
Black Chanel cashmere turtleneck with bell sleeves
Patagonia Synchilla snap fleece in black
Dries Van Noten silk paisley turtleneck
3 L.L. Bean turtlenecks in various shades
Oversized silk taffeta pants made by a witch in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico who is obsessed with Rick Owens and Comme (I know!!!)
Red silk boxer’s pants from Santa Fe Vintage

Caramel chinchilla coat
Stussy tie-dye fleece

Chanel cowboy boots
Orange Stubbs and Wootten slippers embroidered with Chinese vases
Green velvet Manolo Blahnik slippers
North Face ThermoBall slippers

Lock & Co. red beret with bow
Dove gray Stetson

Chocolate brown leather gloves
Faux alligator skin vintage doctor’s bag
Giant hologram vanity case of bizarre costume jewelry
Like eight boxes of L’Eggs Sheer Energy in Jet Black, frantically purchased at Duane Reade hours before I get on the plane
Whatever I take to keep my head on straight
The various lotions and potions that make a girl a woman

To carry:
Saint Laurent black cashmere throw from Spring 2018 show (Chic! Cozy!)
Books of short stories or essays, at a ratio of 1 book to every 1.5 days
Black notebook from Givenchy Fall 2018 Couture show (the chicest way to keep notes—it’s the same size as the Bible!)
Pens??? Passport, weird coins from previous trips to wherever I’m going, laptop and all its accoutrements

Dries Van Noten
Joan Didion