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.

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.

Summer Series Part 1: The Maxi Skirt for Work AND the Beach

When the general atmosphere is humid and almost oppressively hot, comfort becomes a priority when choosing clothes for the day. Many items become difficult to wear. Slim trousers  suddenly feel too sticky to the legs, sweaters feel like straitjackets, and black, a color so forgiving and friendly, becomes off-limits. I wanted to share three good clothing investments that will help you keep cool at your workplace during the hottest months of the year, starting with the full-length skirt. I’ve put together four looks: two for work or more formal situations, and another two for casual occasions like beach parties and post-workout wear.

First, four things I learned on the quest to find the right maxi skirt for me:

  1. It’s a myth that these skirts are only for tall women. Celebrities like Nicole Richie and Eva Longoria have often been spotted wearing full-length skirts. The trick is to find one sold by shops that tailor the length for Pinays, rather than importing them from shops abroad, which will have made them for taller women. I found this rich caramel maxi from Liberte, and shops like Details and The Ramp do carry Pinay-sized ones. This particular skirt also cinches at the waist, giving it more shape than usual.
  2. Pick a color that can anchor the entire outfit as the skirt will likely be the focal point. I chose this basic camel color, but vibrant colors like electric blue, salmon, and pale yellow work great, too.
  3. Try to choose one with a solid lining so that you can cavort peacefully on a windy day with no chance of wardrobe malfunctions. The skirt should move gently with the wind, not blow upwards like someone left a fan on under it.
  4. Try not to pay more than 400-800 for one. Many brands and small boutiques will sell these for less than 500, but make a concession if the fit is exceptional.
Look 1 is recommended for the following occasions: post-workout loungewear, to an outdoor concert, to a bazaar or the park, over a two-piece bathing suit to a beach/pool party where you think you won’t be swimming but can’t say for sure. The look above was my exact outfit worn to the Death Cab for Cutie concert earlier this month; I also often reach for this skirt to wear on my way out of yoga class because it doesn’t stick to legs and moves well when there’s a nice breeze. Choose a colorful tank top and tuck it into the skirt, finish with a large statement accessory like this faux-jewel necklace with bright stones, and a bangle or two.
 Look 2 is recommended for a pool party where you know you will be swimming but want to stay covered up while you socialize. I’m wearing this over an olive green one-piece bathing suit and with a single bangle that is pretty much waterproof. I chose accessories that will work well even when wet, like this sturdy necklace made of plastic and wooden rings.
 Look 3 is a look for a workplace where attire is more relaxed, as well as to any event with a casual dress code. While choosing looks for the maxi skirt, I tried to play with textures and color. While a warm-toned maxi skirt is usually paired with deep colors like greens and reds, I realized that it also worked when I paired it with other garments in cool colors and let that skirt be the vibrant standout. The fitted gray sweater is paired with a textured black stone necklace and glossy gladiators for sparkle. I chose a clutch in a contrasting purple color to draw in the eye. Tip: throw a sweater like this on over a breezy tank top and instantly go from day to night.
Look 4. This is a layered look so it isn’t exactly for the warmest weather, but it does illustrate how the maxi skirt can be worn even when it isn’t summer. The skirt cascades downwards in straight lines and is quite billowy, so I wasn’t too afraid to try layering a minidress under it. For this look, I wanted to experiment with textures, starting with the pinkish lace in the dress, moving to the satiny black blazer, the buttery flowy skirt, and finally the studded leather wraps on my wrist. The horse earrings, made of plastic painted to look like wood, are a personal favorite. I also like how the gold-capped tooth pendant is cheekily winking back at the casual observer. Tip: remove the blazer and it reveals a look for another hot day. The black blazer simply adds an edge and formality one needs at the office.

Rinse, Wear and Repeat with Pride: Blazer to a Party? Challenge Accepted!

I once wrote about how adding a blazer to any daytime dress immediately turns a casual look work-appropriate. It’s one of my favorite no-brainer combinations, especially when I’m in a hurry to go to work in the mornings. Another discovery of mine is how the same blazer can be the key element for a smart look for evening parties and events, especially when you are with officemates or meeting new people for the first time.

On November 16, I attended a party with colleagues and work friends in Tagaytay. Dressing for this event required more care since many bosses (including mine) were in attendance. Here are my personal rules for a foolproof work/party evening:  Keep Reading