The Travel Wardrobe Philosophy

Goodlifer: The Travel Wardrobe Philosophy

Simplifying our lives—it’s a quest most of us claim to or would like to be on. Yet, Americans own more stuff per capita than ever before and storage companies across the country are banking heavily on our hoarding-tendencies. For me, the biggest problem is my closet. I enjoy dressing well. Not in a fashion-slave type of way, but style is important to me and I like feeling that I look good.

I pride myself on being one of those people whose wardrobe contains many pieces I’ve owned for so long they’re practically vintage. I’m by no means a shopaholic, but I do buy a few new things every month and they add up—not so much as numbers on receipts in my wallet (because I mainly shop second hand stores and sales)—but as square inches in my closet.

White sleeveless shirt, black jeans, small fringe back & high-heeled clogs.

White sleeveless shirt, black jeans, small fringe back & high-heeled clogs.

Clothing is so cheap nowadays that most of us don’t even have to think twice about whether or not we can afford that new T-shirt—because it’s only $5.99! Most of my purchases cost far less than even a mediocre restaurant meal, so skipping going out and eating in would easily justify something a bit more pricey. Instead, I find myself contemplating whether the item I am holding in my hand justifies giving up that precious fraction of a square inch in my closet, and the time and energy it will require to maintain (folding, hanging, washing and so on).

Denim flares, gray tank, black hat & large fringe bag.

Denim flares, gray tank, black hat & large fringe bag.

Vintage leather jacket, black tank, scarf worn as skirt, Frye boots & small fringe bag.

Vintage leather jacket, black tank, scarf worn as skirt, Frye boots & small fringe bag.

The ideal, to me, is the travel wardrobe. When I go away on a trip I almost always pack the same stuff to take with me. These pieces must, then, be considered the core of my wardrobe. Not because I wear them so much when at home, but because I choose to travel with them and only them. I just recently started thinking about my clothing this way, and I wondered if I could make do with these core travel pieces and nothing else. Even though I love most of what’s in my closet, I probably could.

Denim shirt, denim shorts, yellow tank, belt & high-heeled clogs.

Denim shirt, denim shorts, yellow tank, belt & high-heeled clogs.

Feng shui teaches us that we should always leave room in our lives for new things, and that if we cram too much stuff in, we suffocate possibilities. For single people, it’s even recommended to leave half your closet empty, to make room for that person who will come along.

Green shorts, black tunic, scarf worn as turban, flip flops.

Green shorts, black tunic, scarf worn as turban, flip flops.

Safari shirt, denim flares, Frye boots.

Safari shirt, denim flares, Frye boots.

Writing this, I am sitting in a hotel room at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. I’m here for a long weekend and traveled with only a carry-on. Here’s what I brought:

– two pairs of jeans (blue high-waisted flares* & black, more tailored ones)
– two pairs of shorts (one denim, one green)
– black leather jacket*
– beige blazer
– gray snug-fitting hoodie (for layering under jackets)
– blue and white striped sweater*
– sleeveless white shirt*
– short-sleeved beige safari shirt*
– long-sleeve denim shirt*
– black tunic
– denim vest*
– three tank tops (gray, black & yellow)
– two bikinis (one denim, one rainbow-striped)
– two beach cover-ups/dresses (one beige*, one turquoise)
– brown leather belt*
– scarf that can double as a skirt or turban
– black felt hat
– black flip flops
– brown high-heeled clog sandals
– brown Minnetonka moccasins
– yellow Frye boots*
– large black fringe bag
– smaller suede fringe bag*
(*bought vintage or second hand)

That’s 29 pieces. The weather is warmer here, sure, but do we ever need more than that?

22 out of the 29 pieces in my travel wardrobe, bags, hat and shoes excluded.

22 out of the 29 pieces in my travel wardrobe, bags, hat and shoes excluded.

I just did a major closet cleanout a few weeks ago, and while very far from a pared down wardrobe, I felt such a sense of freedom when my clothes could finally breathe and hang a bit further apart. And, I could actually see what I have! I probably will not have the heart to get rid of much of what I have (because—I know it’s silly—I really love my clothes and consider them part of my life) but, from now on, I will use the Travel Wardrobe Philosophy whenever I am contemplating a new purchase. If I don’t love it enough to make it one of those 29 pieces I can travel with, I won’t buy it.

Striped sweater, yellow tank, denim shorts, Frye boots.

Striped sweater, yellow tank, denim shorts, Frye boots.

What core pieces does your travel wardrobe consist of?

Photos by Marc Alt & Johanna Björk (for more visit ConcreteFlower.se)

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. hi Johanna, you’re so cute!
    love the outfits and I need those green shorts!! of course, I also really like the top
    you’re wearing with them 😉
    xo Kee

  2. Oh Em Gee, I know exactly how you feel! It’s not the money, it’s not even (I hate to admit it) the consumption factor. It’s that every time I buy something I have to insert an arm in my closet lean all my weight to one side, and quickly slide the new item in before everything else springs back into place. Whew!

    So now I have a policy of “1 in 1 out.” If I can’t say to myself, “I like this piece of jewelry/sweater/hat/shoes better than something else I already own” then it’s not worth it.

    My closet is still jammed, but it’s better than it was before!

  3. I have exactly the same way of thinking, although I travel with way less than you do. I have a small rucksack and in it I put the following:

    2 skirts (1 day, 1 evening), 3 shirts (1 white, 1 black, 1 of color), 1 black silk undershirt, 1 silk pantie, 2 socks, 1 silk nightgown, 1 silk cardigan, 2 pairs pantyhose (if in winter), 1 pair comfy but nice shoes, 2 scarves, 2 pairs of earrings. Umbrella or rainjacket, depending on destination. I travel with pants, shirt, nice looking walking shoes, and a neutral jacket.

    That´s ten pieces of clothing, if you don´t count underwear and shoes and accessories. I can go forever with that. Of course I handwash my underwear every evening, I do that at home as well.

    Thing is, clothes are fun, and it´s a kind of fun I´m not prepared to give up. I think I have less closet space than most, but still I have an abundance of shirts (25?) and a large collection of scarves. I have no plan to give them up. But awareness of my core wardrobe is also an awareness of my style, and what is wearable to me. That helps me to shop more responsibly and in a way that will maximize the pleasure I get from every piece.

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