The Rules of Packing

We’re going to Thailand. For a month. We do it every other year. We fly for 24 hours. Yes, I said 24 hours. We lounge on the islands. We travel to the mountains. We hang with my family  We eat. And eat. And eat…and eat.

But before all that good stuff…we pack.

“Where do you even start? How do you pack for a month away?” ask friends, most of whom accustomed to jaunts lasting no longer than two weeks. Surprisingly, in some ways, packing for such a long trip is easier than shorter ones because you know at some point you will do laundry. Still, the formula is essentially the same.

My natural tendency when I go on a trip is to bring as much clothing as humanly possible — what oh what would I do if I didn’t bring my colorblocked platform wedges? And my nude booties? And my woven wedges. However, with a rack of kids (two of whom I typically share a suitcase with), I have been forced to become, shall we say, more practical with what, how and how much I pack.

So, here’s the pile of clothes I want to take with me to Thailand:

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Packing all of this would mean my children would have to then go nude for the entire 30 days we are away. That has given me pause…but alas, having me fully clothed, coordinated and accessorized with three nude children would look bad. So, I have a system. One that I use for myself and for clients.

1. First, assess your trip. What is weather like where you are going? What are you doing on your trip? Will you be walking a fair amount? Doing outdoorsy activities? Going out to nice restaurants in the evening? Use this as criteria for what you pull out of your closet.  We are doing a good deal of traveling the first two weeks we are there — first to the islands and then to the mountains. The last two weeks of our visit we will be in Bangkok. So, my wardrobe has to be somewhat varied, but still all very casual with the exception of maybe one night out with my brother, who runs a prominent nightclub in Bangkok. Plus, I will be running after, hauling, feeding, carrying, etc. three young children. Shoes must be comfortable. And it will be hot. Very. Clothes gotta be lightweight and machine-washable.

2. Start with any trip-specific items. If you’re going to be a the beach, a swimsuit. If you are going to be hiking, hiking boots. For me,  its swimsuits, flip-flops, beach cover and hat for our days on the island.

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We are on the islands for four days and three nights. We are bringing our children — days will be spent in my bathing suit or a beach cover up. Dinners out will be the local fishing village. So, no real need for anything beyond flip flops or flat sandals. Minimal jewelry, if any, so I opt for some bright colors and a hat not only for sun protection, but fun.

3. Work from the bottom up. Calculate the number of days you will be away and bring (approximately) one-quarter the number of bottoms — skirts, shorts, pants, etc. whatever you think you will be wearing the most depending on the type of trip you are taking. That would be seven bottoms for me: two pairs of khaki shorts, one pair rolled twill lightweight pants, one pair of lightweight, rolled denim, and two pairs of skinny color twill pants. Lay out all your bottoms and…

4. Start putting tops with them. Bottoms typically get at least a couple of wears during a trip, but tops only get one wear in sweaty weather. So, for a month away, I put 2-3 tops per bottom. That adds up to 14 tops — two weeks worth (tanks, lace tees, graphic tees, cotton tops). Half the amount of time we are away. I specifically chose tops that are machine-washable, lightweight, and heavy on color and pattern since my jewelry will be minimal.

I put shoes with the outfits as well and that helps me weed out what doesn’t get used. Shoes take up a lot of real estate in a suitcase so less is more. I had a pair of camel-color wedges in the mix that I didn’t put with one single outfit. Back into closet. The flat Chie Mihara sandals  made it in more than any and then black Stuart Weitzman t-strap gladiators (old).

I also broke out my outfits for the three days we are spending in the mountains and included one melon cardigan because it can get chilly in the evenings (pictured above). Incidentally, taking pictures of what you have put together is invaluable because you will forget. I use my iphone.)

I also have those t-shirt dresses from the beach, which can be thrown into the mix if need be. Good to have that cushion knowing that I am dealing with young children known to spill and vomit. Yes, vomit.

5. Accessorize. For this trip, I kept it simple because it’s all about children and family. I brought one piece of jewelry that
is a fun color, but the rest is my daily jewelry (I wear the two bronze necklaces together). What I will say about jewelry, though, is it takes up less space than clothing so if you are going on a trip that isn’t as sweat-heavy as ours, you can bring less clothing, more jewelry and simply mix up your look by changing out the accessories.

I brought  two belts — one a royal blue that livens up any neutral outfit and the other a leopard print that goes with everything (pictured above with outfits) — and of course the hat. Finally, a statement necklace for my one night out.  The earrings pictured got nixed.

