Friday, May 22, 2015

How to Pack Light: The "Whatever's Clean" 13

One of the interesting things about writing The Vivienne Files is that I can see what posts are continually revisited, and what images get Pinned (and re-Pinned) on Pinterest. And without fail, every week, the "Whatever's Clean" wardrobes are at the top of the list.

That makes sense to me - there's really nothing in the world easier than being able to reach into your closet without looking and know that you can grab a coherent ensemble. 

So I've been thinking a lot about how "Whatever's Clean" can transfer to travel - it's an obvious fit. Especially for all of you who have to travel through a variety of climates, knowing that all of your clothes will work together makes it possible to relax about at least one aspect of your voyage.

I'm going to play with this idea off and on for a while, but I thought I'd start with a packing challenge that I know well - the long business/leisure trip that spans temperatures from cool autumn-ish to warm late spring-like temperatures. No winter coats, and no swimwear needed, but temperatures from the 50's F to the 70's F at least...

(random note: just put gloves and a knit hat in your bag and leave them there! Last weekend, in Chicago, we were wearing sandals. Yesterday, when I went out for lunch, I wished that I had my gloves with me. Temperatures can swing - be prepared!)

In transit - you're going to somewhere cool, and you're going straight to the office! You want to make a bit of an impact when you arrive, so you select a bright blouse and a statement cardigan to wear while traveling.


Travel outfit with a yellow blouse, a black skirt and a black floral embroidered cardigan
yellow blouse – Moschino, earrings – Freida Rothman, cardigan – Kansai Yamamoto
watch – Karl Lagerfeld, skirt – Dolce and Gabbana, boots – Frye, bag – Tumi

Okay, that a great outfit, but you've got... six weeks? to go. How do you build? 


I suggest that you think about what you could substitute out for any ONE garment in your travel outfit.

  • floral cardigan - OFF,  solid black cardigan - ADD
  • yellow blouse - OFF, white shirt - ADD
  • yellow blouse - OFF, denim shirt - ADD
  • yellow blouse - OFF, purple tee shirt - ADD
  • yellow blouse - OFF, black tee shirt - ADD
  • yellow blouse - OFF, red tee shirt - ADD
  • black straight skirt - OFF, black pleated skirt - ADD
  • black straight skirt - OFF, black capris - ADD
  • black straight skirt - OFF, black dress trousers - ADD
  • black straight skirt - OFF, black jeans - ADD

It's always wise to have lots of tops, because they are most likely to need to go to the laundry, they are close to your face and are more memorable (both for you and those around you), and you can switch out necklines and sleeve lengths to address changes in climate.

Jewelry and scarves are critical; I didn't show scarves here, but I would probably include one scarf or necklace for each top packed i.e. five. They're small, they're light, and they give you the feeling of something different to wear. For this example, I chose all jewelry that mixes yellow and white gold, so that you're not standing in a hotel room in the pre-dawn darkness trying to tell if your earrings are silver or gold. NOT a question you need to consider...



10 items to pack, mostly black, to give you a "Whatever's Clean 13"
All tops – L.L.Bean, skirt, capris, trousers and jeans – Uniqlo,yellow and 
white gold hoop earrings – Kohl’s, gold and silver bracelet – Marc by Marc Jacobs,
 black clutch bag – Sabrina Zeng, yellow and white gold pendant – Marco Bicego,
 ballet flats – Born, wedge sneakers – Taryn Rose

This shows all of your "stuff". It's a lot of black - if you keep to a dark neutral for your major "below the waist" pieces, you can cut way back on the number of shoes that you pack. Just assume that if you're packing carry-on for more than a month, you're going to grow tired of some of your garments. But if you're moving from place to place, the people around you aren't going to notice nor care that you're wearing the same 13 garments week after week, and you're saving yourself time and hassle by not having to deal with a lot of luggage!

And yes, you're going to have to have laundry done, probably once a week. The money you don't spend paying to have a suitcase checked will be easily eaten up having laundry done! But don't assume that you have to have the hotel do you laundry; there are a lot of "same day" laundry services which cost much less, and do a wonderful job.

And don't, whatever you do, send all of your shirts, or all of your pants, to the laundry at the same time! That's asking for trouble - everything damaged, lost, etc. Just too much out of your control; don't risk it.


"Whatever's Clean 13" in black, yellow, red, purple and white


There are at least 80 ways to wear these 13 pieces. That will easily get you through six weeks! In reality, you're probably going to find combinations that you like the best, and wear them often. But it's good to have lots of choices - if a garment blows out somewhere between Milan and Berlin, you still can get dressed!


