I’m going on a 2 week hiking trip in August and trying to figure out what to pack. We are restricted to about 33 lbs, so I need to pack light. I’d like to put together a wardrobe that’s functional, stylish, and wearable after a flight. Any suggestions? Suzanne, Saratoga Springs, New York
A capsule vacation wardrobe is the holy grail of travel: an interchangeable and efficient wear system that in an ideal world would require nothing more than a carry-on and bag that fits in an airplane overhead bin. This is a particularly pressing example this summer, as warnings of airport chaos and potential lost baggage mount, but the fill light also provides what I think is an oft-overlooked psychological boost.
Sure, the movies are full of the magic of landing on the runway with a quadrillion of Louis Vuitton trunks (hello, Elizabeth Taylor), but there’s just something liberating about leaving your most mundane belongings behind. The weight of things falls off your shoulders, as does the time you spend deciding what to wear. Instead, you’re free to enjoy and experience where you are, as your ego fades into the background so you can get a sense of what’s going on around you, whether it’s nature or monuments.
Also, of course, it’s much easier to carry around.
Fashion professionals may not seem like the best people to give advice on how to pack less because they spend their days thinking about how to wear more, but given the travel demands of their time, they know a fair amount on the subject. Eric Mazza, executive director of style for Town & Country, said he’s been traveling with just a handbag for decades—even on two-week two-city Fashion Week trips. Thus, a survey dedicated to these fellows yielded the following advice.
1. There’s no magic number of items or set of colors to pack in, though most experts recommend 10-15 items (underwear and socks don’t count), and say that neutrals are generally easier to mix and match than a group that’s likely to be motley shades. (The other option is to use some kind of monochromatic clothing.) The key is that everything fits together like a cog in the wheel of your adventure.
2. The shoes are the largest absorb space. For hiking you need a sturdy pair of shoes, a casual pair of athletic walking shoes like Keds and maybe sandals. If you’re also going to a city, add a pair of dressy sandals. (The solution: a pair of luxe Birkenstocks, which can be worn to the beach, a walk and out to dinner.)
3. Samira Nasr, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, suggests a chambray button-down or a linen button-up or two, which are great as a daytime wrap and double as wraps for more formal occasions.
4. Pack a pair or two of shorts and a pair of slacks, perhaps in rough cotton or linen that can be wrinkled. (Avoid belts because if you’re wearing a backpack with a waistband, they can get pinched.) Add one dress, a cardigan or sweater and a thin rain jacket. Also accessories, of course. Forget folding: roll.
Even if you have the luxury of traveling with multiple bags, it’s worth trying out a travel wardrobe system, simply for the mental and emotional experience. It’s like spending time in the world of Marie Kondo, without the obligation.
Answer your questions about your style
Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can submit to her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.