NOTE: I had problems getting Blogger to accept this three part series on clothing as one big post....so i chopped it into three parts and blogger gulped them down without complaint! Part One is here, Part Two is here if you would like to read them in order (recommended). Thank you for your patience! mrs. eccentric
Your Gams: the three part layering system is not as crucial for your legs, barring extreme circumstances. It is nice to have options for different conditions - tights, leggings, long johns or other warm inner pieces, shorts or skirt for heat, and lightweight, quick drying full-length pants. The pants can function as a windbreak layer over tights if they are relaxed in fit and a tight weave.
I do caution against jeans in most outdoor situations. They aren't very warm, don't resist wind or rain, are heavy and bulky, restrict motion, and take FOREVER to dry. Jeggings can give you the look while providing much better function.
Your Feet: NO NEW SHOES. Blisters from new shoes will make your trip a misery, the furthest thing from style or fun. Try out any new shoes or boots with at least five miles of comparable walking (hiking on gravel roads if you will be doing that, hiking on foot trails if that's on the agenda, etc.) Stick with the tried and true for shoes - splurge on a new scarf, earrings, hat or scarf if you want something new for your look.
Layering socks is a good idea. Put on a new 'lining sock' every day or any time your feet get wet or dirty. This sock will keep your insulating/padding sock clean (better functioning), wick moisture away from the foot, and help to cushion and protect your foot. Find specialized lining socks at outdoor supply stores. Many thin cotton or blend socks work fine as a liner for moderate hiking.
Insulating/padding socks are thick and fluffy. Wool and fleece are the most popular materials. Smartwool makes wonderful, long-lasting, easy care wool socks in FABULOUS colors and designs. I can't recommend them enough. If you change your lining socks regularly you can wear the same insulating socks for several days (you can pay upwards of $20.00USD for a good pair). You can create some great looks by using a long lining sock under your insulating sock so that they both show.
Expanding Your Layered Outfit Into a Capsule: As i outlined above, first figure out what pieces you can wear every day. This might include your hard shell, insulating socks, shoes, and a couple of middle layers - say a flannel shirt and a down vest. As a rule of thumb, you'll want to change clothes that touch your skin the most often. What will you wear on your lower half? Can you get by with a pair of pants, a pair of jeggings, and some shorts with a couple pair of tights and long johns for warmth at night in camp? Do you have the items you need to complete an outfit for any special activities (dinner at a fancy restaurant, kayaking, etc.)?
Take a look at your 'everyday' pieces. Are they cohesive in color, style, and fit? If not, you may be able to use accessories or base layers to meld them together. Say your pants are olive drab, your hard shell eggplant, and your down vest is khaki. Try layering O.D. sox with a pair of eggplant ones, and tying a khaki bandana along with a purple scarf. Does this start to make it look like your outfit is on purpose? How about if you try a print scarf with two or three of these colors in it? Or a base layer whose print incorporates these colors? If you do decide to purchase an item to be used as part of your outdoor capsule, be sure to evaluate it to be sure that it meets your functional as well as aesthetic needs (functional trumps aesthetic).
When you have your 'everyday' or core pieces set, start filling in base layers, additional middle layers and extra leg items (pants, shorts, jeggings, tights, etc.) until you have enough pieces to create the number of outfits you will need. Every item you add ('fill-in') should ideally coordinate with your 'core' pieces, but they don't have to coordinate with all the other 'fill-in' items. You won't be wearing three tee shirts at once, so you can take ones in different colors and style to vary your look if you like. You can create capsules within your travel wardrobe. Let's say you have two tees, one plaid flannel shirt and two scarves that go with your pants and shorts. You also have three tanks, a floral corduroy shirt and paisley fleece vest that go with your jeggings and long johns. As long of all these items can blend in with your core, everyday pieces (your hard shell, down jacket and hiking shoes) your total wardrobe should work out well. However, if EVERY piece goes with EVERY other piece, you will have more flexibility to create more outfits.
While on the whole i'm an advocate of packing the least amount possible, in a couple of areas i recommend taking more than you think you will need. These are items you wear next to your skin, especially liner socks. In a hotel you can rinse your knickers, hang them up to dry, and be pretty darn certain they'll actually BE dry in the morning. When you're in the rain and fog and cold.....not so much. Clean, dry socks are critical to keeping your feet happy and healthy so you can do all the things you went camping to do!!! (well, except roasting marshmallows.) I like to take about one and a half or two pair of liner socks for every day i'll be camping. I pack them in a clean ziploc bag, away from any dirty clothing or sources of wet so they stay dry and clean. It's a good practice generally to keep your dirty and your clean clothes separate.
So that's the theory. Every day during the rest of this series i'll be posting more pictures of outdoor outfits as examples and inspiration of these ideas, mostly from the style perspective. Tune in tomorrow for tips on taking care of your head, hands, and feet.
How do you all approach style while in the out of doors?
Pic One: 'Sleek Black Base' accessorized with pink floral theme - close up
Pic Two: 'Sleek Black Base' accessorized with pink floral theme - outfit