Fall is my favorite season to travel. The temperatures are (usually) cooler, and the crowds are thinner. Yes, there’s some travel on our calendar this fall, so I’ve been doing some advance planning of my travel wardrobe.
Fall Travel Wardrobe Building Blocks
Several of you have mentioned that you’d like to see less black in these wardrobes and more skirts/dresses. So for the sake of this exercise, I’ve built a travel wardrobe with a neutral base of mostly navy and grey.
Top row: tee (similar) | tee | tunic | dress
Middle row: sweater | blouse | tee (similar) | bag
Bottom row: pants | jeans | skirt | boots (similar) | trench (similar)
Then, I’ve added some color and pattern to liven things up and provide variety.
Top row: shirt (similar) | scarf | cardigan (similar) | jacket
Middle row: bag | scarf | belt | parka (similar)
Bottom row: shoes (similar) | scarf (similar) | shirt
As with all of my hypothetical travel wardrobes, these pieces are intended as suggestions and starting points. You can always select different items or colors, or include more items. My own travel wardrobe will have a bit more black, because that’s what’s in my closet.
Jewelry: Left – earrings (similar) | bracelet Right – earrings (similar) | watch (similar)
Travel Wardrobe Planning Tips
- Start with the shoes! They’re truly the most important part of your travel wardrobe. I almost always include a pair of weather-resistant ankle boots and another pair of walking shoes or sandals (for warmer seasons or destinations). You want to be sure that the clothing you select works with your travel shoes. Unless you have a truly formal event to attend (e.g. wedding, fancy-dress party) leave high heels at home.
- Lightweight knits are the backbone of my travel wardrobes. They’re comfortable, usually washable, and layer well.
- I find that neutrals are easiest to combine, look polished, and offer the most versatility. I plan my wardrobe around a neutral base, adding accents in 2-3 complementary colors.
- Depending on the length of the trip, I usually plan on 3-4 bottoms and 6-8 tops. You can always pack more, but having a well-chosen capsule means you’ll be covered for a range of weather conditions and activities. I try to make my selections so that all of the tops go with all of the bottoms, and the tops can layer as needed to accommodate fluctuating temperatures.
- Be sure to try on all planned combinations before you pack.
- Look for pieces that can be worn multiple ways. A lightweight cardigan that buttons can be worn either open over another layer, or closed underneath a jacket or coat.
- Try to leave your heavier and bulkier pieces at home. Complicated design details, chunky knits or large amounts of loose fabric make pieces tougher to layer.
- Think comfort and mobility. If you can’t sit comfortably for several hours in what you’re wearing or move around easily, leave it at home.
- If the weather is cool enough, scarves can be a great way to add more color and variety. They’re one of my favorite souvenirs to pick up when I travel too!
- Don’t forget a base layer. I almost always wear a silk tank underneath my tops. And if there’s a chance you may encounter cold conditions, pack some long underwear.
Jewelry: Left – earrings (similar) | watch (similar) Right – earrings (similar) | bracelet
Will you be traveling this fall? Any particular packing challenges?
This looks like such a versatile wardrobe, for travel or for daily life!
I agree!! Very nice!!
I’m going to have to start figuring out clothes for a trip in late November to Germany and Budapest. I run really warm and haven’t really had a winter coat for years (we live in Kansas) somim struggling with what to take. I will look for so,e lower cost equivalents to these ideas. Thanks!!!
I have found that a lightweight puffer vest (LLBean) is perfect for when you are not sure of the temperatures. It can be removed and stored in your bag if necessary and will fit under jackets to give them the warmth of a coat.
You may want to consider a raincoat or water-resistant shell rather than a heavy winter coat, and then layer underneath as much as you need for warmth.
Me too, Maggie, I definitely run warm. Planning for a November trip to New England and I picked up a coat from Nordstrom that has a lining, built-in hood and high collar which I think will be enough, adding layers underneath as needed. If you want to take a look, http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/lauren-ralph-lauren-stowaway-hood-drawstring-waist-anorak-regular-petite/4226664. Check out the comments for more descriptions and see if it suits you. Enjoy your trip!
