A few minutes searching online will tell you how many companies have “the perfect travel clothing for women” for you. Do these clothes live up to the hype? Is it worth investing in clothes just for your travel?
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Is it worth spending the money on travel clothes?
This depends on how much you travel and where. If you only fly to visit family and friends, probably not. If you have a bucket list full of distant, exotic lands, most definitely. And if you’re looking to one-bag travel, for business or personal, clothing designed for travel will be useful.
Travel-friendly clothing is usually lightweight, wrinkle-free, and easy to wash in a hotel sink. These items should supplement your regular wardrobe; no need to make up an entirely new capsule wardrobe.
My Facebook feed is full of ads for “the one item EVERY traveler needs” and, unfortunately, I’ve tried too many of them. I can tell you that many of these items aren’t the elixir they’re promised to be. Much of the clothing just didn’t convert all that well and wouldn’t fool anyone into thinking they’re anything but a long piece of fabric. I’ve tried one with snaps that popped open in the airport (yikes!) or several with ‘wrinkle proof’ fabric that held every crease.
But there are a few exceptions- items I love and pack on every trip. What makes these items ‘must-pack’?
Each item must be:
- lightweight, easy care, and (really) wrinkle free
- a match to other items in my bag
- extra points if it’s a versatile multi-use item
Basically a piece of minimalist travel clothing. So instead of focusing on the fails, I give you:
The best travel clothing for women:
[Our capsule travel wardrobe, outlined in a Capsule Travel Wardrobe for Women over 50, consists of 2 tops, 2 bottoms, 1 sweater or jacket, and one extra white or black shirt. To this add a few pieces of color.]
Convertible Clothing for Travel
Diane Kroe Designs
I’m a sucker for convertible clothing. Love having an item in my bag that I can rely on to serve multiple purposes. The best of these I’ve found are by Diane Kroe. These pieces are lightweight, colorful (or not!), and really do work in more than one way. Perfect for women over 50.
Insider Tip: all of these pieces are presented on the website in basic colors. Scroll down to Limited Edition to find unique prints that are available for a limited time. These are often created for the shows that Diane Kroe participates every season.
Carry-On Cozy by Diane Kroe
A lightweight piece that can be worn as a scarf, a jacket, poncho, skirt, or dress/cover-up. I haven’t tried the skirt YET but love the poncho, sweater, cover-up, and scarf options. Four uses for one item is good enough for me!
I have the carry-on cozy in a limited edition print and love how it goes with every color in my palette!
Unlike some other manufacturers, Diane Kroe uses a strip of snaps for adjusting how this item is worn. This feature feels more secure to me than one or two larger snaps. I’ve never had a fail using these small, but closely spaced snaps. (The strip does show in some styles, but doesn’t detract from the look.)
I purchased a more casual pattern in this style for a white water rafting and camping trip. It worked very well as a blanket on the plane, skirt for evenings at the campsite, and even transformed my camping clothes into a cute dinner outfit at Bryce National Park! (shown with my Encircled Dressy Sweatpants.)
Price – $71 USD, Weight – 7 oz.
Diane Kroe Butterfly (or Mariposa) Wrap
Every packing list should include one of these magical pieces! The butterfly is made in the lightest chiffon so only adds 2 ounces to your luggage and won’t ever wrinkle! Wear it as a pretty scarf, a beach coverup, or fashion it into a stylish blouse!
The Mariposa wrap is similar but longer. It’s a lovely duster by day and lightweight jacket over a black dress for an evening out.
Diane Kroe Wanderlust Wrap
A similar but different piece, the Wanderlust is another option for convertible and comfortable travel clothing. This minimalist clothing item has sleeves and an invisible zipper that allows it to transform from a scarf, long jacket to a cute top. I took it on a holiday trip to see family and wore it almost everyday. No one noticed!
Price – ~$96 USD, Weight – 7 oz.
NOTE: items from Diane Kroe are made to order. This is great if you’d like to specify a length for your tights or pants, but does mean the items are not returnable unless there is a defect.
Travel tops worth buying
Most of the tops you’ll want to bring on your travels are already in your closet. You can fit several bright sleeveless blouses, or polo tops into your suitcase without adding substantially to the weight.
But if you’re off on an outdoorsy adventure – an African safari or a trek through the National Parks – include a button down shirt with roll-up sleeves in your packing. Magellan’s Travel, Travelsmith, and REI carry many options that are great.
