Savvy travellers have ditched the khaki
Fashion: it's a dirty word amongst "real" travellers.
Real travellers rise above the vanity. Real travellers pack light. Real travellers don schlubby khaki shirts as they focus on virtuous things like broadening cultural horizons.
Real travellers look like crap.
Lest you think I'm judging from the sidelines, let me tell you about the time I alternated between two pairs of pants for six months.
The low point was Rome. Sleek Italian women graced any old sidewalk with the style prowess of Iman on the catwalk while I clomped around in hiking shoes and droopy cargo pants that - after two months of continuous wear - were starting to serve as a scrapbook of souvenir stains from my trip.
Even the men looked prettier than me. Ouch.
Then again, nobody wants to be that ditzy fashionista who packs a wardrobe-on-wheels for one night of camping. Practicality counts. Hidden compartments, zip-off sleeves and quick-drying fabrics are beneficial.
But the fundamental problem with purpose-made travel clothing is that it usually makes you look like you're either on safari or kayaking.
However, there's good news: nowadays travel togs can be both flattering and functional. You just need to know where to look and how to pack.
First stop: Lululemon. You might think it's a stretch to shop at a yoga outfitter for travel gear, but that's just it - the comfy, pliable materials will see you through an interminable plane ride and beyond.
Lululemon's ubiquitous Groove Pant ($96) is a must-have. Flattering on most anyone, they're reversible and, unlike sweats, classy enough to flaunt at a street cafes or restaurant.
Pair them with Lululemon's Move Tank ($42), a sleeveless number with a built-in bra (bonus), and a top layer such as the Shape Up Jacket ($99) and you've got a look that's sporty but feminine.
According to Zoe Zwolak, spokesperson for Tilley Endurables, the key to preventing wardrobe burnout is going nuts on accessories such as scarves and necklaces.
"Bring two pairs of pants and 15 accessories," she advises.
For example, the same scarf can look completely different depending on how it's tied, refreshing your look with minimal effort.
Another strategy is to pack everything within the same colour group, so you can mix and match and never wear the same outfit twice.
Tilley (a Canadian company) has a reputation for garb that withstands abuse and includes neat safety features such as hidden pockets.
Much of it is traditional-looking, but on a recent visit I found a stylish and lightweight jean jacket ($189, go to www.tilley.com for local stores) that is designed especially for travel. Tilley's reversible Outlast V-Neck Tunic Top ($45) provides a pop of colour, and a rain/snow/sleet resistant newsboy hat ($72) is a hip alternative to the classic Tilley Hat, which isn't everybody's cup of tea.
And the sun doesn't have to set on good taste as evening descends. Convertible dresses offer versatility. Try the 8-in-1 Pamela Dress from Vancouver's Narcissist Designs, $194 from www.narcissist.com.
Or there's Patagonia's Morning Glory dress ($78 at Mountain Equipment Co-op), a stretchy halter frock that will do nicely for a night on the town. Dress it down for daytime by adding a sweater or jacket.
Sleeveless cotton shift dresses are a must for Kate Buska, a public relations manager for San Diego Tourism who travels with a carry-on but always looks sharp.
"I went to London and Croatia for two weeks with a few shift dresses and was able to wear them in all kinds of situations, from chic business cocktail parties in Kensington to romantic sunset strolls along the Adriatic coast," she says.
Buska's other secret weapon? Leggings.
"Comfortable on the plane, good to toss on and run down to the hotel lobby for coffee in the morning, and you can even wear them to work out," she says.
The next time I'm in Italy, I'll be exercising the "when in Rome" rule.
Oh yes, the khaki empire has fallen.