How to pack for a trip

Ladies, we have all committed the sin of over-packing for a trip.  There is an easier way to be covered for all circumstances without it resulting in heavy luggage and excess laundry.  Here’s how:

  1. Take a realistic look at where you’re going and the type of trip you’re taking.  You will not pack the same clothes for a business trip as you would for a vacation although some clothing choices will overlap.  Do not pack for activities you can not guarantee you’ll be engaging in (I’m looking at you disco-ball-club-outfit on your job interview weekend).
  2. This is not the time to experiment or wear something new (especially shoes). Wearing what you have may seem boring but hey, no-one at your destination has seen you in it.
  3. Hopefully you have developed your signature style and you’ve built your wardrobe around a neutral color.  Your suitcase will be a mini-version of your wardrobe.
  4. Wardrobe staples (dark jeans, dress pants, crisp white blouses) and solid colors combined with unique accessories (scarves, bangles, necklaces) will allow you to mix-and-match to come up with new combinations.  Keep the shoes and belts simple and to a minimum.  If needed, try on outfits ahead of time and take photos so that you’ll know what to pack and how to combine it at your destination.
  5. Pick clothing that will perform double-duty, like that cute suit jacket that can be paired with jeans for warmth and class on a night out.
  6. Choose fabrics (silk, rayon, etc.) that will dry overnight if you have to wash them in the sink overnight.  Bring two plastic hangars with clips on them to hang on the shower rod.
  7. Lay out and match up your clothes before packing.  Roll your clothes (in tissue paper if you don’t have an environmental objection to it) and pack in cubes (preferably ones that hold their shape rather than being crushed in the suitcase).
  8. Pack in a sensible order, keeping outfits together, and putting what you’ll need first on top.  Unpack when you arrive and iron anything that needs to be ironed immediately.
  9. Always pack anything that can leak in a zippered plastic bag.  In fact, pack several clean, spare bags in your suitcase for anything from new perfume to wet swimsuits.  Check the hotel website to see what amenities they offer (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hairdryer) so that you know what you don’t need to include in your packing.
  10. If you don’t want to dirty your cubes or the inside of your suitcase, bring plastic bags for packing your dirty laundry and your shoes in.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips for packing?  Please leave them in the comments.

Casual Friday and then some

Stroll into any public place and you will see an amazing number of poorly-dressed people.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dressing comfortably (where appropriate) but lately we seem to have become a nation of slobs.

So before you think that those pajama bottoms and that stained “nice rack” tee are appropriate for meeting your friends for coffee, consider how you’re being portrayed to the people around you.  Is that what you want them to think of you?  What if one of them was a potential boyfriend/employer/client?

What reaction are you going for?  Sort through your clothing and start building yourself a wardrobe around the impression that you want to be projecting.  Then learn to take care of what you have so that you’re not making a clothing compromise at the last minute.

I’m not saying that you need to become a fashionista or that you should be overly concerned about what others think of you.  However, if you’re searching for career advancement or a significant other, how you present yourself will hold a lot of sway over the other party and you never know when that opportunity might be showing up.

Building a wardrobe

Clothes shopping is actually incredibly simple if you keep in mind that you’re building a wardrobe, not simply purchasing a sweater or an outfit.  Of course by now you should have guessed that I’ll be recommending a professional.  The good news is, you don’t have to pay for a professional wardrobe consultant (unless you have the money and the wardrobe – then by all means).

Most major department stores offer a free personal shopper (the catch is – it’s polite to actually buy something).  Simply call the store and make an appointment.  They will ask some details about what you’re looking for and your size then they’ll shop for you ahead of time and take you to a private area to try the items on.  They should also give you an honest opinion but remember to take your own counsel as well.

This will be cheaper if you pick one neutral color (black, grey, brown, white) and build around it.  When money allows, you can build a second wardrobe around a second neutral color.

Buy the best quality basics you can afford (i.e., black heels, black skirt, white blouse) and buy one or two “fashionable” items each season to keep your look current.

Know what colors and styles look good on you and buy only within that range.  It doesn’t matter if that sweater is an amazing deal if you don’t look good in baby blue.  You’ll end up hating it or worse, wearing it and looking bad.

Only buy items that fit you well or can be minimally altered to fit you.  Most major department stores have a tailor on staff or find an independent one that you trust.  A good tailor is worth their weight in gold.

When you shop, don’t look at the price tag.  Take the item into the dressing room, try it on and ask yourself what you’d pay for it (keep in mind that you have to be able to afford it).  Then take a look at the price tag.  Is it under what you guessed?  You might want to buy it if it fits into your wardrobe.  Is if over what you guessed?  It goes back on the rack.

It is better to have a smaller, more versatile wardrobe than a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.  Don’t forget that when you come upon a combination that you love, take a photo of it for future reference and quick dressing.