Merino wool tops and tees
Any minimalist travel wardrobe includes merino wool. This wool is soft, odor-resistant, and light as a feather. Pack two of these tees and you’re good to go! I love my Icebreaker items so much that I’ve added a zipped jacket and socks!
Travel pants & skirts worth the investment
Travel Pants by Athleta
My latest favorite. Classic lines, zippered pockets, and easy care make these pants a ideal for travel. I have two pairs of the Venice pants in black. The cut of these pants allows you to dress them up or down depending on what else you’re wearing. I pack one pair of black Venice pants, wear another, and I’m good for a whole week! A real minimalist travel clothing winner!
Price – $79 USD (look for coupons!)
Athleta carries other items – sweaters, tops – that will fit into your travel capsule wardrobe.
Travel Tights by Diane Kroe
And one more winner from Diane Kroe. These tights can be worn as a body suit, but if you’re like me, you’ll wear them mainly as skirted tights. Finally a tight option for older women! I wear the body suit option if I’m wearing a lightweight tunic top. In this case, the travel tights take the place of a camisole.
Fold up the bottom of these tights and you have a cute pair of capris! So versatile and flattering that I’ve got two pairs! One black and one in navy!
Price – $71 USD Weight ~ 14 oz.
Betabrand Travel Yoga Skort (shown at top)
I love this skort and take it on every European adventure. Fits well, has pockets, and works for visits to sacred spaces as well as hikes. The straight line style is classic quite flattering. Wear it with a tee for touring, or dress it up for a formal night. It’s a workhorse!
The skort has undershorts for modesty and lots of zipped pockets!
Caveat: a bit heavy but worth the weight for me!
Price – $88 USD, Weight ~ 15 oz.
Dressy Sweatpants by Encircled
Lightweight comfortable pants that look more refined than your average sweatpants. These are great for travel days. There’s a zipper pocket on the back waistband for extra security.
These pants are a bit expensive but I’ve had mine for years so they last! Wore those for a nice dinner at Bryce Canyon lodge last month (photo above), and wore them again as pajama bottoms while camping!
Price – $148 USD Weight ~ 12 oz.
Toppers: sweaters & jackets designed for travel
Thinking of ‘travel jackets’ probably brings to mind those multi-pocket vests seen on every travel catalog. Those vest probably are great if you’re a photographer wanting to have all your gear handy, but for most trips this type of vest marks you as a tourist.
The reasons we suggest buying travel jackets (or vests) are security, and carry-on capacity. And for these purposes the pockets should be unobtrusive. Look for jackets and travel vests with hidden pockets.
Scottevest hoodies and jackets
Scottevest specializes in jackets, vests and fleeces with pockets everywhere! Both Dave and I bring one of these fleeces or jacket on every trip. Not only is it added security but a great way to stretch your ‘one bag’ allocation. Most everything you’d put in your personal item will fit in the jacket!
Best thing about the Scottevest line is that they fit into our everyday wardrobe at home. The hidden pockets add almost no bulk, so no one suspects it’s a travel jacket.
Price – List price $100 (look for sales), Weight ~ 24 oz. (1 lb, 8 oz)
More great finds for travel wardrobe essentials!
Kameleon Rose Ultimate Travel Dress
Another convertible option that lives up to its name. This item converts from a sleeveless dress to a skort or a loose blouse. This is a nice addition if you’re traveling in a cruise or similar. The unusually styled buttons add some interest when the dress is styled as a top.
Caveat: the dress option features a gathered waist which doesn’t flatter me, but might be great for you! This dress is heavier than most, so be advised if you’re trying to travel light.
Price – $87 USD, Weight ~ 15 oz.
Diane Kroe Sleeve & Sash
Another ingenious item from Diane Kroe! As a scarf it’s a bit short but that’s not a problem when you realize how this little piece of fabric become a shrug. Perfect for chilly evenings or visiting sacred spots where you need your arms to be covered. This is a go-to item for travel in Europe.
I either wear it as a scarf (or a belt!) or keep it in my bag for when I need it. Takes up little space!
Price – $41 USD, Weight~ 5 oz.
Not marketed as a travel clothing these swim tops are fabulous for every adventure. Lightweight, quick drying and comfortable. I wear the Breton stripe version on travel days, and sometimes pack one of their high neck swim tops to use as a sleeveless blouse. The high neck sleeveless is great sun protection for that delicate chest area.
Price – from $40 USD, Weight ~ 6 oz.
Check out our Capsule Travel Wardrobe for Women Over 50
Do you have any go-to pieces for travel? Do you save these or do you wear them at home?