Clothing is a highly personal area, even when it comes to travel. We all have our own taste, style and set of likes and dislikes when it comes to what we like to wear.
I have four criteria for the clothes I wear for traveling:
- They must be comfortable (for me).
- They must be easy to pack and maintain.
- They must be (somewhat) stylish, and adaptable to any situation.
- They must be made from natural fibers (other than outerwear)
I hate tight clothes. I tortured myself with tight clothing when I was younger, but now I want things loose, or clothes that move with me. The thought of wearing a pair of jeans these days just about does me in, not because I don’t like them or the way they look, but because they are invariably going to be tight somewhere on me. Same for tight t-shirts, dresses and other pieces of clothing. I also greatly dislike polyester, nylon or any other non-natural material except for maybe a small amount of Lycra for stretch, or a nylon outer coat or jacket). I like my clothes to breathe.
My favorite traveling pants for warmer weather these days are J. Jill’s Easy Linen Cropped Pants (I wear them every day here in Hawai’i). For cool weather travels I love L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants (90% cotton – 10% Lycra) – they’re comfortable like yoga pants, but look a bit more upscale. Both of these pants can be worn casually, but add a nice sweater and scarf to the Perfect Fit Pants or a tunic and shawl to the linen cropped pants and I’m ready for dinner at a nice restaurant or some other dressier occasion. Neither type of pants, when rolled, takes up much room in a suitcase.
Linen is a perfect travel fabric. It’s expected to wrinkle. I never have to worry about anything linen being ironed, or how it looks coming out of a suitcase because after only a few minutes of wear it softens up and gets wrinkled anyway. Wash it, dry it, even line dry it, and it’s ready to go. And, linen breathes – it stays comfortable no matter how hot it gets.
Same for most cotton knits – they don’t wrinkle, almost always come out of a suitcase looking great, and require minimal care when I’m on the road. I could wash most linen and knit items out by hand if I had to, but thankfully I’ve always been able to locate a washing machine, or reasonably-priced laundry service.
I do have other cotton pants, but they’re not as easy to maintain and wrinkle easily, so I don’t often wear them when I travel.
For cooler weather or winter travel I typically pack a couple of sweaters (pullover and cardigan), maybe a nice sweatshirt (no logos), some long-sleeve knit tops, and a couple of jackets. In the summer my tops are a few cotton t-shirts, a dressy linen tunic or two, a couple of casual linen tops and a lightweight jacket. I don’t have one now, but would also pack a longer dress or skirt if I found one I liked. I have a black quilted parka that I’m technically supposed to be able to repack into one of its pockets, but I’ve never been able to accomplish that task. Still, it squeezes down pretty small, and comes out unwrinkled and ready to wear, and is quite warm (I also have a sleeveless vest in the same material). With my cool-weather clothes I try to keep to a somewhat unified color scheme, which is black, white/cream, and shades of blue, including denim. It makes it easy to pull things together and accessorize with a scarf or such. My warm weather clothing tends to be more colorful, but it takes up less space and most pieces can do double duty (i.e go together with more than one other thing). I’m not much of a jewelry person but I do accessorize with scarves when I need to kick things up a bit.
I’ve really dropped the ball lately though when it comes to finding comfortable shoes. The shoes I took to Japan in March were cute and fit well, but were extremely uncomfortable for walking more than a short distance (Brett had the same complaint about his shoes). So, before undertaking any future travels I am going to have to do some research and find something different. The criteria for shoes will be the same as for clothing: they must be comfortable, especially for walking long distances; they must be easy to care for; they must be somewhat stylish and adaptable to different situations; and other than sneakers they must be leather (because it breathes). It’s going to be a challenge though because I have “difficult” feet. Even after foot surgery to remove my bunions, my feet are still wide, I have high arches, and little to no padding on the balls of my feet. I also like shoes I can kick off easily, as we don’t wear shoes inside our home, even if that’s just a hotel room.
One thing I try to avoid are items of clothing that are for travel only, or primarily marketed for travel. First, those items tend to cost more, but I want to own clothes that I would be happy to wear any where even when I’m not traveling. My current cool weather travel clothing doesn’t get worn here on Kaua’i (for obvious reasons), but every piece I have is something that I would be more than happy to wear every day.
Next year’s BIG Mystery Adventure™ is going to require us to carry more clothes than usual, mainly because we will be transitioning seasons. Much of my current Hawai’i wardrobe is nearing the end of its lifespan (almost everything is more than four years old, and has been worn constantly), so next year I’ll be working on replacing things with items that I can take along on our journey. I’m in good shape with cool/cold weather items though, so hopefully in the end my clothing expenses won’t add up too much.
That’s pretty much what goes in my suitcase other than my underwear, socks and sleepwear, which I won’t detail here ☺️. I’d love to hear from you what you like to wear whenever you travel!