Travelers, dont let the suitcase life make you a slouch
- Heather Larimer
- Portland Tribune - Features
I don't claim to be a jet-setter, but I've spent a fair amount of time living out of a suitcase.
Recently, I went on an 11-day concert tour with my band, Eux Autres. For me, touring presents a major packing challenge: My luggage needs to be minimal, yet I need to look stage-worthy night after night.
A band of our stature rarely gets a dressing room, let alone a hotel room. I can't count the times I've changed clothes at a rest stop, brushed my teeth in a parking lot, or applied lipstick using a CD as a mirror.
Of course, I've been on some fancy vacations, too, and stayed in hotel rooms larger than my apartment. Places where exorbitantly priced toiletries are left free for the taking.
But no matter what the circumstances, I never bring more than a carry-on size bag (plus a tote bag for my laptop and books). Traveling light is enormously gratifying, far more gratifying than having enough clothes to switch outfits for each meal.
It's a point of pride that I can carry my own luggage, even on the odd occasion a bellhop is at the ready.
I've found 10 essentials for efficient packing. (Note that these are for the colder seasons; summer requires its own approach.)
1. A soft-sided duffel-style bag. I despise wheeled suitcases - they're constantly flipping over and crashing into small children. Another grievance: They beg to be filled to capacity because their frame is so rigid. In contrast, a soft-sided bag rewards your packing restraint by actually taking up less room.
Filson, a 100-year-old company known for impeccable quality, makes the handsomest travel duffel I've seen. Plus, it will last forever.
$255 at Canoe, 1136 S.W. Alder St., 503-889-8545
Zero Halliburton makes a great space-age duffle with tubular handles.
$325 at Fink's Luggage, 517 S.W. 12th Ave., 503-222-6086
2. A pair of flat boots. Flat pull-on or zippered boots look terrific with pants, skirts or dresses. They are comfortable for miles, and easy to remove at security checkpoints.
My own staple is a pair of vintage Tony Lama 'ropers,' but then again, I'm from Nebraska.
Ropers are ultrawearable because they have a rounded toe and hit midshin. Plus, the shape make your legs look thinner (not that you care about that sort of thing).
Portland Outdoor Store carries basic ropers by Dan Post ($75) and arrestingly gorgeous ones by Lucchese, which are hand-finished and made of glossy goatskin.
$425, 304 S.W. Third Ave., 503-222-1051
Hard-core urbanites may prefer Jeffrey Campbell's 'Soy Sancho' boot: knee-length black leather with a jaunty ankle buckle.
$179 at Sole, 1033 N.W. Couch St., 503-222-7653
3. A pair of sturdy black tights. I've worn the same pair of Spanx 'Two-Timin' ' tights at least 20 times, with nary a snag - unheard-of durability. Even better, they're reversible - one side is black, the other brown. And Spanx's signature body-shaping makes a nice silhouette.
$32 at Nordstrom, 701 S.W. Broadway, 503-224-6666
4. A great pair of dark-hued jeans. Although I prefer 100 percent cotton in my everyday jeans, I travel with jeans that contain a little Lycra.
They look better fresh out of the suitcase, are far more comfortable for long flights or drives, and are less bulky than traditional denim.
I practically live in Earnest Sewn's 'Decca,' a style that is higher in the back than the front (which means a flattering shape without the danger of crack exposure) and has a true straight leg that looks great with any shoe.
$184 at Una, 2802 S.E. Ankeny St., 503-235-2326
Pearl District boutique Nolita has an extensively stocked 'denim bar' and staff that know their way around a pair of jeans.
From $149 at Nolita, 923 N.W. 10th Ave., 503-274-7114
5. A versatile wrap. A cashmere wrap is a classic multitasker. It can function as a small blanket, a scarf or an evening shawl. White+Warren makes a luxurious version in several colors.
$166 at Tumbleweed, 1812 N.E. Alberta St., 503-335-3100
6. A simple black sweater. A lightweight sweater gets major mileage. Crew necks are great for daytime. J.Crew's long-sleeved 'cashmere tee' has clean lines and a fine gauge.
V-necks have a little more versatility: Alone, they're dressy; layered over a T-shirt or button-down they're casual. Neen's cashmere version with three-quarter-length sleeves is elegant and ridiculously soft.
$280 at Una, 2802 S.E. Ankeny St., 503-235-2326
7. Black tank tops. I wear Gap Body's essential tanks every single day. Lightweight and cozy, they function as a hidden underlayer or sleepwear. And they're effortlessly sexy under a blazer. Pack no fewer than three.
$14.50 at Gap Body, Lloyd Center, 503-281-2651
8. A great casual dress. A dress is the ultimate efficient garment. However, the little black dress is overrated - it's usually too formal for daytime use.
A knee-length dress of a more casual fabric can easily bridge day and night.
Dolce Vita's pintuck wool jumper would look sophisticated for an evening out, and also can be layered over long sleeves for shopping or lunch.
$250 at Idom, 1600 N.E. Alberta St., 503-477-6818
9. Streamlined makeup. Bring only two lipsticks, a pretty neutral and a modest red.
The neutral is the standby; red is for upping the ante.
Nars makes great versions of both shades: Dolce Vita is a versatile pink and Gipsy is a subtle, warm red.
$23 at Blush Beauty Bar, 513 N.W. 23rd Ave., 503-227-3390
My favorite mascara is Max Factor 2000 Calorie. While brown/black is the more popular shade, I opt for rich black because it provides visual punch without eyeliner and shadow.
And the price makes it easy to forgive yourself if it gets left behind in the hotel bathroom.
About $6 at drugstores
Susan Posnick's Colorflo is a foundation, powder and SPF 30 sunscreen all in one. Plus, the formula is contained inside a space-saving brush applicator.
$65 at Blush Beauty Bar
10. All-purpose moisturizer. I lose my mind when I can't find my tin of Smith's Rosebud Salve.
The thick formula works as cuticle cream, hand moisturizer, lip balm, undereye cream and hair smoother.
On long flights, I dab it all over my face and hands to stave off skin dehydration.
$6 at Blush Beauty Bar