The Key Fashion Pieces Every Fabulous Traveller Needs

Preparing to go travelling is hard enough, what with the route planning, the travel insurance headache, getting your jabs, convincing your mum you’re not going to die, and setting up the travel blog that will make all of your friends green with envy. And that’s without the worry of how you’re going to look fabulous with a capsule wardrobe that fits into a 60L backpack.

Well I’m not going to lie to you kids, it ain’t easy.

I mean, I get bored of my wardrobe on a daily basis, and that’s with more options than I care to admit at my disposal. When you are rotating the same 5 tops throughout a matter of months (or years if you’re lucky), it gets pretty difficult. Especially if you haven’t injected a bit of personality into those selections!

It seems quite common for backpackers to ‘play it safe’ with a basic wardrobe when travelling. But I always think you need a few fashionable items in there, some things to make you feel good and express yourself.

Although when you’re lusting over those amazing Instagram photos of beautiful models on pristine beaches in layered free-flowing dresses… Try not to get too attached. It’s highly unlikely your travelling photos are going to look like that. Because those dresses aren’t making the cut. They do not roll up small and let’s face it, you’re not going to be walking down Khao San Road in that bad boy. See, I told you putting together your travelling wardrobe was difficult.

So I’ve come up with a list of the key fashion pieces you should definitely be taking on your trip. I haven’t been ridiculous here, these are practical items too. And they will all fit the limited space in your backpack, I promise.

Ok, let’s do this.


Ok, well you probably saw this one coming what with this blog being called ‘Heels In My Backpack’ and all. I’m a big advocate of taking heels with you on a big trip. Don’t worry, I’m not talking 6-inch stilettos, or ridiculous wedges that take up far too much space. Think comfortable little 3-inch heeled sandals that will dress up the most basic of backpacker garb. Make sure they’re durable fellas that can withstand a lot of throwing in and out of a backpack too. I guarantee they’ll make you feel better when you’re bar-hopping in LA, New York, Sydney, Singapore or Barcelona!

I’m currently lusting over these gorgeous velvet numbers from Monki. They’re a little on the bulky side but would last a lot of wear, go with everything and the platform makes them comfortable! If anyone wants to buy me these, that would be great.

Monki Lia Velvet Heels £50
Monki Lia Velvet Heels £50

Flip Flops

Ok, these are pretty obvious. But they are essential on the backpacker packing list. You will literally live in these so make sure they’re a good quality. Primark basics that snap at the toe strap 5 days in aren’t going to cut it. Havaianas and Gandy’s are good choices but make sure you pick a colour that goes with the rest of your wardrobe.

I’m completely in love with the Pin-up Girl style from Gandys. So cute!

Gandys Pin-up Girl Flip Flops £20
Gandys Pin-up Girl Flip Flops £20

Statement Necklace

This is one of my secret weapons in the fight against travelling blandness. Sure you will wear that Navy T-shirt to death, all day erryday, but add a fabulous statement necklace and you are ready for a night out. Things like this take up so little room in your bag but can give your basics an injection of personality and transform something casual from day to night.

I think this Lobster necklace from Tatty Devine definitely makes a statement!

Tatty Devine Lobster Necklace £40
Tatty Devine Lobster Necklace £40

Cotton Swing Dress

This was a discovery I made in Southeast Asia. I had packed several dresses for my trip but one stood out among the rest as a real winner. A cotton swing dress I bought from H&M.

The cotton fabric is so breathable in hot climates and the swing shape is just so easy to wear. It doesn’t cling to you, the straps don’t hurt sunburnt shoulders and it rolls up so damn small. Like super small. I’m telling you they’re a backpacker’s dream. Especially in lovely ethnic prints like mine.

I am forever on the hunt for more of these bad boys so hit me up if you scout any out.

