Attending the AICI Global Conference is a thrill. The anticipation leading up to great classes, seeing old friends (like Sarah and Sue above who attended a training I delivered in 2008 in London), and making new friends is intense—almost as intense as the panic of what to wear for four days in rooms filled with image consultants, stylists, and wardrobe consultants from around the world.
No, really, take a minute to picture being with three hundred mostly-women in fashion and image careers from 8:30 in the morning until at least 9 p.m. every night for four complete days and nights. Every outfit better count!
My colleagues were posting their racks of potential outfits on Facebook. They, like me, were panicking and considering starting over with a whole new wardrobe.
The only way to calm myself down was to follow the 10 tried-and-true steps I use to prepare my clients for travel. Here they are.
Start planning your professional wardrobe way early
1. Check the weather. You may not go outside, but you must be prepared to fit into the general season of the city you’re visiting, in this case, Chicago. Know that regardless of the weather, you’ll need to dress for the hotel temperature. That means scarves and shawls in case the air-conditioning is cranked up high.
2. How do you want to be perceived on this business trip? Take time to think about the message your outfits are sending. Here’s what I wanted:
I want to look stylish, creative, fun, accomplished, and approachable. Plus, I want to feel totally comfortable in each outfit.
3. Start gathering contenders and pull them out of your closet. Yes, isolate them so you can look at them for a few days in your comings and goings and get a feel for whether you want to bring them. Since you’re only there for specific days and a specific purpose, each outfit has to count. You may be checking your bags but you still don’t want to overpack. Keep it simple so you don’t have to think.
4. Try each potential outfit on and view it in a full-length mirror. Do you have everything you need? Perhaps you realize you’re missing specific undergarments, a handbag, or a conference tote. Maybe you need a specific shoe style to add polish to your outfit. Best to discover those missing pieces a couple of weeks early so you have time to ‘finish’ each outfit.
5. Once you’ve decided on the outfits, record every single detail on a travel chart. (Click here for a copy of the travel charts I use and instructions for using them.) If you want to take a picture instead, lay every outfit with the shoes, wrap, and accessories on the floor or on your bed and shoot it from above. Take closeup shots if you need to capture details. Do not skip this step! Once it’s on paper or in a photo, you’ve committed. Once you’ve committed, peace of mind is five inches away.
6. Designate a spot where you start placing all the non-outfit items that are going with you: jammies, undies, shoes, toiletries, makeup. If you have a travel checklist, check these off your list as you gather them.
7. Gather your jewels. You may be checking a piece of luggage but you’ll always bring your jewelry with you in your carryon. Pack them gently in pouches so they’re easy to slip into your bag on the day of travel. Check and recheck that you have all the jewels you need!
8. Organize the pieces of each individual outfit on a single flocked hanger. Four outfits = four hangers, if possible. Be sure you have a thin plastic bag that will fit over the individual outfits. I recycle dry cleaning bags for this purpose. Also, decide on your travel outfit and hang that on the rack as well.
9. The morning of your trip, you will have most of your suitcase already packed. The last thing you’re putting into your suitcase is those precious well put together outfits you’ll be wearing. Pull them off your portable rack—or wherever you have them isolated—and fold them in half or thirds in your suitcase. The easy folds of each individual outfit covered in plastic will keep your outfits wrinkle-free or very close to it.
10. Once you get to your hotel, open up your suitcase, pull out the outfits on hangers and hang them up. You have a plan for what you’re wearing each day and each outfit is all ready for you. You planned your outfits and now it’s time to enjoy your colleagues and educational sessions stress-free.
Reporting in on my wardrobe plan
So how did my wardrobe plan work out in real life? At the last minute, I changed my travel outfit. I had planned on something more casual but decided to wear a more pulled together, professional outfit instead. If need be, it would be my just-in-case outfit for a day at the conference. I got off the plane in Chicago, grabbed an Uber, and entered the foyer of the hotel with my suitcase, and ran right into Lyn Slater, the Accidental Icon—our keynote speaker for the first morning.
Within five minutes I was accepting an invitation to have dinner with Lyn. There’s a lot more to that story that I’ll share in an upcoming post. Just know how relieved I was that I’d worn a polished outfit to travel in. In our over two hours of accidental private time together, I never once worried about what I was wearing.
Day 1: I wore the yellow/gold jacket outfit
I woke up in the morning and followed my plan to wear my yellow/gold silk Lilith creative and approachable jacket and my Etro gold striped blouse, tucked in to wide-legged pants. Easy peasy.
Day 2: I changed things up
I woke up in the morning and felt like wearing narrow pants. That meant I’d wear my Artful Home Harper jacket and my grid Vince black and white sweater. I love the pattern mix! I’d planned it for Sunday but that’s the beauty of making a plan in the first place—you get to change it on a whim!
Day 3: Wearing my pleated navy silk skirt and velvet ribbon tied flats
Again, this was a changeup. I felt like gliding all day in my swishy Per Se navy silk skirt. I liked pairing it with a modern neoprene Banana Republic top with bows on the sides. Bows were echoed in my patent leather flats with velvet bows. A column of navy makes my heart sing!
Night 3: The Gala
I rarely get this dressed up. My Sonoma lifestyle doesn’t call for it. But it sure was fun wearing my soft gold sequined sheath dress and the coordinating leather shimmer jacket. I usually put this dress on a mannequin next to the widescreen TV for our Oscar Party. I’ve worn it a couple of other times to galas. Rather than go out and try to find a new formal dress, I shopped for a pair of shoes to wear with the one I had. My gold sandals are by AGL. I wore them to my daughter’s baby shower a couple of weeks ago with white pants and a pink gingham shirt.
Day 4: A full day of studying and an evening of saying goodbye
On Sunday, the final day, I wore what I’d originally planned to wear on Saturday. I made a last minute decision to wear my jeans with it and not my slim black pants. It felt like a jean kind of day!
Here I am speaking with our keynote speaker of the day, Nena Ivon, a fashion director and blogger with tales for days. The person taking our photo loved our colorful pattern mixes.
I’m wearing the Etro blouse I wore on the first day with my Etro jacket. This lively print was an energy-booster for me and my classmates. Four very full days and nights were coming to a close.
A packer with a plan
So that’s how I plan trips for me and clients! After a recent trip, my grateful client told me how everything went perfectly and her wardrobe was a hit. She said, “I think I need to give you a gift equal to my appreciation. How about a trip around the world?” We had a fun giggle. But after this trip where I was the client and the professional, I know firsthand how wonderful it is to plan ahead so you never have to worry about your wardrobe.
If you’re a traveler, you’re in for a treat. Seven bloggers are talking about the subject of stylish travel and we’ve all posted our blog posts at the same time. So jump from mine to any of the others and get their unique take on the subject! The list of bloggers and their subjects is below.
Blogging travel experts!
I’d love to hear about your travel experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly! Do you have tips to add for traveling with outfits rather than mix and match pieces? We all want to hear!