What’s in the suitcase this time?

LogoI didn’t actually think that there was going to be a Fashion Friday post this week. Life threw us an unexpected curve a few days ago when we learned that my very frail 96-year-old father had taken a turn for the worse. He isn’t expected to live and we’re once again on our way to Vancouver.

There were a lot of details that we had to take care of at home in order to clear our calendars and get on our way. Very little thought or planning went into what’s in our suitcase. Thankfully, we travel a lot and packing has become second nature to me. When I looked at the clothes laying on the bed in our guest room, which doubles as my packing room, I realized that I’d automatically chosen mostly neutrals and that everything coordinated so that I could put together many outfits with just a few items. The latter is a very important key to packing well.

We spent many hours on the road yesterday and at one point I found myself thinking about what was in the suitcase. I came to the realization that, for the most part, I’d packed what might best be referred to as comfort clothes. Comfortable, yes, but also comforting. Clothes like my grey and white Breton t-shirt and my tan cords that feel like old friends. I may not be a shining fashionista in the things that I packed, but in these challenging days, I’ll be dressed in clothes that bring me comfort.

What about you? Do you have clothes that you instinctively reach for on days when you need comforting?

How to shop like a celebrity

LogoI thought that taking my oldest underwear to Europe was a great packing tip, but actress Helen Mirren goes much further than that.

“I love a good charity shop, especially when I’m travelling. When I’m going to cold places, I take nothing – just underwear. On my way from the airport, I ask the driver to take me to a good charity shop, and I buy boots, socks, trousers, jumpers, sweaters, hats and scarves… On the way back to the airport, I have it all in a big bag and drop it off at another charity shop,” she said in August of 2010.

She’s also been quoted as saying, “The whole thing of clothes is insane. You can spend a dollar on a jacket in a thrift store. And you can spend a thousand dollars on a jacket in a shop. And if you saw those two jackets walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t know which was which.” 

I first learned of Mirren’s penchant for thrift store shopping when I saw this meme on Facebook. I immediately knew that we were two of a kind!

Helen Mirren thrifting

Apparently Helen Mirren is far from the only celebrity who shops for second hand clothing. Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, and Sara Jessica Parker are just a few others who can be found searching the racks of thrift stores. Eva Mendes even attended her first movie premiere in a $6 dress from Goodwill. I love the fact that they prove that thrift stores aren’t only for people who haven’t any other financial options, but why would stars who can easily afford to be selective about where they shop choose second hand? Perhaps it’s because it allows them to find unique pieces that they know their fellow actresses won’t be wearing. Perhaps they hate fast fashion and see thrifting as a way to contribute to the well-being of the environment. Or perhaps, like me, it’s more about the fun of going on a treasure hunt.

So, if you’d like to dress like your favourite celebrity, it might not be as expensive as you think. Instead of dreaming of hiring a stylist and shopping luxury stores, why not be a frugal fashionista and check out a few thrift stores?

Best pants for travel

LogoPrior to our Europe trip, I was looking for a pair of comfortable, lightweight black pants that would pack well, wash easily, and look good for any occasion. I almost despaired of finding what I was looking for, but then I discovered the Eddie Bauer Incline Collection made especially for hiking and travel.

Made of polyester/spandex with a comfortable 2-way stretch, the ladies Incline pant has a moisture shedding StormRepel DWR finish. Water literally beads up on them! In addition, the fabric provides UPF 50+ sun protection. These pull-on pants have a flattering athletic fit; close to the body without being too tight. They weigh almost nothing, took up very little space in my teeny tiny carry-on suitcase, and looked as good in a nice restaurant as they did on this windy beach near Zeebrugge, Belgium.

IMG_9229 - Version 2

They have cargo pockets and zippered slash pockets on both sides. All four pockets have overlapping flaps to discourage pickpockets and keep items secure and they add virtually no bulk.

IMG_9237 - Version 2

I washed the pants twice in hotel sinks and in both cases they dried overnight without a wrinkle. Without question, they quickly became my favourite travel pants ever and will continue to have a place in my suitcase wherever I go.

IMG_9227 - Version 2

In addition to black, the ladies Incline pants come in dark smoke and midnight (navy). I’m seriously considering ordering a second pair!

Packing review… how did I do?

LogoWe’re home and Fashion Friday is back!

