Monthly Archives: September 2012

Tips for Packing Prowess

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Travel Packing TipsIn this post, I share some of my tips for effective packing. Since most of us take at least one trip per year and the airlines are placing more and more restrictions on baggage allowances, it has become increasingly important for us to learn to pack wisely.

My packing tips have been gleaned through my many years of over-packing and my subsequent concerted effort to mend my “wicked ways.”   While I still have a tendency to over-shop on vacation, my packing for the outbound portion of my trips is now much more modest and manageable.  Read on for my packing prowess suggestions…

List Your Probable Activities

Before you even open your closet to start the packing process, take a few moments to jot down the probable activities in which you will be engaging on your trip.  Is your trip for business or pleasure?  Will you mostly be sitting in offices or meeting rooms, or will you be venturing outside for open-air activities?  Will formal dinners be a part of your plans, or will you primarily be eating in casual diners?  Think about what you will most likely do on your trip, as that information will be a key guiding factor in terms of the clothing and shoes you will need.

Check the Weather Forecast

Most people remember to investigate the weather report for their destination, but I thought I’d add a gentle reminder in case this quick check slips your mind.  If you will be traveling to an area that experiences a lot of weather shifts, it’s always a good idea to find out what you might face during your time away.

For example, my recent trip was to the Lake Tahoe area, a region for which snow is a possibility in pretty much any month of the year.  I have learned to never assume that the sunny San Diego weather will follow me to Tahoe, especially since my summer skirts and dresses didn’t provide sufficient warmth when the weather turned on a dime a few years ago.  This year, I lucked out in terms of weather, but now I always remember to check the forecast and plan accordingly.

Select a Color Palette

It is much easier to maximize your outfit combinations using minimal garments if you select a color palette for your trip.  I usually recommend deciding upon one key neutral color (maybe two, if you include denim) and two other colors.

As a reminder, neutral colors include black, brown, navy, gray, white, cream, and beige.  Neutrals can be combined with each other and basically every other color in existence, so including neutrals when you pack really gives you a lot of “mileage” (pun intended…) in your travel wardrobe.

Let’s say you love to wear black.  If you include one of each key piece – shirt, pants, skirt, jacket, etc. – in black, you will have a lot of mix and match possibilities.

Shoes First, Bottoms Next, Tops Last

I find it’s best to select your shoe options first.  Shoes are the heaviest items in our suitcases, so I recommend wearing one pair of shoes (ideally the heaviest pair) and packing a maximum of two other pairs.  While exceptions exist, three pairs of shoes will generally be all you’ll need for most trips.  Select shoes that you love and can easily walk in, as we typically walk more while traveling than in our day-to-day lives. Ideally, select shoes that can be worn with all or most of the outfits you will pack for your trip.

After deciding upon which shoes you’ll take with you, choose your bottoms.  For men, this means pants, jeans, and possibly shorts.  For women, skirts and dresses may also be added to the mix.   Since bottoms can usually be re-worn at least once, you don’t need to pack one bottom per day of your trip.

Select your tops after you’ve finalized your bottom options.  Since tops generally weigh less than bottoms and shoes, here’s where you can include a wider variety of choices.  A good rule of thumb is to pack twice as many tops as bottoms.  Remember to include at least one jacket or coat (usually not more than two or three) for evening wear or cooler climates.

Use Accessories to Increase Options

The best way to increase your outfit possibilities is through the use of accessories.  Of course, this tip applies more to women than to men, but men have accessory options as well (belts, jewelry, sunglasses, pocket squares, etc.).  Accessories usually don’t weigh very much, so if you have carte blanche to over-pack anything, this is the category.

If you are a woman and love scarves, tote a few along in colors or patterns that match or coordinate with the garments you are taking on your trip.  Pack your favorite costume jewelry pieces (it’s generally better to either leave your expensive items at home or wear them throughout your entire trip) to add personality and life to your ensembles.

A Word about “Just in Case”…

There are three words that are responsible for the bulk of over-packing – “just in case.”  Many of us keep throwing more and more things into our suitcases with those words in mind.  We want to plan for every possible contingency that might occur during our travels.  My best advice also consists of three words – just say no!

