I often find it’s helpful to put together a quick recap of my travel wardrobes upon returning home. I’ll refer to these when planning future trips, and they also give me a bit of a barometer for how I’m feeling about my wardrobe in general.
Cooler Than Expected…
When we visited Italy the first time in May 2011, it was HOT. So. Freaking. Hot. This time I kept a careful eye on weather forecasts, but even so we experienced cooler temperatures than expected. I packed more warm weather clothing than I ended up needing, or wearing. The boots got more use than I’d anticipated, and there were a couple of times I wish I’d packed a warmer sweater.
To see what went into the suitcase, have a look at Packing For Italy: The 12-Piece Travel Wardrobe. I did make a couple of very last-minute substitutions. I replaced the pink tee with a 3/4 sleeve black one with embroidery, and replaced both bags with lighter or less bulky ones.
Though I always felt appropriately dressed, between the cooler weather which meant several things went unworn, and my Black Burnout toward the end of the trip, I have to deduct some points. I’m giving this wardrobe a 6 out of 10.
Breaking It Down…
- Both the weatherproof boots (similar style) and the embellished slip-on sneakers (similar). I had nary a moment of foot discomfort, and both styles suited our venues.
- The lightweight silk jacket (similar). I wore this much more than I’d expected…on the (slightly) warmer days as a top layer, or as a mid-layer underneath my outerwear.
- The Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants. Wore both casually and out to dinner (with the jacket).
- Jeans (here and here). I find a pair of slim-leg jeans are always easy to style, and workable for most venues.
- Utility jacket (similar). Wore most days, and it provided enough protection for the amount of rain we experienced. I’ve had mine for a few years now, and noticed midway through the trip that the stitching was coming loose on one of the exterior pockets. I’m going to have it re-stitched, and hopefully can wring a few more years out of it.
(Mostly because of weather.)
- The striped cotton tee.
- The shorter fringed jacket. Don’t know why, just wasn’t in the mood.
- The leopard pumps. Most evenings were cool/wet enough that I wanted the boots.
- The lightweight nylon jacket, just never was warm enough.
Wish I’d Brought…
- My packable puffer jacket. There were a few days and nights (especially in Lake Como) that were chilly enough that I was sorry I hadn’t packed it. BTW, saw plenty of short puffer jackets still being worn in Italy, so it wasn’t just me.
- Warmer sweaters. At least one cashmere.
- A pair of trousers. Though I never felt underdressed, I found myself wishing for something that looked a little more polished and less just-out-of-a-suitcase.
- More variety. (This is also a function of not having as much variety in my day-to-day wardrobe to pull from…am working on that.)
Travel Laundry Tips
- I always bring along some powdered “delicates” wash. I like Forever New. Just put a couple of capfuls into a baggie, will be plenty to do a few sinkfuls of laundry if needed. Or you can always use a few drops of hotel shampoo in a pinch.
- I usually pack one week’s worth of underwear, two bras and two tanks/camisoles, and do one or two sink washings over the course of a 2-week trip. I usually plan to wash when we’re not traveling the next day, so everything can get good and dry before re-packing. I find that silk tanks and camisoles I wear underneath most of my tops will almost always dry completely overnight.
- Using either a hotel towel or a microfiber travel towel, roll up wet clothes and compress to remove excess moisture. This helps everything to dry more quickly.
- One of the reasons I like to travel with 2 pairs of jeans is that I can alternate them, and they rarely will need to be washed over a short (less than 3 weeks) trip. The stretch crepe pants can be sink washed, and will also dry overnight if rolled in the towel before hanging.
- On-the-go spot cleaners like a Tide To Go pen are intermittently helpful for spot cleaning, but for plain old dirt or caked-on schmutz, you can’t beat a little piece of foam like those you’ll find underneath clips on pants hangers. They’re also great for removing deodorant marks.
I call it “Schmutz-B-Gone” and never travel without a little piece of foam like this one.
- To remove odors from clothing that’s otherwise clean, a spray like Febreeze or Downy will do the trick. (We’ve had no trouble finding this in grocery stores or Monoprix, if you don’t want to pack it.)
- As a last resort, we’ve occasionally sent a couple of pieces out with the hotel laundry service, or dropped off at a nearby cleaners. Be sure and check their usual turnaround time, though! If you don’t mind spending a couple of hours, a self-service laundromat can be your least expensive option.
What pieces do you find yourself wearing “on repeat” when you travel?
I will be heading to Paris in August, early August, and I am trying to decide what will be in my carry on. We plan to be gone for about 10 to 12 days. Will stay in Paris and then train to Mont Saint-Michel for a couple days. Any and all suggestions welcomed. I like what you packed for your trip, but I think it might be a bit warmer in France in August…..suggestions welcomed. Thanks!
