Updated: Jan 20, 2019
From January 15 through February 8, I will be traveling to the East Coast and Italy. How exciting this sounds! But packing brings a great deal of pressure. What should I bring? What will I wear? How can I minimize the weight of baggage so that I can enjoy the trip without feeling like a camel packed with excess luggage?
I must admit that I was not the smartest traveler before, but I am getting there. In the past 10 years or so, I have visited over 20 countries all over the world, including Northern and Southern Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, and India. All these places are very different in terms of climate, culture, geography and customs, yet many times I found myself going from one continent to another without having much chance to change my wardrobe in between—and that often included a change of season.
Well, here I am again, trying to be wiser and taking a slightly different approach by putting more intentionality into the process of planning.
I started with my itinerary. I will visit Washington DC for 3 days. Then, I fly to Rome and take the train to visit Naples, Florence, Modena, and Milan. I stay around 3-4 days in the biggest cities, and 1 or 2 days in Florence and Modena. I fly back to the States from Milan, staying in New York for another 3 days before finally landing in Sacramento again. A total of 25 days.
Next, my program: mainly cultural activities such as museum visits and sight-seeing. I will attend a few formal meetings and dinners, and some less formal gatherings in restaurants or coffee shops. And in between, I will spend my time at various airports, train stations, and hotels.
All right, this is a good start.
So, that means that I will need to have three different kinds of outfits: formal wear or business clothes, casual elegant pieces, and laid-back solutions that are easy to wear.
My structure is based on three main factors: shoes, outerwear, and handbags.
I started with the shoes. Three styles means three pairs of shoes, including the one I will be traveling in. That's hard. In the past, I would have taken about 6 pairs for a trip like this. The mistake I made was that I looked at the trip as an opportunity to start mixing and matching my pieces. Wrong. I ended up using half of my things and at the end, I hardly had any space to take anything back with me. And believe me, you will find things to buy—and in my opinion you should. These are your chances to enhance your wardrobe with some exotic or unique pieces.
Back to those 3 pairs of shoes. After thinking it over, I decided on the following pieces:
(1) My black leather Burberry riding boots. (Pros: elegant, warm, comfortable, goes with literally everything. Cons: a bit heavy to carry.)
(2) My Dr. Martens Surya gold leather and silk ankle boots.(Pros: light, looks flattering, SUPER good for my feet. Cons: has laces instead of a zipper and sometimes the gold is too much.) I need to take some moments to explain this choice.
I grew up wearing Dr. Martens boots, and I still believe that my feet are as healthy as they are because of those well-made, orthopedic ankle shoes. The Surya was made in England from extra light leather and silk, and comes with an elegant gold color. I think they will provide a nice balance to the black Burberry boots, and for sure, they will keep my feet warm and comfortable during travel.
(3) A pair of classic dark brown leather low-heel vintage pointed-toe Fendi kitten heels. Here, I just don't want to take a chance of making a fashion mistake by choosing the wrong pair for meetings and more formal events. Invisible, discrete, extra feminine, and timeless: that's what I need with a skirt or a black dress. I like dark brown more than black. Wearing too much black makes me feel depressed and uptight. Combining black with a bit of elegant brown is ultimately a message that I am not afraid of a little twist here and there.
(3b) Yes, I have a 3b😄: a pair of slippers. You need to have one on the international airplane (unless you are traveling business class where they provide you with a pair). And you will use them in the mornings in hotels (again, unless the hotel provides you with one). I got this pair from TJ Maxx for $15. I normally don't like to buy cheap shoes because they don't last long and they are never comfortable or feel good on my feet. But this time I was attracted to the design: the burgundy velvety suede material and the golden rim, together with the pointy toe, felt so 'Italian' that I decided to buy them just for this trip. I immediately envisioned myself putting my legs into them while waiting for my breakfast in my hotel room: the first moment of elegance after getting out of the bed. So, no flip-flops this time.
We have the shoes, let's move to choosing the right coats and jackets. This is important because you will be wearing these items most of the time, and together with your shoes and handbags, that will be the first impression you give to people around you.
For the coat, I decided on a blue velvet long coat from Dolce and Gabbana. I will combine this with a dark blue wool Blumarine scarf and a pair of warm black gloves from Ralph Lauren. I am not a hat person, so I will probably not have any hats with me. I don't expect to spend much time outside and, except in Washington DC and New York, the weather is expected to be rather mild.
I also want to bring a light-weight jacket. My choice will be a little coffee-brown feather down jacket from Iceberg. It's light; the color is perfect, and I will have an alternative option if I want to be more casual or in case of a rainy day. And with both of my coats, I will honor the great Italian designers and fashion houses.
I think this goes pretty well so far! I can combine the styles and colors easily. Now, let's look at my bags and purses: a big black suitcase; a carry on; a daytime middle size purse or tote; and an evening clutch or purse.
For the carry-on, I inherited a gorgeous black Gucci oversized vintage doctor's bag from my husband. (He got it as a gift many years ago, then gave it to me saying, “You can take this to the thrift store,' but I successfully saved it!) That would look so fabulous with the rest of my items, but I’m afraid that I will need to sacrifice a bit here and choose comfort over style: a rolling carry-on where I can fit my laptop, books and magazines, creams and slippers.
As for a daytime purse, I recently purchased a pink nylon Marc Jacobs backpack. I like backpacks so much, but the style is so girly, plus it's pink! To be on the safe side, I packed my vintage Louis Vuitton Petite Noé along with the backpack.
I feel I need to elaborate on this choice too. Don't get me wrong. I am not a typical LV purse fan who spends thousands on the latest model. It happened that I found a pre-owned authentic Louis Vuitton online on sale. It was in fair condition, and although the previous owner did not care much about maintaining the leather, after a little maintenance here and there, I decided that the purse was in wearable condition again. So, I prepared that for the trip as well.
I just need to decide on the evening purses, and I am half-way done !
My favorites are the mini Prada tessutos. I own 4 in different colors, and I adore them. Of course, I bought them pre-owned as well. I choose the powder blue version, and just to add more fun, a bright yellow mini leather tote from Furla.
By the time I arrived at this point in my planning, I had a fairly clear idea of how I would build my wardrobe around these style essentials regarding colors (mainly black and white), so here is the final list of the rest of the pieces:
- Plenty of white button-down shirts (my favorites are from D&G and Hilditch and Key);
- A black cashmere pullover;
- Simple plain cotton shirts in gray, white and black (my favorites are from Iceberg: they are soft and playful);
- A navy-blue velvet jacket by GFF (another favorite Italian designer) and a light black silk jacket from Sonia Rykiel;
- Brown and black velvet pants (Gucci) and great, cozy overalls (Calvin Klein);
- Brown and black wool skirts (Gucci and Gianfranco Ferre);
- A little black dress (GFF again);
- And because I still had plenty of room in my suitcase, an oversized pink velvet top and long skirt set from Sonia Rykiel.
Now let's see how this works out. I am very excited, and I will let you know how it went!