Author: Sean Keener

The Girl’s Guide to Packing for Fashion and for Function

Packing can be a particularly stressful experience, considering the number of things you have to take into consideration: How long will your stay be? What kind of weather can you expect at your destination? What will you be doing when you get there? And you might wonder, with all this already on your plate, why should fashion of all things be any real consideration?

As a girl who prides herself on an up to date sense of style, I offer this question in return: Why do function and fashion have to be mutually exclusive? For example, a girl studying abroad in France clearly needs to consider both fashion and function!

In this quick guide, I offer tips on how to pack for both, so you can be prepared for the ups and downs of travel as well as the ins and outs of fashion trends and for that we recommend to always carry your ladies’ coat!

1) Remember to pack lightly

As a number of other travel guides will tell you, arguably the most important tenet to packing well is packing lightly. Over packing weighs you down and is incredibly impractical. It’s a rather common misconception, but you don’t need to take along your entire wardrobe to look stylish abroad!

2) Bring a few of these suggested essentials

How long will you be staying? Over packing is always a mistake, but depending on the length of the trip you’ll need to adjust your quantity of clothing accordingly. For example, if you are planning a six month trip to volunteer in South Africa, I’d recommend bringing more than just one backpack. If you still have extra room, please take me with you! Here’s how I’d describe the necessity of my go to items:

  • A pack of tank tops: These are perfect for layering under your shirts and blouses or for wearing by themselves in warm weather.
  • A pack of white, v-neck t-shirts: The simplicity of these tops make them perfect for everyday.
  • A white button up blouse: For a more put together look.
  • A few pairs of comfortable, well-fitting jeans: A good pair of jeans is perfect in all kinds of weather and for all kinds of activities. Bootcut or skinny jeans would probably be the more fashion-forward options.
  • A couple of different colored cardigans: Layering with cardigans adds both visual interest as well as color in your otherwise neutral outfit.
  • A classic jacket: I personally love a well-tailored blazer, but a leather jacket or military jacket will do just as well. The point is that, as your choice piece of outerwear, it should be relatively warm. A classic cut and neutral color would be much easier to style.
  • A dress or two: I suggest at least two dresses: one for casual, everyday wear and another for evening wear. For the former, pick a dress with a fun pattern or classy cut, keeping in mind the season. And as for the the latter, you can’t go wrong with your favorite little black dress!

3) The key is in the accessories

Layering and accessorizing not only adds interest to an outfit, but packing a few beautiful scarves is much more practical than forcing 5 other dresses into your suitcase. You can mix and match outer layers with inner layers, – scarves with necklaces to create new, simple, and classy ensembles for every day of your visit. Equally important, remember to work in elements which reflect local fashion trends. For example, a friend of mine recently decided to volunteer in Peru. She came back with some amazing pieces purchased from small vendors in Peru. This is also a great way to support the local economy. Here are a few suggested accessories:

  • Patterned scarves: I cannot stress these items enough! Scarves are not only colorful and come in a number of different materials and textures, you can wear them in so many different ways.
  • A few classic pieces of jewelry: Jewelry is light and so easy to pack. Pick a few fun pieces that are available from, make sure these represent your sense of style. The watches are a big part of our outfit, if you want to buy a cozy watch read the watch reviews on this blog.
  • A stylish, neutral colored purse: This is a must have for every woman on the go. My default bag of choice is a leather shoulder bag that I picked up at an Italian flea market, but you can have some fun with this. Pick a tote, asatchel, or your classic handbag.

4) A word on shoes and funky socks

All you need in the shoe department really, are two pairs and socks:

  • Walking shoes: I would recommend flat, comfortable shoes for walking. I always bring a pair of black oxfords because of their chic look, but sneakers, slip ons, and loafers would do just as well.
  • Classy shoes: These are your pair for a night out. I’d suggest a pair of flats, or if you can handle it, even a pair of pumps.
  • Wearing statement socks with shoes creates an approachable vibe. People might feel more at ease to talk to you because you look more relaxed and carefree than those who wear funky socks.
  • Colorful or character socks show playfulness and make a great icebreaker or way to connect with others,” wrote Your Tango. “Another possible advantage of wearing fanciful socks and other unexpected attire: You build a brand as the gutsy guy or a creative type, and other times it may give you more room to bend or break the rules.

5) What about the weather?

You can also pack additional accessories if you’ll be traveling in a specific climate.

For warm weather, take along:

  • A pair of face-flattering sunglasses
  • A bathing suit
  • A pair of sandals or flipflops

And to beat the cold, pack:

  • A beanie
  • A warm, knit scarf
  • Thermal underwear
  • A thick, hooded jacket

Follow this guide and you’ll not only be ready to take on the world, but also look good doing it!

Eunice Gopez is a former Go Overseas intern and graduating senior at UC Berkeley. She loves writing, travel, and naturally, writing about travel.