Craft a travel capsule wardrobe color coordinated with key accessories

An unexpectedly useful feature of my Ahnu Sugarpine sneakers—which usually boast one main and two contrasting colors—is as a guide for crafting well-coordinated travel capsule wardrobes.

Wardrobe quick August escape shoes - 1

Ahnu Sugarpine in soft blue, peridot, and coral mesh

It may be easier to stick to a neutral palette or always wear black, but my personal style is more ebullient. When you want to wear lots of color, and your outfit artfully combines three vibrant hues as shown on your shoe, you can look really pulled together* instead of clownlike.

I learned this trick as a crutch for home decorating: buy a beautiful patterned object or fabric first, then match paints to your well-designed piece instead of vice versa. It’s easier to get a certain shade of paint than an exact tone in a fabric, and often a lot cheaper, too. Every shade of paint costs about the same per gallon.

Why do I start with the shoes?

Along the same lines, since my choice for shoes is limited by practical circumstances, it is often much simpler to shop for the rest of my clothing to go with the footwear. A simple t-shirt or scarf in a particular shade is also much cheaper than a pair of shoes, and the color selection is almost always wider.

Living with chronic pain—specifically joint pain in the small joints like toes and a foot that once broke and healed funny—means I require custom orthotic inserts to take the pressure off the sensitive parts of my feet. These inserts demand to be worn with a supportive, enclosed shoe.

My podiatrist recommended New Balance sneakers, but I felt constantly sad when forced to wear them as my primary footwear.

I was always aware of my feet; they were blazing beacons of my infirmity. Most tennis shoes are so… sneakerish. Sporty ones made me feel like I was wearing a costume. Plain leather ones struck me as a weird joining of the geriatric with the athletic. They are not me.

Understand that I owned zero pairs of lace up athletic shoes from puberty through young adulthood. My leather walking shoes were Mephistos or Clarks and trended classic/European. After I had kids, I wore leather Merrell Encore mules because they slipped on faster.

None of these high quality brands have worked for me since my feet became problematic. In my old shoes, I can’t complete a trip in and out of the bank, say, without triggering pain that will bother me for days to come. I really must now wear a shoe with comfort features most often found in athletic styles.

Wedding shoes - 1

My wedding shoes were white leather ballet flats with purple ankle ribbons to match my bouquet

Before foot problems, when I dressed up, I wore simple ballet flats in nude, brown, or black. I wore white ones under my wedding gown. I have only rarely tolerated heels as it isn’t in my nature to accept pain for beauty.

I didn’t find self-expression through my shoes. I chose to draw attention closer to my face, hoping to draw the eye to where the brain makes me really interesting.

Anyway, that was the core of my style for most of my adult life.

Today, most of the time, and any time my feet are in pain, I wear Ahnu Sugarpine sneakers or boots.

Ahnu shoes sneakers

Ahnu Sugarpines: back row, waterproof; front row, mesh

I’ve got quite a few pairs now, even more than are shown in this photo from last year. I most often wear the five pairs on the right, especially when I travel. Either a neutral (grey or taupe) or colors found in a peacock feather (teal, yellowish green, purples) best suit my typical travel capsule wardrobe.

Though these particular sneakers suit my need for a flexible yet supportive shoe as dictated by my podiatrist, it is the joyful combination of the Sugarpine color schemes that makes them my favorite. If I’m going to wear a bulky athletic shoe, at least make it an exuberantly colorful one.

Travel capsule wardrobes inspired by Sugarpines

Following are examples of how I let my shoes direct the rest of my wardrobe.

This first is one complete outfit I chose to wear aboard a plane for a long flight. It emphasizes the purple in this often worn pair of waterproof Sugarpines. I have teal in both airy mesh and waterproof versions; I wear this color a lot.

travel outfit

Travel outfit to wear on plane: lightweight jeans, tank, cardigan, puffer vest, pashmina

This second combination pleases me best when paired with my peridot/acid green Sugarpines, but also works with the teal shoes shown above pretty well.

capsule wardrobe CA SF autumn - green wrap tops Twilly - 1My trusty teal Sugarpines have helped me coordinate outerwear, as well.

This woven straw Sunday Afternoons. special edition hat is a favorite for sunny summer travel in the city where a big brim is more of a museum/restaurant hindrance than protective shield against strong sun. They’re an Oregon company, to boot.

