During my recent break I took a little trip. First, a plane to JFK for three days in New York visiting my son and some newish friends. Then, a train to New Jersey for two days with my best friend of several decades. I had vowed to put aside the camera, and my internal blog topic collector, and so I did. The trip remains largely undocumented.
However, who can go to New York and return without thinking about What to Wear? Not I, she said, not I. And who can navigate New York without, in the end, identifying as uptown or downtown, East Side or West Side? Again she said, not I.
I packed in my usual 10-step fashion. (How do you do it?)
- About 10 days before I leave I start looking at the weather report for my destination. If rain’s predicted 80% of my shoes are non-starters. So much suede, so many open toes, so many pairs that must be worn sockless. Blame our long drought..
- A week out I make a handwritten list, by category, of possibles.
- Three days before I leave, I lay out candidate garb on my second sofa. Put the dopp kit on my bathroom counter. Every trip I realize, with a start, “My toiletries aren’t travel-sized!” Luckily I prefer to check my suitcase when traveling alone.
- I look at the spread, and mull.
- I wash clothes, I get shoes repaired as needed, I might just run out and buy something.
- I mull some more.
- The day before I leave, I try out any untested combinations/outfits. Does that black jacket REALLY go with the bootleg jeans? Does that dress REALLY work with tights? I don’t want to show up in imaginary outfits.
- The night before travel, I roll everything up, moving from mulling to culling. Put away those items that will not fit. These are usually shoes. It always comes down to shoes.
- Morning of travel, into the suitcase it goes. Check ID, Xanax, lip balm.
- All set.
And what did I actually pack for this 5-day trip to über-urban New York and iconic New Jersey suburbs? It was supposed to rain like crazy during my trip. Start with the shoes.
What I Wore
Footwear (Note: I considered running out to buy leather sneakers but realized that my 20-year old Doc Martens would suffice.)
- New Balance (light suede sneakers for air travel and suburban indoors)
- Vintage DKNY ankle boots (worn with bootleg jeans to meet cool son’s cool friends at a daytime party and my own cool friends for dinner)
- Doc Martens (worn pretty much all the rest of the time. Turned out they were sufficiently water-resistant for city rain.)
- (Kicked off the packing sofa: Valentino Tangos. I realized if I really needed to dress up, the DKNY boots would do for a downtown retro kind of fancy. Yes, team downtown for this trip.)
Outerwear/Jacket (Note: I was astonished at how versatile the Marant jacket was in her natural habitat, crossing from East to West Side with ease.)
- Black, white (and a teeny fleck of blue), tweed Isabel Marant jacket
- Generic black trench
- Scarves/mufflers: 10-year old blue paisley Etro and a really long 15-year old hot pink Loro Piana. Big wool scarves are like an easily removed sweater for unsettle weather.
Jeans, Jean, Jeans. (I cursed when I realized I had given my super-cool old 7FMAK Ginger flares away. Decluttering is not all.)
- GAP 1969s
- Levi 501s (only new thing I bought for the trip, to replace the ones I’d worn so hard they were more holes than pants. Size 28, loose, for traveling and general life)
- 7 For All Mankind bootcut ( They survived the declutter. Booyah! Trend maven!)
- (Kicked off the packing sofa: Super-hipster selvedge)
Tops (To cut to the chase, tees and more tees, in shades of white, gray, black, and blue)
- Long-sleeved gray Moomintroll printed UNIQLO tee
- Long-sleeved gray and white Jigsaw striped tee
- Flowy black Free People tee (worked perfectly under the Marant jacket with GAP jeans)
- Cadet blue UNIQLO tee (worn in the same way)
- White tank
Jewelry (How I make Extreme Casual look like it isn’t a mistake)
- Earrings ranging from Vicente Agor quartz to gold hoops for that 70s retro effect to small bronze pearl studs with diamond accent
- Double diamond solitaire necklace with an added Panda coin charm
- Wood watch
Lounge Around (For days and nights with the best friend and her kids)
- Pajama bottoms
- Gray Madewell cashmere pullover
What I Didn’t Wear
- Hello Kitty necklace (a present from my best friend. I mean to wear it in her honor but I forgot )
- A Steven Alan windowpane buttonfront (looked good under the Marant when I stood still, got messy when I moved about. Ooops.)
- Short-sleeved white tee (didn’t spill on my other tees)
- Short-sleeved gray tee (as above)
- Dries van Noten Belgian toile and Tokyo skyline photoprint shift. (Was glad I packed it. What if I’d met Dries in an elevator somewhere and he’d invited me to a party with his entourage! In New York one must be prepared for all eventualities.)
- Tights and slip (for the unworn dress)
And Oh Yes
- Invest in a decent travel umbrella. No regrets.
I was highly satisfied with my packing this go-round. I don’t mind bringing too many tees, or an unworn dress. I enjoy some choice in alien lands.
I came home with four lessons learned.
- Were I to live in New York, I’d spent the majority of my self-presentation dollars on haircuts. I’d straighten my hair every day. I cannot tell you how fantastic my gray made me feel, striding towards the downtown subway stop. Like a person of substance, who might still like to kiss.
- Tops in neutral patterns really add interest to a small wardrobe.
- 59-year olds probably shouldn’t wear cashmere sweaters on airplanes. If they do, they may find themselves sweating, removing said sweater, and then having to board an aircraft in a white tank top. Which for this 59-year old felt like I was sporting my underwear in public. Suboptimal. Saved by impunity.
- A beloved son is the best accessory.
Other bloggers have also written recently about packing for travel. Margy details her spreadsheet/mood board method here, Materfamilias and her commentors discuss “ennnui de la valise,” here. Affiliate links may generate commissions.