How to Travel Smarter and Dress Better: My Take on New York Fashion Week (NYFW) Packing

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Rachel Off Duty: Woman Attending New York Fashion Week

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This post was created in partnership with Trvl Porter. All opinions and styling are my own. Also a huge thank you to Daniella Shevel, whose beautiful Italian leather heels (pictured above) I had the chance to wear while I was in NYC.

This past week has been such a whirlwind. In 10 days, I flew cross-country to DC and Baltimore to visit friends, and then eventually took the train up to New York to take on New York Fashion Week for the very first time. I’d heard so many stories about NYFW – the good, the bad, the impossibly awesome, and the ridiculously disastrous – and honestly, I just wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. When I was younger, I was determined to work in high fashion, and even though I’ve moved a little further away from that path in recent years, and my style has become decidedly more relaxed, I am still so in love with runway shows and high street / couture fashion collections. So, it was such a cool experience getting to attend shows and events to experience the craziness of NYFW firsthand. My favorite moments hands-down were getting to attend a launch party for Kendra Scott (co-hosted by Vogue!) with my best friend, and attending the Parsons MFA showcase. Both were such ‘pinch-me’ moments, and I still can’t believe that everything shook out the way it did. While I am admittedly the kind of person that rolls her eyes when I hear things like “just put it out into the universe and it will happen,” most of my experience with NYFW happened because I literally did just that (I hate when I eat my words…). I did tons of outreach, I networked with anyone and everyone who would give me the time of day, and I made sure I was flexible and available to take each and every worthwhile opportunity that came my way. The result was a week filled with fun events and memories that made every single day of pain-filled running around in heels all worth it.

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York
Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

A lot of planning goes into NYFW for anyone who attends, from the initial outreach and pitching all the way to figuring out what to wear, where to stay, and how to schedule everything so that you don’t end up burning out. Packing is a huge ordeal, and on Instagram, you sometimes can’t help but get trapped in thinking about just how perfect everyone looks and how they must have such an effortless time wearing designer outfits that are perfectly styled and fitted. While that might be true for 5% of people romping around Manhattan this week, it’s not reality for most, so I wanted to demystify that process a little bit. Here is how I packed for NYFW, with all of my outfits fitting into half of a check-in luggage (the other half was occupied by things I wore in DC and Baltimore!). And, this isn’t exclusive to Fashion Week. These tips are the same ones I live by when packing for any trip where I need to be bringing my A-game from a wardrobe perspective, whether it’s a business trip, a wedding, or a formal event.

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

How to Travel Lighter and Dress Better: My Travel Wardrobe Tips

1. Renting and Borrowing

Buying expensive clothes, especially when it’s just for a trip or a one-time event, is the worst. As much as I love shopping, I will choose practical clothes will multiple uses over a designer dress or shoes 9 times out of ten, because I’d rather spend my money on things like travel or an above-$10 bottle of wine.

Recently, I’ve started to get really into the idea of renting, versus buying, clothing. These days, there are tons of rental clothing services to choose from, so once you find one you like, this really becomes a no-brainer for those trips that you need to bring your A-game wardrobe to. For NYFW, I used Trvl Porter, which is a designer clothing rental service that ships a customized wardrobe to your hotel when you’re on the road, so you don’t have to worry about packing them and taking them with you. Thanks to them, I was able to wear beautiful and unique pieces from brands like Self Portrait and Diane Von Furstenberg that I would not otherwise have owned (every outfit pictured in this post features a look curated around a Trvl Porter piece! Check out more of my experience using Trvl Porter in New York here).

Rachel Off Duty: Black Shoes
Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York
Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

In addition to renting, you can also borrow. If you’re a fellow blogger or content creator attending a big event, consider reaching out to designers and asking to borrow one of their pieces to wear on an exchange basis. I did this while I was in New York, specifically with designers who were local to Manhattan, and it was a pretty significant cost savings and a way for me to expand my travel wardrobe without needing to pack additional pieces and lug them cross-country. At NYFW, lots of designers and brands also host showroom visits where you can come in and pick out an outfit to either borrow or keep. Oh, and friends’ closets can be a HUGE untapped resource if you’re in need of the perfect blazer or belt to finish up your look. Just make sure that no matter how you do it, you’re taking good care of everything so that it’s returned in its original condition. Don’t want to burn any relationships with brands, or worse, your best friend!

2. Load Up on Basics in Neutral Colors

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

Because a lot of my clothes were rented or borrowed, I was able to focus my suitcase primarily on bringing the basics. Shirts, a cardigan, a few jackets, a pair of jeans, and some comfortable dresses for sight-seeing were pretty much the bulk of what I packed to complement my nicer pieces and make them feel more ‘me.’

3. Haul Only the Most Vital Footwear

You may have heard this a million times before, but on no trip has this been more painfully realized for me than this one. Bring only the most vital and comfortable footwear you own, because when you’re traveling and spending all of your time on your feet, you’ll find yourself reaching for those flat ankle boots 1000x over the heels you thought you just ‘had’ to wear. For most trips, my go-to’s are: 1 pair of heels, 1 pair of flats, 1-2 pairs of sneakers, and either 1 pair of boots or 1 pair of sandals, depending on the weather. And, for events where heels are a necessity, don’t forget to bring foldable flats! These were a lifesaver in New York. I would frantically run to catch the train in foldable flats, and emerge from the next station cool and composed in heels and lipstick like a beautiful butterfly. You can be one, too.

4. Rely On Interesting Accessories

Rachel Off Duty: Woman's Accessories

Unless you’re bringing giant purses and structured hats, interesting accessories are usually pretty easy to stock up on when traveling. For this trip, I brought 3 purses (packed one-inside-the-other whenever possible) and a backpack that I used as my ‘personal item’ on the flight so it wouldn’t take up space in my suitcase. You can also easily pack fun socks, scarves, sunglasses, and belts because of how little space they take up.

5. Plan For Emergencies

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

Last but definitely not least, by bringing a few other essentials whenever you’re going on a trip, you’ll save yourself from almost any unfortunate wardrobe situation. My fashion-aid kit consists of: foldable flats, bandaids, safety pins, hair ties, bobby pins, fashion tape, a Tide-to-Go pen, and anything else that I know from past experience would save me in a pinch, like a belt. I know, I know, I covered accessories already, but when renting clothes, you never truly know if they’re going to be too big or too small. This Rebecca Taylor dress was 1 size too big, but I easily fixed it by belting it at the waist and safety pinning the upper back near my shoulder blades. Anything could happen and you don’t want to be stuck with nothing to wear when you don’t have your full closet accessible, so bringing a few small things like a belt and a safety pin could be game-changing.

Have any of you ever attended NYFW, or another big trip that required a ton of wardrobe planning? If so, what was the most important thing you brought with you?

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in New York

Photography: Moods By Mark, Steven D Elliott Photo, Dressed for Time

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Rachel Off Duty: Packing for New York Fashion Week
Rachel Off Duty: Packing for New York Fashion Week

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

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2 Responses

    1. It’s SUCH a game changer. Cannot recommend it enough, especially when you’re having one of those moments when you feel ‘blah’ about the clothes you already own haha. It’s a fun way to switch things up!

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