Tuesday — tomorrow by the time this posts — I’m getting on a plane to spend 10 days in Paris. As of Saturday, I haven’t packed a thing. I’ve dragged a suitcase up from the basement, spritzed the inside with Guerlain Eau Impériale, and left it to air. I’ve bought a few euros to get me into town, and I’ve arranged for a house sitter and a ride to the airport. But I haven’t packed a thing.
Packing a suitcase is like assembling a capsule of “you” — or at least the “you” you want to be on your trip. It’s the chance to distill your style and choose the few pieces of jewelry, the lipstick, the perfume that best telegraph who you are. It’s your armor and its your comfort. That’s a lot of pressure.
Packing for Paris is even more intimidating. There are so many ways to mess it up. As an American, I’m already hampered by obvious enthusiasm, the habit of smiling at strangers, and a pathetic accent and worse vocabulary. Someone generous might call me “charmingly messy,” but never “chic.” Even in head-to-toe Celine I’d look wrong.
I could pack perfume decants of something classically sultry (Guerlain Shalimar, say), something edgy (a Byredo or Nasomatto, maybe), or something unexpected (a good masculine like Lalique Encre Noir) to try to garner some kind of respect, but I won’t. I’m not even going to try to impress.
You see, I haven’t avoided packing because I can’t decide what to wear, I’ve put it off because I’m not worried about it. With an hour and a glass of wine, I should be able to toss together the motley selection of vintage cotton dresses, cardigans and flat shoes that would otherwise see me through a September at home in Portland. All I’m buying for the trip is a travel-sized bottle of contact lens solution. It’s nice to feel I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not trying to prove anything by the way I dress. I’ll please myself, and if a Pendleton 49ers jacket over a Swirl housedress doesn’t land me in The Sartorialist, so be it.
Besides, I’m on budget lockdown thanks to some unexpected gargantuan vet bills and major appliance failure — R.I.P. dear Tex, hello Frigidaire — so I don’t need to dress for three-star restaurants and high-end boutiques. Also, my perusal of websites of hip Parisian joints shows that Portland style has hit Paris. In the background, I’ve seen several gaunt men with the signature hipster facial hair that blends Dickens with Magnum P.I., and I’m sure at least a few of them play the mandolin or make sauerkraut in their basements. I can out-plaid any of them, hands-down.
So, I’m going to pack my trusty bottle of Parfums DelRae Mythique, because it’s easy and quiet and wears like a second skin. I’ll probably dab a few drops of Guerlain Vol de Nuit extrait behind my ears for the plane, and I’ll tuck a sample tube each of Christian Dior Diorling and Aedes de Venustas Iris Nazarena in my baggage in case I get the urge to amp up Mythique’s leather or iris.
Anyway, I’ll be in Paris. Who cares what I look like? There’s so much else to look at.
How do you pack for a special trip? Do you assemble a persona in your suitcase, or pack more casually? Also, any recommendations for free or inexpensive things to do in Paris? I’m already planning a trip to smell the new Serge Lutens Vierge de Fer; I love the Musée Gustave Moreau; and I want to walk along the Petite Ceinture. What else should I do?