Traveling in Style: Clothing, Part 1 - une femme d'un certain âge

Traveling in Style: Clothing, Part 1

As we started with shoes last week, let’s work our way up from there.

I’m not a big believer in purchasing a special wardrobe of travel clothing. For one thing, it goes against my “fewer but better” wardrobe mantra. For another, when in unfamiliar surroundings, I prefer to wear the tried-and-true and feel like myself. Why wear something on the road that you’d never wear at home?  In the last few years, I’ve also shifted toward more lightweight knit pieces in my day-to-day wardrobe which happen to pack and travel well and can be layered as needed.

To jean or not to jean…
Read discussion forums on travel sites or travel blogs and you’ll find convincing arguments on both sides of the debate. Yes, jeans are heavier when packed and take longer to dry when wet than synthetic fabrics. But I’ve packed jeans on most of our trips, and end up wearing them more than just about any other type of clothing. They can be worn multiple times without washing (unless one gets spilled upon), and a pair of simple dark wash jeans will look classic and work for most non-formal venues. For our upcoming trip, I’m planning to pack one pair, my 7’s bootcuts. The fabric on these is a lighter weight, and they’re comfortable in temperatures into the low 80’s F and of course in cooler weather.

In addition to a pair of jeans, on our upcoming trip I’m planning to take:

–a pair of Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants. Actually I’m planning to wear these on the plane for comfort, but they’ll also work as a dressier-than-jeans option for evenings. These can also be washed in the sink and hung to dry overnight if needed.

–a pair of linen blend ankle pants similar to these, for warmer days.

–my stretch crepe Eileen Fisher pencil skirt in black. This is also sink-washable, and can easily be dressed up should we wind up going someplace fancy.

–possibly a second pair of ankle pants or capris or a pair of lightweight silk jersey wide-leg pants (which are a great warm-weather option for more dressy evenings) depending on weather predictions and dining plans firming up closer to our departure.

–tights, maybe leggings to wear with skirt.

No, there are no dresses on my packing list. I don’t wear them much at home, and generally find separates to be more workable when traveling.

Next week, tops!

Are there any particular items of clothing you prefer to take on the road? Do you tend to dress differently when you travel, or adapt your regular wardrobe?


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  1. April 20, 2011 / 1:04 pm

    This is timely since we’re going to the UK in July. My plan is to take a couple of knit skirt/top sets I have that I can change around, a pair of pants and a jacket that also go.

  2. MJ
    April 20, 2011 / 1:14 pm

    My work clothes tend to be pretty dressy and dryclean-only, and my weekend outfits tend to be based on either jeans or very casual North Face-type pants, which means that I often need a different wardrobe for vacation travel in order to get that elusive combination of style and washability. I almost always take my jeans for the reasons you mention, although I wouldn’t wear them on a long plane trip. I may have to check out the Eileen Fisher pants and skirt for my city vacations – thanks for the tip!

  3. April 20, 2011 / 1:39 pm

    Have a great trip! Eileen Fisher products travel extremly well…even the “fancy” items!

  4. April 20, 2011 / 2:03 pm

    Like LuxBytes, my bottoms are black, usually fine knit pants and skirts in wool or silk jersey, unless in the tropics. I especially like matte jersey wide leg pants. (EF inseam too short for me so I envy you!)

    In tropics only fabric that works in extreme heat: (unlined) linen, which you can wash and hang. Wrinkles just part of linen’s look.

  5. April 20, 2011 / 2:56 pm

    How funny- i’m working on the same set of posts- shoes this week, dresses next and “outfits” after that! It’s a lot of work doing all this shopping and research!!

    I love that you have a following of like minded women- comfort but not at the expense of fashion. CoffeeAddict’s comment about how she’ll choose style over comfort is my “normal”! It’s important to feel like yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. Your confidence in these situations can be wrecked if you’re feeling like a slob!

  6. ParisGrrl
    April 20, 2011 / 3:36 pm

    Sometimes I pack jeans, other times I don’t…but I may have a meltdown when I wear out a pair of black no-wrinkle palazzo pants that have become a staple on trips and beyond. And I have an Anne Klein sweater that’s such a workhorse that I’ve just ordered another one. I did spring for a new wardrobe for my first trip to France, and I’m glad I did–it was a chance to try a new look, and has since become the backbone of my every day wardrobe. I’m also starting to collect “travel fabric” pieces, as irons are not always readily available in Europe and they’re great for just-don’t-want-to-iron days in general.

  7. April 20, 2011 / 3:54 pm

    My basics are black. and knits.
    I pack jeans too…dark wash denim.

    I always pack a pashmina shawl for the cold blasts of air conditioners which I seem to sit below when traveling!

    And a waterproof light coat for rain.

    You must be looking forward to your trip.

