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How to Pack Like Joan Didion - A Trip to Paris

Why is Didion’s packing list still iconic today?


Joan Didion’s packing list is still the gold standard. Why is her packing list so special? Because Didion figured out a basic wardrobe that simplified her packing. It worked then and it works now. She taped this list to her closet door so she could pack in a moment’s notice and look savvy wherever she was going. She describes her list as a “deliberate anonymity of costume.” Her minimalistic approach includes mostly black, with some black and a little black thrown in. All items match and are basically what we consider a minimalist wardrobe. Who doesn’t look put together in a monochromatic suit of black?


How does my list change as an artist? I have decided not to take easels, canvas or paint because that changes the whole tenor of the trip. This trip is to soak up the city walking and eating my way to some Parisian inspiration. So, like Ms. Didion, I am packing a light bag of black separates, most with spandex for easy movement and comfort - and maybe in case I overindulge in the food along the street.



I will not need Didion’s typewriter, or her cigarettes and bourbon. I will instead have a couple sketchbooks and a few black pens. My bag is quite light, but for the record, I am nesting it into a larger suitcase to check on the return flight. Then with souvenirs and treasures, I may channel new inspiration while wearing the green wool sweater with moth holes that is a staple in my studio wardrobe.


As an artist I am inspired by Didion. No one would ever compare my writings to hers but through her words, one can soak up her experiences and observations. Her details paint a picture for the reader. And this reader hopes that when someone looks at one of my paintings that they find a little bit of me floating on the canvas swirling in the paint, maybe a touch of black.