travel wardrobe planning: a different direction

Travel Wardrobe - Hong Kong

So I haven’t mentioned this much recently, but in a few weeks we’re headed someplace completely different from our usual travels: Hong Kong and Vietnam! I’m very excited, as this is a part of the world I’ve always dreamed of visiting. It will be a fairly short trip for us, but I’m finding wardrobe planning for a non-resort, warm-weather destination a bit of a challenge. (We’ve traveled before to sub-tropical climates, but it’s usually to hang out on a beach somewhere.) October is on the cusp of the cooler season there, but we’ve been told not to be surprised by some lingering heat and humidity.

Hong Kong market, via

Our time in Vietnam will mostly be spent on a short cruise in Halong Bay which means primarily casual wear, but some activities and venues in Hong Kong may require a bit more dressy attire, especially in the evenings (at least that’s our understanding). We’ve also been warned that a/c indoors can be brutally frigid. Any input from those of you who live in the area or visit Hong Kong regularly is welcome!

Halong Bay, via
Halong Bay, via

The travel wardrobe shown at the top of the post is my “starter kit,” and subject to change as we get closer and nail down more of our activities. I’ll probably throw in some color and print with tops, will add a very lightweight jacket or two, some scarves, and one or two sun hats. The items I’ve shown here may not be the exact ones I’ll be bringing but are intended to give a general idea of the types of pieces that I’m considering. Remembering what worked in Italy a few years ago during one of the hottest Springs on record, I’ve focused on clothing that’s loose-fitting, breathable and washable. As usual, I’m looking to travel as light as possible: a carry-on bag and personal item only. And also as usual, I’ve made sure to include two pairs of shoes that I can walk in all day. (The heels would be for dressy evenings only.)

How do you pack for warm weather, urban destinations? Any tips particular to Hong Kong?

See what I ultimately packed here, and read my Travel Wardrobe Recap, here.

Items shown in collage above:

Affiliate links may generate commissions for

Stay in touch

Sign up to be notified of new posts and updates from une femme d’un certain âge.

Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for See my complete disclosure policy here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I’ve been to that part of the world several times and find the humidity much harder to dress for than the heat. I’d pack more tops so you have the option of changing more frequently if you get sweaty and wear light coloured floaty cotton clothes, plus shoes that are still comfortable if your feet sweat (I find flat sandals the best). I wouldn’t pack sandals or anything tight or fitted, and remember that clothes in Asia are really cheap and can be readily bought at the local markets.

    1. Clothes in Asia may be cheap, but in many countries (Taiwan, China, Bali) I have found the clothes and shoes to only come in tiny sizes so I couldn’t find anything that fit. Hong Kong will probably be fine for buying clothing, but I don’t know about Vietnam (haven’t been there).

      My experience of Hong Kong was HOT! So hot that walking outside could only done for 30 min at a time before escaping into the aircon. Even in October, I wouldn’t take the jeans and I’d make sure I was set for hot and incredibly humid conditions. Also, people dress quite modestly so one of my sundresses was got me a few sidelong glances from the locals.

      Hong Kong was great though; lovely food and the cheap trips backward and forward across the harbour in the Star Ferries (especially pretty at night).

  2. As you’re taking sneakers, Geox is a good brand because the small holes in the soles will allow your feet to breathe and cool in the tropical heat of Vietnam. Otherwise, comfortable sandals for day wear, eg Arche flats or low heels. Agree, the air conditioning can be fierce and freezing. I always carry a real pashmina (100%) in my bag in places like Singapore or Hong Kong to slip around shoulders inside and then fold and drop into tote outdoors. Warm but light. Have a great time.

  3. We usually travel to cool weather destinations to get away from the heat of Texas, but a few years ago we traveled to Beijing (when our son was living there) in the summertime. My needs were casual clothing for daytime and dressier clothing for some dinners in the evening. For footwear, I took my trusty Mephisto fisherman sandals which have been all over the world with me. I could walk twenty miles in them if necessary. For casual wear, I took mostly cotton dresses (shifts) and skirts and sleeveless tops. For the dinners, I took a black knit dress that could be changed up with jewelry and scarves. I am almost never cold, so I did not take a light jacket–but this was summer, not the cusp of cooler weather.

  4. One other thing, I did not take denim jeans to Beijing and have not traveled internationally with denim jeans since I was a college student. I think the reason is that you never quite know where you might end up during a day of sight seeing and it seems better to me to be a bit more dressed up, even though casually dressed. Perhaps I am the only one who feels this way.

