When it comes to air travel, anything more than a carry-on is counter productive. It’s not just the lost-luggage-factor that has most women wheeling, not carrying, a single bag onboard. The hassle, the time lost, and often our travel partners, with little or no patience for hanging around carousels, have conditioned even the most passionate clothes horse to cut back and pack light.

It’s one thing to over pack and cram the car for a cottage weekend but come fall, both business trips and holiday getaways require a new, minimalist mindset. As a professional wardrobe problem-solver, I’m on constant alert for what seems to be the unfindable: great, packable clothes. Simple to maintain, uncreasable fabrics are usually contrary to quality, fashion and style. When I learned that Ottawa retailer Marlene Shepherd had developed a “Packably Perfect” concept, a week’s wardrobe (or even two!) all packed in a carry-on, I knew help was at hand.

So last month, during my Ottawa trip, I arranged to meet with Marlene, my friend, colleague and collaborator, for a hands-on session. My mission? Problem solving for a very diverse group of clients — many shapes, sizes and careers but having in common hectic travel schedules. Marlene knows her way around the international fashion marketplace and she has a special skill when it comes to discovering hidden gems within our own borders. True to form, she pulled out all the stops and shared her latest treasures, with travel in mind. We spent the morning fine-tuning; here’s our short list.

1. Trousers, the core component of every travel wardrobe, for work and play. Start with black, charcoal or dark brown and build from this base.

Tailored boot-cut trousers with an impeccable pedigree: a hip-gliding fit in a modern stretch fabric. Cambio, $210.00
Trim, slim-leg pants in dressed-up microfibre. Perfect for arriving crease-free. Margaret M, $98.00

2. A knit cardigan or vest instead of a traditional jacket. The point I want to make here is that professional dressing doesn’t need to be structured. As Marlene says, “Once a woman discovers comfort, there’s no turning back.”

We focused on three very different collections: Nic + Zoe, Pure & Co., Curio. I was truly intrigued to see some of Marlene’s picks could be worn back-to-front or even upside down! No kidding. Slip into a sweater-vest “bottoms-up” and suddenly it’s a cropped version with a generous collar. Obviously, these are specially designed pieces, so please don’t try this at home!

3. Crisp 100 percent cotton shirts and NO ironing, ever. A dream come true. White and colours. Foxcroft, $95.00

4. Simpli — sensational! This collection of seasonless jersey knitwear by Vancouver’s Simpli, has more components than a jigsaw puzzle, a zillion colours and endless combinations. Enough variations to go from boardroom to cruise ship. There’s only one fabrication so it’s easy to add components from year to year. Everything is sized but there are also two different fits, snug or relaxed. A perfect 3-piece career look, we agreed, is a pant and matching vest with a contrast underpiece. Some of the combos we came up with:
Base colour - Contrast
Navy - Peacock
Charcoal - Aubergine
Black - Wine

5. Clean lines, simple shapes and sensual fabrics form the Eileen Fisher philosophy. Every piece is perfectly designed to skim the body with flattering shape-enhancing style. Although Marlene, a self-avowed Size 16 loves this collection, my friend Kim, a yogini and perfect Size 8, is just as enthusiastic.

6. The icing on the cake — accessories. Marlene’s start in business was with jewellery so it’s not surprising she continues to have innovative ideas. “Wardrobe pieces,” as Marlene calls them, are semi-precious, multi-strand necklaces that detach into single or double strands, often with an optional pendant, providing real versatility — every traveler’s dream. She’s proud of the group of young Canadian jewellery designers providing Shepherd’s with these one-of-a-kind bijoux.

What a morning! Client checklist completed and with time to spare for personal shopping. My own “wheelie” is now perfectly packed and ready to go. I can’t wait.

Author's Bio: 

Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., is a leading image and etiquette consultant. For over 20 years she has provided corporate consultations, helping hundreds of men and women realize their professional and personal goals. She is a sought after speaker at national business meetings, regularly gives comprehensive workshops to corporate groups, and offers private consultations on business etiquette, dress and dining