In comments on Monday’s post, several readers remarked on those people who seem to use “comfort” as a rationale for downright sloppy attire. While I don’t want to be the Fashion Police or come down too harshly on those who either don’t give a donkey’s ear at all about appearances or perhaps are dealing with challenges in life that make choices about what to wear insignificant, I do think there’s a cultural zeitgeist here in the US that makes no distinction between our private and personal lives, and renders people incapable of judgement about what’s appropriate to wear (or share) in public. I blame reality TV. The result is people who think nothing of doing their grocery shopping in pajamas, or traveling in old gym clothes, all in the name of comfort.
I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog, you’re not one of those people, so let’s talk about how we can put together travel wardrobes that are comfortable, yet appropriate for just about any venue.
Knits are a traveler’s best friends. They move with you, don’t wrinkle (usually) and can often be chameleons, going from casual to dressy with a quick change of accessories. I tend to favor separates that can be combined a multitude of ways. Above, I’ve featured some building blocks (based on transitional season travel) that will take you just about anywhere where “smart casual” is appropriate. This collection would be representative of the kinds of pieces I’d start with as a foundation; yours may be different. I’d add perhaps a piece or two with color/pattern, and maybe some interesting design details. I won’t forget scarves and accessories of course, to change up the look and dress simple pieces up or down.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the straightest line to building a cohesive travel wardrobe is to start with one or two neutrals. They don’t have to be black, but unless you’re heading somewhere tropical, I’d really advise keeping your bottoms (skirts and pants) on the darker side (black, chocolate, navy) because lighter fabrics will show dirt more quickly. It’s just that simple. Speaking of simple, I often find that keeping cuts and styles very clean and basic provides more versatility. A simple black or navy pair of pants can go from day to dinner with a change of top, shoes and accessories. An unfussy cardigan can be layered underneath a jacket if the weather suddenly takes a cooler turn. Layering is key. Leave the bulky, voluminous pieces at home. A few lightweight layers really will keep you just as warm as one heavy one, and you can add or subtract as weather requires.
Let’s talk fabrics. Some of the best fabrics for travel have names like viscose, modal and tencel. While these are technically “man made” fibers, they are made from natural materials such as cellulose (think wood pulp), which have the same breathability as cotton though they are lighter and often have less water retention, meaning they dry faster. We’ll ease into modern microfiber polyester, which often has a silky texture and isn’t your grandmother’s sweaty polyester. A lot of modern performance fabrics that wick moisture away from the body contain some polyester. If natural fibers are non-negotiable for you, check out silk and linen jersey knits, both of which are lighter than cotton and will dry faster. Lightweight wools (especially Merino wool) and cashmere can be excellent travel companions.
I don’t keep a separate wardrobe for travel, but rather keep travel in mind when shopping for my everyday pieces. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but do look for fabrics that are washable, with enough heft to stand up to some wear and tear, and that construction seems solid. Some of my favorite brands for travel-friendly clothing are Eileen Fisher, Adea (for wonderful lightweight layering camisoles and tops), J.Crew (sweaters and cardigans especially). Many love Chico’s Travelers clothing. Covered Perfectly (Misses/Plus), Gap and Lands’ End (lots of styles offered in Misses/Petites/Plus/Plus Petites) all have some very workable options. Karina Dresses are very travel friendly, especially for those who prefer dresses to pants.
Do you have favorite brands or pieces for travel? What are your strategies for putting together a travel wardrobe?
Pieces pictured above…Top row L to R: J.Crew // J.Crew // Eileen Fisher // Alexander McQueen. Middle row L to R: J.Crew // Eileen Fisher // Eileen Fisher // Eileen Fisher. Third row L to R: Eileen Fisher (similar) // Eileen Fisher // Eileen Fisher. Shoes: Aquatalia by Marvin K // Arche
Below, more options for travel wardrobe building blocks.
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