Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Pack Light: The 'Whatever's Clean 13" in black and beige

I really love the "Whatever's Clean 13"... 

I love travel, and I love packing light, and I love the idea of being able to just stick your hands into your bag and pull out things that will come together in a beautiful outfit.

Today, I'm looking at warm weather, but prepared for some coolness. I know that trips to the south of France, ranging into Cinque Terre and Venice, will give you some hot, lavender-scented days in Provence, but then in Venice, after dark can be positively damp and cool... You can't be prepared for every last possible need, but you can be intelligent, and beautiful...

Lace is the unifying theme today, starting with this beautiful (and outrageously expensive) lace top. Comfortable pants and shoes, the always essential cardigan and scarf, and you're good to go!

Black cashmere cardigan – Dear Cashmere, lace top – Aquilano.Rimondi, mother
 of pearl earrings – LaKaiser,  cotton trousers – Uniqlo,  cashmere blend scarf 
Faliero Sarti, watch –Fossil, black patent loafers – Tod’s, tote bag – Longchamp
rolling suitcase – Tumi

I'm assuming, for purposes of our imaginary trip, that there will be abundant sightseeing, but that there will also be many romantic nights. Not necessarily black-tie dressy, but things for which you still want to look lovely, and feel alluring. 

So, starting with our travel outfit, our substitutions are as follows:

  • black cardigan, replaced by beige cardigan;
  • lace top, replaced by black floral top;
  • lace top, replaced by botanical print top;
  • lace top, replaced by beige sparkle top;
  • lace top, replaced by ruffled beige top;
  • lace top, replaced by black sleeveless top;
  • beige trousers, replaced by beige shorts;
  • beige trousers, replaced by black skirt; (just sort of roll and stuff in the bag)
  • beige trousers, replaced by beige lace skirt; (so easy to pack!)
  • beige trousers; replaced by black trousers.

This gives you thirteen pieces - two "covers", 2nd layers, or cardigans, six blouse/tee shirt tops, and five "bottoms".

I chose simple, flat sandals that area all described as being designed for comfort, and the jewelry, clutch bag, and black wrap all have an echoing sense of lace about them. 

Beige cardigan – East, lace medallion bracelet – Gag&Lou, floral sleeveless 
top – Quiz, white tee shirt with sparkles – Ginger and Soul, black lace-trimmed 
wrap – Uniqlo, black lace earrings – Liz Law, ruffled top – Part Two, gold earrings – Eina Ahluwalia
nature print top – Yumi, black sleeveless top – Raquel Allegra
beige shorts – North Face, lace skirt – Polo Ralph Lauren
black chiffon skirt –  Polo Ralph Lauren, black cotton trousers – Isabel Marant 
 Etoile, lace clutch – Tevolio, black sandals – Gentle Souls,  
gold sandals – Born, gold slingback espadrilles – Naturalizer

This all seems to live together quite nicely, doesn't it?

 And, as with any "Whatever's Clean" wardrobe, you have literally dozens of choices, suitable for a casual dinner, a rainy day in a museum, a sunny day outdoors, or a very romantic evening meal and walk around town.

If for some reason you strongly felt that you needed more clothes, you could add a skirt or trousers (maybe in a beige and black pattern, although this would break the sacred "Whatever's Clean"...), and two more tops. I can't personally imagine packing more than 16 pieces for almost anything...

But what do you think?




  1. This is perfect for me right now. I am going to Berlin, Prague and Vienna next month and I know that the nights can be a little cool. My travel wardrobe is black, white and beige. I have already got my "in transit" outfit picked out with black pants, black cardigan, tee and beige scarf (I know that is a lot of black, but I am concerned about light colors.) I plan on taking no more than 15 pieces and one patterned scarf. I am only taking 2 pairs of shoes though, a good pair of black walking Oxfords from Dansko and a pair of tan loafers. This will really help me plan the rest of my wardrobe and my outfits. Great timing! Thank you

  2. Such a pretty grouping. The lace skirt is so lovely & romantic.

  3. Maybe a pair of gold ballet flats? The sandals just read a bit casual to me for nice evenings out.

  4. As always, just beautiful. But there are a couple of things that bother me. First, the proportions of flared tops over long flared bottoms seem really difficult for most figures to wear. Next, I wonder what kind of traveller could keep clean a nearly $1,000 white skirt that is dry clean only. Which gets me to my biggest question about packing ultra-light: by the time I get off a 7 hour trip to Europe or an even worse time to Asia, I stink and the clothing is more fit to be buried than worn again multiple times! I'm more concerned with travel clothes that can be washed in a sink and dried quickly, as my travel does not usually center around one full service hotel. In 40+ years of traveling I don't think I've ever used a hotel laundry service (or stayed in many hotels that had one!).

