For as long as I can remember, I’ve been holding on to this belief that all travel clothing sucks — especially travel clothes for women. If it’s functional, it’s not stylish. If it’s stylish, the fabric isn’t technical enough to stand up to the rigour of traveling. And even if I’ve managed to find something functional and fashionable, it’s rarely versatile enough to be worn in multiple situations.
However, I’ve recently started to change my mind. But it’s not because I’ve discovered a newfound love for zip-off pants and ultra-utilitarian dresses. Rather, a few key changes in the fashion industry have brought more practical, fashionable, versatile, and ethical travel clothes to market.
The clothing options women have for their travel wardrobes have evolved considerably (thank goodness) but we’re far from seeing the end of it. If you’re a travel clothing hater, here are three changes happening to women’s travel clothes that might change your mind:
More Functional Clothing That’s Actually Stylish
Good travel clothes for women aren’t just cute, they have to be functional too. Depending on how you travel, attributes like four-way stretch, quick-dry, wrinkle-resistance, water-resistance, breathability, and actual, functioning pockets are important to you — but this sort of functionality hasn’t historically been a priority in women’s fashion. Fortunately, we’re seeing this change with a rise in brands creating more clothing for women that’s both functional and stylish (yay!)
On one end, as women tire of wearing yoga pants outside the studio, we’re seeing “more of a crossover between athletic and streetwear. Women get the performance of the athletic things but in a more stylish look,” says Kelly Watters of Western Rise, a clothing brand with functional, stylish basics for men and women.
At the same time, some men’s travel clothing brands, such as Bluffworks, are expanding to women’s clothing. “What Bluffworks’s founder, Stefan, did really well in creating our products was push to design men’s clothes that were very functional (machine-wash, wrinkle-resistant) and yet looked and felt nice,” says Bluffworks’s Katherine Conaway, “but we still see a general gap between athletic, outdoor, and business apparel – that’s where Bluffworks fits for men, and will for women’s.”
Functional clothing is out there, and now we’re finally seeing it applied to the styles we want to wear while we travel. Interested? Here are a few brands to look at:
Ministry of Supply
ADAY’s line of urban and business-ready clothing is at once fashion-forward yet seasonless, and made from comfortable, stretchy fabrics that are basically impossible to wrinkle.
Their Like a Boss Sweatshirt is one of my favorites from their line.
It’s incredibly comfortable, dries quickly when wet, looks nice in a futuristic kind of way (when was the last time you said that about a sweatshirt?), and is surprisingly wind-resistant.
If you’ve ever wished your work blazer was as soft and comfortable as your yoga pants, you’re not alone.
Former banker, Joanna Dai, also spotted a need for women’s professional clothing was comfortable and durable enough for long days at work and business travel — so she set out to solve it and created her own clothing brand, DAI.
If you can’t just roll up to a client meeting in your yoga pants, you now have the next best thing.
Seasonless Pieces Designed with Versatility in Mind
Especially when we’re traveling — and need to pack light — we want versatile pieces we can wear in any situation. “I want my clothing to work for every situation and be able to pack it all in one bag,” says Kelly. I couldn’t agree more.
Except, it can be challenging to find that perfect dress or pair of pants to wear anywhere — especially when traveling for business. As a recent survey by Bluffworks found, when it comes to pants, “more than anything else, women are looking for that one pair they can wear for both work and travel.” Exactly — we don’t want to pack three pairs when one could work for everything. Except, where are these magical pants?
Fortunately, like the rise of functional yet stylish clothing, we’re seeing brands designing women’s clothes with versatility in mind. Bluffworks and Western Rise are good examples of this, but we also see seasonless, easy to style pieces coming from innovative retailers like Everlane and ADAY, and even a swimsuit that doubles as a bodysuit by the two-women bodywear company, Londre.
Even more importantly, this trend doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. As more of us look to “live light”, both on the road and at home, I expect to see even more multi-function clothing on the market. For now, here are a few brands to look at:
Western Rise makes stylish performance basics for travel, outdoors, and every day. Everything is designed with both function and style in mind. Take their stylish, didn’t-skimp-on-the-pockets, AT Slim Rivet Pants for example.
They’re made from a durable nylon canvas material, that is stretchy, sheds water in light rain, (Seattleites, pay attention), and resists dirt and stains so you can wash them less. But more innovatively, they’re actually cute and work for many different situations.
While just about everything in Everlane’s product line is both timeless and easy to wear for any occasion, a couple of items stand out as great travel pieces.
In particular, their Japanese GoWeave dress, made from a material that’s crease resistant and cooling, is a straightforward piece you could dress up with a blazer for work, or dress down with a pair of sneakers for a day of sightseeing.
Body and swimwear brand, Londre, designed their high quality pieces with travel in mind. All of their pieces feature anti-stink, anti-bacterial fabric that help their suits stay fresh between washes, but their one-pieces are especially travel ready. Both The Minimalist and The Multiway are made from matte (re: not swimsuit-shiny) material that allows them to double as a bodysuit. And watch out — they’re pretty sexy.
Honorable Intention: Bluffworks
Although Bluffworks currently only has a men’s line, they’re working to launch their first women’s products early next year. Just don’t expect it to be a one-for-one with the men’s line. “We want to make the best products we can for what women want and need — they work, play, and travel; they want to look good; and they need functional pockets.”
Eco-conscious and Ethically Made Travel Clothing
While functional style and versatility are two things the women’s travel clothing industry badly needed, there’s one last trend I expect will grow in the future: travel clothing that’s eco-conscious and/or ethically made.
“There’s a bit of a backlash against fast fashion and how it’s impacting our environment,” says Kelly, “and so people are being more intentional in what they buy.” But whether it’s driven by consumer-demand, or their own personal desire to create something better and more sustainable, every brand I’ve mentioned thus far — Bluffworks, Western Rise, ADAY, Ministry of Supply, Londre, DAI — has some sort of commitment to the environment and/or ethical labor practices.
I’d argue this is particularly relevant for travelers — after all, which of us wouldn’t say, “Yes,” to preserving the beautiful destinations and cultures they’ve visited or plan to visit? So, we get clothes that work for us, and the places we love too.
Western Rise and Everlane are creating transparency in their manufacturing process and ethical labor practices. ADAY uses recycled materials, but also seeks to cut down on consumption by creating timeless pieces. Brands like Bluffworks, Western Rise, Everlane, ADAY, and Londre all integrate ethical labor and/or eco-conscious practices in their product development. Even a couple of shoe brands, Rothy’s and Soludos, stand out for their commitment to sustainable fashion — and I doubt any of these will be the last.
The future is looking bright in the world of women’s travel clothing. More brands are considering both style and functionality in their clothing lines, creating versatile pieces we can wear from boardroom to boardwalk, and doing it in an eco-conscious and ethical manner to boot. So ladies, it seems like travel clothing may not suck after all — it just used to.
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