6. The night out. I will have just one evening that I’ll actually go out. It’s not super-dressy, but I do want a little shine. So, I brought a statement necklace and leopard print wedges, which I will likely wear with my black  J Brand jeggings (part of my travel outfit — comfiest travel pants ever besides straight-up pajamas) and cream lace tee.

So, minus underwear and pajamas (which, incidentally, I am using leggings for pajamas that can double as a bottom with a longer tank if need be. I have it pictured with the chambray shirt above),  the selections are done. Now time to pack.

I use a combination of folding and rolling. The hat is just there for effect and will be carried on with me.
Now the kids’ stuff goes in. My kids use the same formula and it’s fun to see my 7-year-old count out how many shorts and t-shirts she needs.


Two kids’ clothing, shoes and accessories along with my stuff packed and ready to go!  I am off the next month, but will have some fun pictures to share upon our return. Happy rest-of-the-summer to everyone!!

*I have had readers ask me to include information on where to purchase the items I have featured in my blog posts. Because of the nature of this post and the focus on packing, I have not done so here. However, if there is anything you see that catches your eye, please message (dcstylefactory@gmail.com) me and I will do my best (because much is old) to give you a reasonable suggestion on a similar item.

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Silly Style

July 20, 2012 2 comments

Silly Style

Happy Friday people!!!

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Shoes for Real

ImageI went shopping with a client today for shoes. A mom. She wanted heels, but they had to make sense. In other words, although she had Louboutins in her closet, they sat there because she had to take a triple dose of Ibuprofen just to get through a few hours in them.

It made me think about my shoe choices as well.  I’m not 25. I’m not single. I’m not out clubbin’ ’til the break-a, break-a dawn. I’m married. I’m a mom — of three little kids.  Things have got to make sense for my life. Today. And the most important part of that fashion equation are the shoes. Because they have to, have to, have to be comfortable. Even on date night or a weekend away with just the hubs, they cannot hurt. I’ve got enough stuff going on in my life and the last thing I need or want is pain in my feet.

Even if they are high — I have to be able to walk in them for more than 15 minutes without crying out in agony. And let’s be honest — they can’t be that high (unless maybe if they are wedges with a platform). 

The brands that I find to be the most fail-proof comfy and cute don’t come cheap (Chie Mihara, Paul Green). But then again, at this age, my feet deserve lovin’. And if you look at cost-per-wear, these bad boys have already paid for themselves. Piperlime also has an entire section dedicated to comfort — many under $100.

For me, it’s been all about my Paul Green velcro-strap (yes! velcro! no buckle!!) grey suede Leanna sandals. They have been taking quite the beating, but keep on keepin’ on.  And at this time of year,  they are on sale (but no longer available in the grey)!  The strap is low on the ankle more like the top of my foot so it doesn’t create the “cankle effect” on already short legs (ankle straps will do that to anyone…even those most svelte supermodel creature). Plus, the grey neutral sort of just blends, lengthening the leg line.

The Paul Green Lewis sandal in the coffee shade is also another great option.

So, if you are like me and your feet just can’t take four inches anymore, don’t be afraid to get real with your shoes…and put that Ibuprofen away.

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Tips and Tricks Tuesday: The Vacation Hat

“That’s my Mama’s vacation hat,” my 7-year-old daughter explained to her friend pointing to my cream straw fedora. “She only wears it when we’re going away.”

It was sitting out in the kitchen instead of tucked away on my closet shelf because we had in fact just gotten back from vacation. I never thought I’d have an item of clothing that really only came out on jaunts away with the family (What am I 90? Next I’m going to have a vacation mumu), but children…they speak the truth.

There are certain types of clothing that make me feel inherently…fussy. Hats (not winter hats that are functional, but warm-weather hats), maxi dresses,  to name a couple. They just draw attention. They make the person who is wearing them look like they are trying. Even those adorable fashion bloggers. Yes even them. I see one wearing a cute hat with a little maxidress, scarf, heels and I think to myself, “Really? You would walk down the street in real life wearing  all that stuff? And then the hat on top of it? ” And I’m a stylist. I do this for a living. I follow trends, what’s hot and what’s not. But a hat. It can easily, easily, easily scream “Hey there everyone! Check out ME hat. This one! On my head!!” And that’s the last thing you want  — or at least it’s the last thing I want.  With myself and my clients, I strive to create looks that are chic/cute and comfortable/effortless. Because that is the key to true style. It looks like you aren’t trying.

