Travel Handmade: Packing For A Trip Someone Else Planned

I was born in Germany in the mid-70s. What an awesome time to be a baby duck in Europe, you know? I have this hypothesis that we all imprint on a particular taste level & design aesthetic based on what we see during our earliest years, and for me it was Danish modern and bohemian couture. I’ve been grateful every day since.

Looking back at old photos, it’s basically my entire ouvre, I mean, the colors & shapes & silhouettes. Come on.

Because my life started overseas, and because my family was military, I’ve lived other places besides the US. That must have done something to mask my love for travel, because I didn’t really CALL it that until much later in life. Or maybe it’s what caused it, who knows? Either way, seeing new places is something I treasure.

I also–obviously–love sewing. Making clothing is my true love, and a challenge that calls me like a puzzle, like I just have to figure out how all the pieces go together. Gotta scratch that itch. It occurred to me once that I keep those two things pretty separate. I thought of sewing, for such a long time, as location-specific, something I needed my sewing machine to do and so it “lived” in my home.

When I would pack to travel, even though I love to travel AND I love to make clothes, I packed…store-bought clothes. Not handmade clothes. They weren’t the garments I reached for first. They weren’t the clothes I’m wearing in our travel photos or the silly souvenir shots inside the cardboard folder you get at the Golden Gate Bridge.

And I began to ask myself: is that because I don’t love my handmade clothes best? or is that because handmade isn’t something you can really pack for travel?

The second one seemed impossible. Like, handmade clothes ARE clothes, right? So we should be able to pack them for travel, just like we can wear them for any other thing in our lives.

I set out to prove whether I was right by designing a series of experiments. Travel experiments, if you will. All of these took place in 2023, and all of them are captured on video for The League of Dressmakers.

Experiment #1: Can I pack handmade when I don’t know where I’m going or what we’ll do?

I wanted to experiment with what it means to have a “handmade wardrobe.” How does that fit my life? Does it HAVE to be a capsule wardrobe? Can I dress for EVERY occasion if I’m dressing handmade? What happens when I supplement my handmade closet with thrifted and secondhand clothes?

So I set up a series of trips where I would have varying levels of control over where I went, what I did, and how I could dress. I wanted to start exploring the idea of “100% handmade” with fewer clothes, like, only what I could fit inside a suitcase.

The entire video odyssey is a series featured at The League of Dressmakers, my club for sewing a handmade wardrobe.

The short video, below, is an eight-minute outtake of the first of my experiments: a trip to the Holy Land where I was on a packaged tour (something I’ve never done) in Israel and Palestine (places I’ve never been) with a group of tourists (people I did not know).

Want to see more, including step-by-step SEWALONGS for many of the garments I wore on this trip? Come join The League! Make the best clothes of your life with the kind and funny members of our sewing community.

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