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More Style Than Stuff in That Carryon Bag: the nutshell version

By ivillager akorelc/cl-akorelc (rev. Feb 2001)

I developed this strategy over 30 years of international and domestic travel and it hasn't failed me, yet. It has carried me through formal charity functions in New York, up to month-long business trips overseas and many family vacations. The following plan will accommodate everything from a business meeting to a night on the town.

Choose fabrics according to the climate you'll be traveling to. I prefer natural fabrics such as cotton and washable silk, wool and rayon blends. Drip-dry, especially if it dries quickly, is always best. Avoid anything that's prone to static cling.

My favorite traveling raincoat packs into its own pocket (check sites like for such items). This would not be counted in the nine basic pieces and can be stashed in your tote bag or the front pocket of your carry-on.

Depending on the nature and length of the trip, take one pair of walking shoes and one pair of low-heeled pumps. A pair of zories (some people call them flip-flops) make good shower and lounging shoes and are great for running down to the hotel shop for a postcard.

Ideally, the jacket and cardigan can be buttoned high enough to wear without a shirt or with just the scarf for modesty. That adds to the number of possible combinations.

Colors: Navy, black or beige travel best any season; the main three pieces of this wardrobe plan don't have to be a suit but could look like one if in balanced fabrics and tones. Use color in the scart the shirt and one of the T's to break up the monochromatics.

Accessories: Take only the jewelry you're wearing, and leave the crown jewels at home. Resist the temptation to wear heavy metal -- it sets off the security gates -- even in your belt and shoes. Pearls always look chic.

The first-class look-- when you're sitting in coach: Less is more, simple is always most elegant. My in-flight uniform consists of a jacket over jeans and a white T-shin with the scarf tied loosely about the neck and a simple strand of pearls. This looks more chic than all the makeup and baubles in the world.

Wear your walking shoes onto the plane. Who really wants to be flying down the ramp or racing to the next gate in heels? Besides, traveling makes your feet swell.

The small stuff: Pack all your lingerie, sleepwear and toiletries in a hanging roll-up organizer to save time in the bath and space in your bag. Most hotels can supply hair dryers. A good haircut staves off the desperate need to carry a store of electrical gadgets that just take up space and weigh a ton. If you HAVE TO HAVE a curling iron, try one of those little portable butane ones.

FYI: I've heard that carrying nail polish and bottled nail polish remover on a plane is no longer allowed because of an incident when a lady's bag leaked noxious odors that made the passengers ill. I've not been asked about that one, yet, when boarding a plane. Have your nails done before you go on your trip; clear polish is easy maintenance; carry a couple of disposable polish-remover packets and pack them plus your polish in a zippered plastic bag inside your organizer.

I use jumbo zippered freezer bags for packing the clothes and shoes and, later on, storing laundry. I also pack small sizes of any makeup and toiletries into zippered plastic bags for spill protection.

Out on the town: Nothing looks more glamorous than a jacket over trousers and pearls. The only time I ever vary what I wear on the flight is when I have to go immediately to a meeting after landing. I'd swap the jeans for the trousers.

The secret to traveling light and hassle-free is careful planning and sensibility. Spend your time enjoying your trip, not rearranging your suitcase.

9 easy pieces=31 combinations

(A) Coordinated monochromatic jacket
(B) skirt
(C) trousers
(D) 1 pair of jeans
(E) 1 easy-care solid shirt or blouse
(F) 1 henley (or similar) cardigan
(G) 1 large square scarf in complimentary print;
(H) 1 white tee-shirt;
(I) 1 complimentary solid color tee-shirt

The matrix:

Start with A+B.
Then add E (A+B+E).
Then switch (A+B+F), etc.
Start the next sequence, A+C.
The third sequence, A+D.
The fourth sequence B+E.
The last, D+F.

These are 31 best combinations out of at least 33 possible. Can you find them?

The next installment deals with what's in your tote bag and how to bring home the gifts. Bon voyage!


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