This was our very first carry-on only trip and I’ve decided that it’s definitely the way we’ll travel in the future. It was so easy! There were no baggage fees and no waiting around at airport luggage carousels wondering if our suitcases had made it onto the right plane. I had no trouble lifting my teeny tiny suitcase and stowing it in overhead bins on airplanes or racks on trains. It wheeled along easily, even on somewhat rough surfaces, and I could easily carry it up several flights of stairs in the guest houses that didn’t have elevators. Yes, it was easy!

But what about the contents of that little carry-on suitcase? Did I pack the right things? Enough of everything? First, let’s review what I took with me:

IMG_7337 2

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pairs lightweight long pants
  • 1 pair capris
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 2 camisoles
  • 6 tops – 1 long sleeved, 3 with 3/4 length sleeves, 2 short sleeved
  • 1 little black dress
  • 1 dressy black jacket
  • 1 ultra light down vest
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 lightweight hoodie
  • 1 windbreaker jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 3 pairs of shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • sleepwear (2 sleep shorts, 1 short lightweight dressing gown)
  • socks, underwear, bras

All in all, I feel like I did a pretty good job of choosing what to put in the little suitcase. A bit of tweaking will make next time even better.

Good footwear is absolutely essential on a trip like the one we just took. The rose gold sneakers weren’t actually in the suitcase. Most of the time, they were on my feet and they were an excellent choice for this trip! We’re estimating that we walked somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 km over the past three and a half weeks, many of them on rough cobblestone streets, and we climbed innumerable stairs. The sneakers stood up well and were amazingly comfortable.

Everywhere we went in Europe, locals and tourists alike dressed quite casually. I only wore the leggings, dress, dressy jacket, and black flat shoes once for an evening of fado (traditional Portuguese music) in a little pub in Lisbon, but I wouldn’t have needed to. I didn’t feel overdressed, but anything else in my suitcase would have done just as well. Depending on the nature of a future trip, I might leave those things at home and replace them with an additional pair of pants since pants are more difficult to wash in a sink than smaller items are.

Six tops was plenty. I could have managed with four or five, but it was nice to have a bit more variety. Surprisingly, I didn’t find that I got bored with the clothes I had with me. Perhaps I was just too busy enjoying the trip! The vest, hoodie, and windbreaker were a great combination that gave me layering options that worked well in a variety of weather conditions. There was also a tiny folding umbrella tucked into the suitcase that came in handy on a few occasions.

The swimsuit didn’t get used, but I anticipated that. I always carry one just in case though. Two pairs of sleep shorts was enough as they rinse out easily and dry in no time. Two bras was also enough. We each packed six pairs of socks and underwear for 24 days, but it felt like I was washing them continually, so I’d take a few more of those next time.

Let me finish with a couple of packing tips that I’ve learned:

  • If you use facecloths, take at least one with you. I learned to do this when we lived in Asia, but apparently Europe is no different. We stayed in seven different guest houses and hotels on this trip and not one of them provided a facecloth. Take a little ziploc bag with you to pack the cloth in if it isn’t completely dry when you pack up so that it doesn’t dampen anything else in your bag.
  • Take a flat rubber universal sink stopper with you. I didn’t think of this, but it’s on my shopping list and I won’t leave home without one again. Most of our sinks had plugs, but a couple of them didn’t which made doing laundry in the sink virtually impossible.

If you have any packing questions, leave them in the comments section below and I’ll do my best to answer them. The next two Fridays I plan to highlight a couple of excellent items that I purchased specifically for this trip.

 

 

Why I’m taking my oldest underwear to Europe

LogoToday is packing day, the day that I’ve been waiting for ever since February when we purchased our teeny tiny suitcases and booked our flights! I’ve been asked to reveal what goes into my tiny suitcase and today I’m going to do just that, but first I have to share a packing tip that I never would have thought of on my own. When I decided that we should try traveling with carry-on luggage only, I searched for tips online and that’s when I decided to take my oldest underwear to Europe!

Because we’re traveling light, I’ll be doing laundry in hotel sinks and hanging it to dry. Instead of washing that old ragged underwear the last time before we fly home, I’ll simply drop it in the trash! Less laundry to do and a wee bit more space in my suitcase to bring home a small memento or two! Genius!

And now, what else is in that suitcase? The photo and list below include what I’ll be wearing on the plane. Initially, I was thinking about taking only four tops instead of the six that are shown, but after packing Richard’s bag (yes, I pack for both of us) I realized that our little suitcases will hold more than I anticipated and I added a couple more.

