It’s in the Bag

My first trip abroad was at age 18 months.  In those days there were no jumbo jets.  No wide bodied behemoths equipped with movies, phones and internet.  Those were the days of plain ol’ planes with the propeller going round.  My brother, ever sensitive to loud noises, asked the flight attendant (then known as a stewardess) if the noise would continue “all the way across” meaning, to the other side of the Atlantic.

“I hope so,” was her response.

Back then no one carried actual luggage on board and the overhead bins were merely mesh netting like a hammock, suitable for coats and handbags, and apparently babies, as, according to family lore, that is where my mother stowed me.  I slept aloft the entire trip and no one chided her for child abuse.  My early bonding with the overhead bin must account for my need to travel light and as I pack for two weeks in Italy, I’m determined to take one twenty inch bag.

My scheme is this: I stick to one color story, usually black and white, with a dash (notice I did not say “pop” because, really, aren’t you just sick to death of that phrase?) of color.  This is a great way to pack for anywhere in Europe if you want to be chic, feel great and not look like you just got off the Greyhound.  And since I’m going to Italy, “bella figura”* is most important.  See note below.

In Italy, as in a lot of Europe, women are more commonly seen in skirts in the summertime and early fall.  Only the American tourists are sporting shorts and as the saying goes, when in Rome…  All you really need to look chic is black, black or black so I’m taking two black skirts; one a swingy, cotton knit and the other a simple, woven A-line.  Both machine washable.  One pair of black slacks (also washable) and a pair of black Capri leggings.  Several white and black tees of varying styles; sleeveless for warmer days, regular short sleeve crewnecks, and a couple of longer tunic-types to wear with the leggings for lounging around.  For a little color I take a coral tee and a black and tan stripe.  Two cardigans, one black and one coral and a lightweight anorak for warmth and/or rain (mine happens to be purple), my swimsuit (also black) and a cover-up that can double as a tunic with the leggings.  For a night out I can dress up the black skirts and tees with a gold chain belt or a statement necklace.

Now I suppose if you are doing some heavy duty hiking or biking you need some more durable casual wear.  But I have found that for general sightseeing, eating and drinking in the local culture, I fit in like a sponge.  I’ll travel in the leggings, one of the cotton tunics and the anorak, and I pack a bright red pashmina in the outer pocket of my bag because I’m always freezing on the plane and, call me neurotic (you wouldn’t be the first), but if I’m not breaking the seal on a fresh airplane blankie I prefer to leave it in the bin from whence it came.  Know what I mean?

Footwear consists of a pair of Tod’s flats that are really comfortable for walking and look good with pants or skirts and a VERY comfortable pair of black patent ballet flats.  Born makes some that look really great and are SO easy on the feet they can double as slippers.  A second pair in gold for evenings out, if I’ll be walking, and a pair of very low heeled black pumps if I’ll be dancing.  For serious schlepping around, I take a pair of sneaks, and flip flops for the pool.

I love a small cross body bag I picked up at the Coach outlet.  The strap comes off so I can wear it as a clutch for evening and, stuffed with underwear and packed in my suitcase, I can board with just one big carry-on as my handbag.  Voila!

Scuzzi.  “Ecco la! La bella figura!”

*La bella figura, literally “the beautiful figure”, is an essential philosophy that rules the lives of gli Italiani.  Bella figura can mean many things, but at its core is presentation…how one looks, how one comports oneself, how one makes the best possible impression in all things. Beauty is revered in Italy, whether expressed grandly through art and architecture, or more simply by the perfect cut of a suit.  Bella figura goes well beyond image, visual beauty and presentation…it also is defined by behavior: knowing how to properly and graciously interact with others in any social or public situation. Exhibiting good manners, tact and gentility is an essential component of “cutting a beautiful figure”.  –EyeItalia

Shoes:  http://www.dsw.com/shoe/tod%27s+metallic+leather+ballet+flat?prodId=279976&category=dsw12cat2010006&activeCats=dsw10cat130006,dsw12cat810002,dsw12cat2010006

http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/tods-bow-ballet-flat/3543110?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=&resultback=90&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-searchresults-_-1_2_B

http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/born-riley-flat/3297875?origin=PredictiveSearch-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=2375500&fashionColor=Black+Patent&resultback=545&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-searchresults-_-1_2_Bj

Anorak:  http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/rainforest-packable-roll-sleeve-anorak/3544208?origin=category-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=Flame&resultback=3545&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-browseresults-_-1_10_A

http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/ali-ro-short-sleeve-anorak-regular-petite/3274455?origin=category-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=Grenada&resultback=4000&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-browseresults-_-1_11_A

Skirt:  http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=35288&vid=1&pid=428024002

http://www.bodenusa.com/en-US/Womens-Skirts/A-line-Full-Skirts/WG495/Womens-Ponte-Skater-Skirt.html?NavGroupID=13

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “It’s in the Bag

  1. Thanks! Glad it was helpful!

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  2. Okay, I’m going to memorize this one. I’m beginning to get a hint of the detail that goes into looking so artfully attired. Really great tips.

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  3. Thanks Janet! So happy to hear from you!

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  4. Thanks so much Eileen and thanks for your comments and your excellent question! I know just what you mean. Stockings seem too fuddy-duddy and pants,well…are pants. I often wear capri leggings under a skirt for that transitional time or black tights that are not too thick. Black hose with a black knit skirt (I just bought a great one from Boden that’s a cotton ponte) seems to be my transitional uniform. Check it out at http://www.bodenusa.com/en-US/Womens-Skirts/Mini-Skirts/WG496/Womens-Sixties-Mini.html?mv=3 I order a “Tall” for a longer length.

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  5. janet edelstein

    Just love your posts!! Have picked up some great tips too!! xoxo Janet

    Sent from my I-phone

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  6. Eileen

    Have a wonderful trip, Helena! I’m enjoying your blog, especially when size 2 doesn’t figure into it. Here’s a question that I need answering: I also prefer skirts n the summer and into later fall. But I can’t figure out what to wear on the legs. Bare legs are fine in midsummer, but as it gets a little cooler, it seems to call for stockings. Regular pantyhose can be formal looking and feeling, and sometimes seem a little bit out of style–so most people seem to switch from bare legs to pants with no in-between. No matter how long the skirt, the tops of knee high stockings always seem to show. What do you recommend?

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