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Packing With Good Imagination And Imagining A Good Pack

I’m usually pretty good at packing. This trip to England, erm, well, um, spotty. I failed to use the Use Case Method to its best advantage. Specifically, I packed for special events like The Dinner With Friends and A Hike Through The Cotswolds, while neglecting the more common Long Walk Through London As Rain Threatens. To say nothing of the Repeated Paying Of Entrance Fees To Enter Overly Warm Buildings.

By the end of the trip I was quite certain as to what I ought to have brought. I will offer up my suitcase and resultant outfits here so we can all learn from my experience.

What I Packed For A 10-Day Trip To England

7 Pieces Of Outerwear Even Though I Wasn’t Going To The North Pole

  • Powder blue MaxMara peacoat
  • Small black Quechua parka bought in China 10 years ago for $25
  • Old black house label Nordstrom trench coat
  • Navy UNIQLO IdlF linen blazer
  • Cadet blue UNIQLO field jacket
  • White ribbed cotton cardigan
  • Heathered purple sweatshirt (brand is American Vintage, purple no longer available)

1 Scarf

  • Very long and old Loro Piana hot pink cashmere muffler
  • A small black umbrella. Yes, I know an umbrella isn’t a scarf, but aren’t they cousins?

5, Yes, 5 Pairs Of Shoes

Underpinnings And Their Friends

  • Enough underpinnings and pyjamas not to have to wash anything except I counted wrong. Luckily the place in the Cotswolds had heated towel racks for drying underwear.
  • A pair of Wolford tights I thought were plain black when packing but turned out to be wild lace.
  • Yoga pants, sports bra, and workout tee. Never worn, as it turned out. Walking through London > working out on machines.

1 Dress & 1 Skirt

3 Pairs Of Jeans

  • Very old and loose Levis 501s for the plane. Worn cuffed, with Birkenstocks, in London.
  • Close-fitting GAP 1969 boyfriends.
  • Distressed Citizens of Humanity to wear cuffed, with navy blazer, white tee, and Valentino Tangos because it’s a really cool outfit and I wanted to be cool hanging out with young friends.
  • Oh and 1 pair of shorts that I never even looked at.

A Whole Lotta Tees

  • Gray
  • White
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Leopard-print
  • Navy & white stripes


How Did This Packing Job Actually Work, In Situ?

Monday afternoon with Jane Potrykus of simple+pretty. I’m in the UNIQLO field jacket, and Dries. Too bad you can’t see the dress.


Wednesday night dinner with my cousins. In Max Mara peacoat, Loro Piana muffler, gray UNIQLO tee, black J. Crew pencil skirt, Valentino Tango pumps. Lace Wolford tights, because at 57 our ankles haven’t quite left the building.


Thursday morning in Kensington Palace Gardens. 15-year old leopard tee I bought at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, 3-year old GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, 18-year old Doc Martens, 4-year old sunglasses from Costco, Rolex Cellini. Note to self: Leopard+Docs=Yes.


Sunday in Oxford at Christ Church meadow. Max Mara peacoat, GAP 1969 sexy boyfriend jeans, Doc Martens, black J. Crew tee, and Bottega Veneta hobo in Blue. (In gray, here.)


Somewhere in Oxford. Purple heathered sweatshirt over a J. Crew striped vintage linen tee, Loro Piana muffler, GAP 1969 jeans, Birkenstock Arizonas.


What I Should Have Packed, In Retrospect

Looking back at these photos, I actually quite like the way I look. Verging on Artsy Cousin, with a touch of British grit. The thing is I didn’t feel stylish as I traveled, mostly I felt hot and pothered. Yes I mean pothered, it’s bothered squared.

My suitcase relied on layers, perfect for San Francisco, too much fussing for England’s changeable climate. Next time I’ll tend to my spirits as well as my look. What would my suitcase hold were I to do this again? This.

Untitled #190

And I’d still bring my earrings and a good collapsible umbrella, of course.

Note that I include Belstaff instead of Barbour. Why? Barbour feels country and suburb to me, I like Belstaff’s city edge, and besides, the conceptual oxymoron of a British motorcyle brand appeals. However, if the City Master Jacket is-  understandably – too pricey, there’s always our stalwart favorite, J. Crew’s Field Jacket, now in moss, navy, and black. And note that I wouldn’t take all 5 shoes, I’d choose between the black and the khaki booties.


