If you’re travelling for work, you don’t have to lug a million tonnes around, pay criminally high excess baggage charges and still be missing essential pieces. The challenge is to be well equipped for every situation – the journey, a meeting, an after-work event and ensembles for those few hours off.
With our advice and some smart planning, you’re ready to go from formal to informal without ever compromising on style or worrying about over packing.
Let’s begin at the airport. You’re probably going to be travelling with colleagues, and whether you have a long or short haul flight, just stay away from pyjamas. Find a lived-in comfortable pair of jeans or try a pair of viscose pants (yoga pants will do, we won’t tell anyone) in a dark colour and easy to slip on and off ballet flats (for the ladies) or loafers (for the men). Store the stilettos and brogues for when you land.
On-ground, packing smartly takes you very far, which we otherwise call mix-and-match. Planning will allow you to take four shirts or top mixed with five bottoms to make 20 outfits! Add three dresses and you could live in this new city for weeks with a full wardrobe. Try sticking to dark colours and creamy, pastel hues that go well with most patterns. Carry mostly basics such as solid coloured shirts, a black shirt, an ivory shirt and blue or dark grey oxford shirts which are excellent above the belt options. One white shirt is plenty as they tend to attract stains and are difficult to rotate.
A long kurta or two, worn with either culottes or short cigarette pants, are also glamorous feminine choices for warm weather. Black pants should have a place of honour in everyone’s wardrobe, and if you have to shell out a little extra for a pair that is going to survive cross-country journeys, long hours of sitting in one place or lots of walking, do it. Both cigarette and flared pants have their time and place, so if you can get a pair of each. Another next-in-line staple is the black midi or knee length pencil skirt. Think of it as the LBD of office wear. It’s feminine and doesn’t compromise on utility or formalness. If you’re going the route of black pants or black pencil skirt, bung in a few excitingly patterned tops, and vice versa with monochromatic shirts. Black on black and white on white are powerful choices and can be made even more exciting with a statement piece of jewellery, or a scarf. Statement jewellery can also add a tonne of oomph to otherwise informal T-shirts, but keep a close eye on that dangerous line between stylish, subtle and distracting. Worry not; you’ll know the line when you see it.
Ladies, if you’re going from one extreme to the other, all the normal rules of layering, like a thin jersey overlay with a longer warmer jacket, apply. At a formal work event, a sari is elegant and stylishly on point, especially with crop tops and oxford shirts blouse. Of course, a formal dress also works wonders. A skirt shorter than your black pencil, and just one pair of jeans (the same ones you travelled in) make wonderful après-work wind-down informal. Just pair any of your day time clothes with a T-shirt, or your formal shirts with your jeans, slip on a pair of white sneakers or pair of slightly dressy slippers to finish off your outfit. Your remaining shoe repertoire could include a pair of formal stilettos, play it safe with black, and a pair of closed ballet flats, either in beige or grey.
Men folk shouldn’t be afraid of mixing and matching either. Suit-separates maximise your wardrobe choices and a grey jacket mixed with pale blue trousers is just another way you can prove your styling street cred. Dark blue jeans, especially when worn with formal shirts, are a staple. Needless to say, stay away from acid and ripped jeans.
Some days don’t be shy to ditch the tie. On mornings you just don’t want to be encumbered by a tie, a sweater makes for the perfect layer-up. A lightweight cashmere sweater can dress up a pair of jeans or dress down a suit. While solid whites and light blues are great all-rounders, a semi-solid or light pattern shirt can break the monotony.
Long hauls can be made more bearable with a pair of smart casual loafers that are comfortable to wear on long flights and don’t compromise on style. In the summer, linen is great, even worn purposefully crushed, while corduroy or tweed is a great choice for colder weather. Carry at least one jacket, whatever the weather. Even in warmer climes, these come in handy in offices where temperatures are set to a ridiculously cold thermostat.