IMG_7337 2

 

Packing list:

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pairs lightweight long pants
  • 1 pair capris
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 2 camisoles
  • 6 tops – 1 long sleeved, 3 with 3/4 length sleeves, 2 short sleeved
  • 1 little black dress
  • 1 dressy black jacket
  • 1 ultra light down vest
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 lightweight hoodie
  • 1 windbreaker jacket
  • 1 hat
  • 3 pairs shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • sleepwear, underwear, and socks

There are two keys to successfully packing light. The first is coordinating colours. As you can see from the photo, every top I packed can be worn with every bottom. I can easily visualize about 30 outfits coming out of that little suitcase and we aren’t even going to be gone that many days! The second key is layering. For example, the little black dress is simple, sleeveless, and very lightweight. It can be worn over the black leggings or without and it looks good worn under several of the tops and/or the dressy black jacket. Depending on the weather, the hoodie, down vest, and windbreaker jacket can each be worn individually or I can layer them if we encounter chillier temperatures. The swimsuit is on the very bottom of the suitcase where it will probably stay as I don’t actually anticipate using it. I never travel without one though, just in case.

IMG_7339

Another key to successful packing is utilizing space wisely. For example, my extra pairs of shoes are filled with small items like our spare pairs of eyeglasses and our sunglasses. There’s even a pair of socks stuffed in that bottle of medication!

Many travellers swear that you can fit more into your suitcase by rolling everything instead of folding, but that hasn’t been my experience. I prefer to fold basics like pants and tops, but I rolled a lot of the other items.

We expect to have wifi in each of the places that we’ll be staying, so I plan to share some travel posts along the way. I’m not sure if Fashion Friday will appear every week or not, but I’ll do my best!

Building a cohesive wardrobe

LogoI’ve written before about my 3Cs of fashion… classy, confident, and comfortable, but today I want to look at another C… cohesive. Cohesion could be the difference between a wardrobe that works and one that doesn’t, so what does this C word mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cohesive means “united and working together effectively” and the Collins English Dictionary says that something that is cohesive “consists of parts that fit together well and form a united whole”. That sounds like a workable wardrobe to me!

So what makes a wardrobe cohesive? I would suggest two things… most of the tops work with most of the bottoms and the majority of the garments are versatile enough to be dressed up or down for a variety of venues and occasions.

How then do we build that cohesive wardrobe? Obviously, few of us can scrap our entire closet full of clothes and start from scratch, but begin by evaluating what you already have and then work toward making purchases that add cohesion.

  • If you haven’t already, define your personal style. I’ve written about how to use Pinterest to help you do that here.
  • Choose a colour palette. Build your basic wardrobe around a few colours that suit your complexion, that you feel drawn to, and that coordinate well with one another. This doesn’t have to be boring. Scarves and accessories are a great way to add pops of other colours. Pattern and texture also add variety.
  • Only buy pieces that will go with what you already own. Ask yourself, can I wear this at least three different ways with items that I already have in my closet? If so, it will probably be a good purchase. This may not work for something like a special occasion dress, but it’s a good rule of thumb for most other wardrobe purchases.

If you follow these simple suggestions, you’ll end up with a cohesive wardrobe that will make getting dressed in the morning easy and enjoyable. No more staring at a closet full of mismatched clothes and moaning about having nothing to wear!

Nothing to wear

image

I’ve been thinking a lot about cohesiveness lately for two reasons. First of all, spring is finally coming to the Canadian prairie and I’ll soon be doing my seasonal wardrobe switch. As I bring out my spring/summer wardrobe, I’ll be looking at it with a critical eye and deciding where the gaps are and what I need to fill them with. Secondly, it’s less than two weeks until I’ll be packing that teeny tiny suitcase and flying off to Europe for three and a half weeks. This will be our first attempt at traveling with carry-on luggage only, so whatever goes into that one little suitcase is going to have to work well together!

Choosing the shoes

LogoOne of my favourite fashion bloggers, Susan B of une femme d’un certain âge, frequently suggests that when you’re planning what to pack for a trip, you should start with the shoes. That hasn’t been my usual practice, but for our upcoming trip to Europe I thought perhaps I should follow her advice.