16 outfits from a "Whatever's Clean 13" in black, yellow, red and purple

16 outfits from a "Whatever's Clean 13" in black, yellow, red and purple

16 outfits from a "Whatever's Clean 13" in black, yellow, red and purple

16 outfits from a "Whatever's Clean 13" in black, yellow, red and purple

"Whatever's Clean" 13 pieces for long term travel

Does this work for leisure travel? Heck yes! Just think about substituting shorts or capris for dress pants and skirts, tank tops for blouses etc. I would like to work more on this idea, so if you have a particular trip upcoming that worries you, leave a comment about it and I'll think...

love,
Janice

Looking Back:

2014: Start With Art - Version 2: Paris Street; Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte

2013: One dress - Six ways, in Black, White and Pink

2012: What to wear with a necklace: dragon pearls

yoox.com


30 comments:

  1. I am traveling right now, and if there is anything that I have learned from you it is how to pack lightly and look put together every time. One of my constant companions is one of those Eileen Fisher silk tops in a dark neutral that can be washed in the hotel sink and is good to go the next morning. Happy Memorial Day!

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  2. Oh how lovely this is!! For me, personally, the only swap I'd make is not choosing the bright yellow blouse. I favor the purples/blues on the other side of the cardigan embroidery. That cardigan is stunning.

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  3. I'm getting better at packing light ... and it will certainly be easier if I am not mixing city travel with polar travel as I did for our last four months of traveling :-) This concept just might work for our upcoming trip which includes a cruise in Europe, three weeks in Rome, a month in Turkey, and another cruise back to the US. The only concern is ... shoes ... we walk miles and miles, so I need some really wonderfully comfortable shoes that can go from the trail into the city. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I'm a new reader, by the way, so have yet to explore some of your older posts, so thanks for bringing this concept alive.

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    1. Erin, for a trip last year to the UK, with lots of excursions involving walking, and many rainy days, my Clark shoes kept my feet dry and were appropriate to wear with slacks and still be perfectly comfortable. No typical American white sneakers for me when traveling, although I have found blue jeans being worn everywhere, including in England, and by the locals.

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    2. Clarks are on my list to check out; I have a pair of slipper sandals that turned out to be a life saver in Helsinki and Turkey last year. Thanks.

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  4. I did a rainy/chilly London trip with huge amounts of walking with a pair of MK black leather loafers with a comfortable rubber sole that worked great.

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  5. Janice, if you were a man, after this sage post, I think I'd ask you to marry me I. :-) Recently, hubby and I took a 3 day trip to the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate New York with another couple. Since it was a short trip, hubby and I shared a suitcase, necessitating packing light. Brown is my core color, and since the temperatures varied widely, I wore brown trousers up and back, brown jeans the next day for touring with 4 tops I took along in various sleeve lengths that all went with brown. Yes, I packed gloves in my coat, just in case
    along with cotton scarves for more warmth.. However, the touring day, out on the tour boat, was a nice no jacket day ! When I travel for longer trips, I always take both a scarf and a necklace to go with a given top, so that I can wear the top at least twice with varied looks. I am a work in progress, so please continue my learning process, and thank you, thank you !

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  6. Janice, my ongoing question is what to pack for a 10 to 12 day trip with daytime touring all those days, with dressier evenings, changing hotels every 2-3 days with no laundry facilities available in the mostly rural areas. Do I just take double of a certain pant, like 2-3 pairs of the same brown jean, and duplicates of the others, as well, if the temperatures are constantly cool ?

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  7. Janice - this is such a great idea for a series.

    How about Paris/Provence/Venice/Cinque de Terre - 5 weeks from early September to October?

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    1. Dore,
      That sounds like a lovely trip! I love that part of the world. what a lovely problem you have!j

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  8. Another great thing about this concept is that it curates any shopping you might do during your travels. If, say, you're in Milan and you see a stunning silk blouse, having this wardrobe forces you to ask: how many times can I wear this blouse with what I have in my suitcase?

    BTW, the first June I lived in New England, I mentioned to a co-worker that it was time to pack away my sweaters. She looked at me and said, "We never pack away our sweaters."

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  9. So many helpful concepts and ideas in this post! Yes to always having gloves if there is any question of needing them, same thing for a pashmina. You found a jean shirt without chest pockets! As a boobilicious person, I have been searching for one. Your concept of starting with an outfit that a person really likes and then swapping out each piece with like items is genius. I realize it is the uniform process but somehow your description here finally struck home me.
    And a lot of your readers are really great travelers.

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  10. I'm travelling to London next week for a short (5 nights) holiday. I'll need to wear light summer clothes for the two days travelling, as I live in Spain and the temperature will be around 27C. The forecast for London shows lots of clouds plus rain on one day and temperatures of 17C maximum. Please (pretty please!) would you do a similar post using warmer, more muted and deep colours? I don't look good in bright yellow at my age!

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    1. I second the request for warm, muted colors! The Whatever's Clean series has been the best thing that ever happened to my wardrobe!