You can also see that I have both a lightweight down coat (purple, above) and a water shedding Duluth Trading Co soft shell† (teal, below) to literally. cover me for any kind of inclement weather during my travels.

And here’s a very different color scheme that I might employ when I want to be a little less vibrant during a journey. These Sugarpines were brand new, so I still had the box with the specific color name to share: Alder Bark, a.k.a., taupe.

I have a pair of Ecco boots in a similar taupe/mushroom color. While not something I could designate as a walking shoe at this stage of my life, they are sufficiently comfortable for me to wear them out to dinner or in other situations where I might prioritize style over support.

The Angelrox.gloves paired with the shoes are showing two of their colors: Cacoa and Nude. I’ve written at length about how much I love this woman owned, made in the USA clothing company in Maine for color coordinated, comfortable pieces. Combined with a few touches of vibrant Violet, this is a palette I’m just starting to explore for travel. No small part of it is my joy at having the boots to wear when sneakers aren’t appropriate!

Here’s a close up of Ahnu’s purplish rubber sole together with an Angelrox shawl peeping up at the bottom of the shot in the shade they call Violet. Those are the mesh Sugarpines in teal on the right.

shoes for capsule color coordination alder taupe Angelrox - 3

Though the wardrobes I’ve shown demonstrate very different levels of “energy” in terms of brightness and how aggressively I’m exerting my enjoyment of colorful clothes, a surprising number of accessories can bridge them both. For me—admittedly no fashion maven—it was beginning with my wardrobe of Ahnu Sugarpine shoes that guided me toward my now heavily traveled set of useful yet stylish accessories.

Of course, a favorite scarf or shawl—or an even more vital health related accessory like a wheelchair or walker—could represent one’s starting point. The key point I’m trying to make is to make the best of what you must keep about your person; if you’re fortunate enough to have a completely whole and healthy body, you get to enjoy the privilege of starting with anything you love.

My own grandmother employed a shiny, dark red walker toward the end of her life. It was a beautiful color, and, if I required such a device, I’m pretty sure I’d be shopping for accessories to complement it rather than trying to make the thing blend in.

Is there anything worse than drab, putty colored computer, medical, and office devices? Not in my world.

Color makes me happy. I believe that surrounding myself with the colors that I love improves my health, mentally, at least, and probably physically, too. Following your bliss can be taken both figuratively and literally.

Travel can also be stressful, no matter how much one loves it. One way I’ve found to focus on the joys of the journey is by making things pretty where I can. My bag feels just a little bit lighter over the miles when I love it and everything inside.

Colorful travels!

* A family friend exclaimed about this when I saw her during a recent visit home: “The lining of your bag even matches your outfit!”

Yes, yes it did. I’m tickled every time I pull that level of coordination off. It pleases me greatly. If I can even match my underwear to what’s on the outside, I feel like a downright fashion genius.

Hey, we all need hobbies. This happens to be one of mine.

I wore them happily enough for exercise! It’s a fine brand.

Once you’ve started gathering a travel wardrobe that adheres to a particular color scheme, it gets easier to snag deals on pieces you want or need when they’re available in your palette. My rain jacket was a closeout at about 50% off its retail price.

Men, consider trying a tunic or dress before you fall for the romper trend

Rompers—or, the specifically male garment being promoted on KickStarter as the RompHim™— should not become the next hot trend in men’s clothing. Elle magazine posits that I’m not accepting of this trend because of my underlying sexism.

Am I disturbed by men in traditionally feminine clothing?

Nope. Quite the opposite. I believe in function first for clothing.

Some of humanity’s first articles of clothing were tunics, clearly the precursor to the modern dress. These are clothes for “humans,” not for men or for women specifically. They do a great job of protecting sensitive skin from sun exposure, and they simply and serviceably provide as much modesty as one prefers.

playful boy tunic

Put a baby boy in a tunic, and he’ll just keep playing like a comfortable little boy

Kilts predate miniskirts, and were designed for men when women wouldn’t dare to show so much leg. And that beachwear? Does the bottom really need to be called “bikini,” or is it just a reinvention of the loincloth?

Dating back to my teenage discussions of school dress codes, I have always advocated that the only fair policy allows all students access to all pieces of the accepted uniform, including girls in pants and boys in skirts. Anything else is inherently unfair.

