Want to Travel Light? Here’s the One Item You Must Pack


I’m about to reveal the answer to one of life’s nagging questions.

What’s the secret to packing light?

Have one top that you will wear multiple times during your trip.

Great, Einstein. But what is that one top?

My vote is for the classic white button down.

This magic top fulfills essential criteria:

  • It’s versatile, working on its own and in combination with other pieces/accessories.
  • It always looks good.
  • It’s timeless, unlike other trendy mistakes hiding in your closet. Like tube tops.

The perfect white button down should be the key component in your travel wardrobe, especially if you’re intent on packing light.

Universal Appeal

A classic, versatile item like a white button down is the secret to packing light.

My white button down is my most essential travel item. Photo: The Open Suitcase

I think a white shirt looks great on every woman. The key is to get one that fits. Different styles complement different bodies. I’m busty, so I need to mind the gap – the line of buttons down the front looks like a highway full of potholes if the shirt’s not cut full enough for me. Ladies who lack curves can implant them without going the Kardashian plastic surgery route with a shirt that has darts (those weird, angled short seams) in the right places. And, if you don’t like to wear fitted clothing, look for a fuller, tunic-style.

From Sloppy to Chic

Think about your favorite bottoms – jeans, chinos, shorts, yoga pants, printed wide legs. Picture them with a tee-shirt. Okay. Fine. Now, pair them with a white button down. Your entire outfit is elevated and you are transformed from sloppy American to chic traveler of unknown origin.

Until you open your mouth. My verbal reveal always happens when I ask for “coffee” in my New Yawk accent.

Loves to Layer

A white shirt looks great on its own but really soars when it’s worn as a layer. Toss it over a cami, tank, or tee. Pull a sweatshirt over it. Pair it with cardigan or blazer. You can change your look in the blink of an eye. That’s what you need in a travel essential and why it’s the secret to packing light.


No-iron fabrics are a traveler’s best friend. The white button down is widely available in cotton blends that need little to no ironing.

To further reduce wrinkles, use this trick when packing: lay your white shirt, buttons down, on a flat surface. Fold the arms of the shirt in, one over the other, and neatly fold the sides in so they meet one another. You’ll have a long rectangle. Place a previously folded sweater in the center third of the body of the shirt. Fold the tail of the shirt up over the sweater, then fold the top of the shirt down over the tail. Keep your bundle together and place it between soft layers in your bag. The sweater will act as a cushion to keep wrinkles to a minimum.

Sex Appeal

White shirts are sexy. When women don menswear, it projects strength and confidence. Picture a gal sporting a satiny ponytail roped through a baseball cap. Or a woman wearing a football jersey to bed, like Susan St. James in McMillan and Wife. And the best part is, you don’t have to try too hard. It’s a lot easier to button up a shirt than it is to glue onĀ false eyelashes, pull up Spanx, or totter on stiletto heels.white-shirt-outfits

Neutral as the Swiss

Coco Chanel said, “Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” You won’t have to give a moment’s thought to what to wear with your white shirt – it goes with everything! That, my friends, is travel wardrobe bliss and the key to packing light!

On a five-day city trip, I’ll wear my white shirt at least 3 times – buttoned over a tank with casual khakis or layered under a navy crew neck sweater with shorts for day and paired with a blazer and jeans for dinner. Younger, thinner women should feel free to wear it as a coverup buttoned over a bikini. Crazy older women who no longer give a hoot? Feel free to try this trick as well.

As for me, I’m always seeking new ways to wear my white shirt. This year, I’m trying to find the perfect full skirt to pair with my shirt, knotted at the waist. It’s a look that screams vintage, like something you’d wear to a picnic in 1957.You know you want to. Pack light, that is. What's the secret?

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