Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Packing: A 5-Pack Would Have Worked...

Or, in my world, 8 = 42...

You might remember my excellent travel outfit:
brooch - Tiffany (no longer available), earrings - Majorica, necklace - Max and Chloe
tee shirt - Lands' End, bag - L.L.Bean, slouch pants - Eileen Fisher, scarf - Julie 
Egli, cardigan - Eileen Fisher, loafers - Stuart Weitzman
I had this outfit on for an eternity of time, and I don't regret a thing!  It was ideal, and I will almost certainly wear something very similar for future trips.  But my suitcase was TOO MUCH STUFF...  I'd have been well-served to have just packed this:
marled sweater - J Jill (no longer available), black shirt - J Jill, blue scarf - 
Nordstrom, grey shirt - J Jill (no longer available), white tee - Lands' End
square scarf - Hermes, pearl bracelet - Majorica, pearl earrings - Majorica
pearl necklace - Majorica, waxed jeans - Eileen Fisher, hoop earrings - 
Katherine Seaman, black and pearl necklace - Majorica, pink scarf - Christian 
Dior (no longer available), woven flats - Cole Haan/Nike (no longer available), 
silver bracelet - Spring Street

I understand that this seems like amazingly little, but I need to remember something really critical about my trips to Europe - especially my trips to Paris:


I shop a lot.  I start shopping the second or third day, and I tend to wear my purchases almost immediately.  Thus, I leave things in my suitcase unworn, and I run out of space to bring back my purchases.  So for me, personally, and maybe nobody else in the world, eight total garments is plenty.

So what if I get there and can't find anything I want?  (yea, not going to happen in Paris...)

Remember, back when I explained the Triple Top Secret?  It's where a tee shirt, a button-front shirt, and a cardigan or sweater can be layered, or can be worn on their own.  This eight-piece total wardrobe of my suitcase plus what I wore on the plane includes TWO "threesomes" of tops...

Okay, this is boring.  You're going to smell to high heavens after a few days unless you do some laundry.  But, depending on what your weather is, you will have options, until you're shopping is finished.

The other great benefit that I found from having this range of tops is the ability I had to accommodate exceptionally warm temperatures in Paris.  On the warmest day, I wore pants without socks, ballet flats (with orthotics, thank you!), and an untucked linen shirt over the waistline of my pants, as a tunic.  Not bad for temps in the upper 70's!

And yes, accessories are key to keeping this from getting dull.  They're small, they're light, and they pack a pretty big punch.

Tomorrow, I'll show you what I bought.

(So you can visualize the 42 possible combinations, I'm showing them all.)



  1. This is great! If I could be assured of finding plus sizes in Europe I would try this myself. On the trip I'm on now I have 3 pants, 2 cardigans, 2 3/4 sleeve shirts, a tank & 4 short sleeve shirts for 2 weeks (includes the travel outfit).
    We will do laundry in Nice in a couple of days and should be good for the rest of the trip. It's been quite warm here in Lyon & expect the same in Nice. If anyone knows of a shop for plus sizes in Paris let me know so I can check it out.

  2. I think I have your 'in transit" ensemble in my closet. I have a different Eileen Fisher jacket/sweater that is made from the most wonderful bubbly silk fabric. It is from last year and looks great with pants or over a dress.

    1. an addition to my post above: I have never bought a single article of clothing on ANY trip! So, I will be most interested in how you go about shopping--which shops, what you buy, etc. Looking forward to tomorrow's post.

  3. If I am going to Paris or Podunk, Pa. I always over pack! I know I am doing it from the beginning but it seems a habit I am having trouble breaking. These posts enforce the possibility of packing lighter on the next trip. Thank You!

  4. For Amy. In Paris there are many "Grandes Tailles" shops. They carry sizes European 42-50 something. Marina Rinaldi and Ulla Popken are chains while in every neighbourhood you will find a little gem with Grandes Tailles or Rondes on the sign. Laure Sokol is in many quarters and is great for lingerie and swimwear. On my first lengthy stay, I thought that my 12-14 self would not find clothing. This is completely untrue and there is lots of shopping fun for every woman.

