Support TFG by using the links in our articles to shop. We receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) so we can continue to create helpful free content. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on Amazon in addition to other retailers featured on the blog. Thank you, we appreciate your support!
When I started traveling in 2008 I came fresh from the fashion industry and felt stylishly appropriate for any destination. From Egypt to Jordan, Zimbabwe to Peru, I felt on point with my fashion sense in my first year on the road.
Despite the fact that I’d already traveled around the world and back, in 2009 I decided to take an “official” RTW trip and I learned about the term “travel clothing” – this was the beginning of my fashion end.
The Travel Fashion Mistake You Should Avoid
I’d been traveling for 2 years blissfully ignorant of any travel clothing rules. As I researched the gear I would need for my big trip, I learned about packing lists that dictated that I pack quick dry tees, one long sleeve moisture wicking top, waterproof jackets, and a pair of convertible pants that I could also wear as shorts.
Following these rules I believed would better prepare me for this adventure, I went to REI and diligently ( reluctantly) purchased clothing that looked disgustingly hideous. But hey, I needed travel clothing right? Fashion wasn’t relevant when you’re taking a year long trip around the world!
Well, as it turns out, those packing lists I read were written by men who have the ability to wear their underwear multiple times and can still look half decent in travel clothing especially with a rugged beard and uncombed hair.
I received my brutal awakening at the first stop of my RTW trip when it was time for a night out in Fiji and the only dress I had was an old boxy one I brought based on the recommendation from other travelers: bring old clothing you can give away at the end of your trip. All the other girls had lovely summer dresses, shimmery makeup, and cute sparkly sandals.
What?! How did I get it so wrong?
What those travelers on the backpacking forums didn’t think about was that after wearing the same clothing over and over by the end of my trip, even new clothing would look tattered and worn. What crap advice!
Unfortunately, this dress wasn’t the only “disposable” old item I packed. Aside from my lovely “travel clothing”, the rest of my clothing consisted of old clothes I didn’t even wear at home; things I hated, but packed because I could trash them or give them away at the end of my trip. Some were even unraveling when I packed them.
What no one said is that many backpackers on the road were cute young girls blissfully unaware of any travel clothing rules or the fact that “travel clothing” was idiotically inappropriate in big cities like Auckland or Sydney.
Within the first week of my trip, I knew I f@&$*d up and spent the rest of my trip trying to replace the clothing I packed.
As it turns out, many other female travelers felt the same way. They didn’t pack makeup, jewelry, or even a single dress and were instantly running to the shops to stock up when it came time to hang out with other backpackers.
I learned my lesson, but I knew I had to do something about this atrocity occurring online with women receiving poor information intended for their male travel counterparts.
Something had to be done and so I named it Travel Fashion Girl.
Please note: These specific lessons learned from my experience are geared towards long term travelers or backpackers. However, every traveler can remember this: always pack things you actually like!
Do you have any travel fashion mistake you’ve made on your trips?
For more post on Wanderlust Wednesday, please read:
- My RTW Photo Diary
- Wanderlust Wednesdays: Just Say No to Nude Snorkeling
- Why Tampons & Komodo Dragons Don’t Mix
- Raja Ampat, Indonesia Photo Diary
- Dahab, Egypt Photo Diary
Hope you enjoyed this post about my RTW travel fashion mistake. Please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for such a well researched and put together site. I only wish I’d had access to all this information when I was a 20-something RTW backpacker in the pre-internet days. Packing and fashion fails too numerous and scary to dwell on now. But I’m still travelling, now with a family, and so even more reason to pack thoughtfully and light. I’m especially keen to see recommendations on shoes – still my number one overpacked item (well, it’s so hard to leave any behind!). I’ll be checking in regularly. Cheers!
Thanks Karen! Even though we weren’t able to help in your backpacker days I’m happy we can help on your present and future trips 🙂
I like your story. My first overseas trip, which began in Australia and meandered across /SE Asia and the middle east to Europe and England taught me similar things. One you haven’t mentioned however is that if you look well dressed, you tend to have less problems at customs and immigration (although they’re always a bit difficult in Afghanistan, which is at present hardly a tourist destination). In my sheepskin coat and matching hat (bought in Istanbul) and lipstick, I was always waved through when all the jeans wearing backpackers were detained and examined with the proverbial fine tooth comb. But if you care about your clothes and don’t love what you are wearing day after day, you can get awfully miserable if you’ve chosen wrongly.
