Sunday, May 15, 2016

The chic travel wardrobe

Last year my husband and I travelled to Sydney for a long weekend and we had the idea to take only carry-on luggage. It was actually a fun task to plan what I was going to wear over the four days we were there.

I did the above layout a few days prior and even packed it all into my Samsonite cabin bag (top left) to make sure everything fitted. I changed a few things from the picture afterwards - I added one more top so I'd have four for four days. I swapped out my leather boots for black leather ballet flats and the rain jacket in the bottom right corner did go with me, but I never wore it, instead choosing my soft leather jacket which isn't pictured.

The plum coloured top and black leggings underneath the cabin bag are my hotel relaxing clothes. I love changing when I am at home so I had to take them, and they didn't take up much room. It's instant relaxation when I put those on. Next time I would take little travel slippers so I don’t have to wear socks or go bare feet on the hotel carpet. I’m knitting some cute ones at the moment from this pattern here, which I’ll show you when I’ve finished. They’d be nice in something cooler than wool for summer travel wear.

The tiny Dior bag (from when I worked for them, aah, staff sales) fitted exactly what I needed it to - a Visa card, passport, cash, lip gloss, tiny folded up tourist map, phone and hand sanitiser. It was so good not holding a bag on my shoulder, it was right there when I needed to get anything out and I didn't even miss my wallet. What do I need my library card and driver’s license overseas for?

I wore my trendy black New Balance every day as it was quite chilly in Sydney, but thankfully clear and not rainy. My ballet flats were great for going out to dinner. Together with my dark grey jeans and a silky black top I felt dressed up. I realised that afterwards - taking dark grey/black jeans rather than my usual blue jeans really helped me feel more polished, pulled together and stylish. They are less jeans-like and more trouser-like. A dark-wash would be similarly useful.

Below is all my clothing in the bag with makeup, plus laid out what I was going to wear on the plane (there's my extra top too). At the bottom of this post is a list of what I took. I want to keep it as a template for future trips so I don't have to reinvent it each time. That way I can add essential items to it, deduct things I didn't find useful and pare down the packing!

The black pashmina was great too. It's really large and quite fine, so it was nice and cosy around my neck, and on the plane ride there the air conditioning was very chilly, so I laid it over me like a blanket. It covered from my shoulders right down over my knees and tucked in both sides. Then I wrapped it around my neck to leave. Easy and multi-purpose.

I can't say enough good things about travelling without a big suitcase. We checked in, went through the departure gate and onto the plane. No luggage tags needed. When we arrived it was off the plane and through customs when everyone else was waiting for the baggage carousel to even start up. On the train into Sydney we didn't take up any space and then used the backpack straps to walk the two blocks to our hotel. I like to move fast and feel unencumbered and this is the way to do it.

To wear on the plane going there:

Light blue/grey Michael Kors sweatshirt
Camisole underneath
Black pashmina
Zara dark grey stretch jeans
Black leather belt
Black New Balance
Black David Lawrence leather jacket
Watch and gold coin necklace, rings, cubic zirconia ‘diamond’ studs

Coach black leather tote containing:

Dior cross-body bag
Visa card
Notebook and pen
Spare car keys
Phone and charger
iPod and earbuds
Printed out flight confirmations
Printed out hotel confirmation

Samsonite carry-on bag containing:

Small laptop and charger
Three long-sleeve knit tops – fine black merino, silky black with drapey neck and dark blue-grey washed Diesel top
Clarks black leather ballet flats
Three pairs of fine merino socks
Another camisole top for layering/warmth
Relaxing clothes for our apartment – leggings and a long-sleeved t-shirt
Makeup and toiletries
Hotel toothbrushes and small toothpaste
Razor and small shaving lotion tube
Tiny handcream
Round hairbrush and small claw clip
Towelling headband and towelling hair tie
Bobby pins and thin brown hair elastics
Liquid foundation
Tiny hairspray
Hand sanitiser
Facial moisturiser
Small perfume
Roll-on anti-perspirant deodorant

I’ve decided to wear the one pair of jeans for four days in a row, and the same bra. I don’t know if that makes me manky or if it’s a reasonable thing to do on a short trip!

