How to dress for work

Wardrobe boot camp: How to pack for a work trip

Kim-Marie WilliamsFashion, How to 33 Comments

Editor’s note: I’m heading to Sydney today to attend Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and blog for Maybelline NY. Helping me out are some of my blogging friends. Because I commission these posts and these bloggers are helping me to keep my blog running while I’m away from regular duties, I’ll also be paying them for their contributions. Today, say hello to the gorgeous Kim-Marie from Kimba Likes.


Hey there, Stylers. I’m Kim-Marie from Kimba Likes and I’ve been charged with this week’s Wardrobe Boot Camp for Kim, who needs to know how to pack for a work trip.

Kim, who travels regularly for work as a wine company representative, has a packing dilemma which many of us can relate to. She packs too much, forgets key things and would love an easy system to streamline her life and boost her confidence.

QANTAS WIne Show 2011

The Plea

I would love to know how to pack for 3 to 4 days away with work without overpacking. I live in rural WA and when I travel to Perth, I always seem to be in a packing nightmare. What do I take etc? I always end up packing too much and forgetting things like accessories. Plus when I am in Perth, I don’t want to feel like a country bumpkin!

I would love a simple system or packing list so I feel confident and organised. I’d like it to fit in an overnight suitcase and one bag.

The Tips

Start with the details: What events will you be attending? Will you be on your feet all day? Anything more formal? What about the weather?

Answering these questions will narrow down what you need to pack. No point packing a blinged out clutch and stiletto heels if you’re attending a breakfast function at the beach.

Outfit sorting: Next step is what to pack. Grab some of your favourites – the pieces that you feel your best in – and put them in piles by item. Choose two bottoms, say a skirt and a pair of jeans, add lingerie, two tops and one top layer like a blazer or a smart cardigan. For each top, add accessories like a scarf and jewellery. I would also add a hair accessory for each outfit, but that might be just me!

Now, take at look at what you’ve done in a few minutes – four outfits that mix and match. Well done, you!

Additional clothes: Add a classic dress in a style that flatters your shape and a different piece of jewellery, like a statement necklace. Add a pair of coloured footless tights and you’ve got another outfit that can be dressed up or dressed down and will work if the weather changes.

You’ve checked the weather so you know if you need to pack a trench coat or an umbrella or tanks in place of knitwear for your tops. Don’t forget your PJs and I always chuck in a spare pair of knickers or two. If you have time for exercising, pack your exercise gear. Even if you only have 15 minutes, a quick walk around the block a few times will make you feel better.

Shoes: Kim is likely to be on her feet a lot so comfort is a priority. Ballet flats look pretty but offer virtually no support, so don’t make the mistake of equating flat with comfortable. A loafer or a brogue will give support but without losing style points. Another great option is an ankle boot – supportive, comfortable and can be worn with jeans or a dress.

Accessories: You might choose to wear the same elegant watch and simple diamond studs every day, but mix it up with a colourful bangle and / or a statement necklace. Or vice versa. Up to you.

By selecting a good-sized leather tote in a classic neutral colour, like tan or buttercream, you’re guaranteed that it will coordinate with everything, look stylish and pulled together but be a bit more interesting than basic black. Choose one big enough to carry the essentials like wallet and phone, but also fit in travel essentials like your makeup bag, hairbrush, deodorant, iDevices, notebooks, foldable umbrella, cardigan etc.

Beauty Products: I buy mini products, where available, of my favourites as I find it easier than decanting into travel containers, and gift with purchase samples come in handy too. Double up products like a lip and cheek creme are fabulous for travel.

Cut down on beauty bulk when travelling by choosing one makeup look – multi-product palettes are fab. A simple way to appear more polished is to wear a fabulous bright lipstick, over a BB cream base set with powder, with a touch of the lipstick blended into the apples of your cheeks, and lusciously mascarared lashes. It’s just like you, only better.

How to Pack: Roll your clothes tightly as you pack them – you can use a smaller bag and get fewer creases. If you roll outfits together, including the accessories, you can just grab an outfit in the morning, as you’ve already done the hard work. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The Shopping

I’ve selected some essential wardrobe pieces to create a capsule travel wardrobe that will work back with the pieces Kim already has – I love her striped top and colourful necklace combination with the casual denim.

