You know, I’m not sure why I categorized this as a “fashion” post. Because it’s not really a post about fashion. More a post about travel planning, and travel capsule wardrobe planning. And about choosing comfort, practicality, and versatility over fashion. It’s all about clothes that don’t necessarily conform to current fashion so much as to my needs for the next month when we are in Portugal. Packing for Portugal will not involve outfits that I would be wearing this fall if I were at home. But outfits which will, I know, annoy me by the end of our month away when I will be longing for my real fall clothes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s how I planned my packing for Portugal.
The first step in planning, a couple of weeks ago, involved reviewing what I packed for our last big trip to Slovenia and Croatia in 2019. I looked for outfits I wanted to reprise, and pieces that worked, and didn’t work. I made notes. My Uniqlo burgundy down vest was all over our Croatia photos. I wore it a ton and will pack it this time. Similarly my Rag and Bone checked Simone pants. They work well with sneakers and a tee for day, and look good with my burgundy Paul Green loafers for going out for dinner. And, of course, short-sleeve tees, sneakers, and a couple of scarves that I packed last time will go into the suitcase this time too.
Next I made a shopping list. I needed at least one new long-sleeved tee shirt, a pair of black jeans if I could find them, and new running shoes for walking and hiking. I also thought I’d look for a new light sweater or hoodie. All of these pieces are to replace items that have stretched out, worn out, or are no longer suitable. Turns out I found the sweater, the black jeans, and a striped tee shirt all at Uniqlo in about a half hour of shopping. Then I spent a longer time finding new sneakers. I finally bought a pair of black Asics which are super comfortable, fit well with my orthotics, and look… fine… if not exactly fashionable.
Once I had done my shopping, I assembled all the possible choices, tops, bottoms, jackets, and shoes, and began an extended try-on session.
Before we talk about that, let me just say, that after years of travelling with my husband and packing pieces I end up never wearing, I know the kinds of pieces and outfits I will need. Nothing too dressy. No dresses or skirts which might be worn once and never again. No dress pants, or blazers which will be too structured. In the past I’ve packed blazers, especially my Helmut Lang black jacket, and have worn it once. Except when we were in Paris when I wore it a ton. Instead of a blazer I’m packing a denim jean jacket, more casual, and a good “third piece” if I need one. And my black Lafayette zippered sweater with the quilted front. This sweater is squarish in shape and can double as a blazer-type piece. Plus it’s warm and not constricting, so I will wear it on the plane.
I need pieces that can be casual, worn for a day of walking around towns, plus a few which are good for wearing to casual dinners. I’ve learned that anything more dressy will stay in my suitcase and simply take up room I might need for something else. I also need an assortment of warm weather and cooler weather pieces. Plus hiking clothes. And a raincoat. And… and this is important… I have to work with what I own, and like the final outfit enough to feel comfortable and somewhat pulled together in it.
So here are some of the results of my try-on session.
For casual day-wear walking and driving, my new long-sleeved striped tee works well with the black jeans and white sneakers, and the white jeans and black sneakers. Perhaps it’s a bit summery with the white jeans. We’ll see how I feel when I get there. My checked Rag and Bone pants, even though they are navy, can be worn with a black tee and black sneakers or my Birkenstocks. Or with a white tee and my white Vejas sneakers. I can throw on my denim jacket with any of these outfits.
I debated and debated about which pair of blue jeans to pack. Initially I had planned to bring my men’s Levi’s 511 jeans. They are loose, comfortable, and current. But I feel better if I’m wearing a blazer or structured jacket with them, and I won’t be packing a blazer. My Frame straight-leg jeans with the unfinished hem actually fit me better than the men’s Levi’s. I put them on with the exact same top and sneakers I’d had on with the Levi’s and instantly felt better.
Then I recalled how when we went to Croatia, at the last minute I packed my Frame book-cut jeans instead of a pair of skinny jeans because they looked more current. I wore them once. I much prefer bootcut jeans with a boot, or a flat sandal, and a jacket. Lesson learned. Try everything on with more than one outfit combination. Pack what you feel good in and not what’s most fashionable. See below.
Since my palette seems to be black, white, denim, and burgundy, I decided to pack my black Everlane cashmere sweater. It’s not too heavy, goes with everything else, and can look casual, as above, or a bit dressy with the black jeans, loafers and a scarf.
This is my new light-weight wool sweater from Uniqlo, above. It looks good with all the pants I’ll be packing. I decided to bring my black vest from Aritzia. It takes up little room and can be worn with the wine sweater and black jeans, and maybe a scarf. Or a black short-sleeved tee shirt and the white jeans if the weather is warm.
A word about the decision to bring my Levi’s white jeans. They are looser, and more comfortable than the white Frame jeans which I decided not to pack for Croatia. They are not bright white either, so in my opinion they look less glaringly summery than my old white jeans. We’ll see how I get on with them.
Sometimes when one has landed in a new environment, one feels instantly like a whole different person, and wears one’s clothes in new and here-to-fore undiscovered ways. At least that’s often what happens for me. When we went to Italy in 2018, I packed my Stan Smith white sneakers for casual wear and my black Stuart Weitzman loafers to wear with cropped dressy pants. And I ended up wearing my sneakers.. with everything. And not the loafers.