So, back to my vacation hat. Why do I then don a hat on vacation? When I get ready to travel during the summer, 9 times out of 10 I am wearing a a comfy t-shirt, khaki shorts and flat sandals. Accessory-wise, minimal (I have three young children, if you get my drift). Maybe my menswear-inspired watch, stud earrings and that’s it. Simple, comfortable.

But, I still gotta feel like I’m having fun, right? Hence the hat.

So, if you’re going to rock some sort of cute hat — like a bowler, fedora, cowboy or otherwise, my suggestion is this:

1. Keep the rest of the outfit simple… jewelry around neck and ears minimal

2. Nix any scarves — too much going on above the neckline can overwhelm.

3.  Opt for non-sexy shoewear.  You want it to be like “Hey, I just threw this hat on,” and stilettos don’t say “Hey, I just threw this hat on.”  My favorite look with a hat is a summer dress, flat sandals and a straw fedora. Bam. If you want a great example of another casual way to do a hat, Sydney of The Daybook gets it right…right here and here.

So there you go. My thoughts on hats. Oh, and here I am with my hat (and a kid in the backseat).  The rest of my oufit? Graphic T-shirt (Bethesda Crab House, I think?), khaki shorts and flat sandals, natch.

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Can’t Stop Wearing…

July 4, 2012 1 comment


lace t-shirts. i got this one from madewell and it gets the most play, but i also have a red one (pictured below), a cream one, and a neon yellow/green one. they are all machine washable (gentle) so even on days i am running around with children, i can still feel femine wearing a lace tee with a cami underneath. and night out? black lace tee with white tuxedo jacket, cropped skinny jeans and killer pumps.

my favorite way to wear a lace tee is with a contrasting-color tank underneath. i like the black and white in particular because the beater tank has a tomboyish feel about it — a fun contrast with the black lace, which feels pretty. and naughty.

p.s. my daughter took these pictures. and she’s seven.

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Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Sometimes Two Belts are Better than One

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Tips and Tricks Tuesday: White Pants for Curvy Ladies

May 29, 2012 2 comments

I recently had a client who is curvier on the bottom and narrower up top (yes, a pear, but I can’t stand that term) ask me if she could wear white pants. She got a faraway look in her eyes as she waxed poetic about how she “just loved the idea of white pants and jeans” in the spring and summer, but never could get the nerve… What to wear it with? How? Would it draw too much attention to her hips and thighs?

“Can I? Should I?” she implored.

“Yes!” I proclaimed. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to work it.

So here’s  what we came up with:

– Go for a mid-rise (8- to 9-inch rise) trouser or bootcut pant/denim. That lengthenend her leg line and gave ample coverage for curvier hips. Loved the Ann Taylor option, a modern bootcut denim,  or this Not Your Daughter’s Jeans pair. 

– Don’t wear a dark color on top. With narrower shoulders, etc.,  the dark would further minimize what she had going on above the waist. Then the light bottom would surely draw too much attention. The key is…balance.

– Do wear horizontal stripes. We selected tops to go with the white jeans/pants that drew attention back up.  I recommended horizontal stripes (we liked navy) that actually broadened her top half. You can also do a fun floral print in a bright color.

– Do pair with a blazer jacket that defines your shoulder. We layered her top with a jacket in a fun, bright color (melon). A great example is what local blogger Alison Gary does with her white pants (even though she is not the curvier-below-the-waist body type, you get the idea).

– Pick some bold jewelry for your neckline.  Once it gets hot for that blazer, we decided on some big, bright jewelry as another way to draw attention up. Loved this J. Crew neon bib bubble necklace in citrus lime to go with stripe tee.

– If you can, do a heel (but make sure your pants are hemmed to go with heels; nothing worse than a floating hem to ruin that leg line). Ladies who are curvier below the waist are usually (but not always) longer in the torso. That means, any height you can give yourself will make your legs appear longer. Opt for a nude or neutral animal print wedge or heel (remember a pointy heel will lengthen and slim leg line).

And walah! With that, I received this email yesterday from said client:

I have been wearing my white pants nonstop. I can’t believe I am wearing something I have always wanted to wear, but was too afraid to try! Thank you!

You are very welcome. Now don’t forget to scotch guard those bad boys.

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