Dress for Work Banner Text

1. Sterling & Hyde Stacie Tan Tote $174.96 2. Shabby Sisters Techno Collar $45 3. Brown Sugar Jacquard Spot Scarf $59.95 4. Sussan The Kate Jacket $69.95 5. Country Road Mena Ankle Boot $229 6. Caley Blue loafers by Hush Puppies from Style Tread (on sale) $97.90  7. Verily Cross My Heart Stripe Dress $129

Are you an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink packer like Kim? Do you have some fabulous packing tips to share with Rachel? Please let us in on your secrets!

If you think you’d like to be considered as part of a Wardrobe Boot Camp post, then please email me ([email protected]) with a couple of photos and a brief run down of what specific help you would like.



Kim-Marie Williams blogs at, where she chats about Family : Fashion : Frivolity – the things Kimba Likes! Kimba is an expat Kiwi, wife to the Welshman, mama to 9-year-old Boyo and crazy bunny lady. A dedicated follower of fashion, beauty junkie, op shopper extraordinaire and rugby union fan, Kimba is celebrating her Big Four Oh My Gods this year, and is enjoying the confidence which comes with knowing your own style. You can find Kimba Likes all over the social media landscape, sharing her latest bargain as her life mantra is Never Pay Retail!


Comments 33

  1. I just got back from a 3 day work trip late last night. My tip is fit it all in carryon if you possibly can, at least to go there. Coming back, I made my connecting flight with 5 minutes to spare, but my checked bag didn’t. You always come back with more than you go with, so I take a carryon and large tote on the plane. In the carryon is a smaller handbag that I carry while I am working. When I head home, my carryon gets checked, while computer, important papers etc are in the tote and handbag that stay with me. Ditto the rolling clothes trick. Love Leona Edmonston for dresses that travel like a dream, and if the worst happens you can wash them at night and they’ll be dry next day. If I stay 2 nights or more in the one place, I wash my underwear too. Work is actually easier to pack for than a holiday, as you generally know almost to the minute what you will be doing so it is easier to plan. Always check the weather forecast before you go. Lightweight wool scarves are great to throw around yourself as it can get chilly in airports and on planes, and in restaurants. Try to match everything so you only need 2 pairs of shoes, and wear the flat ones to travel so you can run between airport terminals if required. Tank tops, short shorts, athletic gear etc are never acceptable, even if you will be doing team building physical stuff. It looks slovenly and unprofessional plus you will get terribly burnt (I just wanted to put that out there as I have seen it too many times).

    1. It’s a very good point about being easier to pack for work. You have a schedule – you know whether you’ll be inside or outside and what functions you have to attend. A few of the light cotton things I packed for Bali last year just didn’t get worn because I just didn’t realise quite how hot it was going to be.

  2. I think I am the worst over packer in the history of the world. I like options a lot … I don’t like to compromise my style or comfort just because I am away from home. That being said, I am getting better. I think the key is having those items like you suggested in your wardrobe to start with – if you don’t, you are never going to have anything to make this horrible job of packing any easier. Love the suggestions, my only other one is soft wide leg (black) pants – they go with everything, don’t crush, look good and can be worn day or night.

    1. That’s a great idea, but I’m a fashion rule breaker and I actually look terrible in wide legged pants. I don’t like white shirts either (I’m going to get shot by the fashion police at this rate!) 😉 They make me look wider than I am which is never good, and I try to avoid black where possible. HOWEVER, if you are lucky enough to have the sort of figure that looks fabulous in wide legged pants, then go for it. An absolute versatile piece, as you say. They are a wardrobe classic and I’d love to be able to wear them in a Katharine Hepburn-esque style! x

    2. Just had another idea about people who like lots of options. Pack a few more outfits in the manner I’ve outlined above – roll them up, you can fit more in! 😉 Just make sure that they all coordinate in some vague manner so if the weather gets cold, you can take the striped top from outfit 4 and wear it under the dress from outfit 1 with the jacket from outfit 3. That way, you’ve got EVEN more options! 🙂

      1. Great packing tip – definitely going to try that on my next trip to Hong Kong in May! And I will try that coordinating thing. On your comment re the white shirt – I am completely with you there. I can’t find one I like and probably haven’t owned one for 10 years.