      1. I am a jeans person – and have traveled all over with them. Couldn’t leave home without them! Glad to see that you’re thinking about boyfriend style though – skinnies would be too darn hot.

    1. I’m wondering if you’re American Susan? Our French private travel guide for Provence told us that most Americans tell her they can’t wear jeans when travelling, specially in France. They believe jeans aren’t smart enough and that French girls don’t wear them. But Cecile tells them that jeans came originally from France (eg the word denim comes from the French “de Nimes”, jean cloth made in Nimes) and that French girls do wear them. And of course can look fabulous. Important thing is the cut and style and what you wear them with. They can look really chic – or they can look really daggy, particularly if worn with old saggy Tshirts and a bumbag (you’d probably call it a fanny pack?).

      But that said, agree with others jeans can be really uncomfortable in a hot humid climate. So light dresses or floaty skirts or washable light linen or cotton palazzo pants can be a better option. I lived in Colombo for two years and never wore long pants or jeans except up in the hill country where it’s much cooler. So can sneakers be uncomfortable if they are not the breathing kind. If wearing socks with sneakers, all cotton are best. Best wishes

      1. Pamela, on our last few trips to France (including Paris) I’ve worn jeans almost exclusively and have never felt “too casual” or out of place. Of course, they were dark wash, fitted and without rips or distressing. But yes, I probably will forgo them for this trip to Hong Kong.

        1. I traveled to SE Asia in the fall and found that it was still extremely humid. Cotton blouses, loos fitting pants and walking shoes were the daytime attire. Depending where you go in VN the walking can be challenging! So, good sturdy walking shoes.


  5. Prepare for the humidity. I traveled to Japan in the fall (crisp, New England-y weather) and Hong Kong (warmer, humid weather) in late October. I agree that a pashmina or a lightweight jacket is an ideal solution for temperature and humidity fluctuations. I found Hong Kong — wonderful place — a tad formal, like any world class city. I would never take 3 pairs of pants on any trip, but would trade out one for a skirt. In fact, I wouldn’t take jeans (I take “jeans-like” pants) anywhere overseas or at least not since my 20s. Plus, jeans are very hot in humid weather.

  6. Hong Kong’s climate is similar to San Francisco’s (where I was born and raised); frequently windy, foggy and chilly. Every time I have been to Hong Kong (many times, but it has been several years since my last visit), weather-wise it has been just like home. It is a great city; you will have a wonderful time.

    Be careful of motorbike riding thieves in Vietnam. A common method of purse snatching is to have someone on the back of a motorbike grab your bag and speed off with it. Crossbody bags are good, and make sure the strap is thick and heavy (slim straps are slashed with razor blades). It is also a common practice to have jewelry yanked off of the victim’s body in snatch and flee scenarios. I would leave anything gold or precious to you at home. LOTS of street crime in Vietnam; be very careful.

  7. I have no tips for you, having never been, but I’m excited for your adventure. One of my co-workers just returned from a Vietnam trip and loved it.

  8. I haven’t traveled to Asia, but do go to both Miami and New York in warm, muggy weather. I generally wear lighter neutrals, like whites, creams, light gray, khakis. It’s the only time I don’t travel with jeans, as others have mentioned. An ivory pashmina is a perfect item for the A/C and really goes with everything. Also brightens up one’s face when you’re tired. My daughter went to Vietnam on their honeymoon and loved it. Have a great time.

  9. Agree re advice to not pack jeans; believe you have some EF or linen pants that will be better. But I find a skirt in linen or light silk cooler and you can wear it day or evening. Linen tees are great and dry quickly. (You will be surprised how hot cotton interlock tops feel in 100% humidity.) Agree re pashmina, too. Women wear a lot of black in HK so I would not hesitate to wear it on bottom, with say ecru top, for example.
    Skirt like I mean:

  10. This advice comes from well-traveled and stylish friends: If you can, allow time in your schedule and space in your bags to have at least one piece of clothing custom made. In Vietnam especially, dressmaking and tailoring services are cheap and fast, and the results are very high quality. And you’ll have a wearable memento of your journey.

