Style on the Road: Perfectly Practical

Karen has kindly offered a guest post sharing her travel wardrobe strategies for her Paris trip. Karen was my mentor in putting together concise yet flexible travel wardrobes, and in using the “Polyvore On The Floor” method of viewing the capsule as a whole and nobody does it better than she does! I’m hoping that in between sightseeing, shopping and just having fun with the girls she’ll be doing some style reconnaissance and let us know how Spring is shaping up on the streets of Paris! Take it away, Karen…

I leave for Paris on Sunday, taking with me two 15-year-old girls and carryon luggage only. I needed to pull together a practical capsule that could stretch an 8-day period. Two of those days are travel days, six are touring days in Paris. I’ve checked the weather, started with my shoes and this is what followed:

Taupe is my “black”, so I started with that and added in a bit of purple, plum and lilac for kick. It’s always good to add one “wild-card” piece to a wardrobe capsule, so I’ve chosen these lime-ish yellow pants you see below. You’ll see that even though those pants seem to stand alone and not relate to the capsule, that color goes with every piece you see. I tried to vary textures in the blazer and sweater pieces so that I wouldn’t feel so “flat” in these neutrals. I ended up with a very tight little capsule– everything goes with everything so I should be fine.

Taupe v-neck cardigan, Zara

Knit infinity scarf, Loft

Snake print blazer, Zara

Cashmere scarf in orchid

Knit pullover with silver metallic thread detail, Limited

Diverse jewelry that can span all outfits

Plum skinny jeans, Easy Money

Lilac skinny jeans, Gap

The wild-card: light citron yellow skinny jeans, AE Outfitters

Gold cargo belt, Target

Tan Echo walking shoes (I hate these)

Mushroom colored scrunch boot, Naot

Four tee shirts

Two blouses

A closer shot of the accessories capsule below. Easy to wear stuff, nothing too precious. But when the clothes are this nondescript, the add-ons will be critical to looking “finished.”

It will be cold at night next week in Paris, so I pulled out my taupe lightweight coat by Uniqlo (New York) and realized it made a perfect liner for my Cynthia Steffe trench. The down coat rolls up into a tiny ball and does not take up much space in my wheeling bag.

Awesome versatility as the Paris temperatures drop into the 30s and 40s in the evenings…

Not pictured are undies and pajamas, and a cashmere beanie hat and gloves.

If you read my old blog, you know I normally like to wear a LOT more color. However, the neutrals will let me sort of blend into the backdrop of Paris. I plan to take special care with my makeup and hair instead of fussing over what to wear. I bought a couple of new Bobbi Brown lipsticks that make me feel VAVOOM. The neat thing about wearing neutrals if you are inherently a color bomb, is that they let YOU be your outfit’s main feature instead of the garments garnering all the attention. These things all look so lifeless on the floor, but I will take some pictures with me in them so you can see that the woman makes the clothes!

Where’s her purse you ask? I am planning on finding a new crossbody bag in Paris; The Lancel store is top of my list. To start myself off I’ve got an ugly little nothing I can hide under my coat.

One tip: If you want to include patterns in a layerable travel capsule, or perhaps your Spring wardrobe, pick EITHER your shirts and tops OR your outer layers to carry the prints. Doing this helps extend your wardrobe much farther.

Does this capsule look a lot or a little to you? Do you like the freedom of carryon baggage with a few key pieces or do you like to take a big suitcase full of options? –Karen

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  1. March 31, 2012 / 2:53 pm

    I went to Europe for 2 weeks last summer (Amsterdam and Paris). I took carry on and bought all kinds of stuff and still could get it all into the carry on. Oh, I was pretty grimy by the end of it, but it was NOT problematic. I had 2 pairs of shoes (plus a pair of boots by the end of it) and it all worked out. Having to deal with tons of luggage on a trip seems very unpleasant. I don’t want to have to worry about all kinds of stuff when I’m meant to be free.

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:34 pm

      K.Line I too hate keeping track of luggage. I love how you say “it all worked out” which is totally the point. I will settle for “working out” on a trip. It’s just not a time to be straining over what to put on!

  2. March 31, 2012 / 3:16 pm

    Those clothes are SO colorful:). It’s all in the perspective…I like the lilac and lime combination – interesting without hitting me in the head.

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:31 pm

      LPC I am glad the capsule choices don’t look washed out or milquetoast to you! It’s going to be strange for me but maybe it will open up a whole new style for me…I am going to two cashmere stores in Paris if I am lucky and will keep you posted. Richard Grand is my favorite!

