Wardrobe for Travel: Your Right to Non-negotiables

This is the fourth part in my travel series for proud outfit repeaters on vacation.

In my previous entry, I talked about how to avoid overpacking by leaving unnecessary things at home where they belong; you’re not likely to miss them. This time, I also want to stress the importance of bringing your non-negotiables. There may be one or two things on this list that are less than practical, but I think that’s perfectly okay. It’s a vacation, and we all deserve to bring/wear anything that will make us feel our best. It’s also a great way to combat the inevitable fatigue that comes with all the walking, sightseeing and shopping.

Just for fun, here is my very short list of non-negotiables:

  1. 2-in-1 flat iron and curler. I don’t necessarily straighten/curl every single day (hair usually benefits from a break every few days), but I often use the straightener to touch up messy areas. This way I retain hair’s natural volume, but lightly get rid of frizz.
  2. Full toiletry set, including make-up and skincare. TIP: I like getting random small containers around the house and using them as travel-sized make-up jars to store liquid foundation and primer. For readers from the U.S., the small sample jars offered for free at department stores like Nordstrom make great little containers to bring along. No need to lug around giant glass jars of make-up.
  3. A small arsenal of accessories. This foldable one (pictured below) worth around Php200 (USD 4.65) has small plastic pouches that can store rings, as well as mesh pockets great for flat accessories, and metal rings to keep necklaces and bracelets untangled. TIP: bring jewelry you like, but won’t cry over if it gets lost. Leave all precious items at home; expect to lose a couple of things of varying value on a trip.

    My arsenal of accessories hanging from the window of our hotel room in Madrid, Spain.

  4. Dresses. I’m a dress girl, and as much as I appreciate the versatility of separates, I will choose to pack a dress any day. TIP#1: On vacation, I prefer long-sleeved dresses that end just above or right on the knee.

    Viewing castles in Lisbon and Segovia. Both days were very windy, so I was glad for extra protection from these dresses with longer sleeves. The longer length also wards off wardrobe malfunctions while climbing steep castle steps.

    TIP#2: I also like dresses that will work with or without layers, depending on the weather. Here I am at Fatima, Portugal, which is actually a holy destination as this is where the Virgin appeared to three children. To dress appropriately while viewing the area and attending the Mass, I paired this navy sundress with tights, flats and my beat-up blazer. While sunny, it was also very windy so I was glad to be more covered up. I wore the same dress on its own, with no layers, on a hot day in Madrid, Spain.

    Left: A sunny but very windy day in Fatima, Portugal. Right: Downright HOT in Madrid, Spain.

Advertisements

Packing Tips for Vacation Leave: Repeatable Separates

This is the third part of my travel series, written while on a two-week exploration of Portugal and Spain.  

One thing I do without fail every time I travel is overpack. It’s just the way I’m made; how do I know I won’t need a full arsenal of accessories or ten different pairs of pants while I’m separated from my wardrobe for two weeks? Over the last few years, however, I’ve learned firsthand the travails and consequences of overpacking, especially since you will never have space to pack anything you shop for while abroad. Below I share some simple style ideas for vacation outfits using basic separates, and some tips to avoid overweight luggage and stuffed suitcases:

L-R. Plain white shirt, dotted jeans and low-heeled sandals in the Cromlech, near Evora. Polka dotted top, navy shorts and the same shoes in Evora, Portugal. The same white top, navy scalloped skirt, beat-up gray flats in Avila, Spain.

Clothes: bring separates that are easily repeatable. No one will ever know if you wear the same thing again. A white shirt tucked into a flowing skirt has a completely different effect from wearing the same white shirt tucked into jeans, worn with a blazer. Best of all, you can wear them separately when it’s warm, and layer them on when it gets cold. Some notes on separates:

  1. Choose tops and bottoms that are less likely to wrinkle. For bottoms: lightweight denim, leggings, and tights are great, but avoid satins, silk/silk finish and structured fabrics, as they crease most easily. For tops, choose basic cotton tops with a stretchy blend.  For this trip, I made the most out of my white v-neck, which has made so many appearances on this blog that it’s practically a cornerstone. Also present were my trusty navy shorts, blue skirt, and soft blue jeans.
  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat your tops OR bottoms, but not necessarily both. I don’t really like to think about my tops, so I pretty much rely on my basic black and white v-necks. I do, however, love bottoms, so I brought this assortment with me: 1 lightweight skirt, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of pants, and 2 pairs of tights. This already makes for a lot of combinations.
  3. Do emergency laundry by throwing 3-4 items in the sink and submerging it in a simple bath gel solution (or detergent, if you can find it). Rinse, Wear, Repeat! We were lucky enough to stay in an apartment that had a washer/dryer, so I was able to do laundry. If you can’t, tip #3 is a great way to get clean clothes in a jiff. Just make sure those clothes weren’t too dirty to begin with.

