As summer finally, belatedly, gets underway, here are some ideas for packing light.
The DH and I had a ‘day out’ at the weekend – a 350km round trip to see a rose garden near Saumur. Normandy was about 18 degrees and grey when we left, but the Loire was over 30 degrees with brilliant sun. When we got there, I slipped out of my jeans and t-shirt into a knee-length cotton dress and instantly felt like a new woman.
It set me thinking about holiday packing. I don’t take summer holidays – we live in a beautiful place that is itself a holiday destination, so we more often take breaks in winter. But on the odd occasion that I have to pack a suitcase and then lug it around, such as when we pop back to the UK, here’s what I’ve found useful:
* Reversible items, which give you two garments while taking up the space of only one. I get mine from Orvis, and unlike most reversibles, they’re patterned both sides rather than having one plain side. This jacket below is in two shades of blue, but I have others in brown, green, black and beige.
* Travel dress. Again, I get mine from Orvis (left). A travel dress should be something like microfibre jersey – doesn’t crease, can be washed out and hung in the shower overnight to dry, can be rolled up into a suitcase or backpack. Long enough to wear with boots or shoes but not so short that you need tights.
* Travel skirt. Same deal, same fabric, same length and fullness if possible. Black goes with everything, but patterns are also very wearable with plain tops.
* Jeans, of course. The twill weave of denim, plus about 3 per cent stretch, means no ironing. I always take two pairs in case one gets wet and won’t dry overnight. Make them smart indigo blue or black and they will take you nearly everywhere. Remember to get summer weight for summer travel.
* A waistcoat. If you’re not used to wearing waistcoats, think again – they are a godsend for versatility. The most flattering and wearable is v-neck, button down and preferably reversible, so you can wear it either side, open or closed. Gives you a pop of colour over a T or blouse, acts as an extra layer where you need it most, and covers that curry stain in an emergency. This Orvis one has the wrong neckline for me, but the pattern reverses from paisley to plain.
* Sleeveless vests in microfibre with stretch. Long enough to tuck into your jeans or skirt, they can go under a t, or fill in a gap on a cardigan. The microfibre means, again, that you can wash them out by hand and leave them to dry overnight, or in about 20 minutes in the sun.
* Long-sleeved Ts and/or long-sleeved cotton jersey cardigans. These are my standard summer cover-up, and though they do take a bit of time to dry if you have to wash them, at least they don’t need ironing. 5 per cent lycra is good if you can get it. The long sleeves can be pushed back but save you from sunburn.
* Seersucker. Great for blouses, jackets and skirts but best avoided as trousers, unless you want to look like a tent. One white long-sleeved seersucker blouse can be a real refresher on holiday.
* Creased-look fabrics. Boden are great for this kind of thing, as with this crinkle fabric shirt, which comes in half a dozen colours – again, needs no ironing and is intended to look deliberately crushed.
* Pleats Please. Issey Miyake’s bog-standard range of stay-prest polyester clothing packs down to nothing and needs no ironing.
* Close-fitting polarfleece gilet or jacket. Cut neat and close to the body, this is a good lightweight coverall for evenings but practical enough to go with everyday wear. Often more wearable than a cardi – it will even go to the beach easily. Get one without a logo if you can.
* Sparkly wrap. The quickest way to ring the change from day to night without having to pack a party dress. I make my own from a yard and a half of sequinned chiffon or organza, so it weighs nothing. You can pack half a dozen if need be.
* Kaftan in thin, patterned cotton, preferably a stripe. Ideal for bumming around in the evening if your skin feels hot and sore. Doubles as a beach coverup or even a nightie. The stripes keep it looking fresh.
* Black swimming costume with built-in wired bra. Doubles as an evening top with a wrap or cardigan.
* Plimpsolls or deck shoes. No matter how good your sandals, you can end up with some wear and tear. Plimsolls are fine with jeans, work as slippers and can be worn on the beach or in the pool. If you don’t want to buy any, get some espadrilles and chuck them when they fall apart.
* Stripes and polka dots. These classic patterns always look fresh and add a bit of formality for evening if you need it. Stick to black and white or navy and white for maximum oomph.
Things to avoid
Anything that needs ironing, including linen, plain cottons (patterns hide creasing better) and silk. Who wants to hang around ironing when they’re on holiday?
Bulky lightweight items such as down jackets. These take up a phenomenal amount of space in a suitcase compared with a polar fleece jacket.
Dresses – in general, twice as much work for half as much wear because the top gets dirty and sweaty before the skirt part. Stick to separates.
Trousers other than jeans. Styles that don’t fit tight to the body always look better ironed, whereas with jeans, the creases drop out with wear.
Your good knickers. Holidays are a good time to use up your old stretched-out pants. Save them up all year, wear them on holiday, then chuck them out – leaves more room in your suitcase for souvenirs and one less thing to wash when you get home.