(Check out the new packing guide for warm weather)
1. Basic Blazer/Jacket
A blazer or jacket in a basic, neutral color (like black), should pair well with all the pieces in your set. A blazer is a classic silhouette which adds variety to your topper options, and can be styled with the sleeves pushed up for a more casual look. If it’s still too formal for your personal tastes, go with a lightweight jacket with a form-flattering cut instead. A cool leather moto-jacket is a fun choice here if that’s more your style.
Pack a sweater with a different neckline than the majority of your tops, simply for variety’s sake. This also allows you the option to dramatically change the way another top looks when paired over or under the sweater. Choose a basic color that will coordinate with any of the bottoms (read: pants, skirts, etc) as well as the jackets or cardigans (toppers) you bring. Avoid anything itchy, and try to pick one you’ll be able to launder easily.
3. Versatile Blouse
Choose a basic blouse (this one has a pin-dot pattern and an unexpected keyhole in back to dress it up) that will match any of the bottom options you pack. Solid colors work well here, but if you can find a subtle pattern with colors that will tie in several pieces, even better. Keep in mind the more tops you bring with sleeves, the longer your ‘toppers’ can go between washings (read: if your pits are exposed to your blazer, it’s gonna’ get stinky). Other benefits to sleeves: you’ll be more comfortable when you want to skip a topper, but the weather is too cold for a tank; they keep your shoulders protected from your heavy day-pack strap(s); and allow for more bra options.
4. Cardigan – Solid Color
A cardigan with a pop of color is a great way to bring some variety to your packing list. Be sure it can be paired with most of the bottoms and tops you’re bringing, and if you have any strong prints in your set (like the watercolor skirt in this one) using a complimentary cardigan is a great way to tie everything together. I like to pack my cardigan in my day pack (assuming I’m not already wearing it) to allow for layering adjustments as I transition from indoors, to outdoors, to public transportation, etc.
Think of your travel activities before packing your dress. Maxi dresses are a versatile pick that can transition well from day to night, but aren’t structured enough for a work setting. Be conscious of the length with maxi dresses or skirts to have the best shoe pairings. (If your dress is too long for flats, you might end up dragging your hem through the streets.) Like usual, you want to make sure you can wear your dress with most of your topper options, and one or two of your tops, but no need to match it to any of the bottoms. Add tights and/or leggings for warmth as needed.
6. Neutral Topper
Your last topper option should be a true neutral that goes with all your outfits. I chose an ecru cardigan with gold and silver accents, but another great choice would be a tan-colored trench or blazer. Just choose something in a different color than your blazer and cardigan mentioned above. Ideally, you would be able to wear it either under (or over) your blazer for extra warmth. Both my cardigan options have the same neckline and sleeve-length, but, ideally, yours would mix things up for more variety.
7. Patterned Blouse
A patterned blouse that can tie in the colors of a couple pairs of pants will be the perfect choice. Right now stripes are very popular. I love horizontal stripes with a boat-neckline, but my “bustiness” calls for a scoop neck option to keep me from looking too top-heavy. If you’re quite curvy and tend to avoid horizontal stripes, try chevron patterned stripes instead, which can be much more slimming. Also, pairing stripes with a topper (blazer or cardigan) can be a great way to tone down the widening effect of the stripes.
8. Shell/Sleeveless Blouse
A ruffly shell is a great way to add texture to your travel wardrobe. Lightweight, silky fabrics pack into tiny pieces of nothing, but can sometimes get wrinkly in transit. A shell is a great item for fabrics like this, since it will usually be worn under a topper. Plus, ruffles will also disguise wrinkles quite well. As always, be sure it will pair well with all your toppers and bottoms. I don’t need to keep mentioning that, do I?
9. Dressy T-Shirt or Blouse
I leave this up to you as to whether you go with a nice T-shirt or an additional blouse. Either way, try to have this one be a different color than your other tops, while still complimenting your toppers and pants. I decided on going the T-shirt route for the extra comfort, and since it’s long-sleeved, for the extra warmth. Plus this is one of those special tops that allows you to actually wear a comfortable bra. Which, at the end of a long day of traveling, can be the difference between jet-lag-zilla and merely tired.
