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Let’s Fix These Reasons You Feel Frumpy When Packing Light

Do you find yourself feeling frumpy when you pack light?

When we travel with less luggage, we often need to pack more from a utilitarian perspective than a fashionable perspective. There’s a lot of compromise that needs to be had in order to finalize a minimal wardrobe, and it takes a fair bit of work to do it well.

But it can be done!

Because of that, we might find ourselves feeling a little less dressy than our travel companions who packed large suitcases and a plethora of options. We might also find ourselves choosing clothing that we wouldn’t normally wear in our daily life.

All of these reasons can make someone feel frumpy in her travel wardrobe. We’ve got even more reasons below, but the good news is, we have fixes for all of them!

Reason #1: You’re wearing colors and patterns that don’t suit you or are different from your normal wardrobe

A lot of travel clothing is tans, blacks, and grays. If you’re someone who normally wears pastels or brights, you might not feel like yourself in neutrals.

You might think that wearing black when traveling will hide stains, help you look slimmer, or make you look chic. The problem is, if you don’t enjoy wearing black, you may not feel good wearing it.

Take this North Face Parka for example. If you’re packing light for a rainy destination, you’ll most likely be wearing this with every outfit. If you choose the black option because you think it will be more versatile but actually don’t feel good in that color choice, you’ll end up not feeling your best. Whereas if you choose a color option that you wear more often in your everyday life, you will feel more comfortable.

The North Face Parka
The North Face Parka in Black, Thyme, and Fawn Grey

The same thing goes for patterns. If you normally wear patterns but your travel wardrobe is solid neutrals, you may feel like a less stylish version of yourself while traveling.

On the other hand, tiny patterns, especially in pale colors, can look old-fashioned. This is especially true of florals. Patterns that are too large or small in comparison to your body can also make you look less fashionable.

Color combinations that are outdated, associated with a past time period, or don’t suit your coloring or personality can make you look frumpy.

Anything that’s a big change from your normal clothing style can make you feel frumpy.

Fix it by doing a color and pattern analysis

If you feel great in a color or pattern, try to include that in your travel outfit. If you know that you never like how you look in certain colors, don’t pack those colors!

Try on your clothes at home and take a good look at yourself in a full length mirror. If you feel good there, then you’ll likely feel stylish on your trip.

If you’re not sure what looks good on you, take photos of yourself in natural light. Try to build a wardrobe that is full of the colors you like best on yourself.

Remember, colors and patterns should suit your personality, too. If a color looks good, but it doesn’t feel like you, then don’t wear it. If you’re an energetic, active person, you may not feel your best in neutrals or pale colors. You may like deep, saturated colors best!

If taking photos feels overwhelming, there are plenty of online sites.  where you can upload a photo and get color recommendations for free. We still recommend trying colors on in person because colors look different on screens than they do in real life. Plus, how a color makes you feel will affect whether or not you feel frumpy.

Reason #2: You’re wearing clothing styles and fabrics that are different from your normal wardrobe

If you normally wear jeans or pantsuits, but travel in leggings and hiking pants, you’ll probably feel a little off.

Different travel styles
There’s nothing wrong with either of these travel styles, you just might feel more comfortable in one over the other.

When you’re used to wearing more structured clothing, more casual styles can make you feel frumpy. If the more casual styles are what you typically wear for lounging or yard work, you might not feel your best wearing them to sightsee.

If you normally wear crisp clothes that need to be ironed, the more casual fabrics of many travel garments might not feel right to you. You might feel like you are wearing pajamas outside or dressing like a child. That can lead to feeling frumpy.

If you normally wear cotton or cotton blends, the synthetic or wool fibers used in many travel clothes might not feel comfortable to your skin.

Anytime you’re uncomfortable, you can feel frumpy.

Fix it by buying travel clothes that match your daily style

If you normally wear jeans because you like that they are thick enough to cover lumps and bumps on your legs, find travel pants that do the same thing. If you feel like you’re wearing pajamas anytime you wear pants that don’t have a zipper, make sure all your travel pants close with a zip.

If you don’t enjoy wearing certain fabrics, don’t buy travel clothes made out of them.

Depending on your daily style, you might need to find a close-enough version for travel. Maybe you normally wear an ironed cotton blouse. Can you find a wrinkle-resistant version for travel?

Or is it the style of blouse that you love so much? Maybe you can find that style in a travel-friendly fabric.

Fix it by buying clothes with travel in mind

Taking the opposite approach, if your normal wardrobe is made up of clothes that you love and that work well for travel, then you will feel like your stylish self when traveling.

When possible, buy daily clothing that will also work for travel. If that’s not possible, buy travel clothes that are as close to your normal style as possible. Don’t think you “should” wear certain clothes for travel. Take the time to find travel clothes that fit your personality and needs.

Be creative. There are a lot of clothes that work well for travel but aren’t labeled as travel clothing. What are the characteristics of your favorite travel clothes? Find other clothing with those traits to build your personalized travel wardrobe.

