Two Skirts. Twelve Days. One Carry On.

June 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

Summer travel is upon us! After chatting with my dear friend Megan about what to wear while traveling, I’ve come up with some travel tips for putting together outfits on the road. This post is dedicated to her. Hi Meggie!

I personally have a few guidelines for what makes it in the suitcase and what doesn’t. My philosophy on travel attire may be different than yours, in which case, you may hate all of this. So before diving in, I feel it’s worth explaining how I personally travel.

suitcase 1: the goods

I like to have lots of flexibility to allow for how I feel, what the weather is like and what attire is expected. I also don’t like packing more than I need. Frankly, I like fitting everything into a carry-on sized suitcase, whether the trip is three days or three weeks. You could say I pride myself in it. But only because I know anyone can do it with a little planning. And lastly, but probably first and foremost, I want to be comfortable. This means investing in good shoes that look good with dresses, shorts, white jeans and skirts. That can get you up the Spanish Steps and back but also won’t be frowned upon a the four course meal you have reservations for that night. Big cities are used to tourists, they don’t expect you to show up in heels and an updo, I promise. Yes, you should want to look nice while traveling, but it’s not a fashion show. You’ll be hating your life if you try to traipse around in cute, uncomfortable shoes all day then have blisters the rest of the trip. Now while I certainly aim for shoes, as well as outfits, that can make it from day to night, I recognize that, being out and about all day, I don’t “dress up” for dinner like I might if I were at home. At least when I get dressed for the day I prepare not to be able to go back to the hotel, spruce up and put on my heels. (I don’t even bother packing heels, but me and heels are a different story for a different day). More on shoes later.

Without much more ado, I give you The Ten Rules:

1.) Basics
2.) Scarves and Cardigans
3.) Basics
4.) A neutral purse to hold your water bottle and little umbrella
5.) Basics
6.) Comfortable shoes
7.) Basics
8.) Outfits that go from day to night
9.) Basics
10.) Basics

Simple right? Easy. Go to it.
“Ok, not so fast,” you’re thinking. “Basics? Groan. Like what? You can’t look cute wearing white shirts, khakis and brown shoes every day, that sounds like a school uniform! and I need to look cute for all the pictures we’ll be taking!” A school uniform actually isn’t that far off, if you think about it. The basics are worth investing in and taking on every trip. Once you have some staples you can rely on, then you can go from there with cute accessories that –conveniently –take up no space in your suitcase.

Here is my honest, uninspired, call-it-boring JUST THE BASICS suitcase:

1.) On the TOP: Three white shirts and two black shirts, plus some camisoles. Really, you want as many shirts as days you’ll be on the trip unless you’ll be laundering. Everything else can get worn multiple times. That is, unless you get overzealous with the pasta sauce…

2.) On the BOTTOM: White jeans, a black skirt, a khaki colored skirt or pair of shorts

3.) On the FEET: a pair of comfortable, neutral-colored walking shoes like Rainbow flip flops or Sperry Top Siders and a pair of black flats.

4.) To CARRY: A black clutch and a neutral colored-day purse big enough for your travel book, cardigan or scarf and water bottle

5.) To ACCESSORIZE: Bring as many colorful scarves, belts, cardigans, earrings and necklaces you can stuff. The point being, if everything you’re bringing goes together, you don’t have to plan outfits. Any top you pull out will coordinate with any bottoms.

6.) To IRON: Pack an empty spray bottle. Hotel irons are handy things (almost as essential as a free hote breakfast buffet) but their steam situation/sprayer scenario is not to be trusted.

Now that I’ve given you an example of a perfectly acceptable suitcase that will last you as many days as long as you have white shirts, let’s take it to the next level. We will call that Level One. Graduation. Welcome to Level Two. Here in Level Two, we have colorful basics.
Tips for Level Two:
1.) Pick a color scheme. Khaki, white and black are not too fun, I get that. But they are what we like to call a color scheme. If you don’t want to go that neutral, pick another color scheme so that all your bottoms match all your tops.Try to ensure that all the scarves, belts and earrings you bring can be worn with any of your tops or bottoms. For example, turquoise and coral, (along with white, black and brown of course) are a popular color combination right now. Navy and yellow are always classic, especially with a little red thrown in. Green and pink also coordinate with yellow easily and look great with black. The lovely thing about picking a color scheme is that not only will all your accessories go with your basics (they’re basics, they should go with all your accessories) but it means your accessories will all go with your other accessories! Whoa, now you have combination overload.
2.) Black and brown can go to together. Black and khaki most certainly do. You probably should still be sure your belt and your shoes at least work together, but rock that brown purse with your black shirt. If this makes you squeamish, better reason to consider tip number 3.
3.) Gold is the new black. Back in Level One, my friends, all your outfits instantly transferred to evening dinner attire with black flats and a black clutch. Gold clutch, gold flats, same song, new verse.

