The ultimate travel capsule, what to wear to the airport and the one thing you should never not take with you on holiday
By Mary Holland
As a freelance writer who was on assignment in Peru, Chile, Mexico, Iceland, China, Denmark, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Scotland, Slovenia, Nevis, Charleston and France this year, I spend more than half the year moving between different countries and climates, selecting outfits from a small bag of clothes. I can find an outfit in a tiny bag, yet when I’m selecting a look from my permanent wardrobe, I feel overwhelmingly indecisive. Here’s what I’ve learned, and have had to unlearn, so far…
The carry-on helps you edit
When l pack for an upcoming trip, I have a highly edited wardrobe selection. This is partly because I only ever take a carry-on. I don’t do this because airlines now make you pay for checked bags, but because it makes traveling a lot swifter. Not only is it easier to lug a small bag through various countries on different trains, planes and automobiles, but it gives me a limited amount of space, which doesn’t allow for odd items of clothing. When I pack for a trip (be it one week or three) I am as cut-throat as Anna Wintour on the September issue. I don’t have space to pack three pairs of jeans so I only take one. My good pair. I can’t fit outfits that will only debut once, so I leave anything too bold and crazy at home. (Sixty percent of my bag is inevitably navy. Boring you might say. But smart.) When I’m in a different country, getting dressed is easy because I’ve already preselected my day-to-day outfits. I don’t fuss about deciding on what I feel like wearing because I don’t have enough outfits to choose from. It’s the good jeans or no jeans at all.
One bag, multiple outfits
Of course, I don’t take the same travel wardrobe on every trip. A clutch bag won’t serve much of a purpose in the bush and safari pants certainly won’t cut it in Tokyo. So, I have two travel wardrobes, one winter and one summer. Unless I’m going somewhere that requires fancy or outdoorsy outfits, my seasonal travel wardrobes are usually the same. For winter, the basics are always: good sneakers, two sweaters, one cardigan, one pair of high-waisted pants, one pair of jeans, a couple of shirts and plain T-shirts, one warm coat, one small jacket, one really good scarf. All are dark and all go together. For summer, I’m a little more extravagant – cotton dresses don’t take up as much space as wool jerseys, which means I have more space to go ‘wild’. I’m looking at you, leopard print frock.
No gym pants on the plane, please
And then there’s the airport outfit. I know, I know, who cares what you wear to the airport? Actually I do. I care very much. There is a method to airport dressing and its a method for a reason. Never wear white, always wear a pair of comfy pants that have an expandable waistline or space for you to move about (but never leggings, a plane is not a gym), take a breathable jersey and scarf (cashmere perhaps), a light foldable jacket that can double up as a pillow, two pairs of socks and always, always wear easy-to-slip-on-and-off sneakers.
When I think about my airport/travel wardrobe, I can’t help but be impressed by how concise it is. It has such a clear vision with such a clear selection of go-to items. I never wanted to be one of those people who has a go-to blazer and a go-to pair of jeans, but the reality is that they’re ‘go-to’ for a reason. They fit well, they make me feel good and they go with a bunch of other things. And yes, while it may seem boring at times, my traveling wardrobe has helped me separate the items that I truly love from the items that I don’t. For now, this streamlined style will do.