It can be a challenge to select which items you’re going to bring on a trip, especially when you’re packing light.  Each item needs to mix and match, and go with the other items you’re bringing.  When I shop, I try to purchase items that are versatile and go with a lot.  I’ve gotten in the habit of thinking about my clothing purchases in light of travel.  This means when it’s time to start packing for the trip, it’s easier to create outfit combinations.

I thought I would go through my process of selecting items, and then how I built outfits.  I start with selecting my base.  This means I select my pants, outerwear, shoes and handbags.  If the items I select do not match, I have to replace the items.  That way, every base color for my major items have a color flow.

Here is an example of a color base.  I selected items that are very similar to things I already have.  I didn’t just select random items off the internet that matched, but I thought through what I already have and matched them together.

However I chose to mix and match these items, they will all go together.  The dress can be worn with either pair of boots, and so can the pants.  The coats and handbags match the pants.  If you select a pair of shoes that can only go with one pair of the pants, that’s going to limit the amount of outfits you can create.  Having a solid base allows you to pack light because you’re forced to only bring things that fit with your color palette.  You can add on fun stuff (we’ll get to that) but you need a base first.

After you have your base, you can start to add shirts and sweaters that also go with your base look.

Granted, this seems sort of boring, but this is where you have to start.   Maybe you have some fun patterned items you want to pack as well, and that’s fine.  You just want to start with the base and work your way up.  Don’t start with the crazy floral blouse and then try to create outfits around it.  Always start with your base, and add on.  

Now, you can add on all sorts of patterns that at first glance look like they don’t go to together.  Take a look at these:

None of those patterns would go together, except the base has remained the same.  Same shoes, pants, handbags and outerwear…. but with a plaid scarf or floral dress… or even a hat!

This is how I create outfits.  Obviously this is more “common sense”, but it helps me to have a strategic plan to packing as opposed to sitting aroudn frustrated about what I should be bringing.  For you people who love lists and everything organized (you know, like me) I will sum this up with a nice little to-do list:

  1.  Select your wardrobe base.  Select outwear, pants, shoes and handbags that match together.
  2.  Add shirts and sweaters that match the base.  These need to be versatile so you can mix them together (and even mix with the more outlandish patterns.)  
  3.  Add in accessories and fun patterned items.  Select a few fun items to add to your base to give you some fun and variety.

Rules of thumb:

  1. If you aren’t going to wear it more than three times, don’t pack it.  This applies to your base items.  That’s why the base of your outfit combinations is so important.  You may bring a fun blouse you only wear one or two times.  But that pants you’re packing, you will be wearing a lot, and same with boots.  
  2. Pack efficiently, no matter the trip length.  If you’re going for a weekend, you still should go through this process.  You just will pack less than you would if you’re going for two weeks.  When you go for two weeks, you only need to add in one or two other items to the base, and a few more tops.  Then you’re there.
  3. If you don’t wear it at home, don’t pack it.  I don’t know why when I’m packing I feel like I should bring this pair of shoes that’s been sitting in my closet for two years that I’ve NEVER worn.  It’s a strange thing, but you get in panic mode like “what if I NEED this?”  Trust me, you don’t need it.  Leave it at home.  If you desperately need that weird sweater that goes with nothing, but for some reason you still keep, you can always buy one.
  4. Try everything on before packing it.  Make sure to do a fashion show for yourself.  One time, I got really into this, and I took pictures of myself in every outfit.  Then I printed it out and brought it with me so I could look at the combinations and see what I wanted to wear for the day.  Now, that is overkill and clearly an idea I stole from Clueless, but the point being, try everything on and make sure it all works.  Don’t just rely on your eyes.

Nina Thomas

Travel lover and writer

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