That’s it. Level one. Black, white, khaki. Level two. Colorful basics. Coordinating accessories. Solid colors. Let’s go back and take a closer look at the goodies we packed in our suitcase up there.

Day to Night Dress I like cotton and linen. It breathes and irons easily.

Black Blouse This one is from Madewell and can dress up your white jeans and simple khaki shorts.

Colored Cotton Shirt Madewell has some fun basic t-shirts right now.

Colored Blouse goes as well in the evening with your black skirt as it does with your white jeans and khaki shorts during the day.

Colorful Cotton Cardigan (or three) I’m a fan of cardigans over the ever-stylish, ultra versatile jean jacket, simply because they’re easier to pack more of and stuff into that neutral purse you’re carrying every day.

White Cotton shirt (or two or twelve). White shirts are really important. They don’t have to be expensive to be good. Some of my favorite basic cotton shirts, I got 6-8 years ago at Old Navy. You can’t go wrong with the standard Polo Ralph Lauren oxford button-down either. Find a brand and style that works with your body and stock up. This one is from American Eagle.

White Cotton Cardigan Same story. I have a great J. Crew cardigan, I also have a great 6 year old Gap cardigan I like better. Look for one with a tight knit and thick seams.

Black Skirt Not much to say here. It’s worth investing in a classic black skirt.

Khaki shorts Good, weighty khaki, not poplin, is worth investing in. Khaki may be one of the few materials that in my experience, you get what you pay for. It looks nice and when dried right, can go without ironing.

Colored Cotton Skirt Cotton, again. Breathes, irons easily. Dress it up with that black blouse.

White Jeans I hope this current trend never dies. White jeans are the new black pants.

Gold Sandals Gold is the new black OR brown.  Mind blowing. I love it. Invest in some comfortable ones: Sam Edleman, Bernardo, Berkenstock and Jack Rogers are all comfortable, solidly made and have very cute gold sandals.

Gold Flats Sperry, Tory Burch. Easily day to night as well. You don’t need both gold flats and gold sandals, but I endorse both.

Black Flats Find some. Treat them well. Vera Wang Lavender has lovely ones. Cole Haans are always fantastic. Hit up Neiman Marcus Last Call and Norstrom Rack.

Brown Sandals Same brands as the gold sandals above. While they’re not dressy and I’d likely not flipflop into dinner in them, I swear by my Rainbows. They’ve been good to me. You could get by on this trip without these if your gold sandals are reliable and comfortable, but these help that great brown woven belt work so well.

Brown purse Or grey, or greige. Big enough to fit your travel book, umbrella and water bottle

Black Clutch Easy to pack. Dresses up anything.

Colorful Necklace In your chosen color scheme, of course. This one is from Anthropologie but necklaces, like scarves, are a great place to go big on the trendy low on the price. Francesca’s and Forever 21 have great jewelry. If they only last as long as the trend does, who cares? Isn’t that the point? You won’t feel bad only wearing them once or twice if you didn’t break the bank to buy them.

White earrings A good chandelier earring in a neutral color also dresses up a very simple outfit.

Colorful earrings Day to night. A punch of color for your neutrals. Colorful studs are easy to find and easy to pack. No excuses, kids.

Colorful Scarf Add color, throw it on in the chilly museum or restaurant. Stashes in that basic purse easily.

Black Pashmina Find one. Treat it well. Don’t leave home with out it. Norstrom Rack, Neiman’s Last Call.

Brown Belt not essential but may help those basic, comfy flats of yours tie with the rest of your outfit. Leather is worth investing in. This is where outlet malls score big.

Colorful Belt another punch of that color within your color scheme. Those khakis and white shirt just got a whole lot more interesting.

Gold Belt I don’t think I need to say it again.
Now that our bags are packed. Let’s see what we can do with this suitcase. It’s not very full at all, but I bet we can make it go pretty far now that we know what we’re doing….
Suitcase Number One made on Polyvore.
Twelve different outfits is not too shabby, my friends. As you can see, not all my tops go with all my bottoms, but each is able to be worn in multiple ways, with either purse and different shoes. The accessories work with everything and each look could go from the park to the restaurant with no problem. As a personal preference, I have to ensure either a scarf or cardigan comes along with each outfit, not so much for color but primarily so we can go from the hot street to the chilly museum with no problem.
Let’s review:
Good shoes, day to night
White shirt
Black Scarf
Black skirt
Accessories in a color scheme that go with everything
Cardigans & Scarves
Stay tuned for Suitcase Number Two. Next time we’re going out for a few days with just what you could fit in a tote.
Bon Voyage!

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