Sue, my travel repeats are almost exactly the same as yours in (mostly) black and denim — for the same legit reasons you favor those colors on the road.
My travel Statement Pieces are (1) an Hermes wool/silk shawl in blue/green/gold/black/brown (it goes with so many things), (2) flattering BCBG tan slacks (trousers) and a long-sleeved pullover leopard blouse, and (3) a St. John striped cotton jacket in very bright, small stripes (worn with jeans or the tan slacks)
I also take a running suit with running shoes/socks for fast walks without hubby (whose mobility is compromised by post-chemo neuropathy) and yoga sessions I find so helpful while traveling.
Great recap! I understand your burnout, but from the observer perspective you look chic and appropriate from start to end. Excellent tip on the “schmutz-b-gone”! I will add a slip of foam to my just-in-case case (which I thought had everything). My repeat items include my trench coat, favorite scarf, striped tees(long and short sleeved), and skinny jeans. I am not sure I will ever suffer from black burnout but I do love the navy Scapa coat you bought. I may add a navy trench and then I can channel Lagerfeld with black/navy combos! As always, superb recap Susan!
Thanks for the details of your packing.
I really used your ideas for my trip, (much in the same places around the same time) and I can tell you honestly that the pic of you in the gondola could have been me! I agree that there comes a point where you kinda get sick of the green jacket, it was one of my best packs. Mine is a Fjall Raven purchased on sale three years ago – it’s been on every trip since.
Scarfs are not only a life saver but I can count the people on one hand I saw who didn’t have one on! Mostly tourists actually 🙂
My one sigh of regret is that I wanted to scope out a Missoni or Fendi scarf but no…not this time. The Spanish steps were so incredibly busy that we took a pass on the whole area. Ahh the perils of Italy in May.
I’m sure Europe will be there next year however!
We just got home from trip to Rome and northern Italy. The Trevi Fountain has been cleaned and is so beautiful but you couldn’t get near it. We went back at 6:30am one morning and it was shocking at how many people had the same idea. Yay for scarves. I live in Seattle and therefore live in a scarf much of the year.
Another great post, thank you Susan. My travel wardrobe staples are very lightweight merino long sleeve t shirts which can be easily layered and dressed up and down. They work in most conditions and are easily washable in hotel basins. Thanks for the tip about the Forever New products by the way. I bought a sample pack and they are brilliant. We are currently in Switzerland and heading to Rome on Saturday, we have the opposite problem to you..the forecast is around 28 celsius all week!
I had the same problem that you did when I was in France last summer – forecast was in mid to high 60s but it ended up being rainy and in the 50s most of the time. I too wished for a couple of sweaters, but because I was out in the countryside I was out of luck. On that trip my MVP was a hooded anorak that I bought at Uniqlo the day I left – I wore it almost every day and it’s huge hood was a godsend during downpours (of which we had quite a few).
On the other hand, my trip to Paris at the end of March ended up to be warmer than usual. MVPs were my black, stretch cotton ankle pants from J.Crew, my Aquatalia ankle boots (your recommendation, thanks) and the leather jacket my husband bought me at The Kooples in Paris. I believe that I could have dressed for the entire week with those pants, boots, the jacket, and a few tops!
I love these reports and I am now shamelessly imitating them. After my March trip, I wrote and saved my own travel wardrobe review to use as a reference when I pack for next year’s month in France. Thank you for the great idea!
Unless it’s high summer in Italy, I always bring my black cashmere cardigan. It’s useful in the evenings as a light “jacket”, and dresses up any jeans/top combination. I have a 10 day trip coming up to Belgrade/Venice/Trieste/Padua. It’s part business, and part waiting between business meetings. Those are the trips I find hardest to plan for.
Susan, after a trip, I think, “never want to see those black pants again”. I get over it in a few weeks…You look chic and tasteful in all your pictures, and have worked out a comfortable, flexible travel wardrobe. Having endless choices isn’t worth the hassle of traveling with lots of luggage. Wouldn’t rush to revamp your look…whenever I buy a bright colored item just for a change, I don’t wear it. There’s a reason why your blog is popular–you already have great taste and look wonderful.
Oh, that packable puffer jacket! I bought mine in March and thought it would be in the closet until next winter, but I’ve been grateful for it more than once this spring. I’m probably going to be happy to have it next weekend in Denver, too.
We spent a rainy late-autumn week in Wales once. I had a series of cotton turtlenecks, a tweedy jacket, and a light rain jacket (over jeans) and it was perfect, even while walking around St. Fagan’s.
