|Perhaps not Sartorialist bait, but I stayed nice and dry during downpours in the gardens at Versailles.|
For many people, style takes a definite backseat to comfort and practicality when compiling a travel wardrobe. While une femme will admit that traveling light and comfortably requires some stylistic concessions, there's no need to look like one is hiking the Andes while strolling along rue Faubourg St. Honoré. Sure, a yellow plastic poncho will keep you dry, but we can do better.
Anonymous in comments last week asked me to weigh in on this Cape Collar Coat from J.Peterman, specifically whether it would be good for travel. While the design is certainly a very romantic one, and I love how the collar converts to a cape, it's tough to say without having seen it up close and handled the fabric and felt the weight. If it doesn't pack small, will you be willing to carry on planes, trains and busses? Is it waterproof or at least water resistant? A dark color is smart, but if some drunken rugby player decides to spill the better part of his pint on you (best-case scenario), can it be rinsed out in a hotel sink?
When considering outerwear for travel, there are a few ways to go. (I'm going to leave out travel to destinations with extreme winter conditions, and focus on more moderate climates where rain and wind will be the primary form of inclement weather.)
Trench coat: Probably one of the most beloved and time-tested options, a classic trench can be practical, stylish, and invoke an air of mystery all at once. Think Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. For the greatest versatility, look for one with a zip-out lining in case the weather takes a turn from the expected. But carry a folding umbrella too, in case of extended periods outside during a downpour. Many trenches are water resistant but not waterproof.
For destinations where heavy rainfall is a real possibility but where one wants to maintain a modicum of style, a Mycra Pac Short Donatella Fashion Travel Raincoat is a great option. More chic than a poncho, lighter than a standard trench, these are reversible, and have a pleated collar that also functions as a substantial hood. The day we visited Versailles (picture at top), the skies opened up and dumped buckets on us as we walked around the gardens, and I stayed quite dry even when not underneath our single umbrella. These raincoats are lightweight and fold down into a small pouch. They aren't super warm, and so are ideal for more temperate climates, or you can layer over a sweater on chilly days.
this one. It provides enough water resistance for moderate precipitation, is warm and looks sleek. It can dress up for evening, or look appropriate with jeans and loafers.
Do you have a favorite piece of outerwear for travel? Anything you've learned to avoid?