June 17, 2015
Last week, I was going out of town overnight – literally for about 18 hours, and had to pack, even though I wasn’t going to be gone long at all. (this was the situation that got me started on the whole thought process of “3×3″…)
I was dressed, getting ready to leave; this is a reasonable facsimile of what I was wearing:
I knew that, since I would be home by 8 a.m. the next morning, all I really needed to pack was a clean top (as well as pajamas, and minimal toiletries), so I envisioned this:
First, I held up the top that I pulled from the closet, and took a close look at both sides of it, to make sure that it would be wearable with my white cardigan and black trousers. And then, because I’m always dreaming of packing, I started thinking of what else I might tuck into my bag, and how it would be worn. Since I’d substituted a top, I thought for a second piece I’d substitute my cardigan for a different one:
And then it was time to ponder what would go into my (imaginary) bag to take the place of my black trousers. A skirt, for me, is obvious:
This is the point in the imaginary packing where one needs to stop and start thinking about another pair of shoes, maybe, and some different accessories DEFINITELY! (even I could get bored with the same scarf day after day…)
And then, to get to the cool “Six Pack” number, and to build a nice, symmetric “3×3”, I just ran through the process again. First up, another cardigan.
Yes, the cardigan is the same shade of red as my top – that makes wearing them together easier. If you know for an iron-clad fact what your accent color is, it makes sense to try to buy pieces like this at the same time, or at least from the same company. Even if you don’t plan to wear them at the same time, having the option is never a bad idea.
Finally, something that’s not a solid color! This top could have been any kind of a pattern, design, texture or print that included at least 2 of our 3 colors.
And to offer a casual option, and tempt the laundry fates, some white jeans:
It all looks like this, when you plug it into the template:
This “3×3” does NOT equal 45, because you can’t wear the white cardigan on its own. But I’m pretty sure that only cuts three possible outfits out of your options, so you’ve probably got 42 different ways to combine these 9 pieces. But I deliberately pictured 20 in my mind, which is more than adequate for most travel.
Does anybody else in the world think about packing as often as I do?
Hello Janice – yes, I am as obsessed with travel packing as you are – and these latest templates are so incredibly helpful – thank you! I printed one out and filled in my garments for a trip we were planning. Interesting, my packing list fit perfectly into the template – a definite sign I got it right! I think my obsession stems from the (a) the satisfaction of knowing that I have everything I need and nothing that I don't and (b) not wanting to worry about finding something at my destination. For me, I enjoy shopping when I travel but not if I "have" to find something to wear – to me that is just too stressful and takes all the fun out of the exercise. Like you, we travel carry on only – which as you know requires careful planning – but the payoff is absolutely worth it! Your travel posts have been indispensable to me and I frequently recommend your site to my friends who are planning trips!!!
The Inspired Stitcher says
Yes, I'm in the same camp. That's why I love what you do for us so much. Being a very visual learner, seeing things laid out like you do really helps solidify it all for me when it actually comes to packing a bag. Thank you so much for your posts and all the hard work that goes into them. I appreciate you!
Ditto for the two above comments ! Are you in the recovery phase ? Hope all is going well !
These are my colours! The scarf is a perfect touch.
J Van Orman says
I love the three by three travel idea. I was wondering if you might be able to use the three by three for going out evening clothes? A dress up three by three, which might include symphony, New Year s eve, other more formal occasions? You might also show shoes bags and jewelry. I love your ideas.
That’s a great idea – many of us don’t go out ALL that much, but it would be handy to have a wee wardrobe for that kind of things… Give me a month or 6 weeks, when all of the holiday stuff starts to appear in the stores…
When you actually wear your various travel outfits, do you have a particular method of rotation of ensembles, or is it as the mood strikes you, knowing that you have all the varieties, as demonstrated above ?
My question too! Just because we CAN wear a few pieces 45 ways, how often should we do that?
Puzzled in Houston…
Janice Riggs says
I'll give some thought to how I rotate my travel clothes and try to figure out how to share it with you. It's not lost on me that none of us are really going to go on a six week trip with just 6 pieces of clothing, but having options when we travel gives us both the ability to adapt to changing circumstances (weather, activities), and keeps us from being "stuck" if something with which we're traveling is lost, damaged, or at the laundry. What I want for us all to avoid is that "I have to carry this skirt to 3 more cities, although I tore the sleeve of the blouse that I wear with it a week ago…" problem. I've done that, and it's not fun!
Thanks! I agree. Plus we Can wear almost the same thing and make it look pretty different with your plan for accessories, etc. I'm wondering how many times I can wear the same item on a ten-day business trip in August. ;-)
Thank you again! I've been a little wardrobe-challenged in the past, but seeing your examples over and over has finally helped some principles sink into my head!
