Travel Recap: Wardrobe - une femme d'un certain âge

Travel Recap: Wardrobe

(It took all weekend, but by Sunday night I finally felt caught up with the unpacking, the laundry, the mail and getting the house back in order. We still have some souvenirs and gifts on the dining room table waiting to be distributed, but otherwise it’s a huge relief to have everything clean and put away.)

When we first began planning our two-week trip to Rome, Florence, Venice and Paris, une femme began mentally assembling a travel wardrobe. As I knew we’d be taking multiple modes of transport including trains between cities in Italy, I was determined to limit myself to one carry-on suitcase of clothing that would accommodate fluctuations in temperatures and could, for the most part, be hand-laundered in the sink and hung to dry overnight.

And I did it!  Well, with one exception.

Due to unseasonably warm temperatures during most of our visit, I was glad I’d packed almost all lightweight pieces. I wore some items a lot more than others, though everything was worn at least once.

1. Babette palazzo ankle pants. These were lifesavers, and I wore them almost every day.  Even though they are black, they were cool and comfortable in 90F, sunny daytime conditions. The fabric is a featherweight triacetate, which air dried within a couple of hours after washing. I felt stylish in them and was delighted when we arrived in Paris to spot several chic women wearing similar styles in various fabrics.

2. Eileen Fisher silk jersey tank tops.

3. Eileen Fisher 3/4 sleeve silk/cotton jacket. Mornings (and the occasional air-conditioned building) could be borderline chilly, and I was glad to have this layer. Yet it was lightweight enough that I kept it on during the day, and appreciated the added protection from the sun, as well as the coverage for visiting churches, most of which had a “no tank tops” dress code.

4. ECCO Mary Janes. Wore these most days, and they went from day to (most) evenings.

5. Babette cotton tunic. This was also an airy and breathable piece on warm days, and dried surprisingly quickly when washed. Again, I was glad to have something to keep the sun off my shoulders and keep me “church appropriate.”

6. The MbMJ cross-body bag. It held everything I needed during the day, was nice enough for evenings, and was lightweight enough to be carried/worn all day. I never felt as though I needed a second bag.

Near top of Spanish Steps, Rome. I’m re-thinking the super-short hair.

Zone Defense:
1. The Eileen Fisher 3/4 sleeve silk/cotton tee also worked well as a warm-day option.

2. Jeans. They were great for travel days, and for the two or three cooler days we experienced. I didn’t wear these as much as the Babette pants, but was glad to have them when I wanted them.

3. Think! mary jane pumps. Wore these a handful of times in the evenings. Nice to have as an option.

4. Eileen Fisher short-sleeve tee. Worked especially well with the jeans.

Pinch Hitters: (Ok, I know I’m mixing my sports metaphors, but bear with me.)
1. Babette pleated pants. Wore these exactly once, to a fancy dinner in Rome. I probably could have made do with the palazzo pants here instead.

2. Babette cream blouse. Ditto above. While it was nice to dress up, I probably could have put something appropriate together in a pinch from my other pieces.

3. Long black cardigan. Might have worn this one once or twice, could have done without on this trip, though had the weather been cooler it would have been worn more often.

1. The ECCO sandals. These weren’t as supportive for all-day walking as I’d hoped, and being just a bit long in the front, I kept tripping in them. At the Mephisto store in Venice, I finally broke down and bought a more serious pair of walking sandals that worked much better and provided the arch support I needed. Plus, they’re really cute!

Post-Game Wrap-Up:
In general, though Europe isn’t as casual as LA, one can go almost anywhere, including out for a nice dinner, in “smart casual” attire. Jeans too, if they’re on the nice side (no ripped or baggy stuff). I felt appropriately dressed wherever we went, and was comfortable. I’d certainly employ a similar strategy on future trips. But I must admit that while I was sorry for this fabulous vacation to come to an end, I was glad to come home to my closet and a wider range of options when getting dressed in the morning!

For those who might have been wondering, the Clarisonic held its charge for the full two weeks, with once-daily usage.

