A Travel Essential For Women: The Little Black Dress

Even though the seasons are shifting to spring, I’m still dressing in wool. I’ve said before that I’m crazy for the newer merinos; they’re not just for long underwear anymore. And because they’re made of natural fibers, they breath well making them surprisingly versatile for those transitional seasons. It’s a little counter-intuitive to think that wool is okay in warmer temps, but the lighter fabrics work well for winter, spring and fall, and I’ve worn my merino skirt in summer, too, because it’s got so little weight to it.

For my spring travels, I’m packing the M2 dress by Nau. It’s a drape-y, flattering boat neck, three quarter sleeve piece that shakes out nicely after it’s been crumpled up in your bag. You can dress it up with whatever shiny extras your packing – a pashmina (because you always have one with you, right?), or some sparkly flats, or a pair of cute tights, or just wear it with sandals and go casual. A pleat at the hip gives it a little bit of swish, so even though it’s “just” a black dress, it’s got a bit of style.

The M2 is the medium weight merino so it provides some warmth if you’re wearing it in chillier places (or overly air-conditioned restaurants. I throw all my merino in the washing machine, have done for years, and it’s washed up just fine – but it’s best to keep it out of the dryer, it lasts longer that way and has less risk of shrinking.

I’m a lazy dresser and I don’t like to pack single use only items. I’m also a sucker for anything that makes me look stylish but feels like something I could wear on a long-haul flight. You might be thinking it’s a little late in the season for buying wool, but depending on where your travels take you, it might not be, plus, off-season pricing applies to clothing, too. Get your little black three-season dress directly from Nau; it’s on sale as I type this.

[Photo: Nau]

Gading Gear Review: Radiant Trench Coat From Nau

It’s winter in North America; is that going to keep an intrepid adventure from leaving the house and getting out for some urban adventures? No, no it is not. Because we know that if we bundle up good, we will be rewarded with hot chocolate in cozy cafes, sparkling conversation while looking at art in uncrowded galleries, and a certain self satisfaction for not caving in and staying home when it’s 36 and raining (or worse) in our favorite cities. All that’s ours because we have wrapped up in a very good coat.

Nau’s Radiant Trench
fits the bill for winter travel and sightseeing. This trench style coat with a full (zip-off) hood and down fill works great for fighting the weather as you go about your city touring. You’ll stay dry and warm and look good in even a Seattle December squall. (I know, that’s the weather I tested this thing in.)

The coat has your classic trench coat styling – knee length, belted waist – but the fabric has a nice subtle gray on gray plaid pattern. It’s got a slightly narrow fit so you don’t look like nothing but giant coat when you’re wearing it. It’s got a skirt slash in the back that snaps shut (if you’re that kind of skinny) and a two-way zipper with a snap over flap in the front to keep the weather out. The hood – it zips off – is adjustable for fit and holds its shape so you can see out. And you can snap the cuffs to a slightly more narrow fit to keep the wind out of your sleeves, too. Pair it with some excellent winter boots, you’ll look great and be weatherproofed, big time.

I wanted the pockets to be configured slightly differently. I like the two big flap pockets on the front, but they don’t work well as hand warmer pockets. I’d have liked slash pockets at the waist or underneath the flap pockets. I pulled the sleeves down over the backs of my hands to stay warm. There’s an inside pocket with a pass-through for your headphones and that’s nice, but given all the coat real estate you have, it might have been nice to have an additional inside pocket for… stuff.

The down fill on this thing is great; it’s very warm without being heavy. It’s a lot of coat, you’re going to want to wear it instead of packing it because it doesn’t smash down to super small, but hey, it’s winter, you’re going to sacrifice some space and pack a bit heavier than usual so you’ll stay warm. I usually lean towards wool for winter wear – outer, too – but I like the water repellant fabric this coat is made from.

The Radiant Trench is completely wind and waterproof and keeps you warm and dry in very nasty weather. No matter how much I love this city in the off-season, downtown Seattle in darkest winter is cold and wet. If you’re of the bold sort that likes city travel in more challenging weather (think Vienna Christmas markets or New York shopping, for example) you absolutely need a good coat. Ladies, this one’s for you.

Not cheap at $399, but built to last with a generous warranty. Add it to your winter wish list along with a winter trip to… well, you decide.

Gadling Gear Review: Keen Emerald City Sandals For Summer

I like my sport sandals a lot. I’ve tried a few different brands – Chaco, Keen, Ahnu – and truthfully, they’re all great for what they do. I’ve yet to develop a brand preference. But when you pair them with something dressier for those beach side cocktail hours, they still look like sport sandals.

Keen makes a whole line of sport sandals. I’m a fan of their footwear; it’s comfortable and sturdy. But they’ve got a new line that’s cuter and dresses up nicely, plus, they are comfortable enough for long walks. The Emerald City Ankle Wrap Sandal packs away nicely too, taking up less space in your bag than a pair of flip-flops.

I struggled with getting the straps wrapped correctly at first; if you go this route you’ll probably need to find the way that feels best for you. On my first wearing, I wasn’t sure at all that they would be comfortable. I knocked around the house in them for an afternoon before I was convinced. But after just a few hours and a few times fussing with the straps, I got them just right and hey, cute new sandals for traveling! Here’s to that.

The sandals are leather with a padded foot bed. You’re not going to want to go beach combing in them, as they’re not designed for water, but they’re perfect for those city picnics, museum dates and dressing up to go for umbrella drinks after your day at the beach. I’ve walked around my fine city in them and they lost that stiff new leather feeling almost immediately. The other Keen shoes I have are built to last – I’d expect nothing less from these sandals.