Funny enough I always find that traveling with a backpack gets me through security quicker 😉
Wow! As a member of a touring ministry, I am constantly packing for weekend conferences and living from out of a suitcase. I have been trying to maintain a sense of fashion and professionalism, but was beginning to fall into a slump. Now, as I am about to embark on several international trips, this website was the inspiration and encouragement i needed!!!
Thank you Patience! I’m honored to hear it 🙂
I just found an article from your website and I’m not sure how it got there but I’d love to sign up to get more. I love everything I’m reading and love looking at all your travel pictures. I just looked at the one where you went to 4 parks in Utah in a Juicy Van. Awesome pictures. I love your personality and I feel like I’m on the journey too. Please let me know how to sign up and get more e-mails from Travel Fashion Girl.
Hi Mousey, thanks for your kind words! You can sign up here https://travelfashiongirl.com/newsletter-sign-up/ Thanks!
Admit to being a senior who loves cruising in first-class style. I restrict my colors to black, red & a few bright colored tops. Skarfs & statement jewelry change to change the look completely. Any more hints for me. Having to fly back to the US from places like New Zealand/Spain makes think twice about what to bring. Any hints when formal and “elegant casual” is the posted dress code?
Hi there CruiseLover! You can find some helpful tips here: https://travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-pack-for-a-cruise-vacation/
I’ll also post your question on Facebook, to get more feedback for you. Keep an eye out for replies here: https://www.facebook.com/TravelFashionGirl Thanks!
Being uncomfortable in ones clothing choices does not make for a fun vacation. Unless I’m going on a trip that requires special clothing or equipment, I just pack what I wear at home. Fortunately I’ve curated a collection of color-coordinated, quality and [fairly] easy-care pieces over the years so I can usually go into my closet and pull out a few tops and bottoms and a go-to jersey dress and pack a carry-on bag quickly. I enjoy reading your website for new ideas – I’m always searching for the perfect bra, shoes, bag or accessory – and have found your reviews and suggestions very helpful.
Thanks Jaye! It is challenging to figure out the perfect combination that works for you and your trip. I still struggle there’s always a new travel challenge but it’s all part of the travel planning fun 🙂 Thank you for reading!
I really depends on where you’re travelling to. I love good quality travel clothes, but this is not something I would even consider taking on a weekend trip to Stockholm or Amsterdam.
On the other hand, on my last trip to Serbia and Montenegro I packed lots of travel/hiking clothes and only a handful of fashion pieces. And really – I still overpacked with the fancy clothing. Even Salewa hiking shorts with a cute Zara top is enough to be fashionable at a seaside restaurant or in Belgrade.
But I agree – you must pack things that you feel comfortable wearing, not something that was at the back of your wardrobe waiting to be thrown out.
As for make-up – BB cream, mascara, pencil eye-liner and chubby lipstick will make you look fabulous and they take so little space.
Yes it’s important to strike a good balance about when it is and isn’t appropriate. Hard to do on a RTW trip but now we all know 🙂
This post is the TRUTH! On my first backpacking trip, the first city I visited was Amsterdam. When everyone was getting ready to go out at night, I was like…”wait, I don’t have anything to wear…” Luckyily, there was an H&M right down the street from my hostel. Travelers need to take the time to think about the different situations they’re going to find themselves in before they decide what to pack!
Glad you think so Alex 🙂 It was so shocking when you arrive to a stylish city and all you have are “travel clothes”.
I know exactly how you felt. When I did my rtw in 2008 I packed so called travel clothing. I bought clothes constantly because I didn’t have anything to wear. I didn’t pack any nice tops, dresses or any shoes other than my Merrell trekking shoes and my Crocs! My advice is to think about what you wear in real life and pack that! And read your blog of course! Rachel x
Haha, thank you Rachel 🙂 It’s nice to share this experience with other travelers that have been in the same situation – but never again!
It’s so fun to hear about the story behind the start of your blog. I’m so glad Travel Fashion Girl came to be! I’m with you – it doesn’t pay to bring clothes with you if you don’t want to wear them! I love packing items that make me feel happy and show off a bit of my personality, too.
Thank you! Glad you like it. Travel Fashion Girl IS pretty much a result of all my packing mistakes abroad and the lessons learned 🙂