  8. April 20, 2011 / 4:25 pm

    I wear black leggings on the plane and take a pair of skinny black pants and a pair of regular cut black pants for most weather. If the weather promises to get warmer, I take crop black pants. While I have never taken jeans, you and your copains have convinced me I missing out and I will try out a pair on my next trip this fall.

  9. April 20, 2011 / 4:50 pm

    We are vacationing in Big Sur in mid May along with a conference related to my husband’s work in San Francisco. For Big Sur, I will definitely wear jeans. I have some light cotton jackets I can layer with that are chic enough to make me feel well dressed.

    For the conference, I have a couple of silk jersey dresses (DVF) that are the new midi length. They will pack totally flat. I’ll take heels for the dresses and a combo of light weight hiking shoes and Toms and flats for Big Sur.

  10. Pam @ over50feeling40
    April 20, 2011 / 11:44 am

    I agree with you on jeans…I never travel without them and always wear them..usually on the trip as well as while there!! I would not take linen, because it wrinkles so badly. I like some of the Traveler’s line from Chicos because you can abuse these peices any way and they come out looking great!! I don’t usually take dresses either unless I am going to an event that demands one!!

  11. coffeeaddict
    April 20, 2011 / 11:57 am

    I can’t imagine a wardrobe without a simple dark wash straight leg or slight bootcut jeans. Paired with a blazer and stilletos and you can get away with wearing them at a cocktail party!
    As for linen pants, I would agree with Pam on the wrinkle factor, but I’ve discovered last year that a linen/viscose blend is just as cool to wear and practically doesn’t wrinkle.
    As for skirt vs. dress: hmm, I prefer sirts andd dresses over pants, so maybe another skirt or a simple shirt dress instead of another pair of linen pants?

  12. LuxeBytes
    April 20, 2011 / 12:10 pm

    I usually travel with one pair of black slacks and one black skirt. One pair of Cons, a pair of Repettos, and if absolutely necessary, heels. Maybe five tops plus a few scarves. For anywhere, for any amount of time.

    I can’t believe your trip is so soon!! Lucky you!

  13. Paula
    April 20, 2011 / 12:58 pm

    my off-white Armor Lux coat comes always with me. Together with the matching hat. It is leightweight and the colour white tells … well, what does it tell? A stylish purse is also a must. I don’t want to walk around like any tourist (sneakers, fleece shirt, backbag). I will never forget our visit at the Lingotto in Torino – I wore my navy capri pants, ballerina flats and the LV monogramme Neverfull and I felt so italienne. 🙂
    You could say I chose style over comfort.

  14. April 20, 2011 / 8:24 pm

    I totally agree about jeans, and I’d never travel without them; I usually wear them on my travel days to spare the extra weight in my luggage, but I always bring one pair. My go-to jeans are my dark wash straight legs that can be tucked into boots, worn with flats or pumps, or even rolled up to capri length on warmer days. I don’t understand why people get worked up about jeans taking longer to dry, either. With a minimal amount of planning it won’t interfere with either dressing or traveling to allow a pair of jeans a day and a half to drip dry, and if that’s too long, there’s always the launderette. I almost never wash my jeans when I travel anyway, unless I go somewhere with lots of cigarette smoke.

  15. April 20, 2011 / 8:58 pm

    Pam – the few linen/linen blend pieces I own are more casual and designed to wear a bit rumpled.

    coffeaddict – it’s true, jeans are appropriate for such a wide variety of occasions these days. I’m just not a dress person, so don’t bother with them on vacation either.

    LuxeBytes – wow, you do travel very pared down! Can you wear your slacks even in warmer climates? I can’t wear skirts without hosiery usually, which is why I go with a pair of capris for hotter days.

    Paula – but your ensemble sounds comfortable as well. I’m going to write next week about the whole “looking like a tourist” concept.

    Toby Wollin – sounds like a good travel wardrobe!

  16. April 20, 2011 / 9:20 pm

    MJ – yes, your situation is a bit different due to your work clothing requirements. For travel, we want easy care styles and fabrics. I love the Eileen Fisher pieces because of this.

    Who Moved My Birkin – yes, they really do! The silk jersey especially…

    Duchesse – packing for tropics is a whole ‘nother thing. In that kind of heat, comfort is crucial.

    denise – cool, am looking forward to seeing your take on travel clothing! Yes, it’s tough work, but someone’s gotta do it… 😉

    ParisGrrl – I know what you mean about those go-to pieces. Always good to be on the lookout for replacements, even if you don’t need quite yet.

