Packing for an academic conference

carry_on_bagsEverlane weekender bag / ModCloth tote

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to an out-of-state academic conference. I don’t go to out-of-state conferences very often; in fact, I had only been to two since starting grad school before this one (two years at the same conference in the same location plus one year as an undergrad). When it comes to packing for conferences, I will admit that I’m not a pro. I always second-guess what I choose to pack, especially because I have always needed an outfit to present in. However, Earth science-related academic conferences see a wide range of fashion–everything from suits and ties to parkas, worn-in jeans, and sandals (of course, sometimes with socks…haha)–so this lessens the burden of packing the “perfect” outfits a little bit.

This time around, I packed only 16 everyday pieces (not including a t-shirt & leggings to sleep in, sweatpants, and workout gear). That may seem like a lot, but it includes two tops, two tees, two sweaters, a sweatshirt, a coat, a pair of jeans, a dress, two pairs of shoes, tights, jewelry, and my tote. I noticed that when I pack for trips, I tend to pack layers, and this trip was no different. It’s so easy to mix-and-match when you have a couple of tops, a couple of cardigans or light jackets, and everything goes together. When luggage space is limited, it’s the best way to go.

During my trip, I discovered a cool feature of the Stylebook app. (You may remember that at the beginning of September, I posted my current closet inventory and also noted how I had been using the Stylebook app. I love it!) Besides having a photographic inventory of your closet and outfits, you can also create packing lists! Brilliant, right? I always intend to make an actual list that I check off as I pack and then repack to come home, but it never happens; I rely far too much on my memory, which has been known to fail me one too many times (I forgot to repack my pair of sunglasses on this trip, ha).

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After you create and name your packing list, you’ll see a page like this one above. What’s great about the packing list is that you can either add items by adding the items individually and then the looks that incorporate them, or you can do what I did and add the looks first and it will automatically populate your packing list with the clothing in your looks! How cool, right?! I didn’t make my Stylebook packing list until the end of my trip, but I was thoughtful enough when packing that I already knew my outfits ahead of time. (I actually put all of the looks together in Stylebook while on the plane to the conference!) In the notes section, I wrote down where I was headed/what I was doing and the weather to expect.

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Here are all of the items I brought with me! I stuck to a relatively cohesive color palette of burgundy, grey, and black, but I added in my cobalt dress for one of my poster presentations; my cropped navy sweater over that dress has become a go-to for academic conferences. My trench coat is the only coat I brought (thank goodness the weather cooperated!), and my tote was one of my carry-on items on the plane. I stuffed it full with my laptop, notebooks, poster (it was fabric!), my liquids bag, and a container full of cookies! The rest of the items were either worn on the plane or fit into my Everlane weekender bag, as seen in the top photo.

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Here are the outfits I wore! I was there for four full days (three days actually spent at the conference), which are the top outfits. The bottom two outfits were worn on the travel days with my yoga pants and sneakers. As far as dressing for conferences goes, I pretty much wear what I would normally wear on a daily basis. I actually felt slightly overdressed at my conference! If you’re looking to feel put-together, I highly recommend dark-wash jeans, simple blouses, and a nice cardigan. Even my sweatshirt felt nice enough for a conference setting. If I’m presenting, I like to go the extra mile and wear a dress with heels, though it definitely wasn’t necessary at this conference. Be sure to pack pieces that mix-and-match (sticking to a cohesive color palette helps a LOT) and you’ll be set! 🙂 (Below is one of my looks in action–post-conference, of course!)

IMG_7667Helmut Lang sweatshirt / LOFT top (sold out) / Madewell jeans / Sam Edelman boots / Ignatius 😉

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Closet inventory + digital organization

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I’ve been overhauling my wardrobe for about the past year, but I haven’t really been aware of how much I owned until now. I figured it was time to do a closet inventory to figure out where I’m at after a year of purging and buying items that fit better and that better fit my personal style. I’ve been slowly but steadily selling and donating things that no longer work for me, but I thought I was doing a pretty good job at ridding of things and not buying as much in order to decrease the size of my wardrobe, but I’m not sure if that has actually been happening…

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Here’s where I’m at right now!

