A few minutes searching online will tell you how many travel clothing lines have “the best women’s clothes for travel”. A quick scan through their catalog and you’ll find that clothes advertised as travel clothing usually come at premium price. Do these clothes live up to the hype? Is it worth investing in clothes just for your travel?
My Facebook feed is full of ads from various travelers clothing lines 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!) and several with ‘wrinkle proof’ fabric that held every crease.
Fortunately, after a few of these disappointments, I’ve found brands that offer easy-care, stylish clothing that fit perfectly into my travel wardrobe. And not all (or even most) of these clothing lines market themselves as ‘travel clothing’!
This post includes affiliate links. We may get paid if you buy something or take an action after clicking on one of these. Traveling Tulls has not received any of these products for review. We suggest items we have enjoyed and hope you will too. Since the time of publication, we have partnered with Wool& and Encircled, both ethically made clothing companies. DISCLOSURE
Is it worth spending the money on travel clothes?
I’m not a shopper, so it’s unusual for me to spend a lot on clothing. But when I need to buy new clothes, whether for a special trip or because an old favorite has worn out, I always look for sustainability in quality, ethically made, items. These will cost more but will last and won’t go out of style.
When you’re travel dreaming, you may think of adding some clothes designed for travel to your closet. Is it worth it? Well, this depends on how much you travel and where. If you only fly to visit family and friends, probably not. If you’re looking to one-bag travel, for personal or business travel, lightweight, wrinkle resistant, clothing may be useful. And if you have a bucket list full of distant, exotic lands, most definitely look for the classic travel clothing!
So what makes items travel-friendly?
The best clothing for travel is lightweight, wrinkle-free, and easy to wash in a hotel sink. You probably have many of these items in your closet right now! Items you purchase as travel clothes should supplement your regular wardrobe; there’s no need to make up an entirely new capsule wardrobe.
There are a few exceptions- items I love to pack on every trip and will not use often in my everyday life. What makes these items ‘must-pack travel clothes”? Sometimes it’s a matter of expense. I keep the items for travel use only so they don’t wear out or become damaged.
Years ago I purchased an expensive travel fleece for my husband. He loved it so much he wears it all the time. At first, I told him to keep it for travel, but I’ve come to realize that life is short and he might as well enjoy it! Now it’s faded a bit, but that doesn’t seem to bother him…
The best women’s clothes for travel should be:
- lightweight, easy care, and (really) wrinkle free
- a match to other items in my bag
- extra points if it’s a classic design or…
- extra points if it’s a versatile multi-use item
🌱NOTE: Before buying anything new, look to see if you have clothes in your closet that have these characteristics. If you’re still missing something, consider shopping your local consignment shop or an online site like ThredUp. Fast fashion is one of the leading contributors to the global carbon footprint.
The best travel clothing for women: our favorite travel clothing
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. Shop your closet first! You may very well have pieces that are perfect for travel. I’ve invested in some nice travel clothing, but always pack some items already in my closet.
🌱Merino wool: the perfect travel clothing fabric
Any minimalist travel wardrobe includes merino wool. This material is soft (not itchy!), odor-resistant, and light as a feather. Pack two of these tees and you’re good to go! I love my merino wool items so much that I’ve added an Icebreaker zipped sweater, a Smartwool pullover, and several pieces from Wool&, a Portland, OR company committed to ethically made clothing.
Check the fabric weight/density – GSM (grams per square meter). The Wool& Rowena swing dress is 160 GSM which means it’s lightweight but dense enough not to be see through. Some merino wool tees may be as little as 130 GSM.
The Wool& line of merino wool clothing offers dresses, tops, and leggings that are well worth the investment. The items are well made, wonderfully versatile, and a dream to travel with!
I took their 100 day dress challenge with the Rowena merino wool dress, wearing the dress every day for 100 days! and my dress looks as good today as it did at day 1! I was so impressed with the quality and versatility of their product that I have become an affiliate. (That means I earn a small commission on any sales made through the TravelingTulls website, at no expense to you!)
Price – $128 and up USD
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. Again, if you need to purchase something, consider an investment in lightweight, sustainable fabrics such as bamboo, Tencel, organic cotton, or merino wool clothing.
🌱When you’re looking to replace your worn out tees or simple tops, consider one of these fabric options. Check out ethical clothing brands like United By Blue, Toad & Co., and Girlfriend Collective. Consider investing in merino wool tops. They’re travel champions. Not only do they have all the qualities listed above but they are usually lightweight enough to be used as base layers on chilly days. My favorites are from Icebreaker and Wool&.
The Classic Travel Shirt
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. These shirts are great for sun and insect protection. (In the evening you can wear these shirts open as a simple jacket.) The major travel clothing brands like Magellan’s Travel, Travelsmith, and REI all carry these classic shirts, and include several advertised as insect repellant clothing. But if you have a similar shirt in your wardrobe, consider treating it with a Permethrin spray to achieve the same insect repelling quality. Before our outdoors travels, we spray everything – shirts, pants, buffs!
My newest favorite is my Amara smart shirt from Coolibar. Its classic style (#coastalgrandmother) , wrinkle resistant fabric and UPF 50+ rating, make it a must pack for me. I’ve become more vigilant about sun damage after a loved one was diagnosed with skin cancer.
