Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scandalously Simple Travel Capsule

Saturday's look in downtown Nevada City

I have a confession to make. While i thoroughly enjoy participating in Patti's Visible Monday group posts, i very rarely feel all that visible in the outfits i highlight. I suppose that as a 50 year old woman in our culture, just dressing with some individuality (and blogging about it) qualifies for visibility.  But that's a theoretical concept, not the visceral experience of feeling exposed just because of what you're wearing.

However, one of this post's outfits did make me feel pretty easy to spot! Mr. E and i went up to Nevada City last Friday the 13th to attend Mariee Sioux's CD release party and concert. Due to horrendous traffic (all the radio traffic reporters were commenting about how unprecedentedly dreadful it was) we missed the first act. But we made it in time to see The Moore Brothers, then Mariee Sioux herself. We had a great time. Nevada City has an unusual vibe in the Gold Country as it's much more artsy and free-thinking than the rest of central California, with massage schools, indie concert venues, acupuncture offices, boutiques showcasing local eco-conscious designers, and so on. The crowd at the concert reflected this with a nice mix of ages and no 'uniform' look.

Friday's Concert Look

Most of the attendees dressed fairly casually; so in my skirt, heels, and hat i stood out from the crowd. But I felt visible mainly because so many ladies were sweet enough to compliment me on my outfit! I can't remember the last time i had so many compliments at one time, and i enjoyed it. The ladies of Nevada City lived up to the small town stereotype of welcoming hospitality in the best possible way. Not surprisingly, they all looked great as well. Many of them wore dresses with a casual flair not often seen but perfect for the occasion and the town.

Friday Concert Look - from the back

Mr. E and I stayed two nights in a chain motel in Auburn, a half hour drive from Nevada City. It was hot, in the nineties, and a big fire was burning only a few miles away. Fortunately the wind stayed in our favor on Saturday and the smoke didn't come our way. We spent most of the day strolling around Nevada City, checking out the Victorians, the shops, and a great garage sale. But Sunday morning our luck ran out and smoke lay over the area. So we headed back to the bay after a leisurely breakfast in Auburn.

Now, the travel capsule. Our trip lasted three days and two nights. We left Friday late afternoon (after Mr. E got off work) and returned midday Sunday. Last July i house sat for my dad and bonus mom quite a bit, packing my usual ton of stuff. At one point, as i glared at my suitcase, Mr. E said: "You could wear the same thing every day, no one's going to see you." While planning for this latest jaunt, Mr. E's words rang in my ears and emboldened me to be more sartorially daring in my packing this time. I packed light, and wore even lighter. I took two skirts, one frock coat, two tops, one black hoody (nicer quality), two hats, three pairs of shoes.  I wore one top (washed after second night), one frock coat, two skirts, two hats, two pair of shoes.

Trying on black coton ruffle tank - didn't buy

 The outfits: Friday (for the concert) i wore the ivory lace trimmed blouse, black tiered skirt, black and white striped frock coat, Fossil oxfords, black stripey over-the-knee socks and 'mushroom' hat. Saturday (sightseeing, walking, and shopping in Nevada City) i chose the same top, skirt, and hat with snakeskin sandals and no hose. Sunday (breakfast out, sightseeing, in the car) i wore the same top, snakeskin sandals again, oatmeal linen skirt, Tula bucket hat, and my new Extasia necklace (purchased Saturday).

Sunday's Look

I thought this travel capsule worked out great! I enjoyed having less clothing to keep track of, i was physically comfortable, my clothes were appropriate for the trip's activities, and i loved all the looks. Especially since Mr. E and i take a fair amount of weekend trips, i'm analyzing this trips capsule for future use. What made this capsule work? Well, it's really just one outfit (ivory lace trimmed blouse, frock coat, tiered skirt) that's changed up with accessories for different effects/temperatures and with a change of bottoms (skirt). The frock coat and tiered skirt make a great 'suit' and would have looked nice with the snakeskin sandals as well as with the heels and socks even though i didn't have occasion to wear this combination.

