Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Travel In Style: Handbags

What to do on Sunday in Paris

Perhaps a picnic along Canal St. Martin? I’m indulging in a bit of weather optimism here…

Sunglasses: Barton Perreira // Scarf: Theodora and Callum // Cardigan: Eileen Fisher // Tee: J.Crew // Jeans: Eileen Fisher // Bag: Givenchy // Shoes: Born

I’ve received several questions about which handbags are best for travel, and once again I’m going to fall back on “It Depends.” It depends on your destination, activities, how much you’ll need to carry with you, and what kind of style and functionality you prefer.

My own preference is for a lightweight, dark leather “convertible” bag (both short and long straps) that can be worn cross-body or carried on my arm or in hand. A day spent sightseeing is much easier when you can keep your hands free, and it’s easier on your neck and shoulders too. Unless you need to carry a change of clothing with you, a smallish bag should be sufficient and will keep weight down. Be sure the longer strap is wide enough to wear comfortably, and not too long. When worn cross-body, your hand should be able to reach the bottom of the bag. Too short and it will look and feel awkward. Too long and it will bounce against your leg as you walk. A good cobbler can shorten the cross-body strap if needed. I also prefer bags that have multiple compartments, interior organization, and that aren’t too structured or bulky.

Why leather instead of nylon or fabric if weight is a concern? First, leather will usually (not always) be more impervious to the elements. It will be less likely to get ripped, soiled or stained than fabric. I also like to travel with just one handbag, and a leather bag is often more versatile for day-to-evening wear. For a slightly dressier “smart casual” look, remove the cross-body strap and carry in hand or in the crook of your arm. (Another reason to keep the bag relatively small.) Look for bags with minimal hardware or chains, as these can add considerable weight. While leather is my own preference, if you prefer nylon or fabric there are many good looking and functional options available. (I’ve included some below.)

With today’s smart phones, there’s little need to carry guidebooks or lots of printed materials with you while out sightseeing. If you prefer a “hard copy,” tear out or make a copy of relevant pages from guidebooks and just carry those for the day. Use your smallest, lightest wallet, and leave any cosmetics you won’t need during the day back at the hotel or apartment.

Let’s talk about security for a moment. While some situations may have more inherent danger of pick-pocketing or purse-snatching, I think with a little caution and awareness of surroundings you can minimize your risk. One of the reasons I like a cross-body bag is that it feels more secure; when I get into crowded situations I can keep it close to my body and wear right on the front of my hip, resting my hand over the zipper closure. I don’t recommend any bag for travel that can’t be closed securely either with a zipper or a flap with hardware that fastens shut.

Other security recommendations, no matter where you’re traveling:

  • Take only one or two (three at the most) credit and/or debit cards. Make a note of the account number and customer service number(s) of each and keep in the hotel safe and with someone you trust back home.
  • Only carry as much cash as you’ll need for a day. Keep the rest in the hotel safe.
  • Unless you’re traveling between destinations, keep your passport in the hotel safe. Have a photocopy of your passport to carry with you in case ID is needed.
  • Be sure that someone at home has your complete itinerary.
  • Be careful about where and when you use your smart phone, as these can also be targets for theft. And be sure to set up a passcode or pin to lock it.
  • Men: don’t keep your wallet in a back pocket or open jacket pocket.
  • Trust your instincts, and don’t feel that you have to help or even engage with strangers who approach you.

Fanny packs? I know they’re “in” again. I tend not to wear anything belted around my waist, but if  you like them and they work for you, they are another alternative. Backpacks? Same thing. With either I’d highly recommend wearing in the front in crowded situations.

Do you have a favorite style or brand of purse or bag for travel?



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Monday, April 14th, 2014

April Flowers

Scarf selfie

Scarf selfie. J.Crew scarf from last year. Gap jacket, similar.

Despite my minimalist leanings, I do have an affinity for a good floral print. I find floral clothing items hard to wear without the nagging feeling that I’m wearing curtains or upholstery. But a floral print scarf? That I can do. And they feel just right for Spring.

Do you like floral prints? How do you wear them?



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Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Travel In Style: Wardrobe Planning

Travel wardrobe for Paris and Loire Valley

Hoping to see lots of scenery like this!  Links to items shown at bottom of post.

Yikes! We’re less than two weeks out from our departure, and I’ve hit that frustrating stage of wardrobe planning: too early to get an accurate weather forecast, but late enough in the process that I need to hone in on which pieces will best work together.

