+ Three Ways

Three Ways: Packing Light

The trick to packing light is to wear what you brought.  That means you start with a color palette (black, in this case) and build from their using a handful of foundation pieces.  Use the same pieces in every outfit to maximize space, but wear them in different ways so that no one really notices.

However, this requires planning and time.  You can’t just throw all this together in the twenty minutes before you leave for the airport.  You’re a grown up now, so act like it and pack the night before.  This will allow you to pack thoughtfully, not carelessly.

Simple but stylish is the theme of this outfit.  When traveling, don’t over complicate your wardrobe.  Choose simple basics that can be dressed up to look pulled together.

Here, I paired a simple stripe tee with a boatneck (love me a boatneck) with a scarf and jeans for an easy look.  Also, I love these AG Ballad jeans ($168).  They’re as soft as soft can be, and they are skinny enough to fit into a boot with a light bootcut to flatter the hips when you wear them with flats.  Truly, a year-round jean.

Throw on a pair of stylish earrings (no necklace needed with a scarf), a bold, colored bag and and a comfortable, basic boot, and you’re done.

I love sweater dresses for travel.  They’re warm, they’re cozy and they’re stylish without being fussy.  And best of all, they don’t require a bunch of accessories or tons of extras to make them look chic.

For this outfit, I paired a chunky, knit sweater dress from Temperley with the most opaque tights I have ever seen (the blacker the better) and the boots from above.  Add the same chic coat, bag and earrings from day one’s outfit and you’re all set.

Contrary to popular belief, you can rewear pieces on vacation.  You do not need to bring brand new ensembles for each day.  Or as the Lucky Magazine style book says, “Pack less, wear more.”  Words to live by.

Yes, that’s the same shirt, jeans, boots, earrings and scarf from outfit one.  Revolutionary, I know.  But unless you spilled food on yourself or sweat like a bank robber on the run from the cops, you should be able to wear these pieces again.

The trick is to wear the chartreuse cable-knit sweater over the striped shirt so that only a couple of inches of stripe peek out the bottom.  The scarf pulls it together and provides extra warmth.

Instead of the red purse, I chose a leopard, portfolio clutch.  This clutch can actually be used as a wallet for the rest of the trip and stored inside the red purse so there’s no need to pack it in the suitcase.  It also adds an unexpected bit of trendy chic to the outfit.

One of the reasons that most women over pack is that they want to believe that their vacation will be filled with magical spontaneity.  Perhaps they’ll be invited to a previous unplanned dinner party.  Maybe they’ll meet a cute guy at the hotel bar and be whisked away to the opera.  Or maybe they’ll decide to go to church before Sunday brunch.  Most of these imagined eventualities have but a snowball’s chance of transpiring, but they pack for them anyway.

When I travel, I like to dine out.  On business trips, I will sometimes schedule nice dinners for myself away from the group just to wind down and experience a bit of the city.  So I pack one extra outfit for dinner.  A bonus outfit, if you will.

This outfit usually includes a lightly-dressy pair of open-toe pumps, a black dinner dress and a bit of extra jewelry. I toss my hair into a messy, low chignon, add some more eye makeup, lipstick and just like that, I’m dressed for dinner.  This is also a great reason to pack a thin, envelope clutch in your handbag.

  Also, if this were a four day trip, I could add just one more piece to my suitcase and get either one more casual outfit or a work outfit.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this.

With addition of one collarless jacket, I have made two more outfits, one casual and one work appropriate.  See how easy that was?

The sad part is that this jacket, from J.Crew for Net-a-Porter is sold out.  However, the teal and black tweed version is $280 and still available.  If I had to rework these outfits for that jacket, I would need to pack one more piece, a black clutch.  Switch out the leopard for the black clutch and wear the striped tee instead of the chartreuse for the casual look.

If you didn’t want to wear the striped tee again (and really, three times might be pushing it, but it could be done), I’d just pack a simple black silk tee.  Voila, two more outfits.



  1. Govvie says:

    Lovely all around! I cannot wear heels when flying so I was happy to see the flat boots. I always feel pretty pulled together in the airport and then I turn and see some women dressed to the nines in like a cocktail dress and high heels. How do people travel like this with all the walking and bag carrying? I hate to knock it if they want to put that effort in, but . . .

    October 25, 2011/Reply
  2. Sam says:

    I tried to coordinate my outfits for a recent weekend trip to Boston and was able to pack lightly, which is shocking for me. Granted, they weren't as chic as these, but the end result was the same. Thanks Belle!

    October 25, 2011/Reply
  3. Katie says:

    Thanks for dismissing the notion that an item can't be worn more than once on a trip. I was floored when a friend of mine arrived at the airport with a giant suitcase for a weekend trip. The reason? She had a second pair of jeans, plus skirt and dress options “just in case”. By incorporating your travel outfit into your packing list, you can eliminate duplicates and maximize your options.

    October 25, 2011/Reply
  4. Meg says:

    Belle, best post ever!! Althiught I seem to be saying that a lot lately…

    October 25, 2011/Reply
  5. EFL says:

    Very useful post. I'm a notorious overpacker, but somehow always manage to run out of pretty outfits during the trip. Your formula seems spot on !

    October 26, 2011/Reply
  6. Marge says:

    But you forgot workout gear (one tshirt, socks, pants per day; plus jacket and shoes), pajamas, rain gear, undergarments (incl. light girdle for those of us with a muffin top that exercise and dieting won't eliminate, thanks to children), backup hose, toiletries and hair styling stuff… Though I suppose even with the addition of all this, a small suitcase will suffice?

    October 26, 2011/Reply
  7. Belle says:

    Do I really need to remind women to bring underwear when they travel?

    October 26, 2011/Reply
  8. K says:

    Depending on where you're traveling, there is also sometimes the possibility of doing laundry part way through the trip. Even hotels can do your laundry if you're in a pinch because you spilled something on your only pair of jeans. Not ideal, but it's a great alternative to the theory that overpacking is necessary “just in case.”

    October 27, 2011/Reply
  9. Rachel says:

    I love the black dress! Any chance it's still being sold somewhere and I can snag one? ­čÖé

    October 27, 2011/Reply
  10. Belle says:

    Rachel, there's a shopping list for all the pieces with links in this post. https://www.caphillstyle.com/capitol/2011/10/25/three-ways-the-packing-list.html

    October 27, 2011/Reply
  11. Rachel says:

    Thanks so much!

    October 30, 2011/Reply