Oh, and one last note, U.S. tourists aren’t the only ones who often look frumpy (or behave badly, yes). Every nationality had its share of of folks attired in loud shirts, sandals worn with socks, fanny packs, “expedition” wear, goofy hats. And that includes the French!

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  1. June 6, 2011 / 12:33 pm

    I’m going to start packing soon, so thanks. I guess I’m going to have to check out the Babette pants. It sounds like 2 pairs would have taken care of everything.

    Now for the momentous question: are leggings/skinny jeans still OK?

    Also, I have to say that the last few times I was in Paris, I didn’t feel at all conspicuous in my un-French-fashionableness. I think the French are much more casual than in days of yore.

    I think your short hair looks great.

  2. June 6, 2011 / 2:10 pm

    Well done! And every photo shows you looking trè chic indeed. Wasn’t it great to have only the smaller suitcase to haul around?!

  3. June 6, 2011 / 2:32 pm

    Declare triumph! (What’s an extra top or pair of light pants?) I’ve found can wear synthetic in a pant but not a top, when I’m moving around in tourist mode.

  4. June 6, 2011 / 2:41 pm

    Interesting comment by Duchesse – I feel the same about synthetic fabrics. I love some lycra in jeans, but I can’t tolerate tops with even a very small percentage of lycra, I feel like I’m suffocating.

    I’m glad you got the Mephisto shoes, they always work for me. Especially after a while, they mold themselves to your foot.

  5. June 6, 2011 / 2:41 pm

    I’m so glad to hear that your wardrobe worked for you. Very instructive!

    We are going to NYC next week (visiting family and friends) and I’m beginning to choose my wardrobe for the trip.

    Last week, I purchased this dress in black: (

    I’m hoping it will be a cool choice for walking around the city. It actually is more fitted in the bodice that it appears on the tiny model–and is a bit longer than it appears in the photo.

    It is the FIRST Eileen Fisher dress I’ve ever been able to wear. Others did not work for my body type.

  6. June 6, 2011 / 3:01 pm

    Very well done! I just got back from NYC last night and realized I had done a nice capsule too – yours is more flowy-chic, and mine was a little “tougher”. I, too, love your short haircut. It flatters you wonderfully!

  7. June 6, 2011 / 3:18 pm

    Sounds like the Babette line is a superior one for travel…
    I have a pair of black James Perse loose cotton pants that I love to wear when it gets really hot.
    I like your hair…what are you thinking of changing…the style or colour?

  8. June 6, 2011 / 3:46 pm

    well, i think you look great with the super-short least in the photo!
    90F….wow, i didn’t know it got that hot over there! just goes to show that being prepared when traveling is key.

  9. Anonymous
    June 6, 2011 / 3:51 pm

    I’d love to see a pic of those Mephisto sandals!

  10. June 6, 2011 / 3:52 pm

    I’m an American expat living in Eastern Europe and I do a lot of traveling. Your posts about packing have been so helpful to me. I am working on my “capsule wardrobes” all the time. I will definitely check out Babette next month when I’m back in the States!

  11. June 6, 2011 / 6:12 pm

    Concur with Duchesse. Declare victory! Great info on the Ecco sandals. As for palazzo pants, I’m currently accessorizing a pair of linen wide leg Armani pants to give them a second life in my retired state. I very much like the wide leg look, especially since the butt to thigh transition has never been my favorite part of my silhouette.

  12. June 6, 2011 / 6:13 pm

    Oh, and I like the short hair very much!

  13. Pam @ over50feeling40
    June 6, 2011 / 12:07 pm

    Since I live in day to day heat (over90) until almost October, you have given me some ideas to consider. I would love to find the palazzo pants…they sound great!

  14. Anonymous
    June 6, 2011 / 8:49 pm

    I like your hair the length in the scarf videos, a bit longer on sides. As you do, I wear glasses, and find the over the ear cut a bit harsh.