A Quick Aside on Shoes. Bring only two pairs: one matching warm colors (brown, gold, beige or camel), and one matching cool colors (black, silver, navy or gray). If you wear a lot of warm colors, then just bring 1-2 pairs of brown shoes. I think I’ve learned that if you don’t have too many choices, you’re forced to be more decisive when it’s time to pick outfits in the morning.  

Cold Weather Wear for Warm Weather Folks: Porto, Portugal

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon, but when we visited it seemed like a sleepy little town. Its location along the Douro river made for some beautiful views, and a few boats can always be spotted going idly by. The cheerful buildings lining the side of the river were a perfect backdrop for some great photos.

It was also freezing. For someone from a tropical country, 15 degrees (with wind) is pretty unbearable–especially if you don’t actually own too many winter coats. So, here are some cold weather tips for warm weather folks. I also wanted to share some photos of the city, parts of which were collectively named a UNESCO World Heritage Site a while back.

  1. If you don’t own too many winter clothes, layering will be key. Bring a lot of basics and wear one over the other. Wear a long-sleeved shirt under a dress over tights to recycle your hot-weather clothes.
  2. Don’t be afraid to wear winter coats even when everyone around you is wearing spring attire, like lightweight jackets or coats. The locals were definitely used to it (a lot of people were eating ice cream), but I shamelessly broke out my furry hat and scarf.
  3. Invest in a pair of thermal undergarments. They’re amazingly thin and light but provide a lot of warmth.
  4. Tights save the day again. Wear a pair under your pants for insulation.
  5. Use your winter coat as extra protection against thieves. As you can see in the photos, I’m wearing a cross-body bag facing inwards, and under the coat. That way no one can grab it from the back or flip open the top from outside.

Wardrobe Tips for Long Haul Flights: Hello from Porto, Portugal!

I’m currently in Porto, Portugal, the first stop in a two-week Europe trip. This is the first of my series on maintaining practical but stylish day-to-day attire while abroad.

It’s very easy to live in sweats, yoga pants and jeans during a trip, because flying for more than three hours can be very uncomfortable. Once you’re living out of a suitcase, you really don’t want it to be a heavy one. Up until I started this blog, I severely overpacked every single time, so I am actually just learning new ways to pack smart without severely depleting wardrobe choices, too.

To kick off the series, I’m sharing what I consider to be a solid “Long Haul Flight”  outfit. Here are some tips I’ve picked up while choosing from my options:

1. Tights are the key to comfort. Perfect for the following:

  • Anyone who is looking for an alternative to sneakers. Sneakers take up too much space in my suitcase; I’d rather use the extra space to pack another pair of cute flats.
  • Anyone who doesn’t like to go barefoot when they make you take your shoes off at airport security.
  • Anyone who likes to move around under their blanket on the plane, and would like to do so without disgracing themselves to a horrified fellow passenger. Much less restrictive than pants, tights will allow you to move into any curled-up position you like. Just make sure you’re covered up by a blanket.
  • Paired under a swingy skirt, tights give you coverage while allowing a greater range of motion. See bullet #3.
  • Thicker tights keep legs warm.  When it gets too hot (for example, if your destination is Cancun), simply remove, tuck into a barf bag, slip into your purse and you’re good to go!

2. Try to pass on accessories. Instead, go for color or interesting patterns to punch up the look. This is to get you through airport security without holding up a line of tired passengers and stern security officers.

3. Go for slip-on flats with no buckles or straps.  See #2.

4. Go for a blazer. Sweaters are a cozy and very tempting alternative, but I think blazers can be just as warm. Plus, they add just an extra layer of polish to the overall look. My beat-up black blazer is such a wardrobe favorite that I think it’s as comfortable as any giant hoodie out there.

Hair and Make-up: 

1. Given the choice, straighten instead of curling hair. Straightened hair from a curling iron will last the entire flight, while airplane/airport conditions and general stress from traveling will probably make curls limp and separate. Straightened hair will also let you sleep on the plane with minimum bed head and frizz.