For example, Wool& makes clothes for everyday wear but they are also perfect for travel. This is because they are made of merino wool which is wrinkle and odor-resistant, temperature-regulating, and quick-drying.

The Brooklyn Wrap Dress and the Lou Ponte Moto Jacket are just two examples.

The wool& Brooklyn Wrap Dress and the Lou Ponte Moto Jacket
The Wool& Brooklyn Wrap Dress (left) and the Lou Ponte Moto Jacket (right)

Reason #3: You’re wearing comfortable, but shapeless, layers of clothing

Loose clothing may be comfortable to travel in. It may be cool. But is it stylish?

Wearing multiple loose pieces of clothing can make you look shapeless. For many people, a seemingly shapeless body swathed in flowing clothing from top to bottom looks frumpy.

You might also be wearing clothing that is in the wrong proportions for your body. Sleeves that are too long, knee-length skirts that hit at your mid-calf, anything that has a horizontal line or hem at your widest part – these can all make you look less stylish.

Fix it by having clothing altered

In general, wearing clothes that show your body shape will look more stylish than covering up everything in loose, shapeless clothing. This is true even for people who carry extra weight.

  • When planning a travel wardrobe, photograph yourself in your travel clothing. Pull hems up and tuck under shirts to find what looks best on your proportions.
  • Have skirts and sleeves hemmed to a length that makes you feel your best.
  • Try to avoid a horizontal line, like a shirt hem, across your widest part. This is usually either the bust or hips for most women.
  • Have darts put in shirts and jackets so that they aren’t using your boobs as a coat hanger or choose a different style.

Fix it by wearing only one loose item at a time

Choose one loose or flowing item per outfit to avoid looking frumpy. Having only one flowing item at a time helps create a stylish visual balance.

If you feel your outfit lacks style, take a look at the layers. Is there a way to slim down the top or bottom?

We love scarves at HPL, but to avoid looking frumpy the right scarf needs to be matched to the right person and tied in a flattering way.

travel scarf
The right travel scarf can really elevate an outfit.

Of course, if you’re trying to stay warm, that’s more important than looking stylish. Layer at will. 🙂

Reason #4: You wear clothes because you think you should

If you wear something you don’t like or aren’t comfortable in, it will show.

If you wear something that isn’t “you” simply because it got great reviews from another traveler, then you might not feel your best.

If you wear colors you don’t like because you think you have to for that destination, then you might not feel comfortable.

Fix it by wearing what serves you best

Pack for who you are, not who you think you should be.

It’s true that you need to consider cultural requirements. It’s also true that trying out a recommendation can lead to a great find. But if you try something on and it doesn’t feel right, it won’t feel any better on your trip.

Reason #5: You feel “out of place”

Feeling out of place because of your outfit can add to feelings of frumpiness.

Maybe the local women all wear skirts and you’re in leggings. Maybe your travel companions are going for the grungy backpacker vibe and you packed for sleek city style.

Even if you packed clothes that make you feel great in your normal life, your surroundings, both in the destination and your travel companions, can play a big part in how you feel while traveling.

Fix it by researching your destination

Research what locals wear at your destination. Take your activities into consideration. You don’t have to fit in perfectly, but you might feel better dressing differently when visiting museums in Paris than when you’re hiking in Denmark.

This doesn’t mean that you need to dress completely differently from normal. That could also make you feel uncomfortable!

Research your destination before a trip

At the same time, most people will feel better if they blend in a bit with the locals. This could be as simple as wearing trousers and a blouse instead of leggings and a t-shirt in a city or swapping your glittery accessories for more rugged styles in a nature-based location.

Reason #6: You’re wearing bulky or very informal shoes (when you normally don’t)

This is a hard one. Comfortable shoes are key to enjoying travel. It is also true that sleeker shoes look more stylish.

The Holy Grail of travel shoes has sneaker-like comfort and looks sleek and stylish.

Fix it by spending time considering your shoes

Can you find comfortable sneakers that aren’t athletic shoes? HPL travelers have had success with Allbirds sneakers and Born shoes.

When picking sneakers, look for slimmer, darker soles and darker shoe colors. Avoiding thick, white soles and lighter-colored shoes will help your sneakers look less casual or athletic.

If you can find comfortable shoes that aren’t sneakers, that will help you look even more stylish.

Reason #7: Your hairstyle is different

If you normally use styling tools on your hair, but leave the tools at home when traveling, you might feel like you’ve “let yourself go” with your hair. That can make you feel frumpy.

Or you might trade your normal hairstyle for a ponytail or hat while traveling. If you’re not used to seeing yourself with these hairstyles, you might think that you don’t look good.

Fix it by practicing different hairstyles

At home, practice different ways of styling your hair with a minimum of tools or products. Take photos like you would when traveling so that you get used to seeing yourself in this hairstyle.