Waterproof Jacket: Belstaff City Master (also comes in black) // Waterproof Shoes: Black Quilted Booties, Aquatalia (sold out) Khaki Booties, Aquatalia; Quilted Platform Sneaker, Aquatalia// Sandals: Birkenstock Arizonas in Copper// Pumps: Valentino Tangos // Large Nylon Tote: Tory Burch // Small Zip-Up Crossbody; Skagen // Jeans:  BoyfriendComfort, Dark Wash Straight Leg// Cotton Scarves: Blue, Block Shop; Pink, Jonathan Adler // Tees: Blue Leopard, Debenhams; Plain: J. Crew Vintage Cotton; Comme des Garçons Play: J. Crew Men //  Wowza Print Dress:  Mary Katrantozou of type on sale here, and here // Trusty Pencil Skirt: J. Crew // Lace Tights That Would Go With That Wowza Dress: Wolford

The trip, somewhat arduous in the taking, has survived brilliantly in memory. Almost as though I was simply gathering the experience like tufts of wool as we traveled, to be combed, spun, and enjoyed in full fluff when I got home.


Affiliate links may generate commissions. You can read the agenda of the trip I was packing for, and more on why I really needed that nylon tote and a small cross-body bag, instead of the Bottega Veneta, here.

85 Responses

  1. Ahhh, I just love your style. And on that note, I’m going to bookmark this post so I’ll know how to post if I’m ever faced with an opportunity to visit England.

    Not holding my breath, nope.

  2. What a slenderine you are, you look good in everything.

    I cannot pack for peanuts, it takes a methodical mind – I don’t have that, you and Dani excel at that sort of thing.

    1. @Tabitha, Slenderine! Oh I love that term. Might have to use it somewhere:). And I do have a methodical mind, for better, and sometimes for worse…

  3. Your disciplined eating habits show, and I especially adore your outfit in the second pic (dinner with your cousins.) Thanks for sharing these with us.

    1. @Jane, You’re very welcome. My eating habits have been what they are for so long that they don’t feel like discipline any more, just a habit. Lucky for me because in fact I am not very good at self-discipline per se.

  4. I am drooling over that Max Mara coat. The edited packing list is perfect, and you might even get it all into a Euro-sized carry-on. ;-) Right now I’m faced with packing for Urban Tropical…a bit challenging for me as I’m a layering gal too.

    1. @déjà pseu, I saw your post and I wish I could advise you. I’ve traveled a lot to Shanghai, but I was working, so it was a really different situation. Also, I can’t remember what the fall weather is like, memories of the “oven” summers overwhelm my recall. Glad you like the coat. I’d been hunting for a sky blue peacoat for ages – and if this isn’t our Californian sky, it is kind of English sky:).

  5. i thought you looked fantastic. if it’s any consolation, i find myself carrying a lightweight rain coat far more often than i should for fashion’s sake. then again, it’s handy. and light :)

  6. You look fabulous in all of your pictures. I would pack everything lovely in those pics (save maybe that dress since it didn’t get seen anyway) and leave the rest at home. Pretty much what your revised list looks like-but that MaxMara peacoat really kicks things up a notch. Looks like a wonderful trip. Can’t wait until my girls are old enough to travel with me as adults. Or did you still do the “mom in charge” thing a bit?

    1. @Nancie Bartley, The funny thing was that I thought she’d take charge, take charge person that she is, and she thought I’d take charge, as the mom. We worked it out. It’s wonderful traveling with adult children, just wonderful. She is such a boon companion.

  7. We always wish we would have done something different when it comes to packing. I always WAAAY over pack. I think you look fabulous. Which brings me to this question: Would you mind sharing your “disciplined eating habits” with the rest of us? I have lost quite a bit of weight, with some more to go, but I think your ingrained way of eating could be helpful to many of us. If this is asking you for TMI, just say so…I will understand.

    1. @E. Jane, Not TMI at all. In fact, I’ve talked about it several times here on the blog. Maybe I should do a post called My Life As A Slenderine, and gather them all for you:). Or, just search for eating, high wasp diet, etc. and it’s there. Let me know if you want more. Congrats on your weight loss. Much harder to lose than to just grow up slenderine.

