A few nights ago, I woke up in a panic. I had a very vivid dream that I was leaving for Paris that morning and I only had 15 minutes to pack! I have been excited about the trip, but it always seemed like something that was happening in the distant future. It was now three weeks away and that dream was the jolt I needed to start seriously getting ready for it. I’m not actually packing the suitcase, yet, but I am starting to try on outfits, make lists, firm up the trip details, buy sight-seeing tickets, and make some final purchases.
I thought I would share some of the things I’m packing, since that’s been consuming my time the past couple of days. First off, in case you missed it, I am going to the province of Lucca in Italy for a creative retreat, so everything for that is planned. I just need to show up and run some workshops and creative sessions. My mom is going to travel with me and we decided it was a shame to be in Europe and not go somewhere else, so we’re spending three days in Paris prior to going to Italy. I am about to burst even writing that sentence!
For those who don’t know, my dad was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army, so I grew up there and we traveled all over Europe. It was a very different Europe then, though… east & west, separate currencies for each country, etc. Living and traveling there had a huge impact on my tastes and style, though. I’m always drawn to European things and foods. It feels like home to me. So, I am very excited about going back and experiencing it as an adult.
When it came to packing, the thing I figured out first was the clothing. I just took a trip to China last year and I wore dresses/tunics and leggings the entire time and that was perfect. The clothes are lightweight and comfortable, but they look appropriate for most occasions and, baring any major spill, can be worn a few times before needing to be laundered.
For this trip, I’m bringing all of my favorite linen dresses. Yep, and even some petticoats.
Please understand that I am not under the delusion that these dresses are at the height of fashion. I realize I don’t look cool or modern or trendy. I realize they are even borderline eccentric, especially here in the US. But in Europe, women wearing “everyday” dresses is much more common.
If anything, I’ll feel feminine and comfortable and might look a little less like a tourist…at least until I open my mouth to butcher some poor French or Italian word that deserves better.
With the exception of one, the dresses I’m bringing are linen and in blues and grays. The stand-out dress is a red and white cotton dress from Anthropologie.
I’m also bringing a white linen petticoat purchased from THIS ETSY SELLER to wear under the dresses for added warmth, if needed.
I have a couple of antique skirt-style petticoats with pretty crochet and eyelet lace trim that I’m bringing to wear under the linen dresses that are a little more see-through in intense light. And, by see-through, I meant you can see the silhouette of my legs when backlit, but the linen isn’t shear.
So, the total clothing packing list for this 10 day trip is…
- 5 linen dresses
- 3 petticoats
- 1 linen tunic
- 1 pair of leggings
- 1 cotton dress
And, other than socks, jammies, a swimsuit, and undies, that’s it! Less clothes means more room for purchases!
For outerwear, I am bringing a small umbrella and I wanted to bring a light jacket. I didn’t really have anything between a cotton field jacket and a wool pea coat or down-stuffed winter coat, so that was on my shopping list yesterday. I was hoping to find something in a nice shape and color that was waterproof and lightweight.
I came up empty at the mall, but I found a great jacket in a surprising place – Costco! This waterproof trench was just $30 and the classic styling, muted gray color, and even the linen-ish texture are perfect!
It does look a little bit like a lamp shade on my short, squat mannequin, but it has side buckles to cinch the waist, so it actually has a nice, tailored look. (My brother pointed out that I wrote “buckets” instead of “buckles”, which is a riot. Buckets on the side would not make it look more tailored.)
With clothing situated, shoes were the next big thing. I have very comfortable boots, but it’s going to be a bit warm, especially in Italy, for boots. I needed some shoes that were feminine enough to wear with linen dresses and comfortable enough to walk all over Paris or Florence. That is a lot to ask of a pair of shoes.
I started with Rothy’s, since I’ve heard so much about them and that’s what other ladies going on the Italy trip suggested.
Let me start by saying I really, really, wanted to LOVE these shoes more than any other shoe I’ve ever had on my foot. They are $125 for a pair of flats, so they should be loved that much. I tried the loafers and the flats and I could not get the loafers (which were $165) to fit my feet properly, even after trying a couple of different sizes.
The flats fit me much better and yes, they are comfortable, but the arched heel (which is a part of their branding) does rub a bit. They haven’t rubbed to the point of making a blister, but they are taking a bit of work to break them in. I’ve been wearing them when I take Sebastian out for walks (which I’m sure looks a little funny!)