2. If you’re going to be on the plane for more than five hours, let your skin breathe and wear minimal make-up. Avoid anything that will run, like eyeliner or mascara. Concealer and blush from a stick are favorites.

3. The only thing that’s a must for me is lip balm, because conditions inside the aircraft tend to dry out skin. I usually apply medicated balm on lips and also on the sides of my nose to prevent unsightly flaking in these areas.

Wear Different Ways: White Blazer for 3 Work Occasions

Blazers are common additions to the office wardrobe, especially the black and gray iterations. White can be a little more challenging to wear, so I’m sharing how I would build three different looks around the same ivory blazer. This investment piece is very versatile, but today I’m focusing on looks that are wearable to different work occasions, from casual business to presentation attire.

First, a note on choosing the perfect shade of white. Along with other cool shades like hot pink or silver, a bright and true white usually seems to suit bluish-toned skin. My yellowish Asian skin is better complemented by jewel tones like ruby or emerald, so I chose a more muted shade of white. I found this ivory blazer on sale from Celine; instead of choosing a loose-fitting one, I went for a piece that would be very fitted when buttoned and would give the wearer much shape and definition in the waist area. I also tried to make sure that it would be foldable up to the elbow, for more casual occasions.

1. A fun look for day-to-day work. I would say that 90% of my wardrobe is composed of basic pieces in benign colors like slate gray, dusty pink, navy, black or white. I often go for accessories that will give the overall effect a small pop of color. Here I’m wearing my blazer over a faded blue sweater and plain black trousers. I went for clean, clear lines in the outfit, framed with bright accessories like this mesh tri-color bracelet and fun raspberry wedges. My favorite element is this spiked necklace, which I own in both gold and silver. Buttoning up the blazer over the trousers makes the look work-ready and sharp; removing it (perhaps when it gets a bit warm) reveals a more laid-back outfit perfect for a casual dinner after work.

2. Transition to a night look after a long day at the office. I love the idea of combining a blazer with a pretty dress. This makes the dress very wearable both to work and outside the office. If I’m going to a party after work, I’d simply remove the blazer or keep it on but pull down the sleeves. This halter dress in a dusty luxe pink shade blends seamlessly with the crisp off-white suit jacket. I added more polish with nude plastic wedges and a statement necklace. The textured black necklace really stands out against the more benign colors in this ensemble. Slightly undone hair and matte makeup finish the look.View my entries on this dress here and here.

3. Wear this to a big presentation. Deep jewel tones go well with the matte ivory in the blazer, so I chose to pair it with this sweater in a rich forest green tucked into a chocolate suede skirt. This is a more elevated look I would wear when I’m giving a big presentation, attending a big meeting, or entertaining visitors. I chose this large statement necklace with some deep-set stones, which contrasted nicely against the saturated green. To match the gold, I added a beautiful bangle I got on a trip to India. The bangle also has some shades of the same green in the sweater. I would also wear the same outfit sans blazer for a regular workday.  Light make-up and romantic waves finish the look.

Look 1: 

  • Blazer: Celine
  • Sweater: Zara
  • Pants: Greenhills tiangge
  • Wedges: Charles and Keith
  • Mesh bangle: The Ramp
  • Spiked Necklace: Wear Mauve

Look 2:

  • Dress: Forme
  • Necklace: Celine
  • Wedges: Terra & Agua

Look 3

  • Sweater and Skirt: Zara, on sale
  • Necklace
  • Pumps: Hong Kong night market

 

Big Meeting Attire

I’m always surprised by just how much better I feel when I’m wearing something that makes me feel extra sharp, like a pair of shiny new shoes or a lucky ring with a great backstory. So when I found out that I would be co-planning and attending a big meeting with some people who were flying in from abroad, I knew that I would need to wear something that would boost my confidence and make me feel like I was at my best, while still looking professional and understated.

This diagonal-striped gray dress did the trick. It’s very simple when viewed off the rack or on its hanger, but it actually has a great fitted silhouette and offers great coverage by skimming gently over most problem areas like the tummy or arms. It’s also at a great length; I come across many dresses that are often too short to wear to work.

When the dress has a great shape, I believe it needs little else to complete the look so I just added a bright aquamarine pendant to draw in the eye and finished with black strappy sandals and simple eye make-up.