    2. I found your posts on eating high wasp style. It all makes so much sense, and I have changed to similar eating habits, since I don’t count calories or points. Nevertheless, I have lost 45 pounds without doing so, and I have come to believe that, at least for me, counting anything to lose weight is counterproductive. Learning how to eat seems to be the key.

      We tend to eat in restaurants a bit too often, so If you have some tips on dining out, they would likely be helpful. Thanks for sharing this information. It’s so nice to be able to learn important things from one another.

  8. When I went back to the UK last time, in March, I decided to do a black wardrobe, enlivened by scarves and wraps. I took black wool trousers, two black wool skirts, one knit, one longer, several cashmere sweaters and a pleather jacket. Tall boots, good flats for walking, tights and underthings. Chucked in a hat at the last minute and was glad for it… March winds and a bit of snow outside London… When I go in November, it will be pretty much the same thing, but will take a stadium length, very lightweight down coat that stuffs into a pillow.

    1. @pigtown*design, I’d absolutely bring a hat for March and November. On the East Coast, you are more equipped for that kind of trip than I – I am not sure I even own any wool pants that fit any more! I can see the sense of all black, but having learned to wear color, through blogging, I find it hard to give up.

  9. Packing is such a challenge for me…you’ve got all the bases covered here.
    Wished we could see that Dries Van Noten dress…perhaps another time?
    I think your stockings and pink scarf look fabulous and love that blue coat!

  10. This is very useful to me as I’ll be in the UK and Germany very soon for a 16-day trip. You look great in all your photos. I’ll be packing a little lighter though – no way I can fit 7 pieces of outerwear in my suitcase!

    1. @Patricia, Have a great trip! And no, no, don’t do what I did do what I say! The collage is my recommendations, my outfits were fun but folly for hauling around.

  11. Lisa, You look great in all of these photos! We were in London almost exactly a year ago. I took one black lightweight trench coat. We found it cool in the early mornings, warming up considerably as the day went on. I think I managed with three pairs of shoes–a pair of flat, a pair of Naot shoes which were great for walking, and a pair of heels for dress up. It was mostly a black and varying shade of gray palette for me with various scarves.

  12. You look great and quite proper, I might add. (Even though I’ve never been to England, so PBS shows like “Masterpuece Mystery” are what inform my theory of proper.) and who would’ve thought that “wild lace” turned out to be so much more right than the “domesticated” variety?

  13. The lacy tights look great. I always think of lace/ fishnet as the tights to wear between seasons before getting into proper opaques. I haven’t broken out the tights yet though – if you think that is very tough of me I will just mention that September in London has turned out to be much warmer than August. You look good in all the photos but I must say your packing list amazes me. It had never occurred to me -and I mean really never – that you could take more than one outer layer on holiday, except perhaps a fold-up waterproof. And while I don’t subscribe to the belief of a friend who has five children that nobody can take more than one pair of shoes (yes, her children have lost their shoes and ended up barefoot in the jungles of Borneo) I think my rule is no more than three. What else? No dresses – because frankly they get sweaty and whereas you can wear a skirt forever with different tops a dress won’t manage more than one or two outings. I would certainly expect to wash my underwear on a trip of more than a week (a friend once only owned three pairs of knickers but I think that is extreme) and probably the odd t-shirt as well. My other holiday rule is never to eat spaghetti with tomato sauce – can’t risk it when you are trying to string the clothes out.

  14. I have the lifetime struggle to pack light .. but then my father traveled with his own blueberry preserves and (time ago) my mother had a steamer trunk! .., so genetically I don’t stand a chance!

  15. Hi – love the Bethel field coat – expensive but amortized over many trips – not so much!

    Everyone – check put for her video on packing 2 weeks of great outfits in a carry-on – brilliant!

  16. Pinterest, to my clothes board.

    Am a quick learner, and no surprise like everything about your style.

    Anyone who wants to keep their stump!!