        1. Oh, I hear you! However, Rachel at Redcliffe Style did a fab post last week on how to wear a white shirt, and actually got me thinking yeah, maybe I could break my own rule and wear one! 🙂

          And do not forget to leave room for shopping – I mean, Hong Kong! 🙂

  3. My tip is to make sure you have something to wear for dinner every night you’re away – not just ‘official’ dinners. It can be challenging to do this when you only want to take carry-on but I have a fab sparkly cape that doesn’t crush I can add to a basic black top/trouser or dress combo, and some lovely statement necklaces. I’ve been caught out before and faked an illness rather than wear what I had worn all day!

      1. Oh, and I’ve just remembered I did the same thing years ago. I went interstate on a work training trip, was really proud of myself for being so grown up and professional (I was in my very early 20s!) and packed so minimally that I didn’t have anything to wear out to dinner that night. I have to admit, I actually quite enjoyed the luxury of a night in a gorgeous hotel with the remote all to myself and the best hotel room service club sandwich ever – and I aced the tests the next day because I wasn’t hungover! 😉

    1. Men generally don’t worry about changing, so I don’t see why we feel we have to, if you are appropriately dressed to start with.

  4. This is a great post – thankyou. Whilst I don’t do the work travel thing, I am a country kid who heads off to the big smoke with the kids for holidays. I ALWAYS come home with items thay havent even been touched. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Outfit planning does help – I learnt the hard way when I went to the UK with my brand new baby on the “Show Him Off” Tour and realised that I’d packed what I could fit into, what I could breastfeed in and that was the only thought I put into it. Nothing coordinated, I had winter tops with summer skirts etc. Luckily, I got an early birthday present and went shopping!

  5. Good morning Kim-Marie or do you prefer Kimba or Kim,LMK please! Yes I am a bit of an over packer I am afraid I like to have “choices” but I do usually end up wearing what I have chosen in the first place unless the weather changes dramatically.I like to have a summer and a transeasonal look so I can be comfortable I get cold quickly and hot just as quick,Thankyou Menopause for that!I agree on the flat shoes, flat does not always mean comfy,I prefer a brouge or a loafer and love little ankle boots and I also save travel sized items in a separate bag in my bathroom and gift with purchases so I can grab all the essentials and pack them instead of the big sizes or decant them,too much mess.I also agree on the bag I prefer a neutrall or tan one over black,I think they look more luxe or something.I love that Sterling and Hyde one.Very Nice.
    I can add one thing I think may help, a beautiful pashmina in either silk or cashmere,can be worn as a scarf ,wrap in the evenings or a pillow in a plane or a sarong,very good at multi tasking those pashmina’s every woman should own 1 or 3.Thanks for this post.

    1. Hi there, Lisa. I’m Kim-Marie or Kimba (I am definitely not a Kim). Thank you so much for asking! 🙂

      Great idea about the different seasons. I don’t think I’m menopausal yet (my Grandma was really early and my mum was really late) but I am on medication that gives me hot flushes, so I can empathise. When laying out the outfits for planning, you could incorporate that idea and choose one cooler and one warmer top.

      That’s why I love packing a pair of coloured footless leggings that I can team with a dress or skirt (or even shorts). If I get hot, I can take them off and vice versa 🙂

      The scarf I’ve featured in my shopping pick is absolutely enormous and 100% cotton – it’s like a pashmina. I own it and wore it out to dinner the other night as an evening wrap.

    1. Leonie from Verily just has the best versatile stuff – that dress is so flattering for so many different figures. Oh, and YIPPEEEE! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy being a shopping enabler! 😉

  6. Great post Kimba – I love your style! Kim you look so happy in that pic.
    Totally drooling over the tan tote ooh and the Mena ankle boots.
    I am travelling for work next month so am going to try some of these tips.
    Cheers, Katy.

    1. Oh, thank you Katy. I was on a mid week date night with the Welshman whilst my Boyo was at school camp. Monday night Champagne will do that to a girl! 😉

      The tan tote is just gorgeous and comes with a matching zippered purse too. Oh, and those boots? Might just be making their way into my shoerobe!

  7. Good morning! I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have on this post, and thanks very much to Nikki for the opportunity.

    Now, I’ve just noticed a glaring error – I’ve neglected to tag Item Number 6! They’re Caley Blue loafers by Hush Puppies from Style Tread, and on sale at $97.90. Here’s the link.

    To paraphrase that cultural icon, Forrest Gump, I may not be a smart woman but I know what shopping is. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.