  5. To keep clothes fresh when traveling I stick items in a plastic bag and into the freezer overnight. Some items still get handwashed, but most clothes I just freeze to kill germs and I don't need to do a load of laundry until I am back home. I was in London this year for two weeks and never needed to do a load of laundry. They smell fresh when they come out. Just fold them carefully and gently place in the freezer.

  6. I took only a teeny bit more than that on my last trip--and I don't go shopping at all on vacation--and i STILL brought too much. I did some hand washing--but, often, just airing out is enough. i think Americans tend to over-wash clothing....may be wrong on that, however.

  7. I admire your restraint, and I am learning a lot from your wonderful blog, but....... I have come to realise that this level of minimalism is just not for me. I am easily bored, and try as I may, I could not sustain such a low level of variety. I am sorry to say, but I find this particular set of garments very same-y - to me, most of the pictures look almost indistinguishable from each other, so I appreciate your point that this could be jazzed up with brightert-shirts and shirts. Also, I really dislike doing laundry while I am travelling - I am trying to get away from all that, so the concept of having to do daily washing is anathema.

    But please, do not take this as a criticism - quite the contrary. I am very mindful of your oft-repeated statement that what works for one may not work for another, and we should make our own choices, and I have found your blog invaluable in helping me understand my own preferences. It has helped me recognise my need for variety and shows me how to combine garments in stylish outfits and colour combinations that satisy that need. And by doing that, I have been able to reduce the amount I pack while still having enough variety to keep me happy. (I am sure I pack more than you do - but I am still able to manage for a week with a carry-on and my personal item - except when I am off on a sports trip that needs specialised and space-consuming kit!)

    Thank you!

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thanks for your comment. You're entirely right - what works for me is NOT necessarily what will work for someone else. What matters most is to know what you prefer, and to make sure that you're happy. We all find happy in a different way!

      warmest regards,

    2. I try to stick to the idea that if you won't wear the garment at least 3 times during the trip, choose something different that you will wear that often. With iffy weather, that's a tough call. Based on what I normally take for our month plus trips, I thought the original packing group was a little too much. The 2nd take is a little minimal for me, too. I think what makes a limited wardrobe more tolerable for me (besides scarves and jewelry of course) is more color. Hanging in my closet right now to be worn on the plane to Europe is a pair of dark blue jeans, a peasant-style dark teal top, and a navy zip-up cardigan. With that I'll wear some high-topped hiking boots, teal polka-dot compression socks, a teal/blue plaid scarf, earrings and a necklace. Those garments and shoes are the heaviest and/or most voluminous things I'm taking on the trip. In the Lipault 22" spinner (really 20" due to the wheels) are 5 lightweight tops in different styles and shades of blue for combining or wearing separately, 2 tanks (1 turquoise, 1 navy), a long dark blue skirt, some navy pants, a reversible blue/turquoise raincoat, a turquoise fleece vest, a pair of "hiking" sandals, a pair of flats, 3 additional scarves and some other jewelry. I'm not a fan of doing laundry in the sink either, but we may have to this trip because we are moving around more than normal. I know of people who take a total of 3 pairs of panties and one bra and do nothing but sink washing every night. Not me! It's 8-9 pairs of panties, 3 bras and 3 shapewear tops. I'm sure I will wear all these items multiple times on our 5-week trip, largely because of the time of year and I hate being cold. It's highly unlikely I will buy anything on this trip (Istanbul and Greece), except maybe one piece of jewelry. Shopping just isn't my thing, probably because finding anything decent in my 18-22 size range here is hard enough. I'd rather experience a laundromat in Hydra.

