Friday, May 09, 2014

A Useful Travel Wardrobe

Summer is approaching and lots of us are preparing for extended vacations. Next week my daughters and teen son embark on a cross-country trip to see their uncle ordained to the priesthood, for example. Given that they are flying and hitching rides with relatives in already-crowded cars, they have to pack light. But that's fine, because for years, we've used a few principles to create a travel wardrobe that will last a week or more.

Now, I didn't come up with this idea myself. I read the basic plan in the sidebar of a women's magazine when I was a teen, and committed the plan to memory. Since I don't have the original, I'm reproducing it here. Obviously the model uses a girl's wardrobe, but this is fine, since our female tendency is to pack more than we need, whereas my sons and husband would toss a toothbrush, a spare tshirt, and a pair of boxer shorts into a bag and consider themselves packed for a weeklong trip!

Below, I've shown pictures of a travel wardrobe my oldest daughter wore for a warm summer vacation when she was thirteen.  You can see from the picture that all the pieces coordinate with one another in color and style. They're not super-basic pieces by any means: they all reflect my daughter's summery-boho taste. But they do all work together, and that's what makes them fun! 

Basically, as you can see from the diagram above, the travel wardrobe consists of: 
1. A dress, jumper, sundress, or tunic that is also the dressiest outfit of the trip but which can be dressed up or down. It's usually the only piece that includes both a top-and-bottom. The male correlative item would be a Sunday outfit of some kind. In my daughter's wardrobe, this piece was represented by the blue-and-white sundress in a butterfly print.
2. A casual top.  It can be a tee-shirt or a blouse, depending on the needs of your trip. In my daughter's suitcase, this was her favorite manga tee, designed by her cousin. Since it was white, she could wear it under a jumper or by itself with jeans, so she had a few options. 
3. A dressy top. Given that this was a casual vacation wardrobe, my daughter packed a jersey knit green top with a scoop neckline and gathered sleeves. It worked with both a skirt or with shorts. It matched the green sundress.
4. A casual jacket/blouse/tunic/shrug/sweater/blazer that can be layered over the tops or the dress. My daughter packed a light green cotton cardigan that worked with everything.
5. A dressier jacket/blouse/tunic/shrug/sweater/blazer that also layers over other pieces to dress them up. A gypsy blouse in light blue cotton with embroidered flowers and gold detailing was my daughter's choice to dress up her outfit. Given that this was a beach trip, it worked just fine.
6. A dressier bottom, whether it's a skirt, slacks, or even another jumper dress. My daughter picked a light green striped sundress with gold embroidery that could be dressed up with the gypsy blouse or the green knit top, or dressed down with a simple tee or the casual sweater. 
7. A casual bottom, either shorts, pants, or a more casual skirt. For my daughter, this slot was filled by her favorite bell-bottomed jeans. I suspect she wore that and her manga tee for most of the week!

What else? PJs, swimwear, underwear, accessories, jewelry, and shoes. My daughters and I usually extend our wardrobes by packing a tee shirt that coordinates with everything else just in case. I usually bring a basic black tee, and black satin pajama bottoms. On one trip a few years ago, my husband and I spontaneously decided to go out for cocktails one evening, and since everyone was wearing silky slacks that summer, I just wore my "pajama outfit" with a knitted tunic over it, and silver sandals, and no one guessed how frightfully dishabille I was actually being. :)  In the photos above, my daughter brought polka-dotted pants and a bright pink tee that would have worked under the gypsy blouse or with jeans if she had needed an extra outfit.

So that's it! If you're away for seven days, all you need is seven pieces - one piece per day.  This works for boys too, but for young boys and/or messy toddlers of either sex, you might want to make it one outfit a day, but where all the pieces mix-and-match: easy with most boy clothing. 

As you can see from the top photo, my daughter's wardrobe easily fit into a backpack or small carry-on. So if you are facing exorbitant fees for checked luggage or small luggage space in the car, try going with the 7-piece travel wardrobe. It's worked for our family for years. 

Happy packing! 

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