  11. Everyone else has addressed humidity, so I won’t, but just let me say that in Shanghai in September, my hair curled as if I’d had a perm, and my hair is straight as ruler. I would also ditto the negatives on jeans. This is one of those times when a dress or a skirt is really nice because the extra “lower level ventilation” is a big plus. I seriously doubt you will need two jackets, but be prepared for rain, and the rain can be seriously heavy…not at all like Paris. I always travel with a scarf or 2, and use them as a shawl in the restaurants if the are air-conditioned beyond tolerance.
    At the last minute, we switched out husband’s travel wardrobe, and traded a pair of jeans for a pair of light weight, quick dry, active wear pants. His were made by Columbia, and they don’t look all that different than casual regular pants, but they are a cotton-nylon blend, are signifigantly cooler than jeans and can dry overnight if they need to be washed or when he was caught in the rain. He ended up wearing them virtually every day.
    Everything will wrinkle, and it is unlikely you will want to wear the same top twice without washing it. You will have a happier trip if you also pack a tube of chlortrimazole (over the counter anti fungal cream), and a blister stick, both of which you can find at your local Walgreens in the area where they sell Dr Scholls and other foot things. Even the most comfortable shoes or sandals feel and fit differently when you walk a long time in hot humid weather.

  12. I haven’t traveled to that part of the world, but I’m a big believer in black clothes and an Hermes scarf in just about any urban situation. I’ve found Hermes cotton scarves on Ebay that are my summer go-tos. Also Lululemon make “Vinyasa Scarves” that are big infinity scarfs made of moisture-wicking material. They’re great on airplanes and chilly restaurants, and they wash and dry quickly.

  13. I was in Hong Kong a couple of times nearly twenty years ago–loved it. However, the humidity just about killed me! I took jeans that I never wore; they were just heavy and took up room in the suitcase that I could have used for fabric! The main takeaway for me, however, was that nothing EVER dries, so don’t expect to be washing your smalls in the hotel room and wearing them the next day! I had to buy socks, underwear, and a bra. These things are cheap and readily available If you’re small(ish) but may not be so if you’re larger or busty. I just about wept with joy when I saw the sign for Marks and Spencer! Have fun!

  14. Having lived in Asia for several years and visiting Vietnam in early October I would suggest a lightweight black knit skirt with a couple of tops that you can wash out and dry overnight. It can still be very wet in October so a thin rain jacket is a good idea. Over zealous use of A/C is an issue in HK, not so much in Vietnam. A pashmina is a good idea. As you are a petite size it will be easy to buy inexpensive clothing if you find yourself in need of something.

  15. Jeans are considered VERY casual in HK and aren’t a popular choice, especially among adults. Ditch the jean as others have said and replace with something lighter. It will be Hot and Sticky in Oct.

  16. I would reconsider the open toed sandals. We found streets and sidewalks in HK to be quite dirty, particularly if you get out of the central business areas and tourist districts. If you had some very comfortable shoes that had a covered toe but were sturdy with open sides or cut-outs, I think you would be happier. Otherwise, your feet will be horribly dirty and your shoes likely wrecked for future wear.

  17. That sounds like an amazing trip! All I know is that the word humid is always used in relation to Asia, so I think you’re on the right track with loose and breathable clothes. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time.

  18. Depending on your evening activities in Hong Kong, you might want to consider a light-weight blazer. Another option is a dressy cardigan if the evening events are not too formal. Pearls are easy way to dress up the outfit as well. Have fun!

  19. The above advice to get a piece of clothing custom-made is a great one. My aunt, who is a very proper British lady (silk blouses, cashmere cardies, tweed trousers), travels to HK every winter. She always has an item or two of clothing made while she is there, for jaw-droopingly low prices. The work is beautiful. Her go-to item is the silk button-down, but also jackets, trousers — all perfectly tailored, you name it.

  20. In addition to all of the above, when we were in Thailand we were caught in a downpour like nothing I had ever seen. By the time we got back to the hotel, our shoes were soaked through! Take an extra pair! I haven’t been to Vietnam, but I do live part time in a country where jewelry snatching is rampant, and one thing I do is to never wear imitations of anything either. The jewelry thief won’t know that the pendant is a $15 cubic zirconia until after he’s ripped it off your neck.

  21. I live in HK and basically quit wearing jeans because they’re too heavy in the heat and humidity. They also take forever to dry after washing. I say yes to dresses and loose-flowing tops, with black as the dominant colour. I would also keep a lightweight cardigan or scarf in your handbag at all times because the a/c is usually set to freezing whenever you are indoors. Dressing up a bit in the evenings is also a good idea, as a lot of places have a smart casual vibe if not an actual dress code. Tuck a compact umbrella into your bag as well, for the sudden rain showers. Shoes: it’s true that HK streets can be quite dirty and dusty, so closed-toed shoes are a good idea, as are slip-on shoes, because HKers don’t wear shoes inside their homes, so if you’re invited to visit someone’s house, you will likely be expected to take your shoes off at the front door.