After going on many walks in them, the verdict is that I like them. They are stylish and comfortable and great for everyday shoes that can be casual or dressed up. The shape looks cute and feminine with the linen dresses. As a bonus, they are washable and they dry quickly, so you don’t have to tip-toe around puddles or worry about spills and stains. They are also very light, so they don’t take up space or add much weight to a suitcase.
The down side is that they don’t offer any cushioning or support. I don’t need a lot of support, but I know that those flimsy soles won’t be enough on cobblestone streets after a few miles.
I am going to bring them for wearing on lighter walking days or even as stand-ins for flip-flops when I go to the pool. I’ll definitely wear them to church, on date nights, etc., too, so they aren’t a loss at all. Just not a home run. (And I really wanted them to be a home run for that kind of an investment.)
If you’re interested in trying Rothy’s, you can get $20 off through this affiliate link.
The shoes that did end up being a home run, though, were a pair of Sienna Mary Jane Keens. They felt amazing the first time I put them on and I walked around all day in them yesterday without even a rub. I bought the black ones, because they were the only ones available in the store, but I bought the brown leather ones online, since they’ll work better with my blue dresses.
The Keens definitely aren’t as graceful as the Rothy’s, but my feet will be thanking me. They are still lightweight shoes that pack small and the mary jane style makes them just feminine enough to work with dresses.
And, the real winning combination was the Keens with no-show Smart Wool socks. That little combo there is heaven for my feet. (Sorry for the linty socks picture! I did wear them yesterday…)
The nice thing about wool socks is they won’t retain odors, so I can wear a pair a couple of times before I wash them. (As an aside, I wouldn’t do that at home, but when traveling? You just do what you gotta do to pack light, so you can shop!)
So, for footwear, I’m bringing two pairs of Rothy’s, two pairs of Keens, and 5 pairs of Smart Wool socks. I’m not a big shoe-shopper, so this was a splurge for me, but I’ll wear these shoes a lot after the trip, too, so I think it’s worth-while. Really, it ended up being the push I needed to do some serious shoe shopping! I tried on so many pairs of shoes, it was ridiculous, but I narrowed it down to what works best for me and now I know for the future.
I’ve also been thinking about the art supplies I want to bring. I’ve been working on this for months – trying out gouache, different pens and sketchbook papers. I don’t want to get there and then feel frustrated or limited in my supplies. I finally decided I would bring watercolors, ink pens, and a couple of watercolor notebooks for colored illustrations. For sketches, I’m bringing graphite pencils, a gray-toned sketch pad and a white conte crayon. I’m also bringing a small, lined Moleskine journal for writing notes and capturing inspiration.
I wish I could bring my oils, but it’s just too much to transport. It’s not so much the paints and brushes, but it’s the pochade box and wet panel carrier, etc.
I must confess that there is a part of me that feels overwhelmed by the art-journaling component. I sooooo want to get it right. I want to comeback with notebooks and sketchbooks full of illustrations that can be translated into oil paintings. I also see these sketches and paintings as my most precious souvenirs. They are even better than pictures, because I’m capturing the colors and shapes and feelings evoked through my eyes and hand. It’s my interpretation of the scene I’m taking in.
I wrote a post about this feeling of inadequacy a while ago… my bad habit of buying sketchbooks and only filling a few pages only to rip them out. I want to FILL these books and leave the pages intact with all of their imperfections and messy scribbles and amateur drawings that make me cringe. And, instead of experiencing it with angst, approach it with joy. I’ll be creating art in Paris and Florence! There should be no room for angst in that equation.
When I do feel overwhelmed about something, I tend to dive into books and that is what I’m doing for this as well. I am reading books on travel and plein air sketching, journaling, and painting to get inspired and ready!
The Painted Art Journal is a book by my friend, Jeanne Oliver. I’m always so inspired by her and this book is wonderful for getting the creative juices flowing. It’s also a great read if you feel like art has to be “like so” or it’s “wrong”. She has a very free and expressive style that encourages you (me) to relax.
In addition to shoe-shopping yesterday, I also picked up some travel sizes of cosmetic and toiletry products I use daily. I’ll share one more post on packing before I leave for my trip (on September 8) as well as some details about the sight-seeing we’re doing. I will not be writing my usual blog posts while traveling, but I will pop in to share pictures and short recaps and, of course I’ll share on Instagram and Instagram Stories. I hope you’ll follow along!
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