Long time reader, first time commenting. I love your travel wardrobe posts and have copied your ideas — and specific pieces! — with terrific results for many international trips. You’ve sold me on Eileen Fisher for travel and my daily work and leisure wardrobe too. This one is lovely, although I do appreciate a large percentage of black. That’s what’s in my closet too! I’m curious how you might include that dark green and chestnut in a mostly black, grey, dark denim travel collection. I have my eye on some of the new-season Eileen Fisher pieces in the green she’s calling Hemlock and Paprika. I’d treat Paprika as a neutral, like leopard, but I avoid mixing black with color and stick to other neutrals. Any ideas are welcome!
Thanks, Megan! I’m so glad you’ve found these posts helpful. With black pieces, I tend to avoid really bright colors, but I will mix with chestnut/cognac, greens and blues. I think the Hemlock color looks wonderful with black, and you can also mix navy (“Midnight”) and black, which is very chic.
Good advice, as always, Sue. I’m just starting to plan what to pack for a two and a half week trip to the UK in October. As usual I will probably leave my best fall sweaters at home for fear of ruining them. And swap out my favorite blazers for a zippered hoodie and my Gortex jacket. Ah well… at least I’ll be excited to wear them when I get back.
Thanks, Sue! You must be getting excited about the trip.
Just in time for me to start packing for 3 weeks in France. I, like you, use a lot of black and will be adding gray for a little variety. I’m glad you added a reminder to pack a camisole, it’s usually a staple in my winter wardrobe, but since temps have been upwards of 100 degrees, I’ve forgotten about it.
3 weeks in France…I’m envious! Have a wonderful time!
Great post…thanks for all the tips. Bought a great Eddie Bauer coat for travel to London in January…black, removable lining…but am now wanting the trench you pictured! Happy travels!
Thanks, Ann! I imagine you’ll be happy for that lining in January… Have a great trip!
I’m looking at options for walking shoes for my autumn wardrobe (general and travel). My usual go-to would be white leather lace-up “walkers” but I see that my favorite shoemaker is offering a slip-on walker in several colors and I’d like to try them. What color should I go with? I’m leaning toward gray because I wear both denim and black; they also have a black, a “merlot,” and a “mushroom” (lightish brown). Which do you think would be the most versatile?
bellsonme, I think it would depend on what other colors you might be including. Grey is a pretty safe bet. If the other colors you’re packing are warmer, then you might find the mushroom color works better.
When I travel, I frequently need to include some hiking boots (the real deal, not just rugged fashion boots), because my feet generally wander out to whatever trails are nearby. The challenge is always to make at least some of my casual outfits look like my waffle stompers are an intentional fashion choice. It’s actually a fun challenge, and a lot of these casual outfit ideas actually work pretty well. We never travel in the fall (harvest season for us), but I’m off to Ireland in early December to visit my daughter, who is in school there. She is a keen outdoorswoman who will want to show me around the natural sites, so I expect the boots will be on the packing list again.
You might want to consider casual shoes with great treads. Merrell makes some really nice shoes with vibrant soles.
VIbram. Snagged by spellcheck.
kristinazack, yes, hiking and other outdoor activities present some style challenges. Sounds like you’ve figured out how to make it work. Have a wonderful time in Ireland!
Your wardrobe looks great….wish I were going with you. lol I struggle with pants lengths, so I am curious about how your pants transition from flat sneakers to heeled boots. Or is each pair of pants specific to one shoe or the other?
Hi Mary, thanks! That’s one of the reasons I’ve learned to select the shoes first. I generally take straight-leg pants that will fit over the top of an ankle boot, or just-above-ankle length which end at the top of the boot. Both pant lengths will work with both types of footwear.
A very timely post; – next week I’m leaving for 5 weeks in France (N,W & S) with just my Rick Steves’ carry on back pack. It’s easy since the core of my travel wardrobe is comprised of Eileen Fisher’s black ‘system’ pieces. For color/texture I’m adding an EF balsam top, EF tweedy kimono sweater, a blk/wh stripe tee, and a “roll in a ball” pleated mocha/black stripe top. I also have a pair of black Ex Officio rain pants that are very comfortable, dry overnight and can be dressed up a bit. Shoes are a bit of conundrum; I think I need to add a pair to my waterproof ankle boots and Ecco GTX slip ons. Perhaps my light weight silver slip on mule/sneaker? Accessories: the L&S black leather bag you’ve pictured, a French Kande bracelet, simple gold hoops, and a favorite Hermes scarf (or two). and away I go…
Katie, sounds like you have it nailed! 5 weeks…how fabulous!!