detail of the blouse and a look at my new necklace

Another approach to this 'one outfit' capsule would be to wear a variety of tops with the same third layer (jacket, vest, cardigan, etc.) and bottom. Tops are great for variety and they take up very little space. This ivory top worked well because it has a nice structure to it so you still have a nice look when you take off the frock coat. It is also very quick-drying. Although i took along another blouse (i forget which one! oh, my face is red) i decided to stick with the ivory blouse all weekend. I chose the oatmeal skirt for Sunday and it was quite comfy to wear on the ride home. The light color combined with the ivory top for a monotone look, which made a nice visual change from the dramatic black/white contrast of the previous two looks. 
from Extasia's Nevada City outlet store - my first and (i hope) far from last Extasia piece

 I think the key is to make sure that your 'base outfit' works for whatever you're going to be doing on your trip. I would always go with a 'three layer look' (top, bottom, jacket) personally. I'm most comfortable with a third layer physically and it is also a signature of my personal style. I would also choose a top that can 'carry' the look without the third layer. For colder weather i would pack leggings/tights, wool socks, a tank or two, scarves, a fleece or cashmere shrug in addition to my three layer outfit and another blouse or skirt. Adding wool tights, a slip, a cashmere shrug and scarf to my concert look could see me through most winter weather in Northern California, and stripping the outfit down to it's basic 'blouse and skirt' was perfect for very hot weather. That's flexibility!

It's a conundrum that i've loved the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for decades, and have been diligently working towards one for two years now - but whenever it's time to take a trip, i automatically stuff that suitcase to bursting! It was so fun and easy to take along just enough, not having to worry about all that 'stuff'. It felt footloose and fancy free....spontaneous and out of the ordinary routine. Lighter - metaphorically as well as literally!

I'm thrilled to have made some type of packing breakthrough - i fantasize about taking a rolling tote and dressing out of it for a week...but i'm not deluded enough to think i've got it all figured out.  Any and all travel packing tips, tricks, and ideas are welcome!


  1. Wonderful packing story, Steph - and very inspiring as we're planning a 2-night, 3 day trip next week. I love the idea of washing a blouse and re-wearing while on the trip - so practical. And your looks are so "you", with your fabulous hats, shoes and tights. Thanks for sharing : >

  2. I need to take a packing lesson from you since I have never known how to take just a few things. I overload my luggage and then it ends up being exhausting to tote it into and out of a vehicle as well as the hotel room. I couldn't tell that you repeated pieces in these two outfits. Well done!!

  3. Excellent capsule! Well done. I love the back of that frock coat, and your new necklace is fabulous - what great detail!

  4. Great hat! No wonder you got so many compliments.

  5. oh my! A one outfit capsule look! Never heard the like. Intriguing, you are, as always. Sure does work. That outfit is just delightful. You look like you stepped out of the pages of a storybook that has a little magic in it as a subtheme.

  6. Really interesting to hear how this experiment went, as a serial over-packer myself. When I go away, I take tons of stuff and wear very little of it - I do indeed wear more or less the same thing every day. I guess it is about taking the leap into trusting that process enough to leave the security blanket of stuff behind. All your outfit permutations look great. And I want that necklace, it is beautiful. I'm intrigued - why didn't you buy the black ruffle tank?

  7. Great looks! I would love to be able to pack like that, but I have a preschooler who frequently gets stuff (food, bodily fluids etc) on my clothes! ;) I recently did a post on packing using Go Chic or Go Home. ;)

    Love those heeled oxfords! Great shoes. :)

  8. Sounds like the capsule worked splendidly. I'm admiring the frock coat.

  9. Thank you Patti! oooh, i hope you have a really fun trip :) "And your looks are so "you".." it's what i'm always aiming for and so nice when it comes thru!

    Welcome Diane! i don't know about me giving lessons - this is the first time ever i've packed this light! i hear you about the exhaustion of hauling everything around. "I couldn't tell that you repeated pieces in these two outfits. Well done!!" thank you! that's fun to hear :)

    Hello sheila! thank you! well, as soon as i saw this coat it reminded me so of your Noa Noa one that i bought it on the spot (! story to come later). i'm glad my camera does macro so you could see that necklace, too.