  3. Anonymous
    March 31, 2012 / 3:23 pm

    What a great capsule! I would love to see a photo of each day’s outfit when the trip is over. Love the colors and styles. This looks so versatile, and yet doesn’t look like she packed too much.

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:36 pm

      Anony, I hope to have the girls get in a quick outfit pic each day…

  4. March 31, 2012 / 3:41 pm

    Are you kidding? That doesn’t look dull on the floor at all — I’m mesmerized by how that much neutral can look so brilliantly colourful — and it expresses the wardrobe personality I remember from your blogging days. I’m a committed carry-on traveller as well (6 weeks last year, although there was a bit of shopping & discarding to compensate for unexpectedly warm April weather) — That’s a fabulous down coat and how clever to layer it.

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:40 pm

      Mater, that down coat weighs about four ounces and you cannot believe how light it feels on the body. Definitely not for winter wear you are, but for Spring or a cold summer night at a campfire. You can get one from Uniqlo, there may be one near you but as far as I know the only one is in New York. Uniqlo is a Japanese hit. These down pieces are their flagship items. The vest would be especially useful, but alas they sell out rapidly in New York. PS They are cheap!

    • March 31, 2012 / 11:32 pm

      I’ve shopped Uniqlo in London — will have to check them out in Paris, but doubt they’ll have the down in May. . .

  5. March 31, 2012 / 3:44 pm

    I agree with you regarding neutrals, they’re like the BFF that lets you do the talking. They are there to support. And the colors you’ve picked to go with will add enough oomph- you’ll be in the background but not boring! And this lipstick you speak of? Dying to see you sport it!

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:28 pm

      Don’t you just feel like you can conquer anything with beautiful lipstick and a smile?

  6. March 31, 2012 / 4:15 pm

    A beautiful group of choices – and packing 12 pieces of clothing is practically a rule for me!

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:27 pm

      That’s so funny Vivienne, I was not even counting pieces and it came out to 12! I love your blog, am a subscriber and enjoy reading on my Iphone.

  7. March 31, 2012 / 4:37 pm

    Brilliant combinations…
    you’ve got a crisp approach for Spring In Paris.

    If you really hate those walking shoes swap them for some Joseph Siebel leather runner styled shoes.
    They are uber comfy, orthodics can be put inside them if you need them and they looks quite sleek not unlike Ben Simons.

    Wishing you a safe and happy journey!

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:42 pm

      My walking shoes are indeed leather, I don’t know if you can see, but something about them is so frumpy! I think it’s the grommets that offend me…I will check out your Joseph Siebels. They sound cool.

  8. March 31, 2012 / 5:26 pm

    I am planning on finding a new crossbody bag in Paris

    I found a neat little consignment store right by the Eiffel Tower. It was between Rue Cler and the Tower – I’m afraid I don’t remember much more than that. Oh – but it was across the street from a wine store. Like that reduces the options!

    Anyhow, there were very nice shoes and purses in the store, but even the consign prices were a little rich for my blood.

  9. March 31, 2012 / 5:31 pm

    LOVE your travel wardrobe! Have a wonderful trip!

  10. March 31, 2012 / 8:15 pm

    BRIILIANT! i’ve been so big and color restriction(ie. choose a palette) and capsules for decades. I’m loving how examples like this one show how gorgeous, luxe, sophisticated this style of dressing can be. So far from the ‘so practical it’s boring’ stereotype!

    I am sure you’ll have a blast, it sounds so wonderful! I appreciate the approach to the coat, it’s always a problem for me and your solution could be just the ticket.

    I have color theory on the brain these days. One reason your wardrobe is so captivating is that the ‘temperature’ (warm/neutral) of your taupes is so similar to that of your violets. Thus they ‘support’ each other and the feeling of color is much greater. Also, lime and violet are two legs of a triad on the color wheel so they look fabulous together in outfits.

    It sounds more complicated than it really is 🙂 And your example here demonstrates how getting even a little color theory under your belt enables you to get a lot of unexpected color into the smallest wardrobe. Brava!! steph

  11. March 31, 2012 / 8:54 pm

    I would bring at most one light-colored pair of pants. Paris can be muddy if it rains and dark bottoms can be wiped off and won’t look too bad.

  12. March 31, 2012 / 8:59 pm

    I love bright colors, but other than red red red (and occasionally deep purple or cobalt blue), I cannot help but adore a neutral palette.

