Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Travel Capsule Wardrobe for Both Coolness and Modesty: Baie de Cannes by Picasso

You have asked me this question a lot - how can you handle traveling to a hot destination, where you need to be appropriately dressed when occasions or locations require modest attire?

Modesty almost always means 1 or more of 3 "things" need to be covered:
1. your shoulders
2. your knees, or
3. your head

So we've got to make certain that we have available to us at all times (in the backpack!) a shirt with sleeves, a skirt (or the zippy-on pieces of zip-off pants...) and a scarf... If you're one of those clever people who can wrap and tie a scarf in such a way that it works as a skirt, you're in luck...

Let's start with a lovely abstraction of a wonderful beach destination:

Baie de Cannes by Pablo Picasso

These are lovely colors...

Baie de Cannes by Pablo Picasso with style guidelines and color palette

For the trip, even though this wardrobe is going to de-emphasize dark colors, I'm going to have our heroine travel in dark trousers - they're just safer and less likely to show the inevitable dirt.

This is the only cardigan I'm having her bring - this tweedy kind of look means that it will work with all of the beige tones, and the fabric is lightweight and relatively cool...

travel outfit in black and beige

earrings – Gemma Collection; cardigan – L.L.Bean; tee – L.L.Bean; shoes – FitFlop; bracelet – Gorjana; watch – Olivia Burton; linen pants – L.L.Bean; scarf – Nordstrom; backpack - Fjällräven

This is a very "nuts and bolts" wardrobe - I haven't paid a lot of attention to jewelry here, because I want to focus on the various pieces of clothing and how they layer together. But I DO think that a hot-weather destination absolutely requires both a sunhat and a pair of sunglasses - these aren't really accessories as much as they are essentials.

And yes, as much as I'm not usually a big fan of zip-off pants that become shorts, I think that this is the time during which they might make sense...

What I've done here is focus completely on sand-colored "bottoms" in a range of silhouettes; for someone who doesn't wear skirts, a pair of capris would be a logical substitute. The other goal here was to include a couple of long-sleeved shirts that could be worn over a tee shirt or tank top, or can also be worn alone with the sleeves rolled. A lightweight fabric is key here - I've chosen madras and seersucker.

Similar to what I did with the 3 bottoms is to make certain that our heroine has 3 different kinds of shoes, in similar colors, and all chosen for comfort as well as style. In some cases, carrying a change of shoes can make a vacation day feel much more comfortable! Also, sometimes all you need to do to be appropriately dressed is to cover your toes - I admit that I've only seen that once, and I was pretty amazed that it was part of a dress code...

(from a style point of view, note that I've somewhat focused on square shapes, in honor of the cubist Picasso...)

travel capsule wardrobe for hot weather in beige, blue and green

hat - Eric Javits; sunglasses - Kate Spade New York; blue top – Lands’ End; polo – Lands’ End; tank top – L.L.Bean; blue tee – J.Crew; beige tee – J.Crew; madras plaid shirt – L.L.Bean; seersucker shirt – L.L.Bean; skirt – L.L.Bean; zip-off pants – L.L.Bean; bag - Adrienne Vittadini; shorts – L.L.Bean; sandals– Bernie Mev.; espadrilles – The Flexx

This would be what our heroine would have with her:

travel capsule wardrobe for hot weather in beige, blue and green

Next I wanted to look at each of the bottoms to make sure that it would be wearable in a full range of outfits, from something strictly focused on comfort in hot weather, and then moving along a spectrum to something that would be more appropriate in areas with a dress code. That's tough to do with shorts, but this at least gives us a range of ways to assemble outfits with the garments available.

3 ways to style khaki shorts from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style khaki zip-off pants from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style a khaki skirt from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style black pants from a travel capsule wardrobe

But let's say that you are going on a really LONG trip, and you just don't feel comfortable with the smallness of the initial wardrobe. I thought that in this case, worthy additions might be pieces in chambray - a faded denim blue that's much lighter-weight and softer than denim. And a beige dress? This dress could theoretically be worn unbuttoned, over a tank top and shorts, as a duster, and then buttoned if necessary? Could you picture that?

chambray shirt – J. Crew; scarf – Caslon; Bermuda shorts – L.L.Bean; beige linen dress – Uniqlo; striped tee – Lands’End; blue tee – L.L.Bean

This is a pretty robust wardrobe - one could literally picture taking this to a beach house or to summer school, and living with this for 2 or 3 months...

a larger travel capsule wardrobe in blue, green, beige and black

As before, I want to make certain that all of these pieces are able to be used for activities along a spectrum of dressiness:

3 ways to style a blue top from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style a striped top from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style a beige linen dress from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style chambray shorts from a travel capsule wardrobe

3 ways to style a chambray shirt from a travel capsule wardrobe

Layering is the key to dressing appropriately when visiting sensitive locations, or attending certain activities while on vacation. I hope that this is helpful to those of you who specifically requested some suggestions for this kind of trip...


