My grandma was a pro packer in her past life. In her current life she is a pro teacher (along with chef, world traveler, church-dweller, and knitter of snuggly scarves.) It was from her that I learned how to fold, roll, and squeeze my belongings into each nook and cranny of my suitcase in order to maximize packing space. As a child I didn’t really care. Twenty-three year old Meghan…is grateful.
Packing for a trip is one thing. Packing to spend the next few months of your life living out of a suitcase is quite different. The role that my wardrobe plays in my daily life as a model + my penchant for clothing, is not favorable for a 50 lb suitcase limit. But, thank you Grandma for trying to help.
I have had to learn to pack lightly, and efficiently. My first trip was one big mistake.
My mom: “Meghan…Italians dress very well. These crop tops and cutoff shorts you wear are not appropriate.” *cue shopping trip*
So I packed business wear, bulky jackets, and shirts that needed an iron. And I wore none of it. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned.
Always, always, ALWAYS pack clothes you like and feel comfortable in. Make sure you can mix and match pieces from your wardrobe. Don’t worry about what the locals wear. As long as you aren’t wearing a banana suit you should be fine.
My key pieces
Ok, so this is dependent on where you are traveling. Unless you have a death wish, you won’t be wearing a leather jacket on the streets of Bombay. However, for a night out on the town, a simple leather jacket is always fashionable, and a great solution to the blasting AC. It is also the perfect item to find secondhand or thrifted, because the price is guaranteed to be at least half of what you would pay at an upscale boutique or retail store.
When I packed for my trip to Asia last year, most of my wardrobe was fitted or cropped. I was (un)pleasantly surprised when I arrived and realized how a) hot it was and b) much I was walking around. Tight pants were my instant enemy. The leather hotpants I packed were worn once.
Unfortunately for my job – with castings and what not – tight clothing is mandatory. But for running around the city, shopping, hanging out with friends…I prefer to be comfortable. I have this amazing pair of black wrinkle resistant gauchos. I call them my “Thanksgiving” pants (because I can eat however much I want and they still fit.) Loose fitting shorts are perfect when traveling to countries with more temperate climates. Just remember: loose and wrinkle resistant.
Many countries in Europe and Asia err on the more conservative side, so unless you are traveling to the States I would recommend packing a couple of scarves (think silk Indian scarves or Italian pashminas.) A few years back I was in Florence for a study abroad program, and thank God I checked the dress code beforehand because all of the cathedrals, ‘duomos,’ and religious sites would not allow bare shoulders. Or bare knees. Same for Jakarta, Bangkok, and Mumbai. Which has me wondering WHY the hottest countries are the ones that require the most clothing.
Fewer clothes, more accessories
Jewels. Tights. Socks. Hairpieces. A smile.
Back home, my favorite thing to do on weekends is go thrifting for accessories. Accessories are, for the most part, one size fits all. There’s no “Sorry ma’m all we have left is this size, which is clearly not going to fit you.” I couldn’t care less about fancy jewels or 14 karat gold watches. True joy, for me, comes from finding little treasures hidden amongst the array of vintage jewels you will find in a thrift store. Street markets, with the heaps of necklaces and walls of…stuff…are my kryptonite.
Dresses that can transform from day to night
My favorite items… TRANSITIONAL PIECES. Dresses are so major in this respect. A simple cotton sheath dress looks casual for day, but amp up the jewels, brush on some
makeup, and BOOM you’re getting drinks with friends and looking fabulous.
I bought this burgundy acid washed t-shirt dress from a street market in Bangkok and it has been worn in just about every regard – post gym (no makeup, wet hair,) out for lunch (belted and jeweled,) and even to bed when I’m a lazy bum and don’t feel like changing in pajamas. It’s THAT versatile.
Bags (large, small, etc, etc)
This is something I learned from my mom. When I was younger, we had these lovely mother-daughter dates where we would spend the day shopping and having a bite at, ok I wont lie here, McDonalds or Taco Bell. After we got the essential shopping out of the way, we would make our way to the higher end stores that were having sales. Mom always had coupons. And what did she buy? Small little coin purses, makeup bags, bags for medicine pills, bags for other bags…I thought she was crazy. But now that I am traveling, I find that I use bags for everything – and what’s better than having a nice leather pouch to store things when you’re living in a hectic environment?
The list goes on. The point is that there should always BE a list, because you don’t want to arrive to your destination and realize you forgot your favorite pair of jeans. And when you do arrive to your destination, make sure to check out the city’s street markets or vintage stores because there is nothing more unique than finding a treasure all your own in a new city.