  15. coffeeaddict
    June 6, 2011 / 1:50 pm

    Love the post trip recap. I think your wardrobe really came as close as posible to the holy grail of packing: the capsule wardrobe!
    Love your hairstyle too, very casual, relaxed yet expensive looking.

  16. Anonymous
    June 6, 2011 / 8:57 pm

    PS: I agree about your assessment of dressing in Europe. I recently saw “Midnight in Paris” (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!) and the people in the contemporary street scenes don’t look all that fashionable at all. Also, you look wonderful in your all your photos; hope you aren’t offended by my hair critique.

  17. Anonymous
    June 7, 2011 / 1:32 am

    “And that includes the French!” I agree completely! We met a woman visiting the U.S. from France in a bookstore recently and I couldn’t help but be in awe of the elastic waisted ill-fitting light blue capris with stripped seersucker shirt, brown walking sandals with white socks, and fanny pack she was wearing. She was from Paris none-the-less! I had to chuckle to myself because after all I have read about the care French women take in their choices, this was just icing on the cake!

  18. KayB
    June 6, 2011 / 6:38 pm

    Hi, I’m reading your blog for some time now, and really enjoy it. (I got myself a no-name “Clarisonic” last year because of your post, and did not regret it! 🙂 Thank you very much for your helpful hints and tips, and have to say that your last two sentence really hit the nail on the head – in a very enjoyable way! No truer word spoken!

  19. June 7, 2011 / 1:40 am

    Pam – the palazzo pants are so comfortable! And I love how they move.

    frugalscholar – I did see leggings, didn’t see many skinny jeans (other than white denim in Rome), but I think the warm weather was the determining factor. I agree that the French are more casual than their reputation in general.

    coffeeaddict – thanks! I think my capsule was a successful one.

    materfamilias – merci! Yes, it was really nice having a small and manageable bag. Nice to not have to worry about lost luggage on the trip over too. (Though did check my bag on the way home due to amounts of liquids.)

    Duchesse – why thank you, I will! 😀
    I’m the same way with synthetics, can handle if on bottom and the loose fit helps too.

    Rita – I’m OK with cotton/lycra blends on top, and my Babette blouse is polyester, but can’t wear in really warm temperatures. I tried several pair of the Mephisto sandals before I found one that was the right last for my foot. God bless that sales lady who wasn’t going to let me leave empty handed! I’ve had very good luck in past with M shoes, so it was weird that so many of the sandals didn’t work.

    Susan – I really like that dress!

  20. June 7, 2011 / 2:08 am

    Patti – thank you! Had the weather been a bit cooler, some of my “tougher” pieces would’ve been part of the mix. Flowy works well in the heat, though.

    hostess – I was very impressed with how well these pieces worked for travel. The pants are just divine. Re the hair: am going to grow it back out over the ears. Color I’m happy with.

    style odyssey – thank you! Yes, it usually gets that warm during the summer, but it was unusual for May. It’s probably not rational, but I get hung up about my ears sticking out. I sure love the ease of hair at this length!

    Anonymous – I’ll be doing a post in the next few days on the shopping, will definitely show them off then.

    cbroome – oh, I’m so glad this is helpful! Yes, do check out Babette! I’ve been thrilled with these pieces, especially for travel.

    LPC – am donning my laurel wreath as I type. Your Armani pants sound perfect. I’m not crazy about that particular part of my silhouette either…and thank you.

    Anonymous – I agree with you, actually re: the hair length. Just a little more coverage on the ears is all I need. I’m dying to see “Midnight in Paris!” I’ve heard so many great things about it from friends who have seen it.

    Susan Tiner – thanks so much! More photos coming!

    Anonymous – there are stereotypes, and then there are people, n’est-ce pas? We met a very nice couple from Paris at the airport in Venice. Her outfit was OTT with bling and animal prints, the antithesis of what we’ve always been told is typical Parisienne style. She was quite talkative and told us her life story in 15 minutes. I enjoyed the conversation immensely, and was reminded that one-on-one, people are such unique individuals regardless of nationality or geography. A French ex-pat friend of mine says she likes living in LA because there’s not so much pressure to dress just so (she always looks great, BTW, but in a more bohemian way).