    Shopping is great in HK, but as a rule, only for the extremely petite. I wear a size 8/10/12 and find it difficult to find things that fit, especially trousers. I’m better off having things made for me. Thank goodness handbags and accessories don’t have size issues!

  22. I’m going to echo others on jeans and humidity. Eew, no. The linen pants suggestion was a great one.
    I’d recommend taking a 2nd light dress to deal with the humidity. Dressy enough for the city, but easy and casual too. Make sure it has cap sleeves (shoulders covered) or bring a scarf to cover shoulders.
    I would also recommend a knee-length skort in a dark color. A skort eliminates the chafing issues, but lets the legs get air conditioned.
    Bring 1 pair of dark socks for temples etc.
    Crocs now make stylish, cute, and comfy flats (Adrina Flat II?) that would be great for this type of travel. Easy on/off, easily cleaned, and cute.
    It’s better to have clothing that is too light than too heavy. You can always add a scarf or light sweater if the temperatures drop. If you pack heavy items you are out of luck. Bring a couple of your silk camis in case the temps go down and wear them under your regular clothing.
    I always advise bringing a light packable rain shell just in case the weather turns bad.

  23. I love your blog and read it regularly. I have traveled to Vietnam several times to visit family members who live there. As a woman of a certain age, I have Never been hotter in my life than I am there! The only way to survive is by wearing natural fibers and loosely styled clothes! The humidity is awful especially if you are not accustomed to it. I am fortunate to stay in a home that has some air conditioning which allows me to have some relief. I have not been to Hanoi but have visited Ho Chi Minh and DaNang several times. It is beautiful and interesting and friendly country. Loose linen pants will be far more useful than jeans. Have a wonderful trip and please tell your blog readers all about it!

  24. I haven’t been to Hong Kong or Vietnam, but I’ve been to India twice and I agree that the humidity is killer. I did not take jeans; they are just too hot. Loose, cotton and linen worked the best. The best part is that getting laundry done is cheap, though probably not in Hong Kong. Have fun! It sounds like an amazing trip.

  25. Your post made me laugh a bit, as I LIVE in this type of climate: still hot & very humid in October, but with brutally cold A/C! (Houston). I agree with the no-jeans advice. We don’t usually break out the jeans till November. Linen will be great, especially linen knits, since traveling with woven linen items presents the wrinkle issue. Cotton knit tees can be hotter and stickier than you would think. You probably don’t want to buy new clothes just for this trip, but the Cool-Max type tees we wear for golf & tennis are way cooler than cotton, and you can find ones that aren’t overtly athletic wear. Ditto the Columbia pants somebody else mentioned. A long sleeved linen shirt can double as a jacket over a tee in the A/C.

    And without being too personal, cotton undies can get pretty sweaty & uncomfortable too 😉

    Have a great trip!

    1. Jill Ann, we are only slightly less humid in Dallas, and yes, jeans are a no go in humidity. But additionally, as a 62 year old woman, jeans as only extremely casual wear for me–and not something I take abroad.

  26. Hi from the Netherlands. I visited both places. Linnen trousers, maybe a capri or 7/8. Also a skirt or dress. In Vietnam dress a bit modest. For both countries maybe one pair of sandals, streets can be quite dirty. Always an umbrella and in HK a shawl or pasmina. In this climate you have to change into clean clothes very often, so every 3 or 4 days you have to get. your laundry done. Jeans and all heavy textiles are a nuisance. Have fun. Personally I think that HK is the most fantastic city in Asia. So much to see and to do

  27. I grew up in Honolulu, which is not nearly as hot and humid as Vietnam or HongKong, and would choose skirts or dresses over pants or shorts. I didn’t even own jeans until I moved to the Mainland. And do go for microfiber undies, much more comfy in the heat. If you do pants, I think wide leg linen trousers would be the most comfortable.

  28. My son lives in hong kong in the central business district. I love that city. I agree with not taking the jeans. And bring closed toe shoes and comfortable shoes. The Soho district and surrounds are very hilly so heels are tough to walk in. My son’s friends walk in flats and carry their heels in a shoe bag and trade out their shoes when they arrive at their destination. The streets are dusty and there is a lot of walking. I wear dark colored clothes in cotton or linen, and true the A/C is turned up high. But the hotel, at least the one we stayed in was tiny! So our large luggage was a pain. We went at Christmas and needed to pack for cold hong kong and hot Thailand the week after. Try to have lunch at the peninsula hotel. The embroidered napkins are very cute.