Available at the hotel:

Body wash
Body lotion
Shower cap

Do you have any great tips to travelling chicly? I know there will be many of you who travel much more often than I do.


  1. You are proof positive that you can look great and be comfortable at the same time :)

  2. On my two most recent trips (Europe for 3 weeks in Autumn and Singapore) I traveled with not much more luggage than you've pictured. It's incredible liberating to travel with less. Purchasing the item or two I forgot to pack can be far too expensive so keeping a record of packing lists as you suggested is important.

    I'd second the suggestion to carry a tablet instead of a computer. On vacations that last a week or less I use my cell phone (a large screen), a very light bluetooth keyboard, and an iPod for entertainment.

    On an unrelated note I'm shocked that you would put shoes and luggage on your bed. Imaging what these items and any worn in public places is enough to prevent me from doing that.

    Thanks for another great post! It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into producing content, it's much appreciated.

  3. I took a 2 week trip, travelling to 5 different cities in Germany & Austria with a carry on backpack. I only took 7 tees. I found tees in different combinations of black & white (solids, stripes & polka dots) and took 1 black cardigan & 1 beige cardigan, plus a denim shirt. Everything matched. The tees were soft & flowy and did not wrinkle and I tested them first at home to see how they washed in a sink and air dried. They did great, so I was able to wash them in the hotel sink. The cardigans & shirt I didn't worry about because they were worn over a tee. I also bought travel socks that washed & dried very well. I added in 2 scarves that had black, white & beige in them & a couple of I had a crazy number of outfit combinations. I actually got compliments from some of my fellow travelers. It taught me that we really don't need a lot in travel, or really in our day to day.

  4. Thank you for posting this, especially the pictures. It is so helpful to see how others can pack a carry on. I overpacked for my last trip and really regretted bringing so much luggage. If I could reduce my baggage down to a carry on, it makes traveling so much easier, especially on an airplane. I agree with wearing the same pants over and over and having different tops. One of the most helpful things I brought on my last trip was a cross body bag with lots of organization. Everything had its own place and it made reaching things so easy.

  5. I love this post! I, too, recommend traveling as lightly as possible. Usually, I go with a carry-on. My go-to bag is a 19 inch or 21 inch wheeled Samsonite suitcase, but I am seriously considering buying a backpack. I think you're right, it would be easier, especially to pass through the turnstiles of a city's subway system. Do you like the Samsonite one? I used to sell that brand and am loyal to it. Also, I agree that a pashmina is versatile. Mine acted as a picnic blanket in Paris!

  6. Great packing post Fiona! I read lots of these travel hints before packing my carry on for 3 weeks in France. I spent 2 weeks in Paris where I wanted to look chic and the SW France area I could afford to dress much more casually. Separates were key and layering for warmth...your choices all work with each other which I think is really important.
    Nice too not to have to wait for your luggage at the airport.

  7. I love this post! Most times when I travel I feel disorganized, and I pack too much - outfits I don't wear, too many toiletries, etc. I'm an organized person generally, so this is as surprising to me as it is frustrating. I'm keeping your wonderful suggestions, filed with my trip packing list, for the next time I go away, and will use your template.

    Thank you! I'm always excited to see the notifications about your latest posts - they brighten my inbox. :)


  8. You look so lovely! Isn't it nice that athletic shoes are becoming more appropriate? It makes travel so much easier.

  9. Can't wait for more detail on your book! :)

  10. On my last pleasure trip I went to New Orleans for a weekend in May. I packed three skirts and 4 tops, two pairs of sandals, three shawls and underwear, along with my makeup and jewelry. I wore everything I brought, and was paid several compliments on the trip by other people, including my roommate who wished she'd packed lighter! We were very lucky in the weather, as the weekend before it had stormed horribly.
    My plane clothing was a pair of wide-legged linen/cotton pants, a gray and white Breton striped tee and a pair of earrings I'd bought in the French Market. I got compliments on both my outfit and my new earrings in the airport, despite being incredibly tired. It just shows that a well-chosen wardrobe can take you anywhere!