While it’s okay to pack an umbrella for potential rain, I don’t recommend overloading your luggage with things you won’t need on the off chance that your plans may take a 180 degree turn.  Plan for your most likely activities and pack accordingly.  If something completely unexpected arises, you can shop for anything else you might need.  Yes, I said shop!   A change of plans may necessitate a shopping trip.  Win, win, says this shopping enthusiast…  And since you didn’t over-pack, there will be room in your suitcase for a few new purchases.

How to Determine Your Style

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Determine your personal sense of styleOne of the most important steps toward having a wardrobe that works for you is understanding your personal sense of style.  If you allow the fashion industry to dictate what you wear through its ever-changing trends, it’s likely you’ll feel somewhat confused and dissatisfied with your wardrobe.   Likewise, if you always shop with certain fashionable friends or relatives who steer you toward clothes that reflect their sense of style, you might find yourself with a closet full of garments that just don’t feel like “you.”

Defining and expressing a sense of style that works well for you is a process and doesn’t necessarily happen overnight.  In addition, style is something that ideally evolves with us as we grow and change in terms of our personality, lifestyle, and aesthetic sensibilities.  But in order for your sense of style to evolve, you have to start somewhere!

This article provides a few useful tips on how to define your personal sense of style.   You don’t necessarily need to employ all of these tips, but if you take a few of them on, I promise you’ll no longer be “Clueless in San Diego” (or wherever you live…).    You’ll gain valuable insights and hopefully have some fun in the process.

Start with Your Closet

I find it’s useful to start with your closet.  Pull out your favorite items of clothing, as well as your go-to shoes and accessories.  Single out everything you have that you absolutely love!  You know, the things you’d take with you if you were forced to evacuate at short notice.  Put all of these items aside, whether there are just five things or twenty-five or more.

Look at all of the items and jot down any common themes which come to mind.  Are there specific fabrics, colors, patterns, styles, or silhouettes that are repeated in the mix?  As an example, a few common themes for me are black/white prints, stripes, animal print, embellishment, jewel tones, jackets/blazers, straight-leg pants, and knee-length skirts and dresses.  Although I have other types of items in my wardrobe, the things I love generally fit into one or more of those categories.  What common themes do you notice among your closet favorites?

Look for Inspiration in Print and Online

Grab a few magazines or catalogs and search for style images that “speak” to you.  If you love a particular look for whatever reason, tear out or earmark the page.  Try to find at least ten or more photos that depict a style that really appeals to you.

You don’t need to limit yourself to fashion magazines.  Any magazine will work, and you can also look to the Internet for inspiration.  Many store websites feature “look books,” and you can also search through the social media site Pinterest for looks that have been “pinned” by other users under various terms.  Images may also be easily perused via photo collectives such as Chictopia (use the “Gallery” menu) and the Wardrobe Remix group on Flickr.

Again, note common themes which stand out in the images you’ve selected.  Perhaps you like certain types of prints, metallics, sequins, studs, ruffles, or other style elements.  Those types of preferences all provide cues toward your personal sense of style.

Find a Style Icon, or Two…

Last but not least, consider whether there is anyone whom you would consider a “style icon.”  This can be someone you know or a celebrity or public figure.  It might even be a character on television or in a movie.  There may be several people in your life or in the public sphere whose style you admire and would love to emulate.

Look at photos of your style icons and write some notes about the common elements of their style.  For instance, if you selected Kate Middleton as one of your style icons, you might note the following consistent features of her style:  chic, sophisticated, classic, elegant, streamlined, neutral colors, jewel tones, pumps, skinny jeans, and simple accessories.

Keep a Style File

It might be useful for you to maintain an ongoing style file (physical or virtual) to keep honing in on the style elements that are most pleasing to you.   Then you can review this file prior to going shopping (or take it with you!) so you can make selections with your style preferences in mind.

I hope these tips have been helpful.  Taking the time to define your personal style can save you time and money in the long run!  You’ll better be able to zero in on things to try on when you shop and will end up making more informed purchases.  The end result is that you’ll love and wear more of what you own.