    Susan Tiner – NYDJ’s are great, aren’t they? Comfortable too!

    hostess – you too? I always seem to end up positioned right underneath the a/c!! A pashmina is very handy for travel, can use for a blanket on the plane, a scarf, a wrap in a chilly hotel room…

  17. April 20, 2011 / 9:32 pm

    Deb – I take jeans because I wear them a lot normally. If you don’t, no need to feel that you have to pack them.

    Susan – Oh, Big Sur is one of my very favorite places!! If you haven’t been there before, know that it’s mostly *quite* casual, and in May will get damp and chilly when the fog rolls in. San Francisco too might be on the cool side, so jackets or cardigans you can wear with the dresses may come in handy.

    Kady – honestly, I don’t know. They’re knit I think, and a viscose (rayon) blend fabric. The texture is what I’ve always seen described as “crepe” though. Yes, the tropics are different entirely. When we go to Mexico, I take along a few pieces that only get worn there.

    Audi – agree! And for the cigarette smoke, take along a travel-sized bottle of Febreeze, spray generously and hang overnight. On our first trip to Paris when everyone was still smoking in cafes, this was a lifesaver!

  18. Susan Tiner
    April 20, 2011 / 3:50 pm

    I would not have agreed about taking jeans but now that I have my glorious new NYDJs I can absolutely imagine being very happy traveling with them!

  19. April 20, 2011 / 11:52 pm

    Not about clothes but wanted to tell you a GF who showed me her custom-made earplugs (from her otolaryngologist). They block far more noise than the drugstore kind, she sleeps serenely wherever she travels.

  20. April 21, 2011 / 1:03 am

    I just bring my regular stuff:). Too picky…And 7s rule.

  21. Kady
    April 20, 2011 / 7:36 pm

    (1) Are the Eileen Fisher pants made of a true crepe material (woven) or is it a knit w/ crepe hand?

    (2) I am actually one of those people that has a “vacation wardrobe.” To be fair though, that is largely b/c the only places I go on vacation are tropical/sub-tropical, and a very different climate from where I live in real-life. On the good side, it means that the packing is relatively light, since all I ever bring are tanks and shorts and sundresses.

  22. Anonymous
    April 21, 2011 / 3:42 am

    I wish I could travel as light as Luxebytes, but you sound as if you’re doing pretty well yourself, Pseu. I envy your having found a skirt. I considered taking one of my Pendleton 4 season pencil skirts, but they just seem too structured for the rest of my packing, so it’s palazzo pants for evenings. Dark stretch denim jeans for the plane, as I haven’t found any knits that don’t bag at the knees after too much sitting. I’m ambivalent about capris. I know they’re seen everywhere, but I can’t get beyond the thought that they look too…oh, middle class American (silly, because what am I, after all?). But you said black, not a bright Liz Claiborne shade, and I’ll probably be regretting them. I took baggy linen on our last trip to Venice, but I feel more tailored this time. Do people really was slacks and tops in bathroom sinks? I was planning on doing socks and underwear, but can’t imagine even JJill wearever fabric drying quickly enough.

  23. Marguerite
    April 21, 2011 / 8:38 am

    I am traveling right now and just sink washed my EF stretch crepe pants. Hang dried in about 1 day. Will touch up with the hotel room iron. Also packed EF black knit jean style pant and dark wash jeans. A mix of dark tops for warmer or cooler days, short unlined trench jacket, black cardigan and packable rain coat just in case. Hope I’m covered. On to Paris tomorrow, where it’s unseasonably warm, but lovely.

  24. April 21, 2011 / 6:01 pm

    I’m in Venice on May 14 th, might we overlap?

  25. April 21, 2011 / 8:39 pm

    Duchesse – good to know, thanks!!

    LPC – but from what I’ve seen on your blog, you pack very judiciously.

    Marie – I know what you mean about capris, there’s that Palm Beach matron association…I may not take at all, just stick with the lightweight ankle pants. I’ve washed my knit tops in the sink, but this will be my first time packing bottoms that give me the option. Who knows, they may not need it.

    Marguerite – sounds like you have it covered quite well! Are you finding you need the jacket for warmth?

    Tabitha – alas! No, we’ll be in Venice May 27-29.

  26. April 21, 2011 / 11:03 pm

    For warm-weather destinations, I always pack a bunch of Babette separates. The fabrics are fabulous (totally wrinkleproof) and the styling’s elegant and distinctive. You really can wash these clothes in the sink, roll in a towel, hang overnight, and wear in the morning. Babette also makes some terrific raincoats. Not inexpensive, but I’m still wearing pieces I bought 10 years ago. or search eBay.

    I wear jeans all the time at home, but don’t like to travel with them. I’d rather use the packing space for extra shoes. I always need four or five pairs, even for a weekend getaway (have to change them a couple times a day or I’m in misery).

    No capris, ever! And I’m afraid I’m not an Eileen Fisher fan, either. Boring colors, and the cuts just don’t work on my body.