A Travel Capsule Wardrobe for Both Coolness and Modesty: Baie de Cannes by Picasso
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  1. Love love love that painting! And of course the accompanying fashion :-)

  2. The painting is gorgeous. I think a one-piece bathing suit could be added to the wardrobe - maybe something in blue and green, for those times when the heroine is at a resort or beach and swimming is appropriate.
    I appreciate this wardrobe very much - often times when travelling in Asia, I see women who are dressed very inappropriately given the conservatism of the country.

  3. I was recently in Beijing for a visit and noted that many of the Asian women wore skirts. You could easily spot the Western tourists in their shorts and spaghetti strap tops while the local women wore skirts and dresses, even while climbing up the Great Wall. I also saw many locals wearing Capri pants. Younger girls wore shorts, but I would say that those over 30 did not. And all had parasols and hats to keep the sun off. I'm curious about the hat you show, is it truly packable? This would be a great wardrobe to take to China!

    1. It claims to be packable, and it comes in a couple of other colors. I would have preferred a less expensive options, but packability was critical!
      That's really interesting about skirts - I know that I wear dresses more and more as I get older, especially in hot weather!

    2. Yes, the price on the hat seems a little steep but my fedora wearing husband says it is reasonable if the hat is well made. I asked my son who lives in Beijing about the women dressing so nicely at the Great Wall and he said that many of them are thinking of the photos they will take there and share online with their friends. They want to look nice, just like the rest of us!

  4. I really like it when you show how adding a few items can make a capsule serve for a longer trip. This was a particularly helpful example.


  5. I love, love, love this capsule. It is modest, yet very feminine. Like others, I would like to add more dresses. And I think the amount of accessories is perfect. I would have to swap out the beige tops for something that at the very least makes me look less zombie like. If only, I could wear light colors on top, sigh! But utter perfection for the right complexion!

  6. Great wardrobe Janice and yes, I would be happy in this for a whole summer. And when packing this for my beach house (oooh, I'm in character now!) I will be very tempted to throw in a last minute black vest (tank) top to wear with the black trousers as it gives me a dressier option with the dress as a duster for posher dinners, and also a column for shirts too for casual drinks with my lovely neighbours. I'll do some amazing thing with seashells to give myself a fantastic necklace, for that is what I do each summer trip, it's become a tradition! I may also throw in a print scarf for a bit of pift and yes, create another skirt with it, for being a seasoned beach house dweller I would be rather adept at doing magical sarong work.
    Now, dream over, back to reality and a house and garden crying out for me to work my magic on THEM!!

  7. This wardrobe is similar to what I have been trying to attain for summer dressing. I have gone against conventional hanger wisdom and have purchased a dozen "fat" hangers. They are soft and puffy and take up about an inch of closet space. My rational? I don't need more than 12 tops. And since the hangers use up so much closet space, I don't feel like I'm looking into an empty closet. And as an added bonus, they keep the shoulders nicer and give me a better view of the top itself. I'm liking this new closet of mine filled with favorites that I happily reach for day after day. Is closet bliss a thing?!

  8. I travel regularly to a destination where I have to dress modestly all of the time that I am there (typically 8-9 days). I am slowly assembling a wardrobe of below-knee-length skirts/dresses, bottoms that are not jeans (any color), and coordinating items, with navy as my neutral. It's kind of a fun challenge! - nancyo

  9. I am extremely impressed along with your writing abilities, Thanks for this great share.

  10. I appreciate your collections so much and I've learned so much from you--thank you. But If one is really traveling to place where women dress modestly, I don't think this wardrobe addresses that. In many countries, women would never wear shorts, especially women of a certain age; they wear skirts which are so much cooler than pants or capri pants. It's easier to just pack 4 skirts and 5 tops and be done with it.