The Châteaux, Rivers & Wine cruise is a 70th birthday present. The other weeks are ‘add-ons’. 🙂 Thanks again, Susan, for all your inspiring travel suggestions.
Thanks for going with navy and other neutrals! I am in the process of banishing black from my wardrobe–it is simply too harsh for my light skin and blonde hair. Navy and gray look so much better on me! I’ve always known black (especially near my face/top half) was not best, but found buying black was like hitting an “easy button.” With knowledge from intelligent and savvy bloggers like you, I’m learning to seek out great pieces in navy and gray. Yes, it takes more work, but I love the result!
Jan, you’re welcome. I think a lot of women are making the shift from black to navy. I hope designers and brands will continue to offer more pieces in navy and other neutrals. I still love black, but it’s nice to have options!
Your neutral capsule base (navy and grey) looks remarkably like my suitcase for recent trip to United Kingdom (London/Edinburgh) where the forecast was for rain and cloudy days. Accent colors were pale pink, lots of blue and bits of olive and light khaki. Thanks to advice on your blog, I got lots of mileage from my new EF stretch crepe pants (in navy, of course!) for both 10 hour flights and two special dinners. I spread out my clothes on my bed (just like you do for your travel capsule posts) and removed/removed/removed until I arrived at final choices. I always had something appropriate to wear for a variety of venues – really, cannot thank you enough for your thoughtful posts and words of wisdom. (PS, Like Jan in above post, I never liked black but it was my “base” when I worked – now that I’m retired, all of the black jackets, skirts, dresses and slacks have gone to the donation bin – I’m holding onto a handful of black cashmere, but that’s it!).
kathryn51, thanks, and I’m so glad the travel wardrobe posts have been helpful! The EF October collection is supposed to include a few more pieces in “Midnight” (which is her Navy).
I have that Lands’ End trench and I love it! It is a little on the long side, but the petite fits my 5’2″ frame really well apart from that. I have already machine washed it to get rid of the factory smell, and I’ll probably treat it to be water resistant. I might try my hand at relining it with a nicer material, all polyester makes me so sweaty! I am inspired by a vintage trench I have that has a long zip-in wool plaid vest.
Thanks, Yael, that’s good to know! I haven’t tried that one yet, am hoping they bring back the single-breasted version from last year.
Thank you for the navy/Gray basics. I have moved all black items to my usher closet( required for ushering at our performance hall). As I age navy seems softer with my coloring. Will look for items like yours except for that green and whatever that browny spicy jacket color is. Not for me. My accents are cobalt and all shades of lavender/ purple and red. Fall is my favorite season but it’s colors don’t work for me. Love the grey :-/neck sweater,will be seeking one.
You’re welcome, Belinda! I also love black and cobalt.
Susan, I have always loved your travel packing advice. Very wise and love that you tell us actual numbers of tops/pants, start with the shoes….all the best advice. This post was the best yet! Thanks for listening to those of us who are not fans of black. You laid out a beautiful formula with gray and navy. This is a great palette and I love how you also warmed it up with the red purse and warm toned scarf. Love this! Thanks!!
Absolutely appreciated the navy and gray suggestions. Thank you!
Planning for a New England two-week trip in November, it’s a challenge to imagine bundling-up when it’s been on average 100′ the past three months. I will remember a few days at the coast this summer when it was in the 50’s-low 60’s and my daughter’s warm offerings were what I wore most. I plan to use a carry-on and I’ll use my cognac leather bag that’s similar to what’s in your first pic (and pack a small Baggallini cross-body). Low suede boots, check, and some other shoes. Wardrobe is black and navy. I found a lined coat at Nordstrom that seems right without being too warm or not warm enough (fine line!). My challenge is the two-week supply of toiletries and all fitting in the one-quart bag. Plan B will be to buy there and/or borrow from family if I run out (shampoo, mouthwash). It’s supposed to be 50’s so I don’t think I will need to pack a puffer coat but still not sure.. I’ll keep looking at the forecast as time gets closer. Tucking a little jewelry pouch inside shoes. It’s a fun challenge. I’ve decide to not stress about it. 🙂