  21. June 7, 2011 / 2:22 am

    Thanks. I just checked the Eileen Fisher site and the dress i bought must be already sold out–it is no longer pictured. I bought mine at Nordstroms–and it had just been placed on the floor earlier in the day. Today I bought a short sleeved sweater to wear over it in air conditioned buildings.

  22. Susan Tiner
    June 7, 2011 / 12:23 am

    You should be proud of figuring out your travel clothes so well despite the unseasonably warm weather. You look fabulous and happy in all of the photos, like you really had fun. I can’t wait for more photos!

  23. metscan
    June 7, 2011 / 11:12 am

    I have traveled very little. First, I could not leave my children, next -I could not leave my furry ones.
    But- I don´t think that I have missed much. Reading, hearing and seeing views from other countries, has satisfied my needs.
    If I now were to travel, I would like to try to pack as little along as possible. How liberating would it feel..!
    I might try to build my wardrobe on only one color.
    Now this is just an illusion, I am going nowhere, but one can dream, yes?
    This time you managed very well. I guess planning what to pack along, and how successful it actually was, belongs to the thrill of a trip.

  24. sisty
    June 7, 2011 / 3:55 pm

    Though I think super-short hair can sometimes look harsh on a femme d’un certain age, I think it looks great on you. The only think I didn’t like about my hair when it was super-short was that it didn’t move.

  25. June 8, 2011 / 3:33 am

    metscan – having horses and animals to care for definitely makes travel more challenging. But you seem to be happy at home, and not everyone enjoys or feels the need to travel. I did also enjoy the challenge of working with such a small capsule wardrobe.

    sisty – thanks! My hair is so fine it’s never had much movement anyway, so I really don’t miss that part of longer hair. Thanks about the packing too; I’m rather pleased with how well it worked out.

  26. sisty
    June 7, 2011 / 10:09 pm

    Oh! and I meant to congratulate you on your excellent pared-down packing, too — just the right amount. As other have said here, you can declare victory in good conscience!

  27. barbara
    June 8, 2011 / 11:40 am

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with a small wardrobe on travel.Very inspiring.
    What nice photo of you on the Spanish Steps with surrounding Rome.
    Although it’s raining today in most parts of Europe, you are right, this springtime’s temperatures are unusually HOT.
    There have never been Roseblossoms in May.

  28. June 8, 2011 / 1:55 pm

    Can I add another vote for the short haircut. Very Jean Seberg and charming on you.

  29. Adelfa
    June 10, 2011 / 5:45 am

    I’m a recent reader (since Corporette linked to your scarf storage post). Your posts on packing for travel were more helpful than you can imagine. I had a trip to Eugene, OR to plan (for a memorial service) and just started copying you wildly. I bought the packing cubes and OH they make everything so much better. I was so inspired to think that if you could pack in a carry-on for two weeks, I could do it for four days. I had so much fun packing and felt appropriately dressed the whole time. My dad even said I was attractive for the first time in my life (but that’s another story). My stars: dark slimcut jeans with stretch, a nylon knit zipup black jacket, a lightweight charcoal wool cardigan, short-sleeved cotton t-shirts, and a crinkle black silk skirt with a knit waistband that I could twist into a rope for packing and came out perfect. I bought some black crepe knit EF pants (ankle length, narrow cut) but didn’t wear them because it was hot. They emerged from the suitcase really well though and I know they will be useful.

    Anyway, thank you so much for turning packing from a dreaded and feared chore to something fun and productive.

  30. June 10, 2011 / 5:24 pm

    barbara – thank you!

    Deb – thanks! I’m probably going to keep it. 😉

    Adelfa – I’m so glad to hear this was helpful! Your travel wardrobe sounds perfect (though I’m sorry for the reason you needed to travel). It’s freeing in a way to have a minimalist wardrobe when traveling; frees your mind up to deal with other things!

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