Great recap. You look appropriate and chic (even if you were getting bored!) I just got back from a two week trip to Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic and the weather was all over the place. We had everything from light snow to cold wind and then balmy 70 degree weather. I always travel with my uniqlo puffer vest or jacket. You just never know when you are going to need it. I also used The Laundress delicate spray on the armpits of my silk tops and they were good to go for another day before needing a rinse in the sink.
Fabreze comes in a small travel spray from Target. A couple of Downy dryer sheets come in handy for freshening up a blouse /shirt under the arms. Good for sweaty shoes, too. Can’t bet a puffer coat for squishing up to such a tiny size for packing.
For the poster about Mt. San Michel, bring comfy shoes with a really good grip. The entire island is paved in stone and on an incline, so it is slippery. Be prepared for lots of stairs. At the same time, it is a must see and incredibly beautiful and unique place. There is a store about a half mile’s walk from the island (flat) that not only gives great views/photos of the island but you can find necessities like an umbrella, etc. if you need one. I would go back and this time would come prepared to take one of the water/shore hikes, one is even done at night. This means being ready to walk in sand/water and staying warm as well as a head lamp. Have a wonderful trip!
I love your travel posts! You didn’t comment on your L & S cross body bag, and I wonder if you were happy with it. It is hard to find a nice looking bag that is light weight and functional.
I alway pack long underwear except for trips to tropical locales;) They take hardly any room and they have saved me from freezing on several trips. Good for back up pajamas too. My preference is silk for the long johns and HeatTech from Uniqlo LS top.
Love your blog especially the travel wardrobe posts.
Thanks for the long underwear suggestions. I froze the first week in May in Belgium. Going to get the Uniglo ones for my suitcase.
I love your travel posts. So full of joy!
I have recently started following you most enjoyable blog. You have mentioned several times that you plan to have something shortened or have the stitching repaired, but I am at a loss to find someone who is good, affordable, and timely to do alterations. I live in an exurb of a large city but still have trouble finding someone what can do a good job shortening a pair of pants at what I consider a reasonable cost. I used to go to Nordstrom’s for all my alterations, but now they will alter only purchased items.
Can you give us some tips or parameters you use in finding a good tailor or seamstress, and how much you think something like shortening a jacket should cost? Any observations on tailoring would be greatly appreciated.
Susan, I am new to your blog but have really enjoyed it. I will be traveling to Venice, Florence, & Sienna for 3 weeks leaving in late Sept. The last time we were in Venice, May 2013 the weather was very cold and rainy. We will see how it goes for this trip.
I was wondering if you would please give the dimensions of your travel luggage. I have never packed in just a carry on and am really curious how you are able to pack it all in.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to detail all of your experiences!!
That foam trick is new to me. I’m definitely going to try it.
Someone traveling here this week would need everything you packed. Yesterday was flirting with 90 and warm well into the night, but today was rainy and cool, barely 70 and supposed to drop to around 50 tonight. Sun is supposed to come back tomorrow. In spring, the weather can turn on a dime. Better to be prepared than miserable.
I, too, was colder than expected on our April 3 week trip in France and Spain…I did plan with layers, and wore more of them than expected several days. As you did, I became VERY tired of my black – but oh were those black jeans (not denim – a lighter fabric) given a workout!! There were several things, more summery and brighter, that I was unable to wear due to weather being cooler than forecast.
LOVE the tip about the little foam square – added to my packing list! Next trip – back to France next month…and I WILL get to wear my cute summer things!
my travel is normally limited to June and July in the South of France, so I plan for HOT…which for me means a couple of loose dresses and sandals. But I never leave without a light jacket and scarf, a cardigan sweater and a pair of long leggings to wear as pants JUST IN CASE. Because many has been the time when it has ended up very very cool, and finding warm clothing to buy in the middle of summer is not very easy. (one July we were driving through the area full of lavender fields…which is very high in altitude…and there was snow in the fields. I kid you not.)
Loving your posts and your travel wardrobes!
