When I travel I like to go to both the opera and a hiking trail. I’m not willing to bring separate clothes for each activity as that will take up too much space in my carry on bag. So how do I do it? By being sneaky and carefully selecting multi-use pieces. Each clothing item is selected because it can transition from a casual environment to a dressier one. I’ve made sure that the item follows the basic principles:
- Cut – usually classic
- Color – usually neutral
- A little bit of flair
- Not too dressy
- Not too casual
By staying with the above principles I have clothes that can form a foundation for my wardrobe. I can dress them up or down depending on the accessories I choose. I’m willing to spend a little extra to get a piece of clothing that can be used in an outdoor environment but is nice enough for going out. I’ve found that I wear these items more often – even at home – so it is a good investment. Here are some tips for choosing travel clothes:
Choose tailored pieces Vs casual cut pieces, Choose neutrals Vs brights
Tailoring can make a clothing item seem much more formal. A princess cut is usually more flattering than a loose cut. A belted coat appears more formal than a windbreaker. The picture below shows a good example of this principle. Both shirts are by Ex-Officio. Both are made of quick drying wicking material. The shirt on the left is a looser cut. The pockets are right on top of the bust. It will work if you are fairly flat. If you are curvy it will make you look frumpy and sloppy. Compare it to the shirt on the right, which has a cleaner look. The secret pocket is near the waist so bulges don’t show.
The jackets are another example of this principle. Both items are from Marmot, and both have taped seams. They can both handle storms. The jacket on the left has a casual cut and a bright color. It will appear less formal than the jacket on the right, which emphasizes the waist and has a neutral color.
Choose items with flair
I’m very careful about my selections on shoes, skorts, tops, and packs. Take a look at the picture below and see the amazing difference between the two sets of clothing choices. Both selections will work well for hiking, but the second is acceptable for dinner in a restaurant. I have chosen a modest top Vs a tight casual one, and added a scarf for flair. The scarf can be stored in the pack during the actual hike. I’ve chosen a skort Vs shorts. I’ve also chosen a packable day pack for the hike. While hiking, the cross body bag, snacks and water can be stored in the packable day pack. At the end of the trail, the day pack and empty water bottle can be stored in the cross body bag. I’ve also chosen light hiking shoes that look – dare I say it? Girly. Compare them to the training shoes. Yet both will work on the trail!
Not too dressy
Choosing items that are too fancy prevents you from using them in multiple situations. Take a look at the two dresses below. One has gold shoulder buttons and an organza skirt. It just doesn’t work in casual situations. The more classically cut jersey dress on the right is very plain (except for the color). It can go from beach cover up, to cafe, to evening out.
Oh please, no zip off pants!
I’m sorry, but zip off pants are ugly and only suited for the backcountry. They only look OK when the legs are zipped off. Consider roll up pants instead. They look very close to normal and can be worn in nicer situations
Careful Choices have benefits
As you can see from the pictures, careful clothing selections can really impact the power of your capsule wardrobe. It is worth while spending the time and money to get clothing that can be worn across a range of situations. Do you have any hints for powering your wardrobe?
Very well done! It was super helpful to see the comparisons side by side….a lightbulb moment for me! Thank you.
I am a very wardrobe challenged person, so you are such a blessing sharing your insight. thank you very much. Extremely helpful I now have a focus.
You make some very good points but in the example with the hiking shoes… that second pair of shoes is in no way a trail shoe. You’re far better off bring a proper hike shoe and keeping slim flats in your bag.
Cindy Heazlit said:
The second pair of shoes are Merrell running flats. I have trail hiked (and run) in them many many times. They work great for day hikes. Many people falsely assume that they need hiking boots for hiking. Boots are used to stabilize the ankle when carrying heavy loads (35+ pounds – 17+ kg). A light traveler will never ever be carrying this kind of weight. Boots are also used for stabilizing the foot under off-trail conditions such as talus scrambling or mountaineering. Again, the light traveler simply isn’t going to encounter these conditions. What is truly important is 1) a way to make sure your shoe stays secure on your foot and 2) a sole that has great traction. This may be found in most running shoes. Most people are only going on a few hour trail hike. Let me assure you by my own experience that light weight running shoes are sufficient.
I agree about the Merrill running flats for day hikes. I hike a lot and at home use regular hiking boots but when I travel I wear jsport light weight shoes for day hiking. They look good for all occasions but they also have a lot of tread on the bottom for good traction. You can wear them with or without socks and they are water proof. Unless a trail is full of slippery boulders the Merrell running flats are fine.
The side-by-side comparisons really make a difference. Your travel know-how + eye for the subtleties of fashion = Amazing!