Now, before I begin I must state that I am not nor have I ever been some sort of fashionista. I am instead an increasingly practical shopper, who buys clothes using three main criteria (and yes, in order of importance): comfort, price, look. That is not to say that you will see me sporting a pair of Crocs to an evening occasion or donning one of my Granny’s very well knitted (if oddly coloured) cardigans, just because it’s cold out. But, as the years pass by I increasingly go for practicality over uber edgy fashion.
When it comes to backpacking, there is a temptation (for me at least) to simply put in every practical cargo coloured, elasticated waisted and baggy item possible. However, I must still remind myself that I am only 27 and looking nice on an odd evening or occasion will make me feel more like a human being when spending months of living out of a backpack.
With that in mind, here’s my practical guide to buying affordable (or dare I say it, cheap), hassle free, comfortable… Oh, and of course great-looking dresses to stuff straight into your backpack.
Avoid materials that crease and crinkle.
I mean this seriously. Do the test in the shop before you purchase. Take a good chunk of material, scrunch it up in your hand for at least 5-10 seconds and release. If there is any sign of serious and noticeable crinkle, give an apologetic smile to the shop assistant who will probably have to get the steamer out and walk away from the crinkly dress. Instead opt for dresses that have an element of elastin in them. It’ll possibly make it a little more figure hugging (although this varies from item to item) but will ensure that once on, the item looks crease free every time.
This figure hugging grey number (£6) from Primark (I know, I said they might be cheap), is a great midi length, has a lovely v shaped back and a small split up the back. It would be perfectly possible to wear this for an evening with sandals or even in the day time with white trainer pumps and perhaps a loose-fitting shirt over the top.
Go for variety in both colour and print
Now we all love a little black dress, but on your travels it’s possible you’ll be going on a variety of ‘types’ of night out. By having varying prints and colours it’ll give you options. It’s also worth noting that not many countries do ‘big night’s out’ like we do here in the UK – particularly in terms of how women might dress up. So be prepared for some slightly more casual and place-appropriate outfits. It’s also worth noting that pattern is a great way to draw the eye away from any possible pesky creases! And, let’s be honest, it’s cheerful to have prints and colour!
This cold shoulder striped dress (£14) from New Look is a perfect option and one I’ll be packing. Despite it looking quite short in the image, the dress is cut so it does not hug the bum or hips and is actually of a good length.
Note: the link is to a very similar dress but not the identical one pictured here that I found in store.
Be prepared for heat
Whilst the thought of wearing a beautifully lined or partially corseted number seems appealing here in the UK, when you are in the heat of the likes of Australia or the humidity of Asia you may regret packing a dress that resembles a wedding outfit or ball gown. Instead find a colourful but sophisticated pattern and get a lovely baggy, smock style dress. Think spaghetti straps for glamour and pure baggy smock joy for the rest of it. Yes, you might worry that it ‘makes you look bigger than you actually are’ but in truth, most people are intelligent enough to know that it is the material that is plentiful and not necessarily a true reflection of what would be a very square body shape. Besides, you will care very little when you have the joy of the cool breeze, whilst others overheat.
This black floral Primark dress is a perfect combination of smock comfort and a bit of evening glamour. It is quite short though – at least on me and I’m 5ft 7. If you’re shorter, it’d be perfect. If not and you’re not feeling brave, you could consider a pair of little shorts underneath. I noticed that New Look also have a very similar red version of this dress.
Note: Sadly, this dress doesn’t seem to be online either but I believe it is still in store.
P.S. the two pairs of sandals featured are from Marks & Spencer’s. I’m a big fan of their shoes. All the comfort.