So, I am anticipating that some of my outfit ideas will be jettisoned when we get to where we’re going. Which is all over Portugal: north, south, on the coast, and inland, in cities, small towns, and rural areas. I won’t know for sure how I feel about what I’ve packed until I get there. So I just have to rely on my experience from past trips, work with what I own, plan for the weather, and hope for the best. But I think that everything is versatile enough that I can wear what I’d planned, or swap pieces around if I want.
And I have to resist the urge to shop if I feel particularly uncool. By the time we reached Zagreb in 2019, at the end of our trip, I hated everything I’d packed. And I have to tell you that when Dottoressa and I went shopping one day before we met Hubby for lunch, the Max Mara stores we visited were screaming my name. But, it was a good test of my discipline, and my self-esteem, to feel so out of step with my clothes and not shop. I said to Hubby that I needed a sign around my neck saying: “I have way better outfits at home.” Ha.
I remembered that a friend who, as a young teacher with a particularly difficult class, was advised to keep telling herself: “This is the class that will help me to grow as a teacher.” She said she murmured it to herself daily after that. So I walked all around Zagreb, murmuring: “I am not my clothes. I am more than my clothes.” Ha. No… actually I didn’t do that. But I should have.
Above is the outfit from our 2019 trip that I will reprise exactly. Maybe. I loved this when I pulled it together one night to wear to dinner. I hadn’t planned to wear this combination. But when we were in Ljubljana, in Slovenia, and it was quite cool, I cobbled it together, and felt warm enough… and wonderful. Who knows if I will do the same this time. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
So that’s the final cut above. My packing for Portugal… from left to right. Two vests and one jacket. Four bottoms ( 3 pairs of jeans, white, black, and blue. And 1 pair of cropped pants.) Two long-sleeved tee shirts, two sweaters, three short-sleeved tee shirts, and two tank tops (just in case.) Three scarves.
Of course I’m packing other pieces besides what you can see in the photo. Hiking gear: light sweat pants, a couple of long-sleeve athletic tees, and a lightweight windbreaker. Plus a black, quarter-zip sweatshirt that will be great for cool weather hiking or travel days in the car. I will also throw in a pair of ski underwear bottoms. These can be worn under the light sweats for cool weather hiking. And worn with a tee shirt they double as leggings for lounging around our accommodation with my tea and a book. And of course socks and underwear and sleepwear. Then I usually leave a small pocket of empty space for something last minute which occurs to me the night before we leave and which I usually end up being glad about. Like an extra scarf. Or one more tee shirt.
You know I often feel that my packing is different from all those packing capsule wardrobes you can see on Pinterest. That’s because those packing lists are too city oriented for what Hubby and I like to do. Many days when we travel are spent driving, getting out to hike or have a picnic, or maybe stopping for a coffee. We like to stroll cities and towns too. But we’re not much for wine-tasting tours, attending the theatre, or dining in high-end restaurants. So dresses, ankle boots or shoes that can’t be walked in for a few hours, long coats, or good blazers and dress pants will not be suitable. I’m always afraid that anything really good will be ruined by too much wear and tear or washing in laundromats.
So my good cashmere sweaters, my woollen or tweed blazers, good shirts and blouses, even my lighter and more versatile dress pants stay safely at home. I had thought I might pack my Max Mara navy dress pants. But then I thought how sad I’d be if, after managing to keep them so pristine all these years, I ruined them on one trip. So I changed my mind. They are, after all, irreplaceable.
So our trip departure draws nigh. My packing for Portugal is all planned, clothes have been washed, ironed, and folded, ready to be sorted into suitcases. Our medication packs, toiletries, chargers, and most miscellaneous things are piled on chairs and on the rug in the livingroom. Hubby says that when the piles get so big that they spill over and we can’t walk around them, we’ll know it’s time to go. Ha.
Sometimes I look at what I’ve planned to take and have second thoughts. I mean have you ever seen such a boring bunch of outfits? But we try to travel light. We take a tote bag or backpack and one small carry-on sized suitcase each. And if I can survive six weeks in South America with that small amount of clothes, four weeks will be easy.
I just have to remember that I need to be comfortable, weather appropriate, and like what I’m wearing. Not love it. And to stop second-guessing myself.
And I’ll keep imagining how wonderful it will feel after four weeks to come home and get back into my blazers and ankle boots. Not to mention that new green silk shirt.
How about you my friends? What strategy do you employ when packing for extended travel?
P.S. My posting schedule will be spotty for most of October. I am usually able to do one or two posts when we are on the road, but please don’t count on a regular schedule. Besides, I’ll be talking about the trip so much when we get back you’ll probably get sick of me. 🙂
P.P.S. Here are links to some of the pieces I’m packing. These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my affiliate link I will earn a commission.
Everlane short-sleeved tee, Everlane cashmere crew, Everlane cutaway tank, Levi’s 501 white jeans, Frame high-rise straight-leg jeans, Vejas sneakers, Paige jean jacket. Uniqlo ultra-light down vest, Uniqlo striped tee shirt, Uniqlo slim, straight jeans, Uniqlo merino crew-neck sweater, Asics GT 1000-12 running shoes.