H&M Cotton Swing Dress in Luang Prabang
H&M Cotton Swing Dress in Luang Prabang

One Piece Swimsuit

I’ve blogged before about the importance of a one piece swimming costume. Sometimes the places you’re visiting may be a bit more reserved with cultural differences that mean it’s not really ok to wear a two-piece bikini. A lesson I learned at a water park in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam…

You probably won’t wear this one as often as your bikinis, so you won’t tire of bold designs. So mix it up a bit and get a fabulous one. I like this Kiwi-printed number from Motel!

Motel Kiwi Swimsuit £39
Motel Kiwi Swimsuit £39


Bikinis with Different Straps

Bikinis are totally essential on a backpacking trip, you will wear one more than you don’t. But choosing which ones to take is a big decision. You may have chosen 3 or 4 lovely bikinis off of ASOS that are perfect for your trip. But if they’re all triangle shaped, you’ve got a problem. And that problem is tan lines.

Try to choose different styles to change them up and avoid the dreaded tan lines – bandeau, halterneck, triangle, cupped, etc. This is totally a first world problem I know, but just something to think about I guess. See full post on bikini selection here. I’m particularly fond of this printed gem from Topshop…

Topshop Bamboo Print Bikini Set £30
Topshop Bamboo Print Bikini Set £30

1 Really Nice Outfit

With the above tools you can sufficiently jazz up a casual basic outfit into something lovely for the evenings. For example, adding a statement necklace and heels to a plain black jersey maxi-dress gives you a very chic outfit for a night out.

However, every now and then you will need a legit night-time ensemble. Most of us add in Western countries to our route, such as USA or Australia. What are you going to wear on a night out in Vegas or Sydney? I like to pack a ‘nice’ dress, just in case. It doesn’t need to be mega-dressy, just something that will suffice if you meet the man of your dreams and he wants to take you out to the fanciest restaurant in town… (You can dream, right?)

An LBD from ASOS - Just in case...
An LBD from ASOS – Just in case… (Yes that’s a straw in my wine glass.)

Printed Trousers

My weakness in fashion is printed trousers. I don’t care if they’re on-trend or not, I just adore them. Their ability to make a fashion statement out of a black vest top and flip-flops is ridiculous and I just think all travellers should have some in their arsenal. You can of course buy some out there if you’re heading to Asia or South America, but Zara, New Look and H&M do gorgeous prints on thin fabrics so they make you look awesome and still roll up small.

'Palace Pants' bought in Bangkok!
‘Palace Pants’ bought in Bangkok!


Another totally vital item on your packing list of chicness is a headscarf or two. I wrote a post a little while back about the disappointment of unrealistic hair expectations on your trip, and how your hair will be up in a bun most days. It’s too hot dude. So a headscarf spices up your look a bit. It also holds back uncooperative fringes and generally stops hair sticking to your sun cream-covered face.

Headscarf in Singapore
Headscarf in Singapore

Cross-body Bag

You may have a daypack ready to act as your carry-on bag and your going-on-adventures bag, but you need a handbag as well to see you through exploring cities and wandering round markets. Basically your everyday bag.

You should make this a cross-body bag to avoid your bag being snatched as it is common in a lot of backpacking destinations. You should also make it gorgeous as you are likely to use it everyday.

Although, this is quite an easy one to update on your travels, should you find a gem in a Moroccan medina or a Thai night market, so don’t invest too much money in it. This ASOS vintage leather one is a treat!

ASOS Vintage Leather Cross-Body Bag £28
ASOS Vintage Leather Cross-Body Bag £28

Hoodie or Sweat

Even if you are exclusively visiting hot and humid destinations, you still need to bring some form of hoodie or sweatshirt. The hotter the country, the colder the aircon so it’s totally essential. And you need to be prepared for nonseasonal weather changes in places like London or San Francisco!

I love this NASA sweat from Topshop…

Tee & Cake NASA Sweat £32
Tee & Cake NASA Sweat £32


There you have it. Everything you need in the good fight against boring travelling clothes. Now what are you waiting for? Get shopping!

What do you think of my fabulous picks? Anything you would add to the list of fabulous items you need on your travels? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!

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