  8. I love your ideas, Janice, but like the previous commenter will never achieve this level of minimalism. Our travels always involve a variety of activities that all require equipment of some sort, so even with minimal clothing, there's still a lot of luggage. My challenge while spending the last month working in France was that with the warm weather, varying outfits by changing top layer or scarves was not on - it was too hot! So I wore the same few short-sleeve tops over and over ...

  9. I absolutely agree on the button-up cardigan...I take one that I can wear alone, as well as over other garments, so I have one more look...as well as the versatility of wearing it when it may be too warm over another garment.
    Otherwise, I have brought them home unworn...that's really a waste. Button front shirts can be worn alone or over a tee as a light jacket or under a sweater...I try to take at least one.
    If I am somewhere different every day or two, as is usual on a vacation, why does one need to wear something different, the folks you meet won't have seen you a day or two ago. I'd rather have the "right" thing, not necessarily a "different" thing to wear.

  10. I am saving all these travel pack posts so I cannot waste any space in my carry on!
    I plan to take a cashmere cardigan as one of my key pieces, just need to decide which shade and it is no surprise that I am leaning towards black!

  11. Just wanted to let everyone know that L.L. Bean has a very nice marled sweater, similar to the one featured here.

    I think of my wardrobe (and packing habits) as a work in progress! I do follow the capsule concept, but sometimes I just have to break out of it and wear something completely different. But I have definitely cut down on impulsive purchases.

    BTW, Janice, Janet Wallach's books have been favorites of mine for ages! One of my favorite books is this one:

    It's a bit dated by now, but follows some terrific principles!

  12. Great post! Am I the only one that is interested in what you bought in Paris? And where you shop?
    Anyways, I tried to keep it simple in a recent week-long trip to Amsterdam and have to say that it worked wuite well. There is the initial fear after packing when it all seems sooooo little and that moment when you think maybe you could just add one more top, just in case... But no, I trusted the scheme I made and all worked out fine. Traveling light is so much more relaxing, no need to schlep a huge suitcase, arriving less grumpy, tavelling less grumpy. The more I practice minimalism, the happier I get with it.

  13. I like this capsule A LOT because it is almost identical (in color and style and number of items) that I generally pack when I travel. I choose items for their layer-ability and I almost never take more than 2 pair of shoes. I would have been tempted to ditch the bulkiest scarf and some accessories in order to add a black pencil skirt for dressier occasion (the skirt I pack is tissue weight wool and very versatile), but only if I knew I would need it (opera, etc.) Lovely choice of clothes.

  14. Hmm... I think I'd need to be somewhere between the two wardrobe. I can't guarantee when going somewhere new that I'll be able to find clothes I like to buy so I'll need enough to wear without *having* to shop.

    That said, I do value my overseas purchases as souveniers as well as their actual use as clothes and acessories.

  15. i adore your blog! and I have incorporated several of your ideas and ideals into my own wardrobe. One of them is to buy less, but better. I now own a pair of Eileen Fisher slouchy pants, however, I am now stumped with what shoes to wear! What do you suggest? I live in Ohio and with winter coming, how do I wear them in the cold?

    1. In warmer weather I wear mine with ballet flats, but when the weather gets colder it will be ankle boots most days. The nice thing with the narrow legs on them is that I can tuck them into waterproof serious winter boots, and then change into flats when I get wherever I'm going.

    2. thanks! I am still getting used to the look of them. But the comfort level is amazing, and I am counting on the durability.

  16. As an experienced business traveler, my secrets to stretching the time between washings on a trip are: panty liners, anti-perspirant, using Febreze rebottled into a smaller travel size, fabric brush, lint roller, steamer, hand washing lingerie and tops each evening, and hanging clothes up promptly to air between wearings. I have always used the basic black core pieces, but also bring one extra set of pants in case of spills, plus leggings for lounging or casual wear. I've been able to go from classic business to casual, while staying fresh and clean, with 10 total pieces for as a long as a two weeks without needing to do laundry, as such.