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

  17. Can’t believe how much I still love Doc Marten’s. You look great and that coat is fabulous. I’m tempted to buy it, but it’s been such a warm year, I feel like I’ll never get a chance to wear a coat again. I’m a chronic over packer but like to have choices when I’m away, so not trying to change. Those Aquatalia quilted sneakers look so great for walking and rain, if we ever get any.

    1. @kathy, I’m thinking the coat will get just enough use here in Northern California – but the tipping point is also trips to New York City. And I’d wear socks and no shoes for several months if that might bring us rain!

  18. You look like you had a wonderful trip. I love that MaxMara coat- it goes everywhere. I am a bit agog at the 5 pairs of shoes, though. Really? I never take more than 2 to Europe- leaves much more room for treasures on the way back. Maybe one pair of the booties, and the Docs? Great photos!

    1. @Cafelatte, I’d take one pair of booties, light hiking boots, the flat quilted sneakers, and a pair of dress pumps. The Cotswold trip made some real walking shoes a requirement. Thanks for the kind words on the photos!

  19. Lisa, you look wonderful in each of the outfits. I especially like the Wednesday dinner outfit – the Max Mara blue peacoat with the hot pink scarf, pencil skirt and lace tights. Very chic. I’m terrible at packing and take way too much and take too many “what-ifs.

    1. @AK, Oh boy. A hat and gloves, for sure. Cashmere sweaters instead of t-shirts, with camis underneath. And wool pants instead of jeans, wool skirt and dress, and MUCH thicker tights:).

  20. I loved this post Lisa! I had to laugh…how we pack in earnest and then look back on our return at all the things we did not need. It is the things I wish you had brought during my trip that drives me crazy. Shoes get me every time. They need to be comfortable and before you know it you are dresssing your outfit around comfortable shoes. Not always the look I had in mind..especially when my daughers get involved in critiquing my choices. The “Nana” looks often comes up. You were so smart to take note and document it all post trip. I think you did a great job in your packing efforts and looked wonderful in everything you posted. Assume you had a great trip too! Best wishes for a wonderful weekend…xx

    1. @Jeanne Henriques, Yes! That’s exactly it. You want to plan for your real needs, like comfortable shoes that aren’t dorky, and not wind up devolving to the lowest common denominator!

      I document for the readers, trying to make something useful about my less-than-stellar thinking.

  21. I’ve been thinking about those Valentino shoes ever since our dinner. They were absolutely beautiful. Funnily, I looked them up online and would never have dreamed of wearing them from the picture, but on you they set my heart afutter.

    Your blue pea coat is also beautiful.

    Belstaff have had an enormous revival, post-Sherlock Holmes, just FYI.

    Finally, you are wearing birkenstocks in that Oxford picture, not Doc Martins!

    1. @Cara, Belstaff has a Sherlock Holmes connection? I had no idea! Glad you liked the shoes, I think they work pretty well with cuffed BF jeans, and good to have the confirmation of my intended audience:).

      I have corrected the reference to Docs, just an oversight. Thank you!

    2. @Cara, Yes! Sherlock’s coat is the Belstaff Milford, no longer in production sadly and when it was, costing a mere £1350.

      You have me all excited about planning my luggage for New York next week.

  22. If you will permit me one gentle, well-intentioned suggestion, dear Lisa, I’d recommend swapping out one pair of jeans for one pair of comfortable trousers in the neutral of your choice. They work well for those days when a skirt/dress is too much (or too chilly) and jeans aren’t quite polished enough.

    When I travel to London from Madrid I usually wear dark wash jeans on the plane with low boots to get the heavy bulky stuff out of the case, and take a pair of black flat front ankle-length trousers that are as happy with flats as they are with moderate heels or platforms. A black pencil skirt rounds out the bottom options — I have one in ponte that is a workhorse and I suspect I’m going to wear it to rags. I wear lots of color on top, with scarves and/or necklaces.

    I never bother with shorts in Europe, unless I’m going to the beach or hiking. A skirt is just as cool on a hot day, and I can keep my lumpy knees under wraps, which is where I like them.

    Like you, I usually bring lots (perhaps too many) shoes. I place where I can learn new skills perhaps…

    1. @Rubiatonta, I understand your suggestion. And if I had such things, I might have brought them. One pretty much never needs wool pants in my part of the world, and we all live in jeans.