TOPS: 81
Sleeveless: 5
Short-sleeved tees: 10
Long-sleeved tees: 12
Blouses: 9
Collared shirts: 6
Cardigans: 17
Sweaters: 18
Sweatshirts: 4

BOTTOMS: 32
Shorts: 6
Skirts: 13
Pants: 6
Jeans: 7

DRESSES: 30

OUTERWEAR: 13
Vests: 1
Blazers: 1
Jackets: 4
Coats: 7

SHOES: 34
Sandals: 6
Sneakers: 2
Flats: 12
Heels: 6
Boots: 8

These numbers don’t include a bunch of shirts and shorts I have around for sleeping and working out, leggings, tights, pajama pants, and a lot of old shirts I have on probation and will probably be donating in the near future. I also have a basket of older shoes that weren’t counted because I don’t really wear them, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them just yet (they’re on probation too…or just not currently in style!). A good number of items in my closet I count as “utility” items–necessary because of just typical day-to-day life: snow boots, running sneakers, my down coat, etc.–and were not counted in the total.

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In all, I have 190 items that I wear regularly. That’s more than what I was expecting, but it’s not too bad considering how much I’ve gotten rid of the past year. I’m pretty happy with everything I have right now; there’s only a few things I’m hoping to add before we dive head-on into fall and winter (though I have to try and hold off on buying anything until next month!).

The photos don’t show everything I own. My stuff is split between the bedroom closet, which I share with Chris, and a dresser. My jackets and coats live in a closet by the front door, and my shoes are scattered between the bedroom closet, the spare bedroom closet, and the closet downstairs. (I also have a bad habit of kicking my shoes off and leaving them in the living room, so you can pretty much find shoes everywhere…) I’ve been trying to better organize my things. The things I wear regularly are in the bedroom closet, and they are organized first by type and then by color. I keep the things I’ve worn but that aren’t yet dirty in the front of the closet separate from the clean clothes. I don’t have good organization for my shoes, though the shoes I baby more (my leather shoes) are in the bedroom and spare bedroom closets so they are away from the cats and getting banged up by other shoes.

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Speaking of organization, I’m kind of a freak about it. I have three different ways of organizing my closet (besides actually organizing it): I am building an Excel spreadsheet with details about everything I own including whether the item is a core piece, spring/summer piece, or fall/winter piece; I have secret Pinterest boards with the actual items in my closet (and links to them if applicable); and I recently downloaded the StyleBook app on my phone, because I’ve been wanting a way to digitize my closet and keep track of what I’m actually wearing.

After using StyleBook for just over a month, I can say I’m really pleased with how it’s been working for me so far!

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With StyleBook, you add the individual pieces of your wardrobe, and then with those you can create looks. My favorite part is keeping track of what I’m wearing every day by adding looks to the calendar. Once looks (or individual pieces) are added to your calendar, it keeps track of how often you wear the pieces as well as calculate the cost-per-wear of each item (you can input the price of each item when you view it). I love that feature because I’ve been wanting to know cost-per-wear, but I didn’t want to calculate it myself. It’s much more fun (and much easier!) to create looks and add them to the calendar–then all the hard work is done for you!

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I LOVE seeing how often I’m wearing pieces. Since I just started keeping track of my outfits on August 1st, it doesn’t look like I’ve worn my clothes that much, but I know in a year it will really be telling. If I get sick of an item before I get a lot of wears in (which is subjective because it depends on cost-per-wear), I’ll know it wasn’t a good buy and I need to be more mindful in the future. The app also shows you your 25 Least Worn items. (Note that I wore the shorts six times in August but they have been worn seven times according to this list. That’s because I wore them today!)

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Here’s what my best cost-per-wears look like after August (and two days of September). Of course, my cheaper pieces, even if only worn once, have the best cost-per-wears right now. See my tan sandals, though? I’ve worn those so much in just the past month (six times) that my cost-per-wear is looking quite good! I generally aim for a cost-per-wear of $1, but it would be fabulous to have cost-per-wears that are below $1. That is what I’m hoping for with the (hopefully) better quality pieces I’ve been picking up recently. StyleBook also keeps a list of the 25 Worst Value.

I’m planning on doing another closet inventory and StyleBook update in about a year. I’m excited to see what my most/least worn pieces are and all the various looks I can come up with. I’m also hoping to reduce the size of my closet a bit more–think I can do it?! 😉