I’ve been asked a few times to write about winter travel wardrobes, but will admit that we usually don’t travel in the winter aside from an occasional ski week in Colorado, which requires packing mostly ski clothing and equipment. In the past I’d made a few business trips to the East Coast during the December-March months, but those were usually of short duration and required only office wear.
But what I’ve learned from skiing (which requires keeping warm in sometimes sub-zero temperatures) is that the principle of lightweight layering works in winter too. I’ve created this travel wardrobe for mostly recreational travel to a destination with moderately cold winters, and presuming a relatively urban locale. Those of you who have experience with more brutal winters (waving at my friends in Montréal) please chime in with your suggestions.
The 12-piece* travel wardrobe for winter above starts with a neutral base (I’ve gone crazy and included 4 neutrals, black, ivory, navy and grey!) and then adds color, texture and pattern. Most of the tops go with all of the bottoms, and should layer well. I’ve included a skirt rather than a dress, as I find I wear them more, but if you wear dresses, think wool and/or ponte knits and something cut long and full enough that walking will not be impeded. I’ve shown a packable down coat here as outerwear; depending on conditions you may need something heavier or lighter, or multiple options. (Please note that the pieces I’ve shown above were chosen primarily for color, fabric and style and as examples. In the widget below I’ve attempted to include items in a range of prices and sizes.)
Row 1: sweater (similar) | sweater (similar) | blouse (similar)
Row 2: sweater | jeans (similar) | tee (similar)
Row 3: pants (similar) | boots (similar) | skirt (similar)
Row 4: scarf (similar) | scarf (similar) | coat (similar, in petite and plus)
Row 5 sweater (similar) | sweater (similar)
Row 6: sweater (similar) | shirt (similar) | boots (similar)
I tend to travel with at least one pair of jeans, though some find them too heavy. I love slim black ponte knit pants for cooler months, as they are comfortable but dressy enough for evenings. If you prefer more tailored trousers, try something in a lightweight wool and wear over tights or silk long underwear if temperatures require.
Some general tips assumptions:
Layer, layer, layer. Three or four lightweight (insulating) layers will be better than one heavy, bulky one, especially going from frigid conditions outside to overheated interiors. And keeping those layers lightweight also helps with packing and schlepping luggage. For warmth, base layers are your best friends and I’ve found these long-sleeved Adea tops to be an excellent base layer option.
Core values. It’s true that keeping your “core” warm is the most important focus when it really gets cold. I’ve heard great things about the Uniqlo packable down vests for travel.
Start with shoes. My inclination would be to start with one pair of weatherproof ankle boots that can go from day to evening. If you’re anticipating a lot of snow or slush, a pair of higher weatherproof and perhaps lined boots (shearling or fleece) would be your second pair. If your winter destination will be more wet than snowy, a good-looking pair of weatherproof calf or knee-high boots may be your best choice. Always pack your lightest shoes and wear your heaviest on travel days. And whatever shoes you include should be broken in and comfortable enough for all-day walking!
Composition. I always try to pack clothing that’s washable and will dry quickly. Silk, merino wool and cashmere are the obvious choices, but don’t rule out modal and other “performance” fabrics, especially as base layers. Many of these are designed to insulate and wick away moisture. I’ve been reading a lot of good things lately about merino wool for travel, as it tends to adjust to fluctuating temperatures well, doesn’t hold odors, and is less inclined to pill than other fabrics. But I love some cashmere too for the light weight warmth and softness.
Silhouettes. For travel, I tend to stick to clothing that’s cut closer to the body. Pants that will tuck into boots are a plus, and leave any flares or pants that drag the ground at home. I’ve come to prefer either pullover sweaters or cardigans that close rather than open cardigans or jackets. When the wind whips up, you don’t want to have to hold a sweater closed! I’ve also learned that navigating turnstiles, revolving doors or public transportation in voluminous or flapping clothing is a real pain, especially when your hands are full of luggage.
Extremities. I didn’t include hats, gloves, tights or warm socks in the collages above, but of course you will bring these! I like cashmere-lined leather gloves for a polished look, and many styles now have “tech fingers” so you can use your smartphone without removing your gloves. But the coldest conditions may require heavier options. I have not yet tried cashmere socks, but have friends who recommend highly. The performance socks I wear for skiing are wool and I find they keep my feet plenty warm as well as wicking away moisture very effectively. Here are some fun patterned Smartwool socks.
Accessorize. Scarves and jewelry can add variety to a limited wardrobe. That said, I don’t usually travel with lots of jewelry, or any of great value aside from my engagement ring. A few simple pieces are all you need to dress up a basic outfit.
* I don’t count shoes, bags, outerwear, underwear (or any other base layer that I wouldn’t wear except underneath other pieces), or accessories as part of the 12 pieces.
Do you travel often during winter months? Any tips or finds to share?
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