    1. I was going for coolness with untucked tops - the proportions will of course have to be adjusted to suit the wearer!

      And if you can afford that madly expensive skirt, you can afford to clean it or replace it! It's definitely a fantasy garment, which would in real life be cotton eyelet, or a gauzy "broomstick" skirt.

      I'm not crazy about hotel laundry services, although I do use them occasionally. I'm finding that I have much better luck with the "same day" laundry services that can be found in most cities. They're not madly expensive, and they've always done a stellar job. So far!

  5. I beg you, do not travel in light pants or skirt. This insight is thanks to the "gentleman" in the plane to Hawaii, who barfed his green creme de menthe all over my off-white skirt. (The man was not my husband, just someone assigned a nearby seat.) Wear the dark one and save the pale for your destination.

    1. How inconsiderate, to put it mildly… what did you do?

    2. Oooh, if that happened to me, I'd just take a clean pair of pants out of my suitcase and THROW AWAY the ones I was wearing...

    3. I was once upgraded to 1st class on a flight from London to Vancouver along with a man in his 80s who thought he should drink 1st class dry of its beer, brandy and champers stocks. He eventually passed out and proceeded to clutch my thigh and knee throughout the flight while simultaneously making sounds the cat makes just before it hurls a hairball. It was a very bumpy ride!

      I hope your "gentleman" paid for cleaning and/or new pants.

  6. I love what you have put together here. It's a really workable wardrobe if the weather is constant and stable.

    I have just returned from a 5-week trip starting in Toronto then on to London, Holland and Barcelona. I packed "heavy" not knowing what weather conditions I would find in the transitional period of early to late Spring. It was literally freezing in Toronto with gales and sleet in late April, London was cool to moderate, Holland went from 27ºC to 12ºC with very windy days and Barcelona was cool, again with lots of wind. I wore my lightest summer dress in Holland on the 27ºC day and apart from that day my summer wardrobe never came out of the suitcase. I started with 4 pairs of shoes and ended up wearing only one pair. Gave away one brand new pair of gorgeous Italian walking shoes that just about crippled me after half a day's wear. The sandals never came out of the suitcase and the dressy shoes were worn once.
    I'd love to see what you'd come up with for such a long trip with such varied conditions.
    I'd also be interested to see what you find re shoes that are comfortable and sturdy enough for walking over lots of cobbles in Europe and very uneven paving stones in London, yet have to do double duty to look good in the evening.
    Vancouver Barbara

    1. O man I feel your pain. When my daughter was 5 we went to Japan in April, thinking (like idiots) that it would be fairly warm. Dd spent the entire 2 weeks in one pink sweatshirt and sweat pants and I even slept in my trench coat (no heat at some of the places). Moreover, every department store was filled with summer clothes and we weren't able to buy a single warm sweater or anything else for dd appropriate to the actual weather.

      Same experience in Provence in April. The mistral was so intense that dd had bruises all over from having had the car door blow closed on her. I learned that those charming wooden shutters are functional, and also became well acquainted with the wonders of French pharmaciennes due to "la tousse" which we all developed. Yet, the hotelier had their outdoor pool filled because guests had been swimming in it the week before we got there.

      Moral of these stories: I never ever travel anywhere, at any season, without bringing a cashmere sweater set.

    2. I heed your words about cashmere and am on the lookout for something appropriate.
      Hate the thought of your DD being cold in Japan (everyone knows it's hot in Japan in April!) and being buffeted about in the mistral.
      Vancouver Barbara

  7. I think fab and agree with Duchesse, wear darker, washable clothes on the trip. I wear the very loose Eileen Fisher black harem pants. They are just like PJs. Love the lace skirt, very romantic for Venice. I love these posts because they are illustrative and slightly over the top from a financial perspective. That's ok with me, llbean offers practicality but you offer beauty.

