This is a long meandering post about what I packed and wore whilst travelling for work to Europe in July, what sewing stuff I bought and some of the places I visited.
Long and meandering.
And somewhat self indulgent.
You have been warned.
What clothes work well when you’re travelling?
I’ve often wondered if a dedicated work travel wardrobe was the way to go. You know, one made specifically for travelling: easy care fabrics, all coordinated and layerable. And I don’t mean all black knits… Although that would work…
I’ve never had the time to construct such an ideal wardrobe before a trip, so I end up taking my regular clothes. That’s what happened this time too.
You’ve seen all these before, but only in the photo-shoot straight after making them. Perhaps it’s interesting to hear how they are holding up after several wears and washes, and after being squished in a suitcase?
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my clothes in action. My photographer stayed in Adelaide. My only camera was my iPhone 4.
I had two gala dinners to attend in Europe ( yes that’s right, and a third one is Sydney. That should do me for at least 6 years). This dress was an absolute star.
A pair of strapy silver sandals, a dash of mascara and some lip gloss (limited time scheduled between conference stuff and both of the gala dinners…) and I was ready to roll. There were compliments for this dress. From the drop dead gorgeous young Italian PhD students, the sartorially splendid Brazilian researchers and through to the almost retired French professors. Of both genders. I’m close to 50, so compliments are a wonderful and welcome surprise…
Creases in the dress fell out almost as soon as it came out of the suitcase. I was very impressed.
It swished gorgeously around my legs and was light enough for the 35°C plus evening in Portugal. And, with this jacket, worked well for the gala dinner in Mumm Champagne cellars in Reims.
Vintage graffiti for vintage champagne. This was in Taittinger’s cellars. Both Mumm and Taittinger (and probably other Champagne Houses) have cellars that started out as Roman chalk mines.
Another me-made that was excellent for travelling was this shirt and skirt.
White doesn’t seem an obvious choice for traveling but it seemed to repel dirt, washed up well (would’ve been improved with an iron) and coordinated with nearly everything else I took. Its wearability was the key though- great stretch and recovery and excellent breathability even on days over 40°C. Yes it was that hot in Portugal and we still went out in the afternoon to look at vineyards as part of the conference I was at. (Viticulturists are crazy!)
The Duoro Valley, Portugal. 43°C. No irrigation. And yet those vines look like as fresh as a daisy.
The shirt was excellent too. I thought it was cotton but the way it washed and dried quickly and without wrinkles makes me think it might be a poly cotton. It looked good with this skirt but also under a jacket, with a big blue pashmina and with jeans. So glad I converted this from the frumpy shirtdress it started out life as.
This red polka dot dress was thrown in the suitcase at the last minute, and it was also excellent on those over 40°C days in Portuguese vineyards as well as on a warm day in Paris and when travelling, with a pashmina for warmth.
All those built in wrinkles in the fabric were perfect for travelling and the loose fit made it an excellent hot weather piece.
One of Moet et Chandon’s vineyards in Epernay. Those vines still look fresh, and they were, but it was much cooler than in Portugal.
All the pieces below went with me too. The skirt is a polyester cotton blend and travelled well; creases are not obvious. I also took the matching peplum top and whilst it travels well and I wore it, it’s not the most versatile piece because it does not work well with layering.
The RTW silk blouse is loose fitting and was lovely to wear. It travelled well too and coordinates with the three skirts I took. The RTW jacket is a seersucker cotton and partly lined in cotton. It travelled very well too and was worn several times in Champagne (no need for a jacket in Portugal!)
Beautiful tiles in Porto, Portugal
This blouse went too.
It didn’t travel well. It was rolled and packed like everything else but picked up creases and didn’t want to let them go. This one needed an iron.
Both these pieces went too and survived packing excellently. The skirt was good for any day under 30°C and the silk top works under jacket or on its own with this or the white skirt, and even makes a pair of jeans appropriate for a nice dinner. As it turned out I didn’t wear the top, but it was nice knowing that I could!
Now lets talk about Paris and shopping.
One of the many lovely shops in the Marias district (you can see my polka dot dress in the reflection of the top shelf)
Shopping in Paris, sewist style
I had a half day in Paris on the way to the conference in Champagne and a full Saturday in between the two conferences I attended. Of course I focused on fabric, trim and yarn. There were a few touristy detours but they were not the main act!
Notre Dame, rear view
Susan Khalie had an article on couture sewing shops in Paris in the June/July issue of Threads Magazines (the one I won, thanks Marina!). So I visited several. They were spread all across Paris. The Métro is a wonderful thing.
I didn’t buy anything from the shops in Susan’s list except a double headed wax pencil from Fill2000 (65, rue Réamur, 2nd arrondissement) but I was very impressed by the range of trims in La Droguerie (9, rue du Jour, 1st arrondissement) and Entrée des Fournissuers (8, rue des Francs-Bourgeois, 3rd arrondissement). Lafayette Saltiel (11, rue d’Uzès , 2nd arrondissement) has an amazing selection of suiting and everything else you need for tailoring and Janssens & Janssens (3-5, rue d’Anjou, 8th arrondissement) was full on gorgeous designer fabrics. As much as I loved several of them, I couldn’t part with 100-400 euros per metre. Not with my current lifestyle!
I did manage to part with my euros in the fabric and haberdashery shops in Montmartre.
The pink Chanel style poly wool etc blend boucle is from Au Sacre Couer des Dames (1-3, rue Livingstone). This was a steal. It was priced at 35 euros per metre but there was only 1.7 m left on the roll so I got the lot for 20 euros!
The light grey blue poly cotton was from Marché St Pierre (2, rue Charles Nodier). It doesn’t look so remarkable here but it has a gorgeous sheen to it.
The teal polester with attached leaves was also from Marché St Pierre. The two Liberty lawns are from Tissus Reine (3-5, Place St Pierre).
Yes perhaps I could have bought the Liberty in Australia, but it was much more fun to get it in Paris and brave the different method of purchasing fabrics: find an assistant to cut the fabric for you where the fabric is displayed, then pay for it with a slip of paper describing the fabric at a second spot in the shop and then pick the fabric up from a third spot in the shop. All in French, of course.
In the gardens of the Musee de Montmartre (12, rue Cortot). It’s a small museum in a house where Renoir and others lived. You really get a sense of the bohemian artist lifestyle through the paintings and other exhibits. And it’s a nice place to go after you’ve bought fabric in the district.
Some trims and yarn came home with me too. All from Mercerie St Pierre (6, rue Charles Nodier)
Excellent souvenirs, don’t you agree?
Ahh, Paris. It’s not just a destination, it’s an experience.