Style in a suitcase

the one to use

You know that the round of Fashion weeks has begun when you see articles written about what the fashionistas will be packing for the shows.  In the days when my job required a steady stream of travel, I couldn’t get enough of these articles, scrutinising them for every nugget of advice but I quickly discovered that it didn’t quite match up to the reality of working travel. So in the spirit of the Fashion Week What to Pack, here are some of the things I read, alongside some of the harsh realities I had to find out for myself, with tongue firmly in cheek….

  1. They say: “I travel wearing my favourite cashmere with loose-fitting jeans and my on-board beauty essentials in my Hermes Birkin handbag.”  I found that, far from the yogic serenity this seems to imply, grim airport reality was hiking, undressing, cargo-toting and checkpoints at every turn. This meant: flat, slip-on shoes; a coat or jacket with high pocket capacity; a big scarf for cabin warmth; and a light, zippable cabin carry-on in case it had to be stowed in the overhead lockers. I always managed to wear socks with holes on the occasions when I had to remove my shoes. I never forgot to go beltless after I once made the mistake of wearing jeans with a ‘dog collar’ belt. The flight was close to closing and I was holding up the queue, security staff glaring at me. The belt was stuck in the belt loops and I even briefly considered removing the jeans for greater speed.  Never again.  So in short, all my best intentions to be elegant were subverted by the obstacle course at the airport. If you can be serene and yogic as you travel, I salute you.
  2. They say: “I pack the season’s essentials including some exciting new items to jazz up my look”. Hmmmmm. In reality, I found that there is nothing worse than opening your bag at the other end and wondering what possessed you to use the trip to try out this randomly selected set of things you’ve never got around to wearing before. What worked better was multifunctional items that I could mix and layer: jacket, dress, trousers, shirt, skirt, scarf.
  3. They say: “Take a capsule wardrobe of minimal, perfect essentials”. Yes, but you can take this too far (and I have). Pack too light and you’re wearing the same thing every day and people, even the less observant, do eventually notice. So how to balance keeping some variety with packing light? I found if I kept to one or two toning neutrals like black, white, grey, navy, etc, I could get a lot of different combinations from just a few items. The more complicated the packing list, the greater risk that I’d forget something essential or end up taking things I never wore. Which brings me to….
  4. They say: “Add interest to your outfits with eye-catching accessories” Eye-catching is good except when it isn’t. I confess I was the perpetrator (but not the victim) of an accessory packing horror when I packed a black tie dress shirt without any shirt studs. Its quite hard to improvise for this, so yes, accessories are great and do make sure they are all present.
  5. They say: “I always take a couple of pairs of heels and some flats”. For me, the consequence of this was teetering dangerously while struggling to lift my shoe-filled cabin baggage into the locker above my head, to the consternation of all around me. I really wanted to be one of those elegant women floating around the airport in high heels but ultimately my goal became trying to get away with one pair of shoes for a whole trip. It was easier than building the muscle to carry any more.
  6. They say: “Decant your favourite beauty products to take with you”. Or even easier, save sample sizes of products or take almost-finished tubes that you can use up and discard to lighten your load. Even today I still find it hard to resist the urge to stockpile almost-finished toothpaste tubes. Each to his own.
  7. cino necklace 2 croppedThey say: “I take my ‘happy pieces’ with me”. When you travel for work, protestations of how tiring or lonely it can be never get much sympathy. It is true that work travel can be fascinating and great fun but sometimes when you’re tired, lonely and lost, its just hard. That’s when you need a small touchstone to remind you of home comfort. Just don’t bring anything that might be quarantined or confiscated at customs.
  8. They say: “Make sure you take high factor sunscreen”. Much of my travel was in Europe, where the weather risk tends more to rain than excessive sun. I checked the weather forecast assiduously and repeatedly and even if it showed the most benign and lovely conditions, I still packed assuming the worst. This meant that, faced with a hurricane bearing down on me on a trip to the US, I was ready with my micro brolly….well, there’s only so much you can prepare for.
  9. They say: “Pack for the city or area you’re going to”. This is definitely good advice, especially if its a location where dress codes might be required or enforced. I also discovered that styles of dress can vary greatly from place to place, even within Europe. As a Londoner, having an “interesting” look is a great compliment. This is not necessarily true in other places, though of course the true fashionista doesn’t really care about this. Own it, rock it and tout va bien.
  10. They say: “Dress for the boardroom in a sharp suit”. I tried this a few times and just felt uncomfortable, especially on the occasions when I had to do something a bit challenging. I found it a much better approach to wear what I felt comfortable in. This motivated me better than wearing a suit like armour. When you’re faced with doing something you find risky, its not the time to be taking unnecessary wardrobe risks. Wear something you know you’ll feel strong and comfortable in and you’ll be in the right frame of mind to power through.cino crowned
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