How a Vogue Writer Packs for a California Road Trip


It’s the summer of 2005 and I’m flipping through one of the many glossy magazines that litter my bed. We’re at the height of 2000s bohemianism and Sienna Miller is the It-girl of the moment: a vision of floaty ruffled dresses, circle leather belts and perfectly undone waves. Meanwhile, I have dodgy side bangs and a pair of Primark Ugg rips that were never the same after a brief run-in with a puddle. My 14 year old self would do anything to look as cool as Sienna. I once thought while browsing an article about her vacation style, that one day I would be this glamorous woman floating around in a crochet maxi and gladiator sandals. My youthful vision has yet to transpire – and I doubt that will ever happen.

For anyone who grew up on the fashion magazine diet, you know the folklore that exists around “holiday style”. Each year there is a new twist on the category, but the essentials remain the same: floaty dresses, small flowers, raffia accessories, linen fabrics. Passionate about sewing and winter boots, I have never managed to align myself with this look, with silhouettes that are too traditionally feminine, and with a “Cali girl” spirit that breaks with my city-dweller temperament.

Fast forward to 2022, and with the prevalence of social media, we’re still bombarded with images of other people’s jet-set wardrobes. But, rather than the bizarre paparazzi stunt of Siena, it’s influencers sunbathing in Barbados in the latest It-bikini, or filtered holiday highlights of your friends and family. We all do. The pressure to conform to the dominant seaside “look” of the season is all too real. Do I need to remind you of the “hot girl summer” trend?

It was after booking a two-week road trip along the west coast of California that I decided to silence that nagging sense of holiday sartorial failure and experiment with a new approach. Instead of the usual last-minute shopping panic (hello cheesecloth dresses I’ll never wear again), I found myself packing pieces I usually wear back home in London. From ribbed pants and utilitarian jumpsuits to oversized shirts and boxy blazers, these aren’t pieces you’ll typically find on a vacation packing list, but I thought this would be a good test of the versatility of my wardrobe.

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