  11. Pret a Porter P, yes, my backpack style is not the biggest carry-on, so for a longer trip I may have to invest in a bigger bag to achieve 'le no luggage'. Thank you for the tablet tip, the laptop I have is a small Chromebook, but still, it's not as small as a tablet.

    Anonymous, thank you :)

    Kimberly, a bluetooth keyboard is a great idea for taking a phone only.

    Anonymous, thank you for your packing details. It's actually really fun (not scary) coming up with the ultimate capsule wardrobe for a trip, I enjoyed figuring it out for Sydney.

    Stephanie, thank you, and thank you for your cross-body bag suggestion in the first place, I'd never thought of it and loved the ease.

    Michelle, if I could find a carry-on backpack with more room I might take it for a longer trip, my current one did require quite tight packing but then, why not accept the challenge :) I love the Samsonite carry-on bag I have, particularly the combo of wheels and a long pull-out handle with the backpack straps.

    Hostess, I'm so inspired by you and others packing for Europe with a carry-on. It can be done, hallelujah! I'm so glad we had a short trip to get my confidence with carry-on up :)

    Catherine, I've totally overpacked too. When we spent eight nights in Hawaii a couple of years ago I took a thick stack of t-shirts that were never worn. That taught me a lesson!

    Janice, thank you my chic and minimal clothing mentor :) I agree, shoe trends are a bonus at the moment.

    Marissa, thank you! Promise it's very soon :)

    Aurora, your outfits sound lovely! Wearing everything you took is particularly gratifying, isn't it? Travel packing inspires me to do the same thing in my everyday wardrobe.

  12. If the weather is predictable, that helps. Otherwise if you are trying to allow for warm sunny days or cool, rainy days it is difficult to limit.

  13. Anonymous, that's true. For a short trip you can check the weather before you go, but a longer trip involves a bit of luck.

  14. LLBean, if you can order from where you live, has larger backpack suitcases

  15. Thank you so much, Anonymous, I'll go take a look :)

  16. Such a great post! I'm personnaly fond of my "Pliage" Longchamp handbags. They are very handy and don't take any place in your suitcase as you can fold them. I use them every trip with great pleasure!

  17. Great tip Claire, those bags fold up so flat. I don't have one yet but I see them around.

  18. I appreciated seeing the runners used for the plane and airport, they look great with your outfit. With so much walking through some of the larger airports, the often suggested ballet flats are not supportive enough. Really enjoyed this post Fiona and plan on making the cute slippers. Cheers from Rita. BC.

  19. My pleasure, Rita. The summer alternative for me would be slip-on Skechers Go Walks. They can be worn with most outfits that a ballet flat would but are much better for walking all day.

    My ballet flats were fine going out for dinner, but one afternoon we went walking for a few hours and I wore them - my toes seized up! I hobbled back to our room and was glad to get them off...

  20. I love the idea of travelling with just one pair of trousers, but I never dare to. I seem to be rather prone to spilling things and would hate to be stuck on a long weekend with just one pair of dirty trousers.

  21. Haha, Small Disciplines, lucky I never thought of that otherwise I'd be paranoid too! Dark coloured trousers or jeans are pretty forgiving.

  22. Bonjour Fiona,
    Great post! In addition to the tablet, I would recommend swapping the leather jacket for a lightweight jacket with ideally a tucked-in hood. This way, if it rains, you are well prepared instead of damaging that beautiful leather jacket.

  23. Merci, Mireille! I took both, but if I was stuck for room I would have left the leather jacket. I saw that my husband had packed his, and had wardrobe FOMO that he would look better than I did ;)


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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