It’s been wonderful to be able to travel again, and it’s something I’ll never take for granted. We have another Europe trip planned this spring (more on this soon) and may go somewhere closer to home in the fall. If you’ve been considering a getaway (or two), a little advance planning can make assembling your travel wardrobe a breeze.
This post was published at a prior date and has been updated. I’ve left earlier comments in place.
Shown above: some ideas for a travel wardrobe “starter kit” in a cool palette. You can always add more color, pattern, and personality to a foundation like this one.
shirt (similar) | jacket (similar) | scarf (similar) | tee (similar)
jeans (similar) | bag | suitcase | raincoat | pants (similar)
boots | loafers (similar) | sneakers (similar)
Packing Lighter And Smarter
When we first began traveling overseas some fourteen years ago, I was clueless about how to pack. I overpacked, I brought lots of bulky “just-in-case” pieces that were never worn, and realized after our first couple of trips to Europe that I’d worn most of the same few things over and over.
Over time I’ve learned to pack more successfully (up to 3 weeks one small suitcase) and have not invested in a separate travel wardrobe.* When it’s time to pack, I pull from tried-and-true pieces I’d normally wear at home. First, it makes putting outfits together easier; I know what goes with what. Second, travel can be a disorienting experience. I find that wearing familiar, comfortable clothing helps me feel more like “myself” when I’m away from familiar surroundings.
So when I shop for my everyday wardrobe, I keep packing in mind. Not everything I purchase is intended for travel, but I’ve learned to prioritize travel-friendly features, especially with regard to my core basics.
5 Tips For Building A Travel-Friendly Wardrobe
(I don’t think I can emphasize this one enough 😉 )
Do you have a pair of shoes in your wardrobe that are comfortable enough to walk in for hours, and that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear to meet friends for lunch? If not, that should be your top priority.
To keep my luggage light, I prefer styles that can go from sightseeing to dinner. Ankle boots, loafers, brogues, Mary-Janes, and sleek sneakers are all good options.
Some don’t like to travel with sandals, but in hot weather I’ll opt for a supportive and well-fitting pair. No matter what type of footwear you bring, be sure there’s enough padding in the sole for comfort and that the shoes are stable on a variety of surfaces.
Chances are you won’t need anything formal for most leisure travel, but if you do, a lower-heeled pair of pumps should cover it.
I build my travel wardrobes around a core of basic pieces that can be dressed up or down, and re-mixed in multiple combinations. I find separates provide the most versatility, as long as most of the tops can be worn with most of the bottoms.
I’ve found that neutrals (black, navy, grey, taupe, brown, white/ivory) work best for the core. The goal is cohesion; you want pieces that work well together in multiple combinations. Don’t worry, you can always add more color and pattern to this foundation.
Think lightweight layers. Temperatures in any destination can fluctuate, and being able to easily add or remove layers is key to staying comfortable. Bulky, heavy pieces will not only be more difficult to layer, but will take up more space in your luggage and add to its weight as well.
(If you’ve ever had to shlep around a heavy coat for several hours while sightseeing because a chilly morning gave way to a sweltering afternoon, you’ll understand. 😉)
In addition to light weight, look for fabrics that breathe, are washable, resist wrinkling, and aren’t too delicate. I rely heavily on knits for travel.
- I love silk jersey and Tencel jersey for base and mid-layers. (Good quality silk is actually very durable.)
- Merino wool handles temperature fluctuations well and doesn’t absorb odors
- Linen jersey or knits are a good option for warm weather travel. Cotton can be light and breathable, but can take longer to dry when wet.
- Modal is a soft, breathable, and sustainable fabric that lends itself well to tees and tops. And it dries more quickly than cotton.
- If you’re going to travel with denim, some of the modern fabric blends that include rayon, tencel , and even polyester will be lighter and dry faster.
I find the best travel clothes are cut fairly close to the body, but with some ease. You want to be comfortable and able to move, but don’t want a lot of extra fabric flapping around. Again, this is where knits often perform best.
Pieces that can layer over or under other pieces, or do double-duty (e.g. a cardigan that can be worn open as a top layer or buttoned as a mid-layer) will help you get more from your travel wardrobe.
Find more travel and packing tips at my Travel Wardrobe Resource Page.
*For those whose travel includes activities like mountaineering, horseback riding, kayaking, etc., of course you may need to bring special clothing or equipment that’s not part of your daily wear.
More travel wardrobe building blocks…
What are your favorite pieces for travel?
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