I firmly believe that the best way to see a city is on foot. We’re going to be visiting several cities and I expect that we’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Some of it will even be on cobblestone streets! Comfortable shoes are an absolute must. In fact, they’re probably the most important things we’ll take with us, so from the moment we started planning I’ve been thinking about which ones should go with me.

I have several pairs of trendy fashion sneakers, but they’re more about looks than long distance walking. I thought about taking my trusty Merrell hiking shoes, but they’re all about comfort on the trail and not very attractive to look at. No, I wanted something that was comfortable and supportive for all the walking we’ll be doing, but also nice looking. Nothing in my shoe collection seemed to fit the bill.

Then I wandered into a Payless closing out sale to see what was left on the shelves and there they were! A pair of Airwalk Speed Vitesse sneakers in rose gold!

IMG_7320

I was pretty sure I’d found my new travelling companions and it didn’t hurt that they were on sale for 30% off. Since buying them, I’ve worn them on two long walks and now I know for certain that I’ll be walking the streets of Europe in them. They definitely tick all the boxes for me! Comfortable, casual, and classy looking!

I’m hoping that there’s room for one or two other pairs of shoes in my teeny tiny carry-on suitcase, but if I had to go with only one pair, these ones would do the job.

Uniqlo ultra light down vest

LogoI’ve been busy lately planning an upcoming trip. I’m not going to give away any details about our destination just yet, but in addition to going where we’ve never gone before, we’re going to be doing it with carry-on luggage only. I’ve always been pretty good at packing light. I proved that in early 2008 when we left for a full year in Japan with less than what was, at that time, the allowable limit on a plane. This trip, however, is going to take packing light to a whole new level. Three and a half weeks with one teeny, tiny suitcase each!

Though we don’t depart for almost two months, I’m already thinking about what will go into those suitcases. Traveling in the spring, we need to be prepared for varying weather conditions. One of the keys to packing light and yet being prepared for changeable weather has always been layers. Richard, in particular, likes to wear a fleece vest when he’s feeling chilly, but they’re very bulky to pack. The answer? An ultra light down vest from Uniqlo for each of us.

IMG_7155

I don’t really like ordering clothing online. I prefer to see, touch, and try on before I buy, but the closest Uniqlo store is 1300 km away in Vancouver, BC. Since we won’t be there before our big trip, ordering online was our only option. The process was simple and efficient with the package arriving in the mail just eight days after I placed the order.  Unfortunately, however, in spite of the fact that we tried to make sense of the online size charts, Richard’s vest was too small and will need to be returned. While shipping was free and Uniqlo provided a prepaid shipping label for returns, they will deduct a substantial shipping charge from our refund. Uniqlo Canada doesn’t currently offer exchanges for online purchases, so I’ll have to reorder. Unfortunately, the vests were on sale when I initially ordered them, but aren’t any longer. I love Uniqlo clothing, but I do think that their customer service (at least in Canada) could use some improvement.

IMG_7157

In spite of the frustration and extra expense of securing the right size, I think the vests will serve us well. Thin and incredibly lightweight, each comes with it’s own little stuff-sack made of the same water-repellent material as the outer shell. Once in the sack it’s about the size of a 1-litre water bottle and is by no means fully compressed when stored this way. It will easily pop into a day pack or fit amongst the other items in our luggage and add almost nothing to the weight. There’s even a little loop inside the front of the vest to attach the carrying pouch to so it doesn’t get lost.

The vest has zippered pockets in front as well as two inner pockets. There are a vast array of colours to choose from for both men and women. I chose navy, while Richard’s will be dark grey, both neutrals that will coordinate well with most of what we carry in those tiny suitcases. Do remember if you decide to order one that they fit a bit small.

IMG_7163

Stay tuned for more about our upcoming trip and more packing tips in the weeks ahead!

Your Perfect 10

LogoThis weekend I’ll be packing for another trip to Vancouver. You may remember that we were there in June to celebrate my father’s 95th birthday. On that trip, a lot of things never came out of my suitcase because the weather was unseasonably cool and damp. Spring and fall are easily the most difficult times of year to pack efficiently for in this part of the world because weather can vary widely and one needs to be prepared for almost any eventuality. I’m hoping to do a better job this time though!

