History in the Making

Building a Travel Wardrobe, Style File Friday

To me, a sign of adulthood is looking put together. That doesn’t mean covered in designer clothing from head to toe, it doesn’t mean elaborate outfits, it doesn’t mean overly formal choices. It does mean that your clothing is clean and wrinkle-free, and fits properly. And to me, travel is no exception to that rule. You don’t know who you will meet or what connections you will make, and looking your best will never hurt. Keeping a travel wardrobe can be difficult; depending on where you travel, it can be radically different from your regular clothing. So, how do you go about building a travel wardrobe?

Building a Travel Wardrobe

Many people make their trips much more expensive than they already are by feeling that they need to go out and buy a million new things. “I don’t have a cross body purse that works,” “I need more comfortable shoes,” “I need a travel umbrella”. We’ve all probably done this ourselves, but it does start to add up very quickly. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need everything new!

Know Where You Go 

There are some travellers who are always going somewhere new, from equatorial beaches to snowy mountaintops. There are also travellers who travel to similar climates. I fall into the latter group- I always head to the British Isles/Ireland with fairly moderate temperatures. I know what to expect in terms of weather and climate, so I know what to expect clothing wise. If you are all over the globe, keep a well-rounded wardrobe that covers most climates!

Red bus passing by Georgian architecture in London

Invest in Quality Pieces 

It can be incredibly tempting to buy the cheapest pieces possible to save as much money. Those $15 sneakers, that $4 t-shirt, a $5 umbrella. However, you are most definitely going to be dealing with incredibly short lifetimes on your clothing- in many cases, it may not even last the duration of your trip. And then you end up buying another one for your next trip. And then another for the next, and so on and so forth. It gets to be incredibly expensive in the long run, and does nothing for the planet, either. I wouldn’t recommend going to high end designer or luxury pieces, but well-made items from quality fibres that will last for your trips (and in storage, as well)! Most of my pieces in my travel wardrobe are clothing that I wear normally, so I do tend to go for quality to last anyways. But don’t fall into the trap of cheap clothing for travel, because it won’t do you much good in the long run!

Style File Friday

Start Looking Early 

If you know that you will be going on a trip somewhere specific, or that you travel frequently. keep an eye out for pieces long before you need to go. If you wait until the last moment, you very well may end up spending far more than you want to, buying something that you don’t actually like (and may not wear), or not finding anything at all. I have been looking for a coat for my trip to UK in February for a while now- my parka suited for -60°C is not necessary for London! And I do want to look put-together, as I will be meeting with people from different museums and historical sites. It took nearly three months of looking to a find a coat that met all of my requirements, as well as my budget. It isn’t the end of the world in some cases if you can’t find something, but if you are anything like me, you will spend your trip fidgety and uncomfortable, upset that I couldn’t find the right thing.

Grey moto coat and wool scarf

Ask Yourself “Does It Travel Well?” 

Some pieces just don’t travel well. They get super wrinkled, they can’t be washed if need be, they don’t fold or roll well. Unless you are one of the characters from Crazy Rich Asians, you probably need to limit your luggage when you travel. When you are shopping for pieces, pay attention to the fabric make up. Things like linen will be wrinkled if you so much as look at them. If it is creased when you buy it in the store, check to see that you can return it. Steam it as soon as you get home, and if the wrinkles persist, take it back! If you are a real grown up, you may hang up your clothing when you arrive at a hotel, but nowadays there isn’t always somewhere to hang things up- make sure your clothing can last being folded and rolled for a while.

Black Brocade skirt with Black Blazer

Look In Your Own Wardrobe First 

Although there are some things that do need to be bought for a trip (ie. a coat that isn’t meant for the frozen tundra), mine your own wardrobe first! Go through your packed away off-season clothing if you need to, but consider everything you already own before going to buy something new. I have the best merino wool sweaters from the Gap that are just perfect for work; conveniently they are also perfect for travel because they are light and warm! Yes, it can be exciting to outfit yourself from head to toe before a trip, but you can also use that money on the trip. (Not to mention, buying less unnecessary clothing.)

Ask yourself if you own something that would do the job relatively well? Don’t imagine yourself with Chanel jumbo maxi and swear that only it will do, when you have a perfectly lovely purse in your closet already. Unless you do not own an item that fulfils the need (and be honest), you probably don’t need it. Swimsuits, supportive shoes, and theft proof items are things that you may expect to buy- dresses, pants, sweaters, and tops are probably already living in your wardrobe…

Longchamp le Pliage full

Do you have any “must have” items in your travel wardrobe? What can’t you live without when you travel? 

The Historian
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2 thoughts on “Building a Travel Wardrobe, Style File Friday”

  • I always bring a pair of knee-high fashionable but comfortable boots with me when I travel to anywhere during the colder months. I wear them on the plane so I don’t have to worry about packing them, and they have saved me numerous times from freezing rains and sharp, windy weather on my trips. I also have a huge black purse that goes with me on all trips — it fits EVERYTHING, so I take it on the plane as my carry on. In that bag, I tuck a smaller clutch that can double as a small purse for when I’m walking around and seeing the sights, and as a chic clutch if I’m going to dinner somewhere nice. This two-in-one trick works wonderfully, and it also doesn’t set off me off as tourist because it looks like I’m just carrying regular purses.

    • I used to wear knee high boots- I had the perfect, comfiest pair EVER and I’ve never been able to replace them, and then I moved away from the style. I don’t like wearing knee high boots with skirts or dresses anymore, and I’m finally moving towards ankle boots (only like 7 years after the fact… I’m slow to change)! I find now that I spend most of my time in cities, I have less problems with soaking feet/legs, though I would go with higher boots if I was venturing a ton into the great outdoors!

      I have a leather clutch (from a wonderful Canadian company that sadly closed) that is specifically a travel wallet (with slots for boarding tickets, reservations, currency, and your passport, and then you can remove it and use it as a clutch. It always comes with me! I tend not to use it if I’m out for the day, though- I always bring a power charger (for photos on my phone), as well as my large camera, so my Kate Spade satchel works well. I now typically take my Longchamp as my carry on, because I’ve not found anything quite as efficient, but for a long haul like this, I might just go back to my back pack- with a 12 hours layover, I think I just want ease haha. I usually just stash it as soon as I arrive though, so it doesn’t come with me throughout.

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