Dark wash jeans can be dressed up or down, and sometimes can be mistaken for slacks. (A plus when dining at anti-jean-dress-code restaurants). My silhouette of choice is always slim-fit right now. Slim-fit pants have the benefit of looking great with flat shoes or high heels, without the drawback of dragging in the dirt when you’re wearing those flats. Plus they tuck into boots fairly well. I don’t find skin-tight-to-the-ankle to be quite as universally flattering as a semi-straight fit, but tall, slim girls can pull either off quite nicely.
11. Light-Colored Pants
I love white or winter white pants, and couldn’t resist these buttery-soft chords. Lots of women prefer tan, grey, or khaki colored slacks. To each her own. I usually stick with slim-fit, but cargo pants or boot-cut pants can be great options in a light color as well. Another variation here could be a bold color such as red, yellow, or mint. All are very popular choices, and would look excellent with the tops and topper options above.
When choosing your skirt, try to keep in mind the style of the dress you’ve already packed. Go for a different silhouette, color(s), texture, and possibly even length. I love maxi skirts, but since I already packed a maxi-dress, I opted for this knee-length number. When worn with tights, the warmth factor is acceptable, assuming I’ll be staying indoors or that the weather is fairly mild. If my trip was business-oriented, I would go with a pencil skirt for more structure.
13. Ponte Pants
Ponte is an amazing fabric blend that holds its shape beautifully. It’s phenomenally wrinkle resistant, and comfortable beyond all reason. Its my go-to option for the travel day itself, since you look put together when you arrive, and still have the sensation of having worn pajama pants all day. Not that I would know how that feels. …Clearly I’ve never done that. *Looks down. Smiles*
Black is my color of choice for this one, since it’s generally the most versatile.
14. Soft Camisole
I say ‘soft’ here, because I generally use this cami for my pajama top during the trip. Keep in mind that, as per the stinky-factor, you probably will only wear it in public immediately following a laundry day. Pick one that has a built-in bra or go for a tank-style top with wider straps so bra straps won’t show. Or just plan to only wear it under a topper so as to not have to worry about straps at all.
15. Nude Camisole
A lacy, skin-toned cami is a great staple for layering, and can be a sexy top option on it’s own. Ballet pink is a flattering shade for most women, and can look more polished than the beigey-tan color often found in the lingerie aisle.
Two honorable mentions in this packing list are the swimsuit, which I used as a black cami twice in the outfit options above; and the leggings. These are to be used as pajama bottoms, or to layer under any outfits for warmth. An alternative to leggings are yoga pants, or other comfy pants that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear in public. We also have the fairly critical winter coat, and I’m assuming you’ve already filled the pockets with a nice warm pair of gloves.
Scarves can completely change an outfit, and are incredibly versatile. Need some extra warmth? Check. Need a pillow? Check. Bad hair day? Swimsuit coverup? On and on this list could go. Plus, they’re very European. What’s not to love about that? Be sure to pick scarves that will pair well with virtually every outfit combination.
For underwear, I usually pack briefs in nude and black, and one thong in each. Choose bras that lay well under all your tops, one nude and one black. A comfortable sports bra is a good idea, as well. I also pack a pair of opaque Reversible SPANX Tights. They’re black on one side, and when you turn them inside out, you get charcoal grey (or chocolate, depending on which set you buy).
Shoes. So, so critical. In winter, I suggest a pair of ballet flats (I am in love with Cole Haan’s Air Bacaras, which have Nike Air technology for supreme comfort), some comfortable boots with good traction (bonus points if they compliment your purse/day bag), and a good pair of loafers or oxfords. Yes, those are all quite flat! If you’re traveling for business, swap the loafers for one pair of heels. Seriously: one. They should be comfortable, match everything, have good traction, and be light weight, if possible. After you decide on your most appropriate pair of high heels, put them on and wear them to the mall. Walk around for 6 hours (or as long as possible) – no sitting! and then decide if you still want to wear those shoes. You may want to burn them after this exercise, but my point is simple: heels look damn good, but they feel terrible. Some feel worse than others. Avoid those at all costs.
So, what am I forgetting? Is there one wardrobe essential that you couldn’t live without? Or an accessory that changed the way you travel?