So how am I going to do that? I’ll definitely be packing layering pieces for warmth and versatility. I’m also going to adopt some ideas from “Your Perfect 10 – Building a Core Wardrobe for Maximum Versatility” which my friend Deborah, an independent stylist for cabi, recently shared with me. The Perfect 10 is a variation of the popular capsule wardrobe idea and allows you to mix and match creating many outfits with a minimal number of pieces.

In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

Choose 3 colours that work well together. A dark, a light and an accent colour. Choose a jacket, top and bottom in each of the colours and then choose one extra bottom in your darkest colour = Total of 10 Garments. Those 10 garments, when designed around colours that work well together will give you 25 to 30 different outfit options, a must have for any traveler!

I’ll be tweaking this list to suit my own style and I’m sure that I’ll end up with more than the 10 basic items in my suitcase, but it’s a great starting point for planning. If this was a business trip, jackets would be appropriate and at least one of the bottoms would probably be a skirt, but I’m retired. I don’t go on business trips! Our main reason for going to Vancouver this time is to be with Dad when he has a minor surgical procedure. Of course, we’ll also be spending time with our son and his family. Rather than jackets, I’ll be packing cardigans and my bottoms will be pants, mostly jeans. I simply can’t imagine only taking 3 tops though! If I was going to restrict myself to 10 items, I would definitely make a trade and pack 4 tops and only 3 bottoms. At least one of the tops would be a print that included 2 or 3 of the colours I was building my perfect 10 around.

Do you have any packing tips that have worked well for you?

 

Trailer packing

LogoIn a previous packing post, I mentioned that there are some items that I can take with me in the trailer that don’t pack well in a suitcase. Since we’re out and about with the trailer this week, I thought I’d share my trailer packing techniques today.

As RVs go, our travel trailer is small; just 24 feet from hitch to bumper with no slide-outs. Though we’ve managed to squeeze in an extra adult and two kids on a couple of occasions, it’s really perfect for just the two of us.

One of the things that attracted me to this particular unit when we bought it was the amount of storage space. Last summer, we spent a full six weeks on the road and if I remember correctly, other than washing my bras by hand, we did laundry three times. This year, we’re planning shorter jaunts, but even on a long trip like that one, I had no problem fitting in enough clothes.

On our current trip, we plan to play several rounds of golf and do quite a bit of kayaking, but we’ll also be spending time in urban settings and we plan to attend church on Sunday. When I was packing the weather forecast looked very favourable, but we all know how quickly that can change, so I packed for a variety of activities and conditions. In fact, I probably packed way more than I’ll actually need!

IMG_5930

The trailer bathroom has a roomy closet where we hang most of our clothes. I’m showing you only my half. As you can see, I packed mostly neutral colours, so that it’s easy to mix things up and create many looks with just a few garments. I do like brightly coloured golf shirts though, so you can see some of those in there and I added my bright red jeans for an additional pop of colour. Although the closet isn’t full length, I did manage to take a dress all the way to Dawson City, Yukon for our nephew’s wedding last summer. I hung it at the end of the closet against the wall and laid the bottom portion of the skirt flat being careful not to pile anything on it.

A second smaller closet near the entrance to the trailer is used for jackets and there’s room beneath them for hats.

IMG_5942

The trailer does have a couple of drawers that we could use for clothing, but we have chosen other uses for them. The one in the bathroom holds toiletries, medications, a travel blow dryer and a handy little travel iron as well as a a few other odds and ends. The reason that we don’t need to use the drawers for clothing is that as soon as I spotted the storage space under the foot of our queen bed, I had a brainwave. I bought each of us a plastic bin to fit into that space. Mine holds socks, underwear, camisoles, pyjamas, shorts and skorts… everything that would usually be folded in drawers. They make packing very simple as we can carry our bins into the house, load them up, and return them to the trailer. Easy peasy!

IMG_5945

Just inside the trailer door there’s a cubby where we pack our shoes. There are usually more shoes crammed in there than you can see here, but Richard hadn’t packed his in yet. What you see is my trusty Merrells used mostly for hiking; some old shoes, sandals and flip flops that I use only around the campground, and the slippers that we keep in the trailer for chilly evenings and mornings. The cupboard is much bigger than it looks from the outside, so there are other things hidden in behind including shoe boxes that hold my dressier shoes and sandals.

IMG_5947 2

I don’t anticipate having access to wifi very often on this trip, but I look forward to sharing our travels with you as I’m able. If there isn’t a Fashion Friday post next week, be sure to look for one again the week after.