The next time you find yourself in a big airport, take a moment to have a look around at the general population. Sure, you will see plenty of business attire and the odd well-dressed individual, but by and large, you will likely find yourself adrift in a sea of yoga pants, Crocs, and flip-flops. These days, the people you see while travelling are unfortunately some of the worst-dressed people on the planet, and usually they have done so purposefully, and in the name of comfort. But to think that comfort and style while travelling are somehow mutually exclusive is erroneous; there are plenty of ways to achieve both comfort and style, even if you are embarking on a series of long-haul flights. Unless your destination is an archeological dig in a far-flung jungle, there is absolutely no need to spend extra money on specialised “travel clothes”, which are often overpriced, overworked, and make the wearer look uncannily like a stand-in for an Indiana Jones movie. Simplicity is the order of the day when it comes to selecting a travel capsule wardrobe. Below are some tips to help you stay stylish while on the road.
Let the Fabric Do the Work
If you need a reminder of how far fabric technology has come in the past few decades, have a feel of some of the garments in your local vintage shop on your next visit. Not that long ago, things that promised to be wrinkle-free were dense, polyester-laden, and clammy to wear against the skin. The hand of fabrics that promised to be low-maintenance were often scratchy, and if you wanted to take advantage of the technology of the day and appear wrinkle-free, you had to just put up with the discomfort. Luckily, this is no longer the case. The same fabric technology that goes into creating those ubiquitous yoga pants that we see so much of in airports is available to us in a myriad of other permutations, thereby allowing you to wear real clothes while travelling, and leave the yoga pants for the workout studio. The secret is to look for fabrics that have a bit of stretch, yet hold their shape after you have been sitting for a long time. When selecting trousers, look for things like ponté knits or light cotton-blend denim with no more than 2% lycra (any more and you may get baggy trouser knees). Marks & Spencer’s Autograph line does a beautifully-cut ponté slim-leg trouser that is available in a host of different fabrications, from leather-look to matte jersey.
Do not be frightened-off by a skinny jean for travelling. A good pair of skinnies hold their shape, are comfortable, go with everything, and will outlast every other item in your suitcase. Again, achieving the right balance between fabric stretch, softness, and shape is essential. Try Mango jeans (which are especially good if you’re tall as they come with a 33.62 inch inseam) in the Alice (full-length) or Elektra (ankle length) cut. Seven for all Mankind are also a reliably comfortable brand, and have endless varieties of cuts and fabrications to fit a host of different body types. Just one work of caution; be sure to select a trouser that is more substantial than a legging. Leggings (and some denim-look “jeggings”), may work on some people, but for the most part they are simply not up to the wear and tear of the repeat washings and wearings of travelling, and have a tendency to look threadbare and woefully underdressed.
Layer the Basics
When selecting clothes to take travelling with you, choose basic pieces. You really cannot go wrong with a white blouse (or a subtle pattern if you’re paranoid of stains), a pair of neutral trousers, jeans, or cashmere sweaters. Eileen Fischer is a particularly good designer to look to for chic, louche, easy to wear pieces in a neutral palette.
Sundresses work incredibly well in warmer climates, always look good, and you can easily layer a cardigan of denim jacket on top if the temperature drops. Likewise, maxi dresses are a great option, particularly when transitioning from a cold to warm climate and back again. Boots and tights can be quickly added or subtracted, a jacket or a belt thrown on and off, and you will look stylish for the duration of your travels. Make sure you try on a maxi dress before setting off on your journey. Getting the length right is key. You don’t want to be stepping on it, nor do you want a long, straight skirt without a split that inhibits your ability to take a full step. Some great options are available from Free People, particularly their Wham Bam maxi dress ; a full-skirted, split-skirt, waist-nipping twist on a classic tee dress that can be easily dressed up or down .
The Finishing Touches
Any discussion of comfortable and fashionable travel clothes would be incomplete without at least a cursory mention of footwear. Like with the aforementioned yoga pants, your athletic shoes are best left for the gym. Brands like Clarks, Aerosoles, Sofft, and Bourne all base their brands around the marriage of comfort and style, and they carry everything from sandals to platform boots. However, make sure that you have vetted any shoes you choose to bring on your journey. Wear them a bit before you go; a large airport is not the place you want to discover that you are hobbled by blisters.
Perhaps the easiest way to look chic while remaining comfortable en route is by bringing an oversized scarf or pashmina with you. It protects you from overzealous air conditioning or sun, and adds a pop of colour to your look. Not only does a substantial scarf often negate your need for a seedy airline blanket, it also looks incredibly chic wrapped effortlessly around your shoulders, worn around the neck, or tied around the handles of your handbag or carry-on. Try Diane Von Furstenburg for some unique and gorgeous prints.