      As it turned out, I used the black pencil skirt for those times when I might otherwise have wanted pants more polished than jeans. It worked OK, but would have been tougher had the weather been cool.

  23. FOr my first trip to England (June, about 20 years ago) the advice I got from everyone was “bring a raincoat, bring an umbrella.” The result after missing the bus and spending an extra 2 hours at Stonehenge on a sunny mid June day – sunburn. With blisters.

    I always find packing a challenge. I now actually make a use case grid for the time away and plan outfits accordingly. I also give myself permission to check a bag for anything longer than a long weekend and plan ground transportation accordingly.

  24. My suitcase to London/Paris next month will look a lot like Deja Pseu’s. I’ll only make one comment: Not every country considers jeans appropriate for every occasion, and I’d probably leave one pair home, and pack a pair of black pants instead. For the plain, I usually wear ponte knit pants; far ore comfortable for sleeping in an airplane seat, for several hours (but perhaps you fly first class?)
    One coat, no more than two pairs of shoes in the suitcase.

    What amused me the most was the term “use case”. Having worked as a medical social worker, that bit of business jargon was not in my vocabulary. But I realize that it is the principle around which I structure my wardrobe, with travel clothing needs leading the way. And realizing that I can travel with a small suitcase if I organize and shop strategically, I’ve tried to carry that principle over to the purchases I make for my “normal life” as well. Its always nice to have a label to explain what you were doing anyway;)

    1. @Ellen, No worries on the typos, the cat did a good job!

      This time I flew coach. Pretty miserable for 10 hours. But used miles, so, good deal.

      And I’m more comfortable in loose jeans than ponte or stretchy pants of any sort. Fun to find the use case model has been used more broadly:).

  25. You look great in every single photo! And I love that peacoat. Just love it! Plus the lace tights — foxy you!

    Outerwear and shoes are my packing downfall also. My carry-on only is really only good for temperate travel.

  26. Glad you took your earring collection. Leopard plus Docs = yes, yes, yes! Also really like the pale blue coat. Such a shame we didn’t get chance to meet up but I was in book writing hell. Next time, and then we can compare earrings!

  27. When I holiday , I try to blend in with the locals . I like to think they will find me more approachable that way ,which can lead to interesting encounters . I would say you succeeded in doing that here . Smart in a casual way but slightly quirky too – dare I say very British ? Or at least what many of us aim for . I too like the coat , Maxmara use wonderful fabrics – you will enjoy that coat for ‘ donkey’s years ‘ , as we say .

    1. @Wendy, Thank you! I did feel like I fit in some, and I agree with you that the British embrace the quirk more than do we Americans. Just a little more out there, everyone. Which I quite enjoyed. And hope to for “donkey’s years:))

  28. Though you looked great, IMO you overpacked! A pencil skirt with some stretch can be worn with Docs, walking in both city and country (on paths as in a park) and a rain shoe (such as Bogs) is way lighter than Wellies. And all those coats! A lightly padded equestrienne type jacket or field jacket and a trench that can go to dinner will do the job. •Make sure your walking jacket is breathable.•

    Good rule for me is that every top should go with every bottom, and the leopard tee would stay! Two pairs of ankle boots, I would not take, and London is shoe shopping heaven if caught short.

    re Rubis suggestion, I pack a techno pant instead of wool. You can was and dry it overnight; e.g., by Lole, who make hip styles, not like those TravelSmith dowdy ones.

    1. I believe you have just violently agreed with me:), except the part about looking great, which overstates my case and I thank you. I did in fact wear the pencil skirt with Docs, once.

    2. @Duchesse, Yes, techno fabric is good stuff, and I’ll have to look for the brand that you reference. I don’t wear my wool trousers much in Spain (except in the dead of winter), but I have a lovely pair of black ponte trousers from Eddie Bauer that I pretty much live in in all but the hottest weather. But even cotton with a bit of stretch will do…

  29. Love the coat and you look fabulous and comfortable in every shot. The analysis seems useful. It made me smile that you chose Belstaff over Barbour. I have a Barbour coat that was perfect in my previous suburban/country/horse country/farm waspy-suburb environment, and it seems too casual and country here in a small city. It will eventually have to be replaced.

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