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    2. Taking off on a tangent... For years I was classed as Spring (warm, light and clear) but as I got older I realized I was warm, light and muted (not fitting into Spring, Autumn, Summer or Winter or their any of their offshoots). I googled forever and forever and never found my niche. Very frustrating. Always had the same information was repeated by the image consultants seemingly without thinking. Only recently (this last year) did I find one consultant who has some independent thought and now I happy. Thanks to Imogen. Thanks Janice for your independent thoughts as well. Carol S

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  11. Janice, How about adapting this to a cruise vacation, say three to four weeks cruise and land touring in Europe or Australia? The daytime wear being casual clothing for touring, dressier for evening, with the added challenge of three 'formal' nights on ship. (Ship Formal being cocktail dress or formal dress). If you address this you will have hundreds of thankful and appreciative women on the cruise packing bulletin boards.

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  12. You continually amaze me! The gorgeous colorful-yet-subdued cardigan as a base for every single accent-color top is brilliant, in that each top makes it look sooo different. And even though I always try to make sure that pretty much everything goes with everything, I never used the particular one-off/one-on substitution method you just outlined---VERY helpful! I love, too, that every time you help me see my wardrobe with new eyes, it always translates into seeing other things with new eyes. Linda T from Okemos MI

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  13. I just got back from a trip and this post makes want to go home and pack for another. Great wardrobe.

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  14. Janice, you taper so helpful and inspiring! Love this wardrobe. I want to second the suggestion from Tom and Cheryl above. In September, I'm going on my first cruise. Fly to Copenhagen, 3 days there then on to the cruise ship for 16 days and stops in Norway, Scotland, Ireland, then across the Atlantic to. Newfoundland and Nova Scotia then finally off ship in New York, stay there for two days then felt home. 22 days total. This will be my longest vacation with many different clothing needs - casual wear for on-ship leisure, touring and sightseeing, nice dinner/ dancing, etc. the "formal nights" aboard ship can be accommodated with a cocktail dress or functional dressy LBD. Also different climates and unpredictable weather. I'm daunted and stuck as to how to even plan for this. I'm also sure many people will appreciate any help you can offer.

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  15. It depends... On whether you are seeing the same people day after day or different people every day. My husband and I went for a 5 week driving holiday around England, Scotland and Wales and saw different people every day and we moved on nearly every day. It didn't matter wearing the same outfit two days in a row even. I had some clothes in my suitcase that I never wore. I had three pairs of shoes. Lace up joggers for walking, sturdy Mary Janes for evening meal (not evening wear) that doubled up as backup walking shoes and thongs (flip flops). I always pack gloves and warm hat and summer hat. They don't take up much room and can make a difference to your comfort level. Thanks for post. Carol S

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  16. Great example wardrobe that follows many important guidelines of packing. I've traveled in a similar wardrobe for up to 5 months at a time, but mine always includes a dress. However, I no longer wear black. It doesn't suit my coloring or my personality. Please consider putting together a parallel wardrobe in warm colors (with cognac and olive as neutrals?) that achieves the same level of professionalism and chic as this one. I think I'm not alone in finding many non-black wardrobes too casual. I also really struggle finding non-black substitutes at my price point, such as leggings, skirts, and formal blouses. Those items can always be found in black but it's much harder to find, say, olive green leggings that are the same color as the formal blouse. Black is certainly easier to "match."

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  17. Would it be possible (or prudent) to pack a dress centric "Whatever's Clean" wardrobe? So often I arrive at a destination only to find that all of the tops and bottoms do not all pair perfectly, even though their colors would suggest otherwise. Thank you for all of your packing suggestions. My husband and I spend a third of the year traveling throughout Asia & your blog has helped me tremendously.

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  18. I would be happy to see the " I’m going on holiday to see relatives" version! We are flying from France to Montréal this summer with our 3 kids (staying 3 weeks) and I’m starting to feel a little anxious when I think about packing...

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  19. I would be happy to see the " I’m going on holiday to see relatives" version! We are flying from France to Montréal this summer with our 3 kids (staying 3 weeks) and I’m starting to feel a little anxious when I think about packing...

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  20. Love it! So many interesting pairings! As a cool winter and lover of bright colours, could you please make a "I will be in holiday for a month in summer" wardrobe, with navy as neutral, and bright red, pink and/or purple as accents? Thanks, Arte

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  21. How would you work in maxi dresses (full ankle length) into such a wardrobe? I will be living in a hot climate where long skirts and dresses are required for modesty. I know it is out of your aesthetic, but I would be so curious to see how you would put it together.

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  22. Love this wardrobe Janice! Lots of great ideas!! I sometimes get bored with so much black but it is so easy for business travel! I do not think I could get all of that into that one small bag though. There isn't any pajamas or toiletries etc...Plus I have to travel with a full size laptop and work items as well. I have managed to get down to one carry on for the clothing and one briefcase/tote for the computer and work items thanks to you!! Can't wait to see what's next!!!

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  23. What wardrobe would you pack for a 2 week tropical resort vacation?

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  24. You are awesome! I have been slightly agonizing over the silver vs. gold jewelry dilemma and you answered it here! Thank you!

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