    Hi Kathleen! heehee, i gotta tell you that the straw and braiding on this hat are just beautiful in person. It's from a Ren Faire vendor, pricey and worth it all!

    Hullo Vildy! "Never heard the like." oh my goodness, coming from you that's really incredible! you are like the encyclopaedia of wardrobing theory, i've found such a variety of fascinating articles and bloggers thanks to you. "You look like you stepped out of the pages of a storybook that has a little magic in it as a subtheme." oh, what a nice nice nice description......i'm keeping that one! :) thank you.

    Hi Debbie! ".....I do indeed wear more or less the same thing every day." that's fascinating, our packing strategies sound quite similar, along with Diane's too. Trust in teh process sounds very good, altho to be frank i was in a somewhat foul mood and it was more like "ah, fork it, i'll just take this and darn the torpedoes....." but with more swear words. ;) whatever works, i say!

    Extasia has a nice variety of necklaces, bracelets, etc. - they are known for 'statement' pieces but they have more delicately scaled items as well. I think you'd have fun looking thru their website, and if you ever travel to the Gold Country it would be very worth your while to make a point of shopping at their outlet store in Nevada City (call ahead for hours). I paid $40 for this piece, similar items are $225 or so retail. I didn't go for the tank because it was $50, out of my price range for a tank and especially one that i could dupe myself.

    Welcome CC! ha! have kids and all bets are off! That post is really interesting and i think your strategy is really. smart. Plan it all out beforehand, and then make it easy to find out what you planned when you're out on the road and things're nuts!

    i've been lusting after heeled oxfords for THIRTY YEARS. big smile when i got these!

    Hi Terri! it did! hhmmm, you know i could see you in that coat - and we don't have a lot of style overlap! i'll be featuring it again soon.

    Happy Day! steph

  10. I wonder how much of overpacking is our sense of anxiety about the unknown? When we are home, we have a fairly good idea of what we will encounter and we dress in our appropriate uniforms. But travel is all about possibility: What new person/idea/venue/opportunity will I encounter? Will I be dressed correctly for this grand new (unknown) thing?

    Of course, having just the right outfit crammed into your suitcase doesn't guarantee that you'll be wearing it when the magic happens. Perhaps girding ourselves in favorite items, like your fab hat and signature skirt, is all the juju we really need.

    And later, when you show the photos of That Time On That Trip When I Danced Onstage With HIM!!! we'll all say, "Oh, yes, perfect! She's wearing The Hat and I'd know her anywhere!"

  11. I had a similar thought not too long ago. I go out so rarely that I could probably wear one outfit over and over without anyone knowing it. I think you looked fabulous in what you chose. I love that frock jacket. It is amazing! And the necklace? It is stunning!!!! It looks very antique and unique.

  12. Hi Louise! really, there is a LOT of wisdom in your words! fear of the unknown, putting too much expectation on 'the perfect trip', wanting to control control control.......

    You do a great job at reminding us to have fun and relax! heehee, 'The Hat'! well, it can't get to be a 'trademark' unless you wear it enough! :)

    aw, Debbi - "I go out so rarely that I could probably wear one outfit over and over without anyone knowing it. " that sounds kind of too-much-in-the- house-y, but i don't know if it really is or not. I have a lot of fun at home, personally :)

    hmmm..... you know, if you do go out that infrequently and you like repeating it's the perfect circumstance for investing in 2-3 knockout looks and wearing 'em out! the same budget for a couple of looks is very different than spent on several ;) and thank you - i had a feeling you would like that necklace!

    Happy Wednesday! steph

  13. You always look amazing but that ivory top is so fitted and elegant, and yes, sexy! And I miss tights and hose weather; it could be another two months before the weather cools off enough to bring them back out.

    My husband has kindly refrained from commenting on my packing in the past, but as I get older, I find myself wanting to travel very lightly. My aging back and neurological condition(s) prohibit dragging even my fabulous rolling trunk that all of my friends have borrowed at one time or 'nother and has been more places than I have. Now I lay everything out on the bed and try to find two or three of each separate that must go with everything else. Throw in scarves and light accessories for variety, and I'm done.


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