Travel pants & skirts worth the investment
Travel Pants by Athleta
My latest favorite. Classic lines, zippered pockets, and easy care make these pants 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 (a certified B corporation) carries other items – sweaters, tops – that will fit into your travel capsule wardrobe. If luggage weight and bulk is not an issue, I’ll bring along a Pranayama wrap that’s super cozy. My favorite sweater at home!
Betabrand Travel Yoga Skort (shown at top)
I love this skort and take it on every European or city adventure. It fits well, has zipped pockets, and works for visits to sacred spaces as well as hikes. The straight line style skirt is classic and quite flattering. Wear it with a tee for touring or dress it up for a formal night. It’s a workhorse! I am especially appreciative of the skort feature when my touring includes climbing into shared vans or buses!
Caveat: a bit heavy but worth the weight for me!
Price – $88 USD, Weight ~ 15 oz.
🌱Encircled has made a commitment to ethically produced clothing in sustainable fabrics. This brand is a great first stop when you’re putting together a capsule wardrobe. Lots of the basics in eco-friendly fabrics.
The dressy sweatpants are 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 (photo below), and wore them again as pajama bottoms while camping!
Price – $148 USD Weight ~ 12 oz.
Convertible clothing for travel
I’m a pushover for convertible travel clothing. I love having an item in my bag that I can rely on to serve multiple purposes. The best of these I’ve found are from the Diane Kroe travel clothing line. These pieces are lightweight, colorful (or not!), and really do work in more than one way. Perfect travel essentials for women over 50.
Kroe 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.
Carry-On Cozy and Wanderlust by Diane Kroe
The Carry-On Cozy is perhaps my favorite Diane Kroe style. It’s 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!
Unlike some other manufacturers, Diane Kroe uses a strip of small 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.)
Price – $71 USD, Weight – 7 oz.
Butterfly (or Mariposa) Wrap
Every woman’s packing list should include a scarf. They’re lightweight and colorful and can completely transform a simple outfit into nice evening wear. Diane Kroe designed two pieces that take the travel scarf to new heights. Both pieces are made from lightest chiffon so only adds a few ounces to your luggage and don’t wrinkle! The Butterfly Wrap can be worn as a pretty scarf, a beach coverup, or, with a little styling, a pretty blouse under a jacket for afternoon tea.
The Mariposa wrap is similar to the Butterfly but longer. It’s a lovely duster by day and lightweight jacket over a black dress for an evening out. I wore this on a recent trip to Florida – once as a scarf, once as a swimsuit cover-up, and finally as a light topper over a black dress. Oh yes – and I wore it as a robe in the morning for coffee on the patio!
NOTE: items from Diane Kroe are made to order in Toronto. 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.
Toppers: sweaters & jackets designed for travel
Thinking of ‘travel jackets’ probably brings to mind those multi-pocket vests seen on every travel catalog. Consider those vests if you’re a photographer or videographer wanting to have all your gear handy but be aware that this type of vest may mark you as a tourist.
Fortunately, many brands have recognized the dilemma and have created jackets and vests with most of the pockets hidden. Some of these have a few unobtrusive zipped pockets and others have dozens of interior pockets (make sure to always put items in the same place, or you might have trouble finding them again!) These are our favorites for travel. Why? Security and carry-on capacity! For these reasons you might want to consider purchasing a jacket or travel vest with hidden pockets. My favorite?
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!
The travel jackets of the Scottevest travel line can fit into your 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 options for travel wardrobe essentials!
I love finding items that, though not convertible, can be used in more than one way when I’m traveling. Men can pack light by using swim shorts for hiking, in the gym, as well as to the pool. Fortunately for us women, several clothing lines have recently introduced similar items for women.
Sun protective clothing and swim wear options
Coolibar focuses on sun protective clothing. They offer wraps to be used as swim cover-ups, that’ll look lovely as an evening wrap. The Coolibar dresses and tops are lightweight and bright colored – perfect for a cruise or beach getaway. I purchased Coolibar swim capris when we were heading out on our river rafting trip, but use them all the time in the gym, and the pool.
Though not marketed as a travel clothing line, the Lands End 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 – important for all, but essential for the older traveler.
Price – from $40 USD, Weight ~ 6 oz.
Lands End offers many other items that fit the requirements of travel-friendly clothing.
Calypsa swim tops are lovely and will easily function as a top when you’re traveling. I’ve packed their swimwear for every trip since I purchased them. On my recent trip to Florida, I wore the swim top to lunch and got lots of compliments! The Calypsa clothing catalog has lots of options that could do double duty during travel, including swim board shorts that will see use in the gym!
Other reliable clothing lines for travel
Chico’s Travelers, Eileen Fisher, LL Bean. Avoid fast fashion purchases when shopping for travel clothing. You want these items to work for trips now and 10 years from now!
🌱Eileen Fisher gets extra points for using sustainable materials in their classic designs. You’ll get years of wear from an Eileen Fisher item. In fact they’re so well made that you can feel comfortable buying a gently used Eileen Fisher at a consignment shop (or ThredUp).
Check out our Capsule Travel Wardrobe for Women Over 50
Where do you find the best women’s clothes for travel? Do you have any go-to pieces for travel? Do you save these or do you wear them at home?