I’m a 62-year-old reformed over-packer. You know the type. We want ‘options’ while traveling, which, in my case, meant I threw everything I had into my suitcase the night before the trip, assuming I would “figure it all out” on the fly.

Invariably, I ended up carting far more than I needed and dealt with an explosion every time I unzipped my bag, with tops and socks and underwear popping out all over the hotel bed like a Jack-in-the-Box.

By the time I hit 60 I was so sick and tired of dealing with my aching back (from lugging around a 50-pound bag that should have weighed 15), I quit overpacking. Cold turkey.

My secret? Scarves.

Worked Like Magic

Most packing lists include a scarf to jazz up a travel wardrobe or act as a lightweight wrap. That’s fine, but I’m suggesting a more radical approach. My scarf secrets turn 6 articles of clothing into 27 outfits, no sleight of hand required. (Technically, it’s more than 27 but I lost count!)

The Wardrobe Magician’s Basic Tools

  • 1 pair of khaki pants
  • 1 pair of black pants
  • 1 pair of dark-wash blue jeans
  • 1 white, long-sleeved cotton t-shirt
  • 1 gray, long or short-sleeved cotton t-shirt
  • 1 black tank top

Basic Props

  • 1 black belt
  • 1 pair of black flats
  • 1 pair of gold hoop earrings
  • 1 pair of silver hoop earrings
  • Gold bangles
  • Silver bangles

The “Rabbit in the Hat”

  • 1 medium weight scarf in a multi-colored paisley or floral pattern; muted tones with a pop of bright color if possible (examples: wine red, turquoise, green)
  • 1 light-to-medium weight scarf in an animal print (brown and black tones)
  • 1 light weight scarf of any pattern in muted brown, gray, and white tones

With these essentials handy, before you can say, “Abracadabra!” you have 27 outfits from which to choose!

Now, at this point you might be saying to yourself, “Impossible! How can this be?”

Because we are friends, I am willing to break the ‘magician’s code’ just this once to tell you how this amazing feat can be accomplished by even the most novice of sartorial sorcerers.

My Magical Outfits

Scarves Outfits Older Woman

Here are my three magic scarves:

Waist Sash
Scarves Outfits Older Woman

Shawl Wrap
Scarves Outfits Older Woman

Neck Twist
Scarves Outfits Older Woman

Here is one example of how the same scarf, with the black tank and pants, can transform a casual look into a dressier one:
Scarves Outfits Older Woman

You get the picture – the combinations are (almost) endless. And, as with most magic tricks, the secret is quite simple. By mixing the same basic clothing pieces with a different scarf style, you can go from day-to-evening and back again with the flick of a wrist.

Although the basic outfits may seem similar, very often where you are today is not where you were yesterday, which is also the argument for just bringing three outfits on your trip and rotating them every day, but that’s no fun!

So, go ahead: before your next trip, put all those extra sweaters, dresses, and pantsuits back in your closet. Tuck three little scarves in your suitcase instead. Marvel at all the extra room you have in your suitcase.

Now imagine all the new clothes you can buy because you have space to bring them back home. (I said I was reformed, I didn’t say I was perfect!)

What tricks have you got for extending your wardrobe without expanding your suitcase? Do you have favorite scarves that have seen the world alongside you? Join the conversation!

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