I know from past trips that there are a few types of items I can rule out right off the bat.

  • No-close cardigans…while these are often my go-to’s at home, they are harder to make work as an intermediate layer, and often not warm enough as a top layer.
  • Dresses. While knit dresses are GREAT travel pieces for many people, I find they often require specific footwear that won’t be worn otherwise.
  • Anything too warm or bulky. I’m much better served by multiple lightweight layers than a single heavy piece.
  • Clothes that are only appropriate for dressy venues. It’s tempting to want to have something “just in case,” but I’ve learned not to pack pieces that may be worn once or twice at most, or not at all. I’ll be bringing some dress-up/dress-down options that can go from day to dinner.

I’m planning to take at least one pair of ankle boots, as I’ve found them to be comfortable and versatile. The other pair (or two) of shoes will depend, again, on weather. We’ll be spending the first week in the Loire Valley, which will include lots of time outdoors visiting chateaux and gardens, local open-air markets, a winery or two and hopefully some lovely strolls through the countryside. Then we’ll have a few days in Paris. (!!!)  This means I’ll need shoes and clothing suitable for both rural and urban environments and activities. Though I’m mentally building the wardrobe around 12 pieces (plus “underpinnings” and outerwear), I may end up with more or fewer pieces, depending on weather forecasts and what my carry-on bag will accommodate.

How do you handle packing for a variety of activities and levels of formality?

Sweater: Eileen Fisher // Tee: Eileen Fisher, similar // Scarf: Halogen // Jacket: Sandro, similar style // Jeans: Eileen Fisher // Bag: Givenchy // Boots: Gentle Souls



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Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Hosiery…The Final Frontier?


Image via Pinterest.

When I recently spotted this image on Pinterest, I was intrigued by the fact that she seems to be wearing either dark tights or semi-sheer trouser socks with her Adidas. Does this unusual display of obvious hosiery (other than the 80′s-flashback ankle-socks-with-pumps worn by the Fashion Set) mean that the winds of change are blowing? Will bare skin no longer be de rigeur between skirt (or trouser leg) and vamp?

I came of age in an era where wearing any shoes other than sandals without some sort of hosiery was unthinkable and I have very few pairs of closed-toe shoes that I can tolerate wearing without tights or socks. I’ve recently been wearing these ASICS Low Cut Socks underneath my ankle or higher boots, but for pumps or lower-vamp shoes have been muddling through the past few years with baby powder and perhaps a pair of adhesive cushioned insoles to keep from sticking to my shoes. Those “no show” socks (the kind we used to call Peds) I’ve found to be worthless, as they either always show over the tops of the shoes, or else the heels slip off after the first few steps. I’ll wear tights with skirts when the weather is cool enough, but in warmer months or underneath pants, I’m often at a loss.

cutaway boots

And what do you do with all of the currently popular d’orsay, perforated and cut-out styles like these?

How do you deal with the hosiery conundrum?

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Utilitarian Style

white jeans, winter white

While it’s warm here today, last week it was cold enough to be similarly bundled up.

If you live in a climate where Spring lasts more than a weekend, you may find yourself intermittently reaching for a lightweight jacket (or a raincoat) over the next several weeks as temperatures fluctuate and weather is capricious. I’ve been wearing my Sandro utility jacket purchased in last year in London frequently, and am planning to bring it along as one of my outerwear pieces on our upcoming trip to France. The great thing about this jacket is that it works equally well as a rain/wind barrier over warm sweaters or as a lightweight layer over a tee when the fog rolls in.

Whether you call them field jackets, utility jackets, military jackets or anoraks, the versatility of this style explains their popularity. Wear over a button-front shirt and trousers or a dress to “de-formalize” the look, over a sundress, or entirely casually with a jeans or shorts and tee. Many current styles offer a bit of adjustable cinching at the waist which feminizes the look somewhat. I like olive versions for the versatility of that color: it plays the neutral when worn with brighter colors or prints, or adds a subtle touch of color with other neutrals. But if you have trouble wearing olive or don’t like it, jackets in navy, stone, beige, red and even coral can be found. Utility jackets are available in styles from polished to distressed, and in all price ranges. Be aware that unless waxed, 100% cotton will not be water resistant…if that’s what you need look for waxed cotton, polyester or nylon versions.

Do you have a version of the utility jacket in your wardrobe? How do you wear it?


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