There is a certain art to packing that very few people seem to have mastered. Instead, I find that people simply shove every piece they own into a suitcase and hope that they will be able to plan outfits once they reach their destination. However, with the increasingly expensive charges for baggage weight overages (not to mention the fact that you don’t want to waste your time away fussing over what to wear), it is worth planning ahead.
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You are probably asking, is it really possible for both men and women to pack one little carry-on to cover multiple situations and potential weather changes? The answer is a resounding yes. All you need is a plan and a process. Lucky for you, I have both.
1. Check the weather
The first step for business trip packing is to check the weather. This will allow us to choose the appropriate layering pieces and fabrics. While most fabrics can be worn year-round with the appropriate layering pieces, linen or linen mixes are exclusively for warm climates and cashmere is only for cooler temperatures.
2. Choose your favorite outfit.
The second step involves choosing your favorite outfit for the circumstances. If you are heading into meetings, start with your favorite suit or blazer. If the trip is more casual, pull out your favorite business casual outfit. Always err on the side of dressy rather than casual. No one will ever tell you that you look too put together.
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3. Lay it all out.
Next, place that outfit on the floor or bed and include any accessories you wear with it. If the outfit includes a jacket or layering piece, place that at the top. The bottoms can go just below the layering piece and the top can be set below the pants or skirt. The accessories should be placed beside one another at the very bottom. You should now have a line of clothing with the jacket or cardigan on the top and the accessories perpendicular along the bottom. If your favorite outfit is a dress, you can use it in place of the top and bottom.
4. Choose complementary pieces to mix and match.
Now, choose another top that matches the blazer/jacket/cardigan and bottoms you chose and place it beside the original top. Do the same for the bottom, but this time it should match both the tops and the jacket.
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Choose one more top that works with the layering piece, and both the pants and place it beside the two other tops. The more similar the style and colors are of all the clothing the more likely everything will mix and match effortlessly. Make sure you understand your ideal image and that you would describe all your outfits the same way as you want to be described.
You should now have one jacket, two bottoms and three tops that all work with each other. Your clothes should resemble a pyramid, with the layering piece at the top and all the accessories along the bottom. You have just created twelve outfits, if you include taking off the layering piece and just wearing the tops and bottoms.
5. Add the accessories.
Take a look at your accessories and choose four that work with all of the pieces. Try to make them as interesting as possible. Accessories are like coffee table books or art — they immediately tell us something about you.
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6. Duplicate the process.
If you are headed out for an extended period of time, try adding a second layering piece or another top or two to create even more options. If you add one piece to every level of your capsule you can actually create twenty outfits with those pieces and the accessories.
7. Get dressed for the plane.
Lastly, ensure that you wear all your heaviest clothing on the plane. Your outerwear should work with all of your pieces as well.
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Bonus tip: Try to roll each of the pieces into your suitcase and fold delicate items with tissue. Accessories and travel-sized toiletries should be placed in separate ziplocs and shoved into shoes or the small inner pockets in your bag.
If you aren’t able to find clothing that mixes and matches in your own closet, this is a good chance for you to look at where the holes in the pyramid are and create a shopping list.
Think about it this way; if all of the clothes you packed are fantastic on you and multitask flawlessly, you can get ready in the dark and still look amazing walking into any meeting you have planned. You will have enough to think about on your trip, what outfit to wear shouldn’t have to be one of them.