Our noun, uniform, obviously relates to the adjective and its definition of “sameness.” Where there is no practical reason discernible for variations, it’s fair to assume they are derived from social constructs of questionable value. Next, ask the question: do we need to differentiate this piece of kit for males or females?

If the article of clothing doesn’t specifically encase a body part (brassieres and athletic cups being the obvious examples), I personally reject any notion that the object is sex-specific.

People should wear clothing that suits their need for comfort and personal expression within social standards for professionalism, modesty, and hygiene. Let the naturists bare their skin in accepting company. But please, if nudity is allowed by law, include a provision for mandatory towels on shared seating surfaces…

The man isn’t the problem; the romper creates problems

My problem isn’t with the man in the romper. I object to the wearing of a romper by  adults who have productive work to do. They are fiddly garments to manage in public life.

I speak from experience. I bought a chambray romper in the 1980’s, when I was a young teen. Wearing it generated more thinking about what I was wearing, allowing less time for useful activity. I thought it was cute, but it wasn’t very practical.

Fashion isn’t inherently a bad thing, but most of us have to balance style with getting things done. Most of us should be thinking about more than how we’re wearing our clothes.

A Kardashian or fashion model has time to wear a romper. All that’s required of these professions is showing off the garments worn, presumably generating interest in the consuming masses.

James Bond/Sean Connery wearing a romper (Goldfinger, 1964) in his down time also seems reasonable. We all know his romper’s going to come off the minute the Bond Girl walks in. (You can see Connery sporting his baby blue knit romper with gold belt buckle in the Elle article I mentioned in paragraph one.)

But rompers are ill-suited for people who need to, say, take care of their own bodily functions in public restrooms. They  actually present less challenge to men than women in this regard, because many men don’t fully remove their lower garments to urinate.

A man who never needs to defecate, however, doesn’t need a romper; he needs a doctor! Does any man really want to wear clothes that will have to come all the way off—or puddle in their entirety on that dubiously mopped subway station floor—in order to take care of his necessary business?

baby doll diaper

Rompers for baby

Without snaps at the crotch, a romper is an impractical garment. With snaps at the crotch, the degree of infantility becomes creepy. Tear-away clothes should remain the province of strippers. A snap-crotch should be ensconced beneath another layer of clothing, like on a bodysuit, lest a wardrobe malfunction make one the next viral video sensation.

“Whoops! There go my romper’s crotch snaps!”

It sounds like something former congressman Anthony Weiner would do. No one wants to be that guy.

Rompers, jumpsuits, and coveralls share similar traits. There’s a reason they are best suited as over-layers to protect regular clothing beneath, removed once the messy work is done. They also have a place as specialty garments like spacesuits (with toilet built in!) or formal wear (which isn’t designed to be practical anyway.)

Try a dress before you buy a romper

Men, if you want the freedom of a garment that extends from shoulder to hemline, consider just wearing a dress. Call it a tunic if you don’t think men should wear dresses. You can buy one for a lot less than $119 (RompHim™ suggested retail) and you’ll have more fabric options.

Romper man mayhem sketch

Make sure a romper fits this crucial measurement

As most women have discovered for themselves, if your thighs rub or you want more coverage, it is far more comfortable to wear leggings or fitted shorts beneath a dress than to bind up the skirt of one’s dress into a romper. Be aware: the crotch length on a romper is often not quite a perfect fit for one’s body, so you might feel an annoying seam in a sensitive place. Ouch!

It isn’t a sharing of our feminine freedom to make men discover these romper facts for themselves. Women who’ve worn them are being selfish by not sharing the reality with men considering buying them. Or, maybe, a lot of women do find this idea funny, because of sexism or a bit of cruelty.

There’s a reason romper trends in women’s fashion drift in and then go away. Wearing a romper is inconvenient, and they aren’t really cute enough to make up for it.

If rompers were so great, they would remain popular over time, like wearing pants. Surely everyone can agree that women, once “allowed” to wear trousers, have never shown the slightest inclination to give up these most practical garments.

Supporting men in their desire to wear rompers feels to me like convincing men they should try pantyhose. That would be mean, because pantyhose suck. They’re expensive and disposable, because they run (develop holes) with normal use; they don’t breathe so they’re unhealthy for your body; and they can be downright painful to pull on.

Gentlemen, I support your right to wear a romper, but I sincerely hope you’ll try a nice, sensible dress first, for your own sake.