I’ve posted packing plans for several destinations here on Privilege, from the Carneros Inn in Napa Valley, to London and the Cotswolds, to Europe, Manhattan, and Hawaii. But I’ve never written one for my home city, and it’s time. At the request of a reader, here’s a guide for a 5-day April trip to San Francisco.
Rules Zero To Three: Packing For San Francisco In April
The first rule of packing for San Francisco is: you can wear jeans anywhere, except, perhaps, and I cannot say for certain, to opening night at the opera.
The second rule (for spring packing) is: read the weather reports. You may arrive either to 80-degrees, although that’s unlikely, or a downpour. Most likely temps will vary between 48F and 72F. I engage in specious precision as an attempt to show you how temperate our climate truly is.
The third rule? Don’t believe anything you read. In all seriousness, the San Francisco Bay Area is a place of microclimates, and I recommend you use a forecast site like Wunderground to differentiate between, say, the Mission District and Golden Gate Park.
Rule Zero, however, and I’m not the first to say it, is layers. Layers, layers, layers. You won’t want a big coat – it’s unlikely to be seriously cold outside or annoyingly overheated inside. On the other hand, 95% of the time you’ll want to tote some sort of jacket.
In April the layer probabilities shake out like this: 4 layer weather 4%, 3 layer 35%, 2 layer 50%, 1 layer 11%. (I completely made that up, but, based on several years of experience.) An aspirational (i.e. high-budget but can be recreated for much less with savvy shopping) 5-day packing list, with flex up or down depending on the size of your suitcase, might look like this.
- A *good-looking raincoat* (as my mother would say) to double as a coat for evening (1)
- Light jacket(s), weather/wind resistant. (1-2) These really are the key to San Francisco street life.
- High wattage cocktail dress(es) or skirts. In case of a party. Which we do know how to throw and where we may embrace the outrageous. (1-2)
- Excellent shoes for said dresses and skirts. Break out the sparkletoes. (1)
- Pants (probably jeans). Do make sure you bring shoes that suit each hemline/shape (2-3.) Top tip: bootleg and flares look less than their best with sneakers.
- If you bring fewer pants, add a street dress that can “dress up.” (1). And a pair of black tights to go with. (1)
- Sneakers/flat boots for walking the city. Good to bring more than one pair, if you have space, to diversify the wear and tear to your feet. (2)
- Pointed toe flats/heeled booties for jeans nights out or business casual soirees. (1)
- Lightweight scarves – one to knot around your neck for day, one large enough for nights (2)
- Jewelry – as much or as little as you like.
- Hat for sun, if you will be walking.
- Sunglasses – Aviators look cool on the Artsy. Grande Dames stick to Jackie O’s.
I do want to point out something kind of cute about my city. We’re provincial – despite our international inhabitants. For all our revolutionary businesses, we’re not cool. San Francisco is so pretty most of the time, our view of bay and sky so available, that we manage neither New York/Brooklyn’s dark edge, nor LA’s burnt-white heat. Color us robin’s egg blue, or gray with white trim.
Our inhabitants likewise.
Artsy Cousins don’t disguise themselves enough, either with clothing or facial hair, to carry off Eff You To The Man. Who can blame them? The weather’s awfully gentle. SF’s Grandes Dames are jaunty, not daunting. They even wear sneakers, on occasion, albeit by Ferragamo. You’ll note a distinct love for navy blue, nautical fripperies, and decorum. And Sturdy Gals? Well, we’re pretty much the same all over the world. That’s how we stay Sturdy.
So Let’s Look At Artsy Cousin By Day, Grande Dame By Night For A Few San Francisco “Use Cases”
Mission District (where the portapotties at Dolores Park are a scene in and of themselves)
Weekend Max Mara Embellished Butterfly Tee
Akris Punto Essentials Funnel Collar Coat
J. Lindeberg Stretch Cotton Golf Cap
Paul Smith Multi-Stripe Ankle Socks
Athletic Propulsion Labs Techloom Zig-Zag Knit Sneakers
Comme des Garcons Low-Top Canvas Sneakers
Claudia Kussano Earrings
IRO Nalyn Boyfriend Jeans
Bike Ride, Maybe Out To Fort Point To See The Golden Gate Bridge From Underneath
True Religion Halle Distressed Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans
Mary Katrantzou Flamingo Print Shirt
Saint Laurent Patti Leather Lace-Up Boots
Rag & Bone Stretch Linen Cargo Jacket (sold out – similar)
Swash Locket Cotton and Silk Scarf
Michael Kors Pavé Triangle Stud Earrings (on sale)
Philip Lim 31 Hour Zip Backpack
Soirées (of course, for restaurants and casual parties, we’re in jeans, booties, a blouse and a jacket)
Joie Calvina Silk Dotted Necktie Neck Blouse (for “business casual” when your business is anything but that)
Max Mara Sargano Camel Hair Pencil Skirt
SUNO Floral Print Stretch Silk Skirt (for when you can’t bear to give up your Artsy Cousin even at night)
Eli Tahari Alejandra Silk Tie-Dyed Blouse
Jimmy Choo Mimi Mesh Almond-Toe Pumps
LD Tuttle The Bow Open-Toed Ankle Boots
Escada Beaded Wool Dress (the big idea is to let your dress and shoes provide the embellishment. That way you don’t have to travel with big jewels.)
Meira T Diamond & 14K White Gold Triangle Earrings
Manolo Blahnik Metallic Leather Pumps
Christian Louboutin Pigalle Glitter Pumps
Oscar de la Renta Embroidered Tulle Illusion Gown (this dress makes me sigh with pleasure. But I’d make them lengthen the underskirt.)
IPPOLITA Rock Candy Dark Amethyst & 18K Yellow Gold Stud Earrings
Oscar de la Renta Alyssa Beaded-Applique and Leather Pumps (it’s ok, you can sit down until you kick off your shoes and dance barefoot)
And If You’ve Forgotten Something And Need To Shop in SF?
All The Big Names
- UNIQLO (always my fave for t-shirts and light jackets)
- Neiman Marcus
- Barneys NY ( in SF, but fine, we’ll let them keep the geolocator)
Some Indie Cred
- M.A.C. Does the Belgians like mad
- Claudia Kussano Jewelry Local Mission District artisan
- Self Edge for very pricy but very cool denim
See You Around!
Our legendary fog is may be disappearing – sad for the planet but good for camaraderie on city streets. We’ll be out and about when you visit, unless it’s raining. And if it’s raining, given our drought, we’ll wander even so, grinning like happy silly fools.
San Francisco In 2016
Links may generate commissions. Corrected degrees from C to F, courtesy Nancy Friedman. Thank you!