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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?