  27. April 21, 2011 / 11:35 pm

    Nancy – OMG, the Babette’s stuff is SO cute!!! And they have a store in Santa Monica!! I can tell some of the silhouettes might not work for me, but some definitely would. I’m going to check them out tomorrow.

    I think EF pieces tend to work for those of us who a) wear more neutrals and b) are a bit curvier.

  28. April 22, 2011 / 12:56 pm

    Deja Pseu, We made our first trip to Big Sur last August—and we are already returning, so I’m prepared for dressing casual and warm when needed with layers to remove as the day becomes warmer. In San Francisco, we will be mostly indoors. I’ve traveled there in summer before and had to go shopping for a jacket.

    Big Sur has been isolate for almost a month by road closures (rock slide on one side and road collapse on the other.) I’ve been watching the local blogs closely and the highway to the north has just reopened.

  29. April 22, 2011 / 1:10 pm

    I have a black skirt, pants and cardigan from Exclusively Missook that are perfect for travel – they roll up compactly in my suitcase, and they’re wrinkle-free.

    On summer trips I also pack several elastic-waist skirts, all in silk or rayon print. Very easy to roll up, wrinkle-resistant. I wear them with solid-color tee shirts.

    Jeans – yes – usually I wear them on board, since that way they don’t take up space in my luggage.

  30. April 22, 2011 / 4:16 pm

    Susan – oh good, then you know how changeable the weather can be there!

    Aunt Snow – I’ve seen a few Missook pieces at Nordstrom and they’re very nice! Wish our local stores carried more of them.

    Marguerite – thank you so much! Happy Easter to you too and do enjoy Paris, whatever the weather.

    Beryl – thank you, those are some great shots! I love that the woman “of a certain age” in the second picture is wearing not only a shorter skirt (not mini) but booties too.

  31. April 22, 2011 / 6:33 pm

    I usually take my regular stuff with a couple of exceptions. I go to a conference annually held at a resort in July. Due to the A/C, I need some sort of jacket, but my regualr stuff is either too traditional business or winter looking. I have a couple of casual jackets I wear only there.

    I love Eileen fisher and have a number of pieces, but rarely will wear an entire outfit. Sweaters and tanks work, as do some jackets. Skirts are OK, but I usually prefer other manufacturers trousers. Many pieces seem to be made for someone with wider shoulders and/or a smaller cup size.

    I had a colleague (active duty millitary) who wore nothing but Misook wen she traveled out of uniform. She talked my into a few pieces, but I never liked the “feel” of the fabric. I ultimately consigned them and used the proceeds to bu other things.

  32. April 22, 2011 / 6:46 pm

    I’m fairly particular about how I do laundry, but I have used hotel laundry and drycleaning with excellent results – even in Cambodia.

  33. Anonymous
    April 22, 2011 / 8:11 pm

    i’ll reserve my other “must” item for your “tops” post. my black gored, knee-length synthetic skirt is my travel must have. it’s as comfy as the day is long and does the obligatory dress up or down. the swirl effect makes me feel extra special on the dress up with tights or hose. dressed down, it looks ez, breezy and free: great with a t during the day. if i have to pick one, i prefer the gored swirl to the straight skirt, cz it seems to extend my party possibilities…

  34. Marguerite
    April 22, 2011 / 1:52 pm

    Hello Femme, I’m on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris Nord as I’m writing this. The weather has been incredible. I have not had on more than a sweater since arriving three days ago. I probably could have packed lighter, but then would risk an anxiety attack worrying about what I did not bring! But that’s just me. Happy Easter dear Femme and all your readers.

  35. April 24, 2011 / 2:15 pm

    DocP – yes, a/c in summer time sometimes requires special handling! And I hear you about hotel laundries, which we’ll need to use for le monsieur’s clothing at some point (he insists on traveling with cotton, button-front shirts) but those services can be expensive, motivating my desire to hand wash whatever I can.

    Anonymous – your skirt sounds perfect!

  36. April 25, 2011 / 2:13 am

    It’s so exciting that your trip is getting closer — I’ve been so busy I thought you might have left already. Based on this post alone I’m guessing you’re more than ready to be there….

    All the g-d time I spend finding the things in the best color etc you bet I don’t want to travel wearing things I hate/don’t fit that well/are a terrible color on me.

    I wear my day-to-day pieces (work and/or casual, depending on where I’m going) as well.

    [This is assuming an average vacation, not some rugged developing world adventure- or humanitarian-based travel.]

  37. May 2, 2011 / 12:09 am

    I now try not to worry about being “cute” on the road. I always travel in a carryon bag, so stretchy jeans, black and white tee tops, cardigans and a skirt all work fine. I throw in a big bag of Stella and Dot and I’m good to go!

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