I need to mention that on the day of my big meeting, I had a million things on my to-do list so I was very grateful that I didn’t have to deal with a fussy, uncomfortable outfit. On days like these I almost always settle for a no-fail dress that needs minimal accessorizing.

January 18: Back to Basics

Instead of buying new clothes, I’ve decided to focus on improving the overall effect of the outfit by sharpening small details. I’ve proudly repeated the outfit above more times than I can count–I actually have this v-neck shirt in two colors, and two of them are now so worn I can only wear them at home.

To polish the overall look, I chose fitted navy pants and went with gold and brown accent pieces. The tribal statement necklace from HnM really pulls the outfit together, and it also repeats the hints of brown and gold from the single star bangle and these tan platform heels.

To define and widen my eyes, I also lined it with simple black eyeliner–this makes a subtle but distinct change to the overall appearance.

Tip: When in doubt, go with something that will give you confidence. A pair of great shoes or a swipe of deep red lipstick always works for me. If you’re unsure about making major permanent changes, then go for smaller fixes like flat-ironing hair to get rid of frizz. This won’t make you look drastically different but will improve your look’s overall effect.

Wasting time, I shall miss this thing when it all rolls by

My last few days of 2011 were spent running errands and doing things I normally wouldn’t be able to do on a weekday if I had to work. I love how our lives are a collection of somethings and nothings, and nothings add up to a great many somethings.  My top 3 favorite “nothings” to do on Christmas break:

  1. Leisurely grocery shopping
  2. Taking a walk outside. Even better if it’s just rained
  3. Cleaning and finding little reminders of a lot of things to be grateful for. Also, lots of things to crack up about

I should also add “wearing shorts” to the list, but it didn’t quite make the cut. On this no-occasion occasion I decided to pair my high-waisted navy shorts with a floaty white blouse. I like how preppy it looks with the shorts’ clean lines. For a small pop of color I added my favourite peacock earrings; the oyster-pink color sets off nicely with the matching headband. To keep the look polished, I pulled my hair back in a sleek ponytail. In a departure from my usual no-makeup look, just for the day I decided to add clean thick black eyeliner to widen my teensy eyes. Tan camel sandals and a navy crossbody bag complete the look.

Go-to Holiday Festive: Little Blue Dress

Most of my December entries have been about dressing for festive Christmas parties at work. Once out of office, rules are immediately relaxed, so one can break out cute party dresses, extra-large accessories, and so on. My favorite go-to dress for daytime events is this little blue dress, purchased for Php350 at a Greenhills tiangge. The sleeveless navy blue dress features tiny polka dots with a white floral trim, a full a-line skirt, and a cinched waist. There’s a lot going on with the dress, so I chose low-heeled camel sandals to balance out all the blue.

For a small pop of color, I like bright accessories, like this tiny London bus pendant on a short chain. Long, flowing wavy hair and deep wine-colored lips help to polish the look. To make it more casual for daytime, blend the edges of the lipstick after applying so the make-up doesn’t look too overly precise, as this will stiffen the overall effect.

Happy new year everyone! 

Tip: Easy to dress up or down, the little blue dress in any shade is a great alternative to black.

Attire Required: Festive Holiday Fun, but Professional

Last weekend, I recently experienced the thrill of having a work project come to life, after being there in its infant stage. It took three months, long discussions, and an entire team of creative people to get this up and running, so we were all incredibly excited for the all-day event. While strictly a working day, the occasion still called for festive holiday attire with just a touch of glamor. In addition, it needed to stand up well next to our celebrity endorser, model Georgina Wilson. Below, I share my top tips on choosing the perfect look for a working (but festive) event:

  1. Choose both form and function. I chose this soft, stretchy dress, which allows for a lot of movement. The dress offers a lot of coverage, which is critical for a work event, while still retaining a modern silhouette. The flattering draping covers most problem areas, too.
  2. Rich colors and shiny accessories. Clothes in jewel tones are a holiday staple because they are so bright and festive, and look beautiful in photos. This teal dress is no exception. Thin gold bangles and a small necklace do a lot to lift the simple outfit.
  3. Go for heels, but cheat with wedges. These shiny sandals in a benign nude shade are my new favorite. I stayed upright in them for the whole day without breaking a sweat, too.

Me (and the dress) in action, alongside Kiten (foreground) and Georgina. Photo courtesy of http://www.facebook.com/cadburyph

I was lucky to meet Georgina Wilson at the event, who was really nice and told me that she swears by denim shorts to stay comfortable while navigating her packed schedule.