I use a Whatevers Clean and Wardrobe Slot Machine for my everyday stay-at-home clothes. I have dated spreadsheet. I wear four skirts (each for two days) and I have eight or more long sleeved t-shirts (one each day). As it is winter in Australia I have allocated a vest and polar fleece for each top. I then click and drag the combinations down so I have what I could wear for the next three months. I am evenly wearing out my clothes. Special occasions I wear what is appropriate. Traveling would be a different matter as circumstances, like weather, change each day. Thanks for post. Carol S
These posts are helpful in so many ways. In particular, they help me, as a sewist, to stay focused on planning how the pieces I make are functional in my everyday wardrobe. Sometimes(!) I get carried away by a particular design or fabric and make one of those pieces that don't have any partners. So your blog assists with self discipline.
Packing is my hobby!!! I LOVE these posts. You've helped me so much, Janice! (I've never commented before because I've never figured out how to do it. Technology is Not my hobby. ;-) My daughter is new to Chicago, so I pass on your winter tips to her!) Thank you so much!
It is very helpful to me to see the template, with examples. These aren't my colors, but understanding the process makes it possible to apply the idea to any colors. I don't travel as much as I would like, but this concept is helpful even for everyday. Historically I am a terrible packer, and your posts have been a big help to me when the opportunity comes my way. Mary
Me me me! I love making packing lists. I love going only carry-on – even two weeks in Vietnam/Cambodia – it can be done! Thx!
I don't know what's happening here. It must be the triple-digit heat. Anyway, I tried to say the following: If you can do it for 2 weeks, you can do it for 4+. The magic words are layers, coordination, machine washable and laundromat (or clothes washer if you are renting an apartment). I hate layering, but for carry-on travel, it's a must. You'd be surprised how interesting it can be using a laundromat in Germany or Spain or France, or, or, or.
Tanyaa Haines says
Thank you! This is where I am heading and it is so nice to see it in pictures to get a visual. My wardrobe started out as a mishmash of colors and styles. When you published the starting from scratch series I decided to pair down my colors focusing around black and grey. Then you did the all black series and I realized that this is where I really want to be – a core black wardrobe with white and royal blue as accents. So if I were to swap out the red with royal blue in today's post, I would be well in my way to my new wardrobe. Thanks for your expertise, dedication and creativity.
Your wizardry continues unabated. These wardrobes continue to help me dream of the perfect wardrobe for the perfect trip. It's so much fun.
Vivian Jung says
Yes, I think about packing often! Husband travels often for business, and I often accompany him, so pretty much anything I add to my wardrobe needs to be travel-friendly. Which means, as much as I love white as an option, my tendency to stain pretty much anything light-colored during my visits rules it out. My wardrobe is dark, but coordinated :-).
I used to be such a bad packer before I found you Janice! :) I love all your ideas! I am so much better at planning and packing now. Thank you so much! I'm still trying to pare down my wardrobe and get a more cohesive style. I so appreciate you!
Love packing! even if its imaginary, establishing clusters of clothes that work together helps a huge amount with wardrobe management. I'm really into navy with red (or orange red) at the moment, so would love a navy version of this, maybe with a nautical theme….
Gayle Ritter says
I love the creative part of packing for a trip. I have found that after I get my colors chosen (say for a cruise), and have counted the nites for dressy and activities for casual, it’s then easier to pick out scarves and jewelry. Several strands of pearls and a lightweight jacket look totally different from a ruana and chunky earrings. Daytime touring looks can be changed with scarves and look different as well. I just got back from 2 week trip and 2 different style camisoles with different jewelry were my lifesaver. They weigh nothing but under jackets or 3rd layers take on a whole new appearance.
I absolutely loathe packing. It's enough to make me not want to travel sometimes. I do overpack and can spend days stressing about it. I hope one day to overcome this with the help,of your wonderful blog.
For a bit of variety, could you please do a menswear post using the 4×4 or clean 13 templates?
I'd even be happy with a 3×3 menswear post. I'm kinda out of ideas for my husbands wardrobe.
Love all your packing posts, Janice! However, I really struggle with toppers. I am waaaaaay overheated these days, even in chilling a/c. I would really love to see some packing and/or wardrobe planning posts in which toppers play a very minimal role. Thanks!
Carter, I've been thinking the same thing too. I haven't quite hit the hot flash stage but I do tend to overheat easily. Here in Atlanta it's been high 90's and incredibly humid all week. I'd love to see some looks put together without a topper.
I'm in Atlanta too, Amy! Way too hot for cardis or blazers.
I never had hot flashes, but I never could wear blazers for work — too restrictive. Cardigans were almost as bad — too many layers. I do take one, and only one, cardigan on my trips, along with a hooded rain jacket. Three toppers are two too many for me. I'd also like to see some options with no toppers.
I'm so glad I'm not the only one always thinking about packing! After studying all the posts here I've realized just how haphazard my wardrobe is. I'm hard pressed to even find a workable 3×3 in my closet! I'm traveling the next 2 weekends and will be using this concept. When I get home I think it's time to take another long look at my closet with the Starting from Scratch ideas and finding where I have gaps to be filled. I'm positive I have plenty of patterned shirts and sweaters :-)
Hello Janice, I dont normally comment, I wondered if I could ask you a question? Looking through your archives, I noticed you took some slouch pants to Paris, they looked wonderful and comfy, but how were they received? I am not sure (having recently bought some!) whether they are leisure wear, which I have heard is frowned upon?? Absolutely love this 3 x 3, there is not enough red clothing in my opinion, its very smart and classy whatever the garment, and the scarf is perfect to pull it all together! :) Sarah,
hostess of the humble bungalow says
Packing only crosses my mind when I have a trip planned…but wardrobes like these that are minimal are still relevant when planning new purchases or starting over…nice Hermes scarf choice!
