While there are some things you can always count on in Paris—fresh bread, the reliable Metro system, the weekly markets—there are other things you can never count on. The weather is one of these things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up, looked out the window, dressed accordingly, and then stepped outside to find that the weather has completely changed within the span of 15 minutes. On one occasion, my picnic on the Pont des Arts began bathed in rosy summer light and ended in a torrential downpour that left me resembling a drowned rat (not a good look). On the contrary, the other day I ducked into the Metro to escape a rain shower and emerged 10 minutes later to find the sky had turned a brilliant blue.
The moral of this story? Paris is a lawless land (climatically speaking) and one must prepare for any and all possibilities. In short, this means layers… lots of them. And while the type and quantity of layers may vary from season to season, the overall concept is a Parisian constant. Scarves, for example, are a year round staple for both men and women. Word to the wise: don’t show up scarf-less.
When I’m out-and-about over the course of a day, I will find myself intermittently shivering, sweating, bundling, un-bundling… but such is life in Paris. Here are a few suggestions for layers to consider as you head out for the day.
Winter layering: In the winter, you can’t go wrong with some combination of boots or cool sneakers, pants (or leggings and a skirt / dress), shirt, sweater, scarf, and warm coat. A cute hat and/or gloves are a plus. Fur accessories add a little chic on very cold days.
Summer layering: Flats or sandals, a dress or jeans and a tank top, a long-sleeve shirt or cardigan, light scarf, and a light jacket or blazer for evening.
Fall and spring are a bit trickier, but you get the idea. Try to choose layers in neutral colors that can easily be mixed and matched. Black, navy, gray, olive and brown reign supreme in Paris.
A word about umbrellas: No matter what the season, Paris has a way of knowing when you don’t have an umbrella, and it will drench you just to teach you a lesson. (Obviously, when you do have your umbrella, you’ll get nothing but sun).
So there you have it. Layering in Paris is an endless exercise in outsmarting Mother Nature—or at least out-maneuvering her. At the very least, it gives us an excuse to hit the stores. After all, we’ve got to make sure our layers are up to snuff when each new season rolls around.