    As for carryons, well… when you haul a laptop everywhere you go, that makes carrying on clothes harder. I always make sure I have something pretty with me on board though, and my best heels… just in case…

  13. Beautifuldreamer
    March 31, 2012 / 9:10 pm

    Lovely spring palette! I shy away from brights that don’t fit my winter/summer coloring but given that the lime green is pants and not worn near the face, this just opened up way more options for me. Thanks for the helpful visual and have a fabulous time in Paris!

  14. Pam @ over50feeling40
    March 31, 2012 / 4:20 pm

    have a fabulous time! i cannot wait to live it with you through your posts!!

    • March 31, 2012 / 4:44 pm

      Thanks Pam!

  15. Zuzu*s Petals
    March 31, 2012 / 5:44 pm

    I absolutely love that color palette. It’s so me–I’d wear every single one of them!

    Have a wonderful time.

  16. April 1, 2012 / 12:55 am

    These things do not look lifeless to me at all! They look urban, sophisticated and assured. Have a wonderful time, all of you!

  17. RoseAG
    March 31, 2012 / 6:01 pm

    I think the coat arrangement is very wise.

    I hope you’ve leaned on your girls to pack something warm also. I see so many teen groups in DC in the Spring shivering at stop lights in nothing more than a hoodie.

    If you’re hot you can leave the coat in your room, if you’re cold you’ll be hurried and uncomfortable or waste time/money buying something on the spot.

  18. elena daciuk - fabulous finds
    March 31, 2012 / 6:13 pm

    first and foremost…have a fabulous time! i of course laughed at your comment on the shoes (i hate these) =)

    can’t wait to see the outfit pics on you! i agree…you should be the focal point…not the clothes…great job on the capsule…loving the purple & yellow combo!!

  19. April 1, 2012 / 12:22 pm

    I love the idea of carry on, but can’t make it work because of the liquids! Between face lotion, baby oil for the shower and hair styling products, I always have too much. And if I’m flying alone, well, last time I nearly dropped my bag on someone’s head when I was putting in in the overhead, and it’s a neck/back injury waiting to happen. I’d rather check a big bag, and have everything I want.

  20. April 1, 2012 / 2:03 pm

    I changed Olive fields for olive groves, thank you my dear friend.

  21. April 2, 2012 / 1:28 am

    So concise and planned. I do carry on as well, but my strategy is far from organized. Great ideas.

  22. California Girl
    April 1, 2012 / 6:52 pm

    After reading the packing posts of your various blogger contributors, I realize I will have to hit the stores and start over to achieve a cohesive, comfortable, packable set of clothes for my next trip of consequence. Not such a bad thing to contemplate either!

  23. April 2, 2012 / 1:25 pm

    Love the idea of the taupe instead of black or navy. It is, however, a color that is harder to match, but you’ve done it. I wish you didn’t have to take shoes you hate! I have some purple slip on Pumas that would do the trick…When I travel, slippers are a MUST for my room and padding down to breakfast. I always carry some sort of ballet-type slippers. Also, what do you sleep in? Love that you are going to Lancel…I’d want to buy some Serge Lutens fragrance, so I guess that shoots down the idea of a carry on…Still like Galleries Lafayette for those forgotten items. They have beautiful fold up umbrellas, which I hope you won’t need….Ah….April in Paris….bon voyage!

  24. sisty
    April 2, 2012 / 3:48 pm

    Lovely color choices! A very similar palette, but in gray, is shown today over at A Femme d’un Certain Age, created for her by the Vivienne files.

  25. Adrienne Shubin
    April 2, 2012 / 4:26 pm

    Would you mind hopping on a plane to Sonoma Valley to help me pack for an upcoming two week trip? I am the world’s worst packer – just ask my husband. I have sworn to myself I am going to do it right this time. I am going to work from this post and lots of Vivienne Files posts to see if I can, for once, pack sensibly. Thank you for all the great detail and clever ideas.

  26. April 4, 2012 / 2:43 am

    We’re planning three weeks this summer – a week in Venice; two days in Dijon, five days in Paris and a week in London. I am determined to pack light but smart.

    I’ve bought two pairs of shoes – one pair of Seibel black walking sandals, and one pair of Geox ballet flats – and I’m wearing them in now.

  27. April 4, 2012 / 6:40 pm

    I have so much to learn from you guys, packing 12 items of clothing seems so liberating. I’m off to Paris for a solo trip at the end of the month. I don’t know what to wear/pack so I’m eating this up.

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