When you plan a trip do you shop for new clothes, shoes or accessories? It can be part of the giddy anticipation that comes with travel to a new destination or returning to a favored one.  However, once home many of those pieces may never see daylight again and stylish travel clothes can break any budget. They’re not always practical either. When am I going to wear that shearling coat for Switzerland once I’m home in San Diego? While home my workday outfits depend on comfort and most of my closet stays in the shadows. My passion for fashion is an indulgence, a guilty pleasure dependent on Thrifting. It’s the thrill of the hunt, I tell myself. I’m supporting XYZ charity shop. Perfectly good pieces are kept out of the landfill and I’m not supporting slavish work conditions behind much of today’s cheap, fast fashion. I also acknowledge that thrifting is not for everybody.

A couple of times a year I’ll take a break from the computer and run a few errands that are close to some of my favorite second-hand shops, especially if they have a boutique with better brands. It’s fun with friends or a guilt-free break from my home office. It can be part of a trip too. Going thrifting with gal-pals in new cities is always fun. Finding a few stylish travel clothes to supplement what I’ve already packed –like the missing raincoat in New Orleans, water-proof sandals in the Bahamas – can be a necessity.

Then there’s packing for a special trip and I’m awash with imagining what to wear at the wedding, the party, the reunion.

Shop for vintage stylish travel clothes at Dapper Day events.

Shopping at Dapper Day events. Dates at http://dapperday.com

Entry level to fine fashion

I found my first Baggalini tote in a Goodwill Boutique and have bought new bags over the years. The model I favor works for all my gadgets and collapses into the suitcase when I travel carry-on only. I found a pair of nearly-new Dansko sandals at a Cancer Center shop and it introduced me to the world of clunky yet light-weight support that my feet crave on walking tours and long travel days. Since so much of my work depends on being mobile, I’ve since sprung for SAS sandals and Nordstrom winter boots. The sandals kept me cool and blister free on long days trekking through Petra, Jordan and are stylish enough to mix high or low since I’ve been home. The snow boots are ready for the next wintry adventure.

When to experiment with stylish travel clothes

Travel involves fantasy. It’s like a courtship before you notice the pimples and staying in love takes work. Travel does too! I’ve written about packing carefully before but this is about keeping the dream alive and still staying grounded. The time to try out new fashions is at home. If you love wearing cut-off jeans then pack some by all means. Don’t pack them if you only imagine how they’ll look while traipsing around Santorini then cringe when you get a glimpse of your backside in a store window.

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Picture: Wiki Commons

Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Picture: Wiki Commons

Pulling it all together

I may pick up a piece or two with the intent of wearing them someday. Haven’t we all? So, it’s all the more fun when the pieces fall together and create an outfit you hadn’t envisioned. This post was inspired by a country wedding trip I’ll be going on soon. I wanted to wear something fun and found myself near a great Commission shop recently. Once I got home with the vintage-cut dress which fit perfectly I suddenly discovered that I had an ensemble! That one dress pulled together several things in my collection (and don’t picture Carrie Bradshaw – I have only one, very full closet.) Now it’s going to be the centerpiece of my summer travels. Most importantly, I’m testing it at a local farm-to-table dinner before it gets packed.

It’s all in the past – or is it?

My love of past fashion began early. Mom dressed professionally through the 40’s and 50’s until the family moved from San Francisco to the suburbs of Southern California. Hello, flip-flops and Bermuda shorts, goodbye hourglass tailoring, silk and linen layers. While she was busy raising four of us some of her favorite pieces were stored in the recesses of our ranch house. (Do I detect an inherited pattern?) Luckily for my sister and me as we entered high school Mom let us wear her suit jackets, riding pants, and Peter Pan collar blouses. Later I inherited pounds of vintage jewelry and scarves from an aunts.

The first super model, Twiggy

The first super model, Twiggy – taken by Sarah Stanley / Flickr

Those were the days when Julie and I would pour over Vogue magazines and teen fanzines for inspiration. We would hunt for knock-offs on forays to Los Angeles. It was such fun for Catholic High School girls who sent our weekdays in stiff uniforms. After graduating I took a job at a ’boutique’ in a new mall and spent my commissions on wild colors, hot pants and miniskirts. Julie could sew and I envied her concert dresses. I still picture her Mary Quant look, Cher bangs, high necked silk mini dress. We were never good hippies – more mods and Twiggy acolytes.

Mary Quant dress was part of a Dress of the Year exhibit.

Mary Quant dress was part of a Dress of the Year exhibit. Her design is in the center. Photo: Wiki Commons

Yes, I know that none of those references are faintly recognizable now. But wait! In a newly refurbished La Jolla mall windows are filled with crop tops and high waisted shorts. Just like mom wore!

Fashion on the Ration - From an exhibit in London's Imperial War Museum

Fashion on the Ration – From an exhibit in London’s Imperial War Museum

A simpler time and luggage woes

Think umbrella drinks, the Tommy Bahama brand, and Jimmy Buffett’s Parrot club. The current trend for all things Tiki is tied to imagining carefree times when life was about margaritas and grass skirts. Those longings are back bigtime and packing the part can be a challenge. How to press crisp shirts, long skirts and platform shoes into your limited luggage space? Build your wardrobe around a few central pieces. Mix and match and make sure that where you’ll be staying has an iron! You don’t have to dress like you’ve just stepped off stage but consider it a personal sense of style. I have a Harley Davidson biker shirt to wear with cropped pants as well as a skirt – it’s so comfortable and travels well. A fitted skirt can be the core of your stylish travel clothes and keep you from looking like a tourist. Dress up and down – sneakers and platform pumps can make all the difference. Add a neck scarf and you’ll feel like Audrey Hepburn.

Photo from Dapper Day at Disneyland

Photo from Dapper Day at Disneyland Dapper definition: Adjective: neat and trim in appearance; very spruce and stylish

Got some catching up to do

It’s been a good run but now when I look in the mirror I see my middle-aged mom. If only I’d taken after my father’s slimmer side of the family but it’s just not happening. So here I am shaped like a pear unless I starve, exercise 3+ hours a day and rely on surgery. Not going to happen.

At the same time, I’m not about to give up my hard-won sense of style. It’s just different now. I want to live this Coco Chanel quote – “After 40 nobody is young, but one can be irresistible at any age.” Recent articles and documentaries feature older women and the freedom they have with stylish travel clothes and everyday outfits. I aim to pack that into my travels when I’m 80!

My thrifting partner and sister, Julie and me overlooking the San Diego harbor.

My thrifting partner and sister, Julie joins me in front of the San Diego harbor.


With all this talk about shopping, it may surprise you to know that I believe in living simply and work to keep my possessions to a minimum. I admire the trend towards minimalism and the energy it takes to live with only what is necessary. Part of that comes from visiting Japan several times where an aspect of Buddhism and Shinto that values nature, ancestry and spurns materialism resonated deeply with me. However, I live in a fast-paced society that is consumer driven and distances itself from nature. How to find balance is the question. It’s a solo journey that takes time.

So, if I bring home a ‘new’ item, I get rid of one and that can be fun. Have you ever had a gifting party or traded clothes with friends? It’s soul-satisfying. I remember how excited my younger sister-in-law was when I gave her the sequined cocktail dress that my mom had given me. There was no way I would ever get into that Size 7 sheath again. It made the both of us happy. So, as I look for future stylish travel clothes I’m looking forward to more thrifting and gifting!

Where to find stylish travel clothes and accessories and a bit of inspiration:

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