The Packing Conundrum

There's always a challenge of how much I can fit into my suitcase. Every time I go to an event, I try to pack a carry-on bag and a backpack - no more, no less. Occasionally, I'll bring a bigger bag if the event is more than 5 days long. Given space constraints, how do you create multiple outfits everyday for the numerous activities at a Lindy Hop event?

The following is an outline of how I pack the maximum amount of combinations and well put together outfits for a trip and avoid checking a bag.

Step One: The Pre-pack

During the this step, I grab my bag and backpack, travel pillow (if I'm flying), snacks, and most importantly dance shoes (many many many pairs).  Then I burst open the doors of my closet (literally and figuratively). I make a huge pile over my existing pile of EVERYTHING that I think I want to bring; this is all about first instincts and usually consists of my favorite outfits, any new items I want to show off, and a bunch of tank tops, jeans, sweaters, blah blah blah.... I always overdo the Pre-pack stage and that's the point.  The Pre-pack is all about maximum options, pairing it down comes later. This stage must not be skipped; in my opinion, it's the most important part about getting everything right.

I usually do this a few days before I leave so that I can make sure any laundry gets done and I don't wear anything I think I want to bring after I do my laundry. That's when procrastination kicks in and the next step usually happens the night before I leave.

Step Two: Picking Your Outfits

At this stage, I begin with a huge mess that will turn into a bigger - albeit organized - mess. When creating outfits, I lay them all over the floor, my bed, the entire room so that I can see everything at once.  This allows me to properly see color coordination of your shoes, sweaters, belts, and separates.  Without this step, I may end up bringing all of my brown toned dresses and only a black sweater. I'll generally pick a color scheme such as browns and reds, navy and yellow, or black and pink....etc. This step will eliminate the clothes in my Pre-pack pile that do not match anything (even if I really love my adorable vintage green whale sweater, if it clashes with everything, I'll leave it behind).

As a guideline, I pick two outfits per day; one for daytime classes and hanging out and the other for evening dances.  PLUS, I bring at least one extra type of outfit.  I'll use Lindy Focus as an example.  The event is essentially 6 nights long with 5 days (plus 2 travel days).  In this case, I'll bring 7 or 8 evening outfits, and lots of mix and match for 7, 8, or 9 days.

Here's the challenge, how to pick outfits without stuffing my suitcase.   These are some general guidelines I think about as I complete this step:

  • I generally stick to dresses more often than separates for evening. If I have to choose between dresses, I'll pick the one that packs smaller and doesn't wrinkle.

  • When picking pants, I make sure that I have a few different top options that match each pair.  I'll usually bring a trouser, a pair of high waisted jeans, and a pair of colored skinny jeans.

  • Pick 2 or 3 sweaters or cardigans that match your outfits. I usually do two color ones and one neutral (navy or brown usually).

  • I always bring multiple tank tops or shirts for layering.  All of the colors I bring can go with all the pants I pack.

  • I always have a few pairs of tights, just in case.  Each pair can match at least 2 dresses.

  • Since I usually bring solid tops, I try to pack printed skirts or ones with bright colors.  Usually, I'll pack 2 skirts.

  • There are 3 belts I bring everywhere that match everything. I have a skinny black one, a thick white one, and a fun color one (in my case, it's green). I don't consider a belt an accessory since they are essential for most outfits.

  • How many pairs of shoes????!!!! This is always the great debate for me. I try to bring 2 pairs of colorful Keds, a pair of chromed Keds, and 1 or 2 pairs of heels (depending on the dancing I plan to do). In addition, I'll have one pair of street shoes that I wear to the event.

Step Three: Accessorizing

With all of my outfits spread out for display, I select some accessories that can mix and match.

  • There are a handful of necklaces I always have (strand of pearls, something with rhinestones, and something gold).

  • I bring a variety of earrings that are usually the same 5 or 6 pairs that are my favorite. I always include something dangly and sparkly to add some bling to any outfit.

  • I love decorative vintage scarves.  I'll pack 3 or 4 of them to add flair to any outfit.

  • As far as hats go, I don't usually pack these unless I'm performing and it's a costume.  Hat boxes take up a lot of space and protecting fragile items should never be overlooked. If the weather is cold, I'll bring 2 or 3 berets because they pack flat in a bag and they are a timeless look.

  • I'll always bring a small bag with 5 to 8 different hair flowers/fascinators.

Here are some examples of outfits I've packed and accessorized:

 Day wear that could turn dressy with the addition of the flower. Note Keds and fancy peplum top.

Day wear that could turn dressy with the addition of the flower. Note Keds and fancy peplum top.

 Sometimes my Keds turn into everyday shoes. These pants can also be dressy with a blouse, cardigan, or by adding a scarf.

Sometimes my Keds turn into everyday shoes. These pants can also be dressy with a blouse, cardigan, or by adding a scarf.

 This dress packs easily and is fancied up with a belt and sweater clips. Also note the colorful Keds and the fact that I paid $12 for the dress.

This dress packs easily and is fancied up with a belt and sweater clips. Also note the colorful Keds and the fact that I paid $12 for the dress.

Step Four: Fitting It In
 

The first thing I do is pack my socks and underwear. Thus far, I haven't even thought about it but, they are the first things that go into my suitcase. Then I'll methodically roll all of my clothes individually and place them into the suitcase.  I usually go outfit by outfit so that if I have go eliminate my extra clothes, I don't have to dig to find the part that matched. I'll squeeze my small box of jewelry and small bag of flowers into a layer of clothes so that they are safely stowed and not loosely dangling on top.  If I have extra room, I'll throw in an extra pair of pants or some more shirts.

That's a pretty complete list of what runs through my head as I pack. What are your most important packing tips?  Share them below!

Originally posted on DanAndLainey.com on 12/18/2013.