Each time I post one of my travel wardrobe capsules or actual travel wardrobes, a few people will invariably ask “but where’s the COLOR?” So I thought I’d write today about why I build my travel wardrobes the way I do, and offer some strategies for adding color (and patterns) while keeping your wardrobe light, workable and efficient.
Not everyone is interested in packing light. But even if you want more options, it still makes sense to pack what you’ll wear, and wear what you pack.
I’m defining neutrals here as black, navy, grey, brown, taupe, tan/khaki. For those who like wearing a lot of color, building a travel wardrobe around a neutral core can seem rather drab. But there are reasons that so many travelers have adopted and rely on neutral pieces:
- Cohesion. If you want your pieces to combine easily, and in multiple iterations, a black-white-grey capsule will be much easier to remix than a green-red-blue one. Being able to remix and layer pieces for different temperatures and venues more than anything else will help keep your travel wardrobe manageable.
- Polish. This may or may not be important depending on the nature of your travel, but neutrals (especially darker neutrals) will dress up more easily, and look more sophisticated and polished.
- Durability. Quite simply, darker neutrals won’t show dirt as quickly as lighter, brighter pieces. While I do stress choosing fabrics for travel that can be washed, the less often you have to wash, the better.
- Not standing out (as a tourist). Again, this will depend on the nature of your travel and destination. While “looking like a local” (even if desired) is probably an uphill battle when you’re dressing out of a suitcase, in many places those who are very obviously tourists are more often targeted by pickpockets and scammers.
Adding Color (And Pattern)
But I know, you cannot live or travel by neutrals alone. I get it. And I’ve learned to include some color in my travel wardrobes to help break up the monotony. Here’s what’s worked best for me:
- Pick one or two complementary colors. Ok, three at most. Once you’ve selected your neutrals, add some tops, sweaters, dresses, scarves or bags in colors that work well with your neutrals and with each other. Again, it’s about cohesion, and being able to create a maximum number of combinations with the pieces you have.
- Bring in some pattern. Don’t be afraid to mix your patterns either, as long as that’s within your comfort level. Here’s my trick for selecting patterns for travel wardrobes: keep any patterned tops the same pattern type (e.g. stripes/graphics or florals) and any patterned scarves the same pattern type (but different from your tops). So you could do striped tops and floral scarves, floral tops and animal print scarves, polka dot tops and striped scarves, etc. Again, you’d be keeping the patterned pieces within your neutral or complementary color choices.
- If you wear mostly dresses…your dresses don’t need to coordinate with each other, but should coordinate with scarves, sweaters, accessories and outerwear. Look for pieces that work well with most of your dresses. The more you can mix and match, the more variety you’ll achieve with fewer pieces.
- Maximum impact. I’ve found that adding color to the top half or outer layer of my outfit provides the most impact. I stick to dark neutrals on the bottom half. It’s the concept of “tabletop dressing” applied to your travel wardrobe.
- Stick with what works. You want to feel your best, so stick with those colors that you know look good on you (and photograph well).
Next week, I’ll show you some of the many outfits you could create from just these few pieces. And check out my SHOP page for some of my Spring/Summer travel wardrobe picks.