This Halloween, Rich caused a sensation dressing in a Cardinal’s outfit (the religious official, not the bird or Arizona’s football team). He looked splendid in his red satin robe, and as we walked through Seville, people roared with laughter, dashed out of bars to kneel and pretend to kiss his ring, and asked to have photos taken with him. Sure, we got a few hard looks from old timers who weren’t quite sure whether this was actual blasphemy, but everyone else thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. Rich is now asking that we refer to him as “Your Eminence” but for heaven’s sake, don't indulge him.
While Rich’s attire was perfect for October 31, the other 364 days of the year require a somewhat different sartorial style. Here in Seville, streetwear has become more casual lately, but this is still a sophisticated European city; you don’t walk around in gym clothes (except going to and from the gym) or in safari gear unless you want to give the locals a good laugh. I’ve already written many posts about packing, but the other day, when I was telling a friend about my best-ever buys for long and varied trips, she asked why I’d never written specifically about travel clothing. So now I am.
And before I get started, let me say that unlike some of my more practical blogger friends, I never accept sponsorships or product placement. Various brands and garments are mentioned here because Rich or I have tried them, and I want to pass on tips about what to consider — and what to watch out for — when you’re assembling your own travel wardrobe.
To me, the most essential criteria are comfort, style, durability, and easy care. I avoid anything that requires ironing (including most linens and pure cottons) or takes days to dry (such as conventional Levis). Good travel clothes can be expensive, so watch for sales. All that being said, let’s get down to details.
Some of my all-time favorite shirts have come from TravelSmith. This mail-order-only company offers incredibly resilient fabrics, the kind that can be wadded up in a suitcase for days, shaken out, and worn without a single wrinkle. The white Perfect Pintuck Poet Shirt, for instance, has been a staple of my wardrobe for years. But choose carefully. Not all TravelSmith clothing is easy-care and wrinkle-free. And frankly, the cut of some garments is downright dowdy. Sizes may run large, so I often order two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit, adding to postage and handling costs. Annoyingly, their mail orders are the slowest on the planet unless you pay the extra rush fees.
My other best resource for shirts is J. Jill’s Wearever Collection. They’re more stylish, the knits have a nicer feel, and they have the same wrinkle-free resilience. There are J. Jill stores all over the USA, so I can try things on when I’m there. I rarely pack dresses or skirts any more, but when I do, they’re usually from J. Jill or TravelSmith.
Unfortunately, the J. Jill Wearever trousers do not hold up well; by the end of a long flight or train ride, the knees and seat are sagging. I don’t have room in my tiny suitcase for such wimpy garments. TravelSmith trousers come in great fabrics, but it’s hard to find a cut that’s flattering. My current favorites are Chico’s Travelers collection crepe pants, which are tough enough for days on the road. The silky pants from that collection are equally practical but a bit too pajama-like for me. TrueSlim Jeans are comfortable, hold up through days of wear, and when washed will usually dry overnight, although it’s best to allow two days in cool, damp weather. They come in various fun colors, none of which have the resilience of the denim, so don’t be tempted to take the colorful ones on the road.
Sweaters, Vests & Jackets
I love cashmere for travel, as it’s lightweight, compact, and warm. It’s can be pricey, however, so wait for a sale at a local department store. I carry a black pullover and a longer black cardigan that I can wear together under a light jacket. For long trips, especially involving cities with a plethora of pickpockets, I stuff the pockets of my Scottevest instead of carrying a purse. The vests tend to run snug, so you may want to order up a size to leave plenty of room.
Rich’s Recommendations for Guys
Rich has pared down his travel wardrobe to three essentials, all of which are stain-resistant, wrinkle-free, and appropriate for casual or dressier occasions. He loves his jacket, the all-weather Koyono Black Coat Classic, which has 14 pockets (they call them “compartments”) and a zip-out liner. As of this writing the coat is deeply discounted, possibly because a new version is imminent. Rich is also a fan of Bluffworks travel pants, which have six pockets, three of which zip for extra security. Tragically, his beloved Jack Wolfskin Canyon Shirt has been discontinued, but Rich manages to find odd lots floating around the Internet; it’s still the only kind of shirt he packs on our trips.
Of course, Rich’s true preference is to avoid packing altogether and travel completely luggage-free, as we did two years ago in France. (How'd that go? See the video below.) I generally prefer to travel with a few more creature comforts and spare clothes, but I have to admit, leaving all baggage behind does make going on the road simpler — and a lot less expensive.
Unlike some of my better-organized and more practical blogger friends, I have never obtained any free or discounted gear, clothing, or supplies in return for promoting anything on this blog. I'm just letting you know what products Rich and I consider to be the most useful for our kind of travel.
Have any tips about great or terrible travel clothes? I'd love to hear from you!
I'm an American writer living in Seville, Spain and traveling the world with my husband, Rich. We've recently completed a five-month Mediterranean Comfort Food Tour, exploring the world's favorite cuisine to discover more about European culture — and our own.
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