IMG_5929Blizzards and storms hit parts of the U.S. last weekend. Here, we’ve been  getting plenty of rain…and sun.

When you’re packing, it can be hard to imagine being somewhere much warmer or colder. Plus, northern France–Paris–has quite different weather than here in the south.

It was upon moving to Belgium that I learned the concept of the summer sweater. It’s the sweater to wear when you are sick to death of candles, hot chocolate and curling up by a fire. When you’ve had it with hygge, but it isn’t yet warm enough to bask bare-armed in the sun.

(Don’t these make you want to cringe after March 20? The one on the right is yak hair, from Katmandu. I get around….and come home with something to wear. It is VERY warm.)

I remember being dumbstruck early in my European séjour, by a movie on TV in which Catherine Deneuve walked a pebbly Atlantic beach, dressed in white capris and a loose turquoise sweater. I forgot the movie, but I remember that sweater. A sweater! On the beach! (And pebbles on the beach!!!! So many new concepts at once.)

My first summer sweater, like Catherine Deneuve’s but not turquoise.

I soon learned that yes, you might need a sweater on the beach, even in summer. A bunch of colleagues and I went to the (sandy) beach at Ostende one weekend. The wind was wicked. I bought a windbreak (not a windbreaker but a long strip of plastic with posts and a rubber mallet for pounding the posts into the sand) and we all huddled behind it. At work the next Monday, other co-workers ridiculed our claim that we had been to the beach–where were our tans? In fact, the only skin we could bear to bare was on our faces and hands. We froze. In mid-summer.

The summer sweater is is cotton or silk, not wool, unless it’s the finest, thinnest cashmere. It has a smooth, flat weave, or else a loose, open weave. It isn’t chunky.

Navy and white stripes….so French.

The best ones can be worn with a shirt underneath, or alone. Options, layers. Perfect for travel. Lots of shirts, which are light and pack small, and just two sweaters.

Even better is to have a matching or coordinating cardigan, so you can have yet another layer, or wear it open instead of a jacket on warmer days. And if it’s really warm and you never wear your sweater or cardigan (I bet you’ll wear them at least in the evening), you won’t kick yourself for having loaded up your suitcase for nothing.P1090872Also, take a scarf. Always! The pashmina still is worn around here and is always good against a chill. The large square silk scarf is a classic.

Chèche, pashmina, winter go away.

What’s very popular among both men and women is the chèchea very long cotton scarf that you wrap a million times around your neck or that you leave hanging long. But don’t be like Isadora Duncan. The value of chèche is that it can be surprisingly warm when it’s all wound around you and it can be no more heavy than a necklace when it’s worn hanging long. I have a gorgeous 9-foot-long dark purple one I bought in Timbuktu…and in true Berber fashion it turns my skin bluish-purple when I wear it.

Fashion tip for French nonchalance: Tie the belt, don’t use the buckle. 

Favorite French coats for this time of year are the perennials: the leather moto jacket and the trench. My trench has a zip-in lining–if I were traveling in early spring, I would take it and be almost as warm as with a winter coat (because I don’t want to wear anything with furry trim come March). In late spring, I’d leave the lining at home.

Either option is good for dealing with the possibility (probability…higher as you head north) of rain. The tips for winter travel hold for spring’s tempestuous days, but you know what they say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. I’d rather have a rain hat than an umbrella, but better yet is a hood, and best of all is a hidden hood.

Option 1: waterproof hat.
Option 2: Hood….
…that rolls up and is held by velcro…
…in the collar of this very light windbreaker. I also love the pockets on this thing.

What are your astuces for packing for uncertain spring weather?

19 thoughts on “Sweater Weather Packing

  1. Beautiful skies!

    It’s still winter coats and toques weather here. I tend to alternate between wool coat and leather jacket this time of year, but always have a pullover sweater on. If it’s warm enough by mid-day, I can just stash it in my bag.

    We’ve had freezing rain though yesterday, and snow today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is the saying in Spanish? In French it’s “En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil; en mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît”–In April, don’t take off so much as a thread; in May, do as you please.


  2. Hi,
    If you want to stop the dark purple rubbing off, soak it for a couple of hours in a mix of 1 part ordinary vinegar to two parts water, then wash. I do this with all my black things when they’re new; it also arrests fading.
    Love the red scarf!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I could not agree more, packing for a trip is always a challenge for me. I have been on several trips where I did read the weather and still did not anticipate that 50 in the Fall is not 50 in the Spring, both feel incredibly different. You sweater comment made me laugh. I was in Paris one August and it was so cold I had to purchase a light winter type jacket and i have traveled in Italy in May where I needed a lot more than a sweater or jacket. I could have used a winter coat!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your trench! And those sweaters! We have had a rare and refreshing real Spring so far, after two snows this Winter – seasons in Houston! I get to wear a cardigan in the mornings – I’m not sure why that makes me so happy but it does.

    I was in Dallas two weekends running, and needed outerwear both trips – I love my Helly Hansen lined slicker and decades old, second hand Burberry poncho that I refuse to part with – they’re usually overkill but I was glad I brought them – there were some early morning hours I wish I’d brought something heavier. I own a real coat, but who on earth imagines wearing one in Texas later than March? Certainly not me. Native in denial.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I guess in the UK we’re used to unpredictable weather and temperatures. For me, layers always work well and cardigans. I wear cashmere in winter and cotton when it’s warmer. I’m also a huge fan of scarves but the word ‘chèche’ is new to me. Is Carcassonne any good for clothes shopping? Castelnaudary is useless!

    Liked by 1 person

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