If you must pack a hair tool, try to find a travel-sized option.

Could you pack or buy a hat at your destination? (That would make a useful souvenir!) Try on different styles to find what you feel good in. Practice wearing hats at home so that you don’t feel self-conscious.

Accessorize with a hat

An extreme solution is to pick your hairstyle with travel in mind. This might mean growing out your hair so that you always wear it in braids, ponytails, or buns. You could also go the other way and get a pixie cut that requires minimal styling.

Reason #8: You don’t accessorize as much

If you normally wear jewelry and other accessories, but leave them at home to avoid being noticed as a tourist, you might feel undressed or like you aren’t expressing yourself well.

Similarly, do you wear make-up at home but not while traveling? That can lead to you feeling washed out or less put together than you prefer.

Fix it by getting creative with accessorizing

Here are some ideas that will make it easier:

  • Buy costume jewelry at your destination. – Cheap jewelry can make a fantastic souvenir that reminds you of your trip every time you wear it. Also, if you buy your accessories on location, you may feel less conspicuous wearing them. Just be sure to take a look at how locals accessorize so that you aren’t wearing something only sold to tourists.
  • Pack cheap jewelry that you wouldn’t mind losing.
  • Wear a scarf as a belt, headband, or necklace.
  • Layer your shirts to add visual interest.
  • Wear a cheap, shiny hair clip as a collar brooch, a faux belt buckle, or shoe decoration.
  • Practice at home.

If you try something totally different while traveling, you probably won’t feel like yourself and that could make you feel frumpy.

Get creative with accessories

Next, think about your make-up routine:

  • If you always wear lip color but have bare lips when traveling, you might feel frumpy because you’re not used to seeing your natural coloring.
  • If mascara is your go-to for looking fabulous, can you wear it while traveling or get your eyelashes tinted?

Sometimes, having that one little thing can make all the difference between feeling frumpy or fabulous. Check out our post: The Essential Travel Beauty Kit, for tips on which make-up products to pack when traveling.

Reason #9: Limited options make you feel bland

We always have limits to our clothing options, but maybe you feel them more when dressing out of a bag. If you’re used to dressing based on how you feel that day, you may feel frumpy when your clothing doesn’t match your mood.

Fix it by rethinking limits

Even the most expansive closet has limits. Use the limits of your travel wardrobe to inspire creativity. How many different looks can you get from what you’ve packed?

Practice at home. You may surprise yourself!

Don’t be limited by how you think you look in photos. If you think you always look bad in photos, practice different poses and smiles. This doesn’t mean odd model-style poses!

Sometimes something as simple as rotating your shoulders and hips a quarter turn away from the camera can make a huge difference! The same goes for a smile. If your mouth is smiling but your eyes look vacant, you might not like how you look. Practice smiling with your eyes and see how that helps.

One tip to get a natural smile that lights up your eyes is to think about something you love right before the camera clicks.

And don’t forget about reversible and convertible clothing like the Evolve Top from Encircled that can be worn in 8 different ways!

Convertible evolve top from encircled

Reason #10: You aren’t sleeping enough or eating and hydrating well

Not getting enough sleep, not drinking enough water, and eating poorly can lead to eye bags, dull skin, and foggy heads. These don’t make you feel your best.

Fix it by prioritizing sleep, hydration, and a healthy diet

When your body is well rested and functioning well, you’ll feel better. Of course, getting enough sleep, properly hydrating, and regularly eating healthy meals can be challenging when traveling.

Do the best you can. Give yourself grace. Remember that the experiences and your smile is what make the trip wonderful, not how dewy your skin is.

Reason #11: You see yourself more

Most people take more photos of themselves when traveling than they do at home. With digital photography, you can immediately see what you look like. The more you see yourself, the more likely you are to notice perceived flaws.

Also, some people look great in real life but look less great when captured in a photo. If you haven’t learned how to pose yourself or smile for a photo that makes you happy, you may feel more frumpy on a trip.

Fix it by reminding yourself that you’re your own worst critic

If all you can see when you look at travel photos is how bad you [think] you look, can you wait until you get home to look at photos?

When others look at your photos, your big smile and happy eyes are what most people see. Try to see yourself from their perspective.

This might take a change in mindset. If you’re used to analyzing everything about your looks, find ways to help yourself focus on enjoying the experience.

Using these tips, you can pack light and look stylish. If you need help putting together your perfect travel wardrobe, the HPL Packing Method was designed just for you!

This 4-week program will give you practice getting more stylish outfits out of fewer clothes.

Let's fix these reasons you feel frumpy when packing light

About author


Daniyal is an accomplished travel blogger boasting two years of extensive experience. Proficient in captivating narratives, Daniyal unveils the allure of undiscovered destinations and divulges insights into everything regarding traveling. Beyond the prose, he serves as the editorial architect, seamlessly incorporating editing finesse, SEO mastery, and strategic content deployment to ensure a sophisticated and enriching online travel experience.
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