    Deb from Vancouver

  8. I'm glad to see the comments from some folks here who have experience traveling for long periods of time (for me a month+), live out of a 22" carry-on and a tote and who move around a bit in their travels. Anything that has to be dry cleaned is a definite non-starter, but that's generally true for me anyway. I do wash some things out in the sink occasionally, but we have always found a self-service or drop-off laundry on our trips or used the washer and drying rack in the apartments we rent. Out of 8 so far, only one had a dryer. Some hotels and B&Bs we have stayed in actually did our laundry for us, but in a big load, not at 5 EUR per pair of panties. In those cases, as with the drop-off laundries, the price was per kilo and very reasonable.

    We pack for a week and a day, that day being the day that laundry happens or we are in transit. For me that means a total of 3 pants, 4-6 tops and 2 layering pieces like a cardigan or a vest. I take a rain jacket of some kind and 2 pairs of shoes, one for serious walking (and standing) in the range of 5+ miles (or 5+ hours) a day and 1 for switching into at the end of the day, if needed. Everything is coordinated in whatever's clean style (thank you Janice for your examples of that) and I can make more than 28 combinations if I want to do that. However, I find that while on the trip I like and wear some combos more than others. No white or really light colored anything, and no black either. Light colors show the dark dirt and dark colors show the light dirt like lint and bread crumbs, unless the dark fabric is a twill or something similar that can be easily brushed off. I do take 2-3 scarves, but they have to be washable, too. My husband asked me if I was concerned about getting spaghetti sauce or olive oil on them and I pointed out that it's easier to wash them than it is to get that kind of thing out of any top.

    We have traveled under varied conditions most of the time. As a British participant on the Rick Steves Travel Forum says, "The answer to every packing question is layering." I highly recommend any traveler with packing questions to go to the forum at and click on Packing or Best Walking Shoes for Travel under Tips & Trip Reports. Packing and shoes are constant topics there. When people balk at the thought of traveling light with a 22 inch carry-on and tote only, I among many others send them here to see how to coordinate their clothes so they can take less. Those recommendations usually come with the admonition that it's the ideas that are important, not the specifics and to not be turned off by the very high prices often shown here. I'd guess that the people who participate in the Travel Forum and stay in fancy hotels or go out for fancy dinners are <1%.

    1. I too have followed Rick Steves advice on packing. We went to Scotland and I had it down to a carry on backpack less than 15 pounds for 2 weeks. 3 pairs of pants, 2 cardigans and tees, 2 pair of shoes. However, I was not very good at picking things that would easily blend with each other. I was very unhappy with the way I looked on that trip. I have learned in reading Janice's blog about the Whatever's Clean concept and dressing or changing it up by adding scarves and other accessories. I am travelling next month and although I will still have my 3 pair of pants, tee shirts, cardigans and 1 extra pair of shoes in a back pack they are more coordinated and I am taking scarves & jewelry. I am following the black, white and beige she is showing here....although my items are more down to earth than what she is is the concept that I have found helpful. Thank you Janice.

    2. Good advice here. Thanks.
      Vancouver Barbara

  9. Am I the only one craving a scarf in coral or rose to help warm up the more monochromatic combinations?

  10. I'm trying to take light packing notes!

  11. For me the lace top, and the whole trip, are a wonderful fantasy… what I would wear in another life. my dream capsule fantasy for sighing cover with a cup of coffee. I love these posts, please lots more with a back story!

  12. I have to restrain myself from running out and buying everything on this post. GORGEOUS! Not a wardrobe I'd pack for "rough" travel, but definitely for a money-is-no-object, honeymoon-ish type jaunt, with budgets for taxis and better hotels. Now I'll be dreaming of this trip all day....

  13. This would be a fantasy trip! Those skirts are not my style but that lace one is very romantic! I do love the concept of anything clean. I have lots of beige and black, so easy to mix and match! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  14. Am looking back at your blog for ideas. I'm going in early Sept. to the south of France: Marseille, up the coast to Nice then river cruise Avignon to Lyon. What colors do French women wear in that part of France (the coast) in Sept? Normally, I would wear khaki and black as base colors (I don't wear navy), but do French women wear khaki; what about bright color tops(or would everyone stare)?