The Art of Packing

Learn to pack all the clothes you’ll need when traveling — and to leave what you won’t.

By Kim Johnson Gross

Mapping Out a Travel WardrobeI just had a packing fiasco. I was about to leave for a week’s vacation and spent the day tidying up loose ends, figuring I’d pack in the evening. A friend seduced me out to dinner, and we stayed up late. The airport taxi arrived early the next morning while I was in a mad scramble, grabbing whatever I thought I might need. I packed too much, and worse, I was unhappy with what I brought.Packing is my favorite thing I hate to do, and I’m considered an expert. My goal is to take the minimum amount of clothing to wear in the maximum number of ways. When I flew to Australia for a two-week trip with just a carry-on suitcase, astonished journalists featured the feat in style sections.Packing the right clothes is like having the perfect travel companion: You feel great with them, they’re versatile, and they don’t hold you back. The packing process also helps me take a fresh look at my wardrobe; I discover different ways of combining the pieces I have. I start by making a chart. Down the left side of the page I list the days I’ll be away. Across the top, I mark three columns: AM, PM, Extra. This helps me visualize what events I need to dress for. Next, I put together one head-to-toe look I feel great in and build from there. For business trips, I start with a suit in a neutral color. Dark colors are easier to dress up and down, and lightweight wool accommodates climate changes and won’t hold wrinkles. Then I choose a different top to transform the suit bottom. Lightweight knits are a favorite — you can roll them up and squeeze them between other clothes in your bag. Then I add another bottom to wear with the suit jacket and the knit top, which creates four options. For dressy evenings, I kick up my accessories and might include a dressier top. On travel days, I wear jeans with my suit jacket and comfortable shoes, an outfit that also works for downtime. Extras include workout clothes, sneakers, a sleep shirt, a microfiber coat that rolls up nicely, and an umbrella. For longer trips, I take a second suit (one that can be mixed with the first), a few more tops, and perhaps a dress that packs easily. I double-bag suits in dry cleaner plastic to deter wrinkling.I lay everything on my bed to be sure it all works together. Then I fine-tune: If I’ll be doing television appearances, I take a jacket that gives me shape. If I’ll be speaking in the South, I’ll mix in more color. Next I try everything on to make sure it still fits and feels comfortable. If I can’t get it all into my carry-on, I edit. With today’s travel restrictions, I may check a bag with toiletries and bulky, easily replaced items like sneakers.When I return home, I set aside a pile of what I didn’t wear and make a mental note of the things I forgot. This helps me pack smarter next time. Preparing for business travel is much like preparing for business — focused and no-nonsense. But I always imagine vacations will be filled with unexpected adventures. How can I pack unlimited possibilities into one bag? In reality, the same principles apply: When you’re bogged down by the unnecessary, you have less room for the new — which is why I always pack an empty bag.1. A Dress that Won’t WrinkleFrequent travelers swear nothing beats a matte jersey wrap dress for versatility and wrinkle-proof style. We agree, but to avoid unintentional cleavage flashes, opt for a faux wrap like Donna Morgan’s ($122). The small-scale geometric print won’t show stains and adds subtle camouflage. Ann Taylor’s leather tote ($168) holds all the usual essentials plus a laptop. The Franchi clutch ($155) doubles as an evening bag.2. A Look That’s Businesslike but ChicYou can skip the suit and the stack of cardigans if you take one tailored jacket that works with everything. Wear it en route to save carry-on space. A summer-weight suede blazer like this one by Strenesse Gabriele Strehle ($1,395) has executive polish, and so does Etro’s cotton-blend high-neck sheath ($1,000). Both could work for client calls, company cocktails, and dinners. (Look for less pricey options at Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne.) Delman flats ($315) and T. Anthony’s roll-on ($695) make airport sprints easy.3. To Add Oomph to Your BasicsPivot your packing around one or two neutrals, then perk them up with prints, textures, and metallic accessories for evening. We chose Express’s flat-front Editor’s Pants ($80) as the core basic for both Tory Burch’s silk jersey polo ($195) and Forth & Towne’s silk charmeuse tank ($68). Claudia Ciuti slingbacks ($250), Lee Angel gold chains (fastened together, $70 each).Originally published in MORE magazine, April 2007.

First Published Mon, 2009-04-06 18:04

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