Shoes are, for me, the hardest part of the packing equation. I’m not a slave to fashion, but I like good shoes, and I see the value in the right shoes for the job. Lately, I try to limit myself to two pairs, but I want to take them all. I’m probably going to toss the Emerald City sandals in my bag for all my summer trips. They’re cute, lightweight and comfortable – all good qualities in a summer travel sandal.

Get them from Keen for $85.

Comfortable and Stylish on the Airplane? Ladies, It’s Possible

I’ve been told I can’t wear my jammies on the plane. I’ve done so anyway, though with certain limitations. I wear the penguin flannel pants and a long sleeved t-shirt; I don’t go for the full on two piece set with the pink elephants. I change on the plane — and I change back into my street clothes before we land. I wear jammies on long haul flights only. I bring slippers, too; I toss my shoes up into the overhead bin right when I board. I fly coach, mostly, and it’s damned uncomfortable. Changing in to my jammies helps me relax and enjoy the flight as much as I possibly can given the situation.

But the jammies, they’re still considered a nonstarter by folks who have opinions about what to wear where. A person should dress presentably for flying, “they” say. I fail to see where the sweats with a word on the butt fit in to this scheme, and yes, people are still wearing those, I see them nearly every time I fly. I don’t understand why I can’t wear my jammies, yet the high school tennis team can wear track suits and flip flops. Whatever.

Still, in a play to dress like a grown-up (and to support my failed attempts to charm way into frequent flyer lounges and upgrades), I’ve been on the hunt for clothes that look nice but feel like pajamas. Here are a few items that totally make the cut for looking cute and dressed like an adult but are still perfectly comfortable for slouching in your coach seat while wondering where the hell is transporter travel, already, and what is WITH coach seats, anyway? A-hem.

Horny Toad Traipse Trousers: I want, like, nine pairs of these pants. They’re cut like something between a pair of jeans and a pair of cargo pants without the bulky side pockets. But they’re made out of a cotton knit that’s soft and a little stretchy and feels like your favorite sweats. You totally look like you’re wearing Actual Trousers but ho-ho, you feel like you’re wearing yoga pants. The zip front and snap fly hide the drawstring waist and they’ve got the same five pockets that your jeans have. They’re $95.00 from Horny Toad, they come in two colors, and I wear mine all the damn time now, including on planes.Nau Randygoat Hoody: Yeah, I’m still a sucker for merino, while I’m hearing that alpaca is the Next Big Thing. This hoody from Nau, once you get past the slightly weird name, is a fine substitute for that worn out sweatshirt you’re wearing. It’s got a big shawl collar that doubles as a hood. It’s big and drape-y and soft without being overly bulky. You can absolutely curl up and take a nap in this thing, it’s somewhere between a wooly blanket and that old soft t-shirt, but it doesn’t look like you pulled it off the top of the laundry basket before pulling it on. It’s pricey at $180, but you’ll have it for a good long while. And yes, it washes up just fine, just don’t put it in the dryer.

Icebreaker Maya Skirt: I’m still freaked out by the sight of that guy in boxers wearing a ram’s head at the Icebreaker booth at the Outdoor Retailer show. But not so freaked out that I am prepared to break up with their clothing. The Maya skirt, which I can’t find on their website (but is still available on Amazon) has a wide, flat, waist band and is made from a super fine merino (again with the merino) knit. It’s the one skirt I own that competes with my penguin jammies for comfort and because it’s made from a beautiful material, it looks great. It’s been through the wash lots — again, don’t put it in the dryer — and it’s still got a nice shape. Amazon lists it at up to $75.00, but there are some great clearance prices to be had if you shop around.

Sun Protection Wear from Patagonia

On our first sunny day in Seattle in far too long, I got sunburned. I know better. I fell asleep in the hammock and woke up baked to an itchy pink. I do this once a year, and then I come to my senses and dress appropriately.

I have a few very light weight long sleeved shirts that I picked up at the market in Siem Reap, Cambodia; all my shirts were too heavy for the oppressive humidity. I wanted to dress respectfully without wilting in the heat. Those market shirts are fine if you don’t mind looking like a hippie (which, really, I don’t.) But a little more style is nice.

Patagonia makes a line of don’t-get-sunburned clothing, it’s cute, light, and has 40 UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) sun protection built in to the fabric. I test drove their Sun Shelter Long Sleeved Shirt.

I put any new gear to the laundry test right away — since I can’t control what happens to my washing while I travel, I toss everything new into a standard wash and dry cycle. The shirt held its shape and size. I also check to see how long things take to dry, just in case I’m doing my washing in the hotel sink. This dries out overnight, as advertised. Laundry test? Passed.

I have the shirt in white; it also comes in a Cascade Stripe (blue gray) and Amaranth (pale pink). While I like the cut, the scoop neck collar, the big slash pockets on the side, the empire waist gathering in front, I look a little puritanical in it, I’m not built for this style. That’s too bad, because I also like the weight of the fabric; it’s really light and soft and yes, you can wear it over your existing sunburn without your skin getting more irritated.

Patagonia makes a Sun Shelter Dress that’s a similar shape to the shirt; the dress would make great beachwear over your swimsuit, or a casual dress to wear around the resort or pool. They’ve got a full line of sun protection clothing — if I’d had the good sense to put some on before I headed outside into the sunshine, I’d not be so pink today.

The shirt is $69, the dress is $79, directly from Patagonia.