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Create a Travel Wardrobe

Rolling luggage, malleable carry-ons, a convertible vest, and a coat designed to fit comfortably over layers make globe-trotting easy.
Layers work for travel in any season.
One of the best reasons for making your own clothes is to add pockets to your hearts content.
Rolling luggage, malleable carry-ons, a convertible vest, and a coat designed to fit comfortably over layers make globe-trotting easy.

Rolling luggage, malleable carry-ons, a convertible vest, and a coat designed to fit comfortably over layers make globe-trotting easy.

Photo: Gary Gold

By Marcy Tilton
from Threads #100

I come from a family of travelers and have spent much of my life on the road. As an adult, I have traveled from Denmark to Kenya for nine months in a Mercedes van packed to the gills, and I've enjoyed numerous travels to Europe, including one three-week jaunt that fused urban Paris, a workshop in the Swiss Alps, and an exploration of Venice. I have crisscrossed the United States to teach sewing, hauling big black suitcases with a tag labeled "heavy" permanently attached, and have driven my fully laden minivan to innumerable sewing retreats. As a result, I realized a few years ago that my favorite travel fantasy was to travel light, to easily carry or pull on wheels everything needed for a three-week trip, and to look and feel great while doing so.

I've worked on realizing that vision for several years, and last year, I fine-tuned my previous efforts when planning for another three weeks in Europe. For this trip, I decided to combine past personal experience with advice from travel experts to develop the perfect globe-trotting wardrobe. I sent off for travel catalogs and began haunting travel stores to see what I could learn. I picked veteran travelers' minds for what each considered essential. I read stacks of books and shopped for luggage in upscale stores and in outlet malls-I even took classes in packing. Here, I'll share the lessons I've learned and the strategies I've developed.

At the outset, give up thinking that a travel wardrobe has to be sewn entirely from scratch and that everything must be brand new. That's just not realistic for most of us. And let's face it: How much time do we have to sew nowadays? When I went to Italy last fall, with six weeks in which to get ready, I had to decide how many pieces I could complete in the available time. I surveyed what I already had, determined which pieces were the most important to make, and decided what I would like to wear. This, of course, was greatly influenced by where I was going, for how long, and what I was planning to do while I was there. In short, I developed a strategy for creating this travel wardrobe.

First I reviewed my current wardrobe, fabric stash, and collection of patterns to see what I already had to work with. Next I took time to define what I expected and wanted from the clothing I would live in day in and day out on my travels, and to determine exactly what and how many pieces I needed. Then I made a point of spending my major sewing time where it counted-on key pieces.

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Comments (6)

wicked_stitcher wicked_stitcher writes: first, as they say, good minds think alike! i do usually take jaunts, but often to NYC, where style, color and POCKETS! matter alot. sometimes i'll build the planned pocket into a seam, but after i've first placed a hip patch pocket on the outside. i make a necklace purse for easy access to tokens, coins or commuter cards i need ready access to, carry a small handbag w/a mesh shopping bag inside for when i find something i must have from or for my gadabouts.
i make reversible jackets when it's cold, kimonoesque gossamer weights for when it's warm but the temp might drop or i want some evening drama
Posted: 6:23 am on June 2nd

416 416 writes: Each time I travel, I create a different wardrobe. It depends on where I am going and the time of year I am traveling. My favorite time to travel is spring, summer or fall, that way I can choose a comfortable pattern style with plenty of wearing ease for hours of sitting, eating and drinking. I make tunic blouses that don't have to tuck in and pants with elasticized waists. Drapey crushable silks and silk blends are easy care, warm when layered and wrinkle-resistant. I try to make my luggage as light as possible since I carry it on flight or take up small space in a car.
Posted: 4:58 pm on June 1st

Serral Serral writes: I used to travel for business teaching seminars. Frequently I would fly to a particular state and work my way across that state visiting a different city each day. So I bought several leather skirts in different colors - plum, forest green, blue etc. Leather doesn't wrinkle and cleans easily (not suede - leather). A few blouses that could either dress up the leather or dress it down for dinner in the evening. One casual jacket and one dress jacket and I could make it through a week easily with two skirts and a few coordinated pieces. I stayed away from black and red leather - too much significance attached to those colors.
Posted: 4:44 pm on May 30th

ziggygigi ziggygigi writes: Kwik Sew pattern 3097 - reversible bias cut skirt. I made mine with eyelet on one side and a solid color silk on the other.

Black is always good, especially if you're in Italy. Take colorful scarves to jazz it up.

Posted: 1:35 pm on May 30th

purdygirlpeg purdygirlpeg writes: I like to make and wear skirts from knit fabrics. They're cool if the weather's warm and more appropriate than shorts on most occasions, especially if we're travelling abroad.

I also love garments with lots of pockets and have been known to add an interior pocket to my jackets.
Posted: 9:41 am on May 30th

LucyJane LucyJane writes: Quite frankly I have not been away for more than two weeks.
I have accumulated a wardrobe of reversable mix and match outfits. I try to stay to solid color on one side and something wild on the other. Many of mine came from ebay and
are amazing. Plus 99.9% of the items can be rolled up and packed and comeout fresh as a daisy. I also pack travel size
Downey Wrinkle Releaser. Bon Voyage!
Posted: 7:31 am on May 30th

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