I love the idea of minimal packing for an overnight trip and have done so similarly on occasion with one exception — I would always pack an extra bottom. In most cases I wouldn't need it, but if I didn't have a change of pants or a skirt with me I just KNOW I would spill on or somehow soil the ones I was wearing. ;-)
I do NOT think about packing as often as you do, since I don't travel all that often. However, I travel with a husband who HATES to check luggage!! I came looking for ideas for a wardrobe that might work for 4 days in Brussels then straight to Wash., DC for 6 more days. Fortunately, the weather won't be too dissimilar! Brussels is all play with the possibility of one dinner with husband's business colleagues. DC is play during the day; dinner/event with colleagues in the evenings. I had decided on black, white and tan. Even more fortunately, I came across helpful sites of those of you who take packing seriously and are willing to share your ideas!! Thank you and wish me luck! Gina
Yes, I think about packing for upcoming travels, and coordinating colors/patterns as you do in your posts. Thank you. Black is a frequently-packed color…versatile, hides stains or dirt in a pinch, and because dog hair is a challenge for me to wear dark colors (dark blue, etc.) at home. ?❤?❤?
Janice, I think about packing just as often as you do! My husband and I travel regularly for two or three months at a time from Australia to Europe in both summer and winter. I prefer to travel with a small carryon bag because it’s easier for me to lug it around but I struggle for some trips. We leave on Sunday for a two month trip including a 15 day cruise of The Baltic and Scandinavia, a month in Greece and 10 days in Cyprus with friends. I need to pack for hot and cold weather, casual sightseeing, the pool deck, fancy dinners and the beach. For the cruise and in Cyprus I will need day and evening clothes every day. In Cyprus we will be with friends the whole time so I can’t wear the same things over and over. It’s extremely challenging. I pack my bag and repackaged it. I’ve decided I need a big bag for this trip but I know I will hate lugging it around. I would welcome any suggestions. I love the concept of the 3 by 3 wardrobe but it depends on the climate. In Australia, Italy, Greece and Cyprus for example, you won’t often be wearing three pieces of clothing in summer because it’s just too hot. What pieces would you recommend for extremely hot weather?
During covid I’ve done some online shopping out of sheer boredom… and during the Christmas sales added four new Icebreaker merino wool tops to my travel options. I bought my first merino wool tshirts in 2008 and am still wearing them because I generally save them for travelling and only air dry them. In addition to being super comfortable, they remain fresh smelling for at least 2-3 wearings, so far less laundry on the go. I now have 4 tshirts and 4 long sleeve tops, all in black, grey and jewel tones – no patterns allowed. Of course they work as simple casual tops but for dinner on cruises I dress them up with a scarf, a cardigan and nice jewelry. When travelling I only take carry on – I don’t own any other luggage. My last trip in fall 2019 was ~50 days and I took way too much, even after years of doing what I thought was travelling light. As my first post retirement and first very long trip I still made the mistake of jamming too much in my carry on just because it fit (21 tops/layers, 7 bottoms, 1 dress) By my calculation I had about 150 combinations of outfits for a 50 day trip. Ridiculous. I’d made the mistake of thinking that when taking a trip longer than my normal 2-3 weeks like pre-retirement, I’d want more combinations to avoid boredom. In the end I wore about half the items 90% of the time. Lesson learned. Next trip is 30 days in October 2022 (fingers crossed) and this time I’ll take the 8 merino tops, 1 dress, 3-4 bottoms and more scarves than last time (6? instead of 3). It turns out that really versatile base pieces mostly in black and grey can be turned into anything with scarves in a rainbow of choices.
My kids are now both in their 20s and travelled with us every summer for many years. They also only own carry on bags. Their first major trip was 30 days to several countries in Europe and they managed to take everything they needed for a cruise with formal nights, hiking in Italy, and everything in between. My husband travelled for work regularly for 20+ years and always used a carry on, even when gone to Asia on extended 3-4 week trips.
Now my kids are teaching friends how to roll clothes in a suitcase and plan a wardrobe where everything goes with everything else. I grew up in a family where you packed everything just in case. Over the years it’s become a bit of a game to see how little I can take without feeling like I don’t have the options I want. Last time I went on a Girls’ Cruise to the Caribbean, I took a shoulder tote bag for 9 days.
I love reading your suggestions for even more streamlined packing suggestions. There is always more to learn, and other ways to consider. I know I could take less but I always weigh that against the amount of time I’d have to spend doing laundry because I’d worn everything a couple of times. Since I often resort to sink washing in hotel and cruise cabin bathrooms, I don’t want that to become a frequent chore. If I’ll have easy access to laundry facilities I am willing to cut way down.