What makes for perfect travel clothing? We’ll explore seven factors; ingredients for gals to create the ideal wardrobe for travel. (Guys, you can get a few tips from this article too, by applying these general principles to your own travel entourage).
Think of the contents of your luggage as a cookbook; you need to choose the right ingredients, and ideally they’ll all mix and meld into a variety of recipes that will take you from mountainsides to cafes to clubs to beaches – and beyond, all in style.
The more ways you can wear it, the more it belongs in your bag! From sari skirts that you can wear a dozen ways (and even use as beach blankets), to scarves that double as belts, laundry lines, hair ties, and more – look for multi-functional items.
The latest of these in my wardrobe is the Chrysalis Cardi by enCircled – a home-grown sustainable Canadian company. (Go Canada!) It can be worn six different ways – or more, depending on your creativity. It’s stylish, and incredibly comfortable.
You need to wear a top underneath it to make most styles work, and most styles can’t be worn underneath a jacket (thus, it’s only useful for warmer climates). And it’s not as quick-drying (see ingredient #4) as I’d like it to be; requiring up to 24 hours to air dry if it’s inside without air circulation.
But I’ve come to grips with these concessions, and the multi-use and incredible comfort factor make up for them.
Choose two to three complimentary colours – and stick with them. Thus, you can reach into your bag blindfolded and pull out an outfit that looks like it came off the runway. This increases versatility dramatically, with exponentially more combinations of outfits at your fingertips.
Everything in my bag must pass the wrinkle test: I bunch a bit into my fist, hold it for a few seconds, and release. If there are wrinkles, it stays in the store. Ironing is rarely an option on the road, and a hasty early-morning pack job can ruin your wardrobe if it’s not wrinkle-free.
At some point we all end up hand-washing and overnight-drying our clothes on the road. Thus you need to choose a material that dries quickly, inside or outside, regardless of the temperature.
Canadian travel colleague Dalene Heck of Hecktic Travels extols the virtues of the basic short-sleeved cotton dress. In a month she can travel from the Arctic circle to the tropics so she pays special attention to multi-functionality with layering. In warm climes the dress alone is perfect, and in colder weather she wears layers underneath the dress (and adds scarves) to keep warm.
The enCircled Chrysalis Cardi isn’t cheap. I’ve spent years replenishing my travel wardrobe with cheap and cheerful items, and I’ve since discovered (on all fronts) that you get what you pay for.
I reinforced this lesson this when Anatomie Wear sent me a couple of outfits when I was in Switzerland in 2012. Anatomie makes designer travel clothing for women, and again, it ain’t cheap. I was ambivalent when they first contacted me – until I put their stuff to the test. To this day, the items they sent me remain my favourite pieces of clothing, and they’re in great condition after having been worn constantly for 1.5 years. They tick all the boxes above, and they’ve survived the likes of getting caught and pulled on rogue nails, and even a near-fatal accident that involved an ungraceful pavement plow on my part.
I’ve since bought multiple Anatomie outfits that now comprise the majority of my travel wardrobe.
Style and fit is important to me, and when you get a quality item, it lasts considerably longer. Financially, it’s not as clear cut as you might think; I can buy more cheap clothing more often (which can be difficult in some countries), or I can select a few quality pieces that last. Having formerly practiced cheap-and-cheerful, I’m now in the less-is-more club.
Your shoes say a lot about you, so make sure you’re communicating the right message. Shoes also take up a lot of space, so again, you need to combine multi-functionality with style and practicality. Read up on the only two pairs of shoes you need for travel here.
When I started traveling full-time, I filled my pack with inexpensive but practical items that satisfied the quick-drying and wrinkle tests, but little more. I hated it. I was uninspired by my wardrobe, and I felt ugly and frumpy all the time. I realized that what we wear is part of our persona and can affect our mood; as such, I pay attention to looking good on the road with practical and stylish clothing choices, and it has made all the difference.
You don’t have to choose Anatomie Wear or enCircled to follow in my footsteps; simply follow the recipe above, and you can create your own perfect travel wardrobe that goes the distance – literally and figuratively.
Note: The author received some complimentary clothing from Anatomie in 2012, and more recently an enCircled Chrysalis Cardi. There are some affiliate links in this post.