We have family in France and visit nearly every year. In my decades of European trips, I’ve learned some things. It will rain. There will be uncomfortably hot days. It will be too chilly somewhere. I plan ahead with layering and a small backpack for the additional things I might/might not need. I always try to have on a sleeveless or short sleeve top in a lightweight fabric (love linen knits) over which I will wear a button front shirt or cardigan in some likewise lightweight fabric. I make sure the sleeves can be rolled/pushed up. I always have with me a lightweight fleece jacket of some sort, not cotton terry or anything else than won’t dry quickly. Over this I can wear my synthetic fabric rain jacket with a hood (no umbrella for me.) I generally wear knit pants (lots of EF slouchies) and flat, slip-on shoes with socks. I have gone out for a day in sandals before and regretted it when the rain started. (Especially one summer in Venice when the piazza flooded.) I also carry a very small crossbody bag (like LeSportSac) with my backpack so I can keep my valuables in front and next to my body. I use a cane, so it’s imperative that my hands are free. I have frozen or melted too many times on a day trip to somewhere interesting, making the experience less wonderful than it should have been. My system now is the best I have come up with, but I continue to tweak it as I continue to travel.
I’m going to be packing foam. Actually, as I read your post, I’m mentally preparing for our upcoming trip to France. We’ll be bypassing Paris and staying only in the apartment in Theoule –so I can pack lightly because I have a washing machine, a drying rack and an iron and ironing board Each year I overpack so I’m really, trying to super pare down. It’s amazing. Every time I read one of your travel prep posts I always come away with a great tip! I’m doing the foam!!!
Just returned from 2 weeks in Belgium and the Netherlands with my carry-on, and a wardrobe that resembled yours. I, too, grew tired of my black – but that was because it was so very cold for the first week! I always pack my ExOfficio short puffer, but I was even cold in that and had to wear the same two sweaters on repeat under it. Purchased a second short sleeve black T, a long-sleeved black T (both to wear under the sweaters), and a gray, open front, longer sweater.
Trends I noticed on the women in the larger, very stylish cities like Brussels, Maastrict (very fashionable city), Rotterdam, and Amsterdam:
Metallic shoes: everywhere in the stores and on the ‘mature’ women mostly brogues, wedges, and low, block heel pumps in usually muted, but full metallic leathers. (Glad I brought my gold Fitflop slip-on sneakers.)
Classic Adidas three stripe tennis shoes: on teenage and 20 something girls. If there was a group of 6 girls, 5 would have these on in various stripe colors, worn with skinny jeans. (Felt like I fit in with my white stripe Adidas. Granted, I never saw these on older women, but they weren’t walking miles site-seeing everyday.)
Light colored, short, puffer jackets: Stylish women had entire outfits in lighter colors like cream, beige, blush, and then a puffer to match. (Unfortunately, mine is black.)
Salmony orange: My husband noticed this color repeating in the window displays. I did not see many wearing it, but it was definitely the featured color in many stores and boutiques.
Thanks for the packing tips and wardrobe introspection. It’s always great to read your summaries.
I second packing long silk underwear – it takes up no space and makes a huge difference for those evening temps.
Thank you for sharing your packing tips! I am heading for Provence in 2 weeks and the price of luggage is so high if we get over the quota that not overpaking is important.. I go every year to visit my family, so I am familiar with the weather pattern. I will be using your guidelines!
I really enjoy your posts, thanks again 🙂
I was in Sicily around the same time as you and I found that I packed too many cold weather things rather than warm. I brought a puffer vest to layer and then never needed it. But that is what happens when you travel in the shoulder season – you never know what the weather will be. I also brought a few shirts that ended up creased wrinkled and because irons are apparently illegal in hotel rooms in Italy, I never ended up wearing them.
Like you, I also brought a lot of black and wished I had brought more color. What I learned is that people in major cities, even in Sicily, dress like they do in NYC so I could have worn the clothes I normally wear in NYC without looking like a tourist.
As for your metallic sneakers, they were very apropos for Italy – everyone in Sicily was wearing white sneakers with metallic accents.
Love the tip about the foam for deodorant marks. Having lived in Europe for a couple of years I know that if I travel there between September and June, I need to pack for 40-80 degree weather, and it’s usually on the lower end than the upper. Cashmere is my best friend so always take at least one cashmere cardigan. I only wear jeans so take slim and long, dark boot cut that I think look more dressy than slim so are great for evenings.
I look just like this when I travel too. I insist on carry-on only luggage and it is amazing how much you can do with a few well planned pieces! You look tres chic! Thanks for your excellent tips.
Just booked our Italy trip! So excited. Unfortunately, due to kids’ school schedules, we will be there during the peak of the summer heat, so would love tips on what to wear when the temperature is soaring! Love your blog. Thanks so much.
Hi Julia, on our first trip to Italy we experienced temperatures in the low-100’s. I had a pair of cropped, wide leg pants that I wore almost daily. On other trips where we’ve had heat and humidity, I’ve found that I actually stay cooler if I’m a little more covered up. I like linen tunics and relaxed fit shirts. You’ll want a good pair of walking sandals with a footbed that absorbs/wicks moisture.