When I think back on great overseas travel experiences, a lot of my memories are unfortunately regrets about clothing! I remember being hot, uncomfortable, sore, sweaty and generally discontented.
I remember red stinging chub rub in Kyoto, I remember wearing a new shirt for the first time on a 16-hour flight to London only to discover that it made me sweat profusely and made me unusually and embarrassingly stinky. I remember feeling like that was my fault.
And the point of it all?
I’m not going to be travelling any time soon, so as most of my over-analysing and stressful-overthinking goes, it’s totally academic at this point.
Through sewing I’ve learnt that even my fat body can be comfortable, can avoid chub rub, doesn’t have to end up super sweaty! That my terrible wardrobe malfunctions and getting so stinky was totally avoidable. I don’t think that I’ve got all the things in my wardrobe that I would ultimately want for travel, but I do think I have a solid idea of what my dream travel wardrobe could be, and how I could avoid some of the pitfalls from past trips!
Leila introduced me to the idea of minimal packing for international trips during our weekly Patreon Chats– of taking only a backpack for international travel, so no checked bags. I like the idea a lot, especially when my stressful mind thinks about losing my bags and how I could end up somewhere with only the clothes on my back! Of course I’ve done a lot of reading which says taking only a week of clothes, pack things that can all be mixed-and-matched with each other, and I’ve also read all the tips about choosing polyester blends so that your fabric doesn’t wrinkle…. clearly not something I’m onboard with, so here are my ideas:
Comfortable for all day wear, wicking, not sweat-inducing. My ideal travel undergarments are high-waisted undies, soft bralettes, some merino singlets, and maybe some chub-rub shorts.
Fabrics for undergarment success
Natural fibres are always the key for me, they keep me feeling fresh and as un-sweaty as possible. Most of my undies are already natural fibres like cotton, bamboo, and merino and some of those fabrics dry quicker than others (handy for packing light while traveling)!
If you can handle stretch mesh fabric (I can’t, it makes me super sweaty), it’d be a quick-drying option for undies and bralettes. My choice would be merino (like this one with spandex for comfort and stretch) for undies, bralettes and some singlets too, since it’s anti-bacterial, doesn’t hold smells, and wicks sweat away from the body.
And up Top?
The tops I pack never ended up being quite right- too casual, too fancy, don’t pair with my pants, sweat inducing, etc.. Of course, every top will be natural fibre since a terrible experience with a treacherous poly/cotton t-shirt made me incredible uncomfortable and stinky on a flight from NZ to London a few years ago! The fabric also needs to respond well to spot treatment since they’re going to be the garments that I slop food on the most (a busy pattern helps too)!
Knit Fabrics for tops
- I find bamboo knit holds a stain, so choosing it in dark shades or patterns that hide marks could be good. The drape bamboo brings can be quite elevating but it can pill quickly.
- Merino has great qualities and will be quick drying, and with spandex it can have good stretch and recovery too. It doesn’t always feel elevated/fancy to me, so I’d have to be careful with the pattern choice.
- Cotton knit is nice but holds smells, sucks up water and it dries slowly when washed too.
Woven Fabrics for tops
- Silk noil- my favourite fabric! Looks lovely, but not too fancy. Can be washed in a washing machine, but doesn’t get especially water-logged when washing!
- Linen, I love linen! I’m a bit skeptical about how fast drying it is and how well it would enjoy being washed in a hand basin. It does also get quite wrinkled when packed, though I’m not sure if that would bother me!
- Cotton lawn, thinking specifically about liberty cotton lawn, is comfortable, it’s a little bit fancy, it never seems to get wrinkled, and because it’s so lightweight I feel like it would dry relatively quickly!
I’m sure there are other fabrics that I haven’t thought of!
Pants for travel
What are the perfect travel pants? Lightweight, quick-drying, easy to dress up and down, elastic waistband, deep pockets (maybe even lots of pockets? Clearly they have to be comfortable for everyday wearing, walking about and also for sitting on flights and buses, etc.
I probably wouldn’t want to pack too many pants, maybe a couple of pairs!
Fabric for pants
- I love linen, I love linen pants! Linen deals well with stain treatment, and it’s got other nice qualities.
- Wool suiting! I’m not sure it would be a good choice, but the qualities of a nice wool suiting (quick drying, non-smelly) could be really handy if the pants didn’t end up looking too formal.
- Cotton and denim are nice but take up a lot of room. We’ve all experienced wet jeans, right? They’re really no good if you get them wet or try to dry them in a rush.
- I like Tencel, but very similar to the bamboo knit I find it marks easily, it especially holds onto grease marks, and it doesn’t take well to spot treatment when it’s not followed by a full wash. It also soaks up a lot of water when you give it the chance, and take a long time to dry!
This one is so dependent on where you’re going, the season, the temperatures, the rain! I run hot, especially when I’m moving about, so I find I’m often too warm. Whatever I take has to be easily stow-able, I hate having to carry around a bulky layer that’s too hot to wear.
I’d either have a lightweight RTW rain jacket with a hood, or the me-made rain poncho which I’ve been dreaming about. Either way it would have to roll up small, but an added bonus of the ponch would be that it could also protect a backpack or any other bag I was carrying about.
When I’ve been touristing in chilly places I’ve worn a Land’s End puffer vest. I’d like to make myself a version which has even more secure zipper pockets (some internal) and maybe a big back pocket or some more external pockets- I want oodles of pockets but I also want it to look not too sloppy (maybe a tall order). Of course, it needs to be easy to pack up small and stow in a backpack if I’m too hot to wear it!
Bulky layers are out, so my favourite middle layers are lightweight merino sweaters. My favourite sweater is a thin-ish grey boxy merino sweater with high splits through the sides. It was an Eileen Fisher sale find and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. I don’t think I could replicate the excellence of that sweater with sewing, so I’ll remain on the hunt. I’m not into cardigans, but I suppose a thin cardigan could be good here.
And even warmer?
I suppose if I was going somewhere even chillier then a toastier outer layer with sleeves would be good.
Somehow I inevitably forget about sleepwear- it’s probably the thing you’d end up wearing the most during the trip! I’d pack a silk robe (rolls up tiny and who knows when you might need it).
I generally prefer a full-length PJ bottom, but that does take up a decent amount of room. Perhaps Silk PJ bottoms so that they would roll up super small, or just accept that I need to leave room for 2 cotton PJs bottoms? For chilly places, I like to sleep with a knit turtleneck, so one of those too.
I could save a lot of room if I liked to sleep in a silk camisole and matching shorts!
A lack of a conclusion
No conclusions given, just rumination! But, I do have an idea about planning some backpack-only travel wardrobes to replace previous international travel wardrobes that were failures!