  29. Perhaps you would like to take advantage of the fabulous Hong Kong tailors. Go the first day and be measured, leave with a perfectly fitting silk blouse. Or take something you love and have it replicated. Monsieur could do the same for pristine cotton shirts.

  30. I live in Annapolis, MD, where humidity is a way of life. I get a lot of use out of this skort from Athleta -…. nice enough for touring in the day…not too short, catches a breeze, camouflages “swamp butt”…with a pair of cute sneakers or sandals…

  31. I travel with some frequency to both Melanesia and S Asia. Leave your jeans at home, too hot and too heavy. Remember, the air in HK is not only wet but rather polluted as well. Heavy, damp clothes coupled with grit from the air can be pretty unpleasant. My favorite hot weather travel clothing items are Eileen Fisher linen tees, an EF linen-hemp dress, and a couple of longer linen / hemp knit skirts. Pack a few more tees than what you might for a European trip, you wil want to change and refresh a few times over the course of the day.

  32. Hi,
    I’ve been to both HK & VN and agree with all about the humidity. Flowy tops (short sleeved or tanks) and skirts/shorts were all that I wore. Walking sandals and a nice ballet flat are all you need for footwear. No need for a jacket, but perhaps bring a light cardigan and an umbrella. A hat & lots of sunscreen! Enjoy your trip, you will love Asia!

  33. I’d leave heels at home, at least slender ones. Chunkier heels might work, but the sidewalks can be very uneven. Also, when flying to Asia, my feet always swell like balloons, even when I wear compression socks on the plane. I never take shoes that are close-fitting for this reason. Lace ups are good, as are sandals with some give and adjustable straps.
    Linen is your friend in SE Asia. I packs well, dries quickly, and doesn’t wilt in the humidity. HK isn’t quite as conservative as Vietnam, but in both places I’d avoid showing any cleavage at all, and no knees, shoulders, or collar bone. It’s insensitive to the local culture and will mark you out as an “ugly American” in some quarters. Beaches are the exception, where most anything goes.
    Make sure you buy lots of spices at the local markets to bring home, especially in Vietnam. They make great gifts and are impossible to match for quality here.

  34. I’ve not travelled in the East, but have done quite a bit of work in Africa and the Caribbean. I’ve found dresses are more comfortable than pants and generally I rely on Eileen Fisher. I like silk–it rolls up for packing and is easily washed and dries quickly. Two or three floaty dresses and some tops/jackets (silk or linen knit). I might take one pair of silk pants for a change or a linen dress or pants, as well. A pashmina or two for the plane and restaurants is handy, but I find scarves too hot during the day–a light necklace is easier. Hats plus sunscreen are a necessity; I usually use Helen Kaminski and you can pack items inside the hat (the Provence model is flexible/foldable). I tend not to use sandals, partly because of work and partly because of dirt (and other things) in the streets. Style aside, the thought of blue jeans in that humidity makes me sweat. Speaking of which, I also use waterproof mascara to avoid sweating it off and look for a sports sunscreen that will stick through sweat.

    Sounds like a lot of fun–enjoy.

  35. I have been to HongKong and many other Asian countries several times and the weather has been different every single time and sometimes even different within one country.
    I love HongKong, one of the most exciting cities with its contrast of history, culture and modern life.
    Do participate in a tour about Feng Shui – it is so fascinating to learn more about it!

    Your wardrobe seems to capture all challenges. I haven’t been to Vietnam but other hot and humid countries in the area and suggest you add light wear clothes such as not clinging dresses or maybe some light cotton skirts (which you can actually buy there!)

    I hope to go back to that amazing part of the world sometime in the future!
    Annette | Lady of Style

  36. At risk of repetition. I think you need to rethink a bit. Black is very difficult to wear in tropical countries, it feels out of place and hot, no matter the fabric. Think of more light fabric skirts for day, simple dresses are cooler than tops and bottoms. I even find closed shoes too much in that climate. Rely on shawls for airconditioning. Black at night ok, white, grey, beige for day with color accents. Have a fabulous trip!

  37. Hong Kong in th city on weekdays is quite formal. Tourists really stick out. To blend in, wear a black skirt and top or dress and very good accessories and jewellry. You still need to be comfortable as you’ll walk and walk.
    On weekends or hiking it is of course more casual but everyone wears ironed clothes and good shoes and has a good haircut.
    Dressing is mainly conservative unless you are arty and its more about looking elegant than trendy.
    I’ve lived in HK for 30 years and it doesn’t change much socially and culturally although buidlings go up and down all the time.