We went to the beautiful New Forest for our family summer holiday a few weeks ago. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to write about it as we’ve been in full summer holiday mode. Later nights, the same early mornings and fuller days with a boisterous 2 and 4 year old to entertain all day, every day.
Our holiday was a little mixed to be perfectly honest. Wonderful to spend time together as a family but the weather wasn’t particularly kind to us – it rained, and it rained and it rained some more. Plus there were some grumbles about our accommodation. Still, as we’re British we’re used to the rain so most days we pulled on our wellies and coats and headed out into the National Park. Everyone enjoyed splashing in puddles, marvelling at wild ponies, horses and donkeys in the road, running around in big open spaces, spotting mushrooms, picking blackberries and of course eating ice-creams from kitsch ice-cream vans parked in damp lay-bys.
Rockford Common, New Forest. Spectacular heathers sprawl across the landscape. A feast for the eyes.
Another afternoon we’d just had enough of the rain so we sat in with popcorn, mugs of hot chocolate for the girls, prosecco for the grown-ups and watched Singing In The Rain (how very appropriate) on TV. It was a surprisingly civilised and relaxing afternoon.
I hadn’t anticipated that the weather would be quite so bad and I think I was fairly optimistic when packing. Fortunately, we had access to a washing machine and tumble dryer and although it was wet it was still warm, so my selection was quite a success in the face of adversity. If you’ve read my blog before you may be aware that I took part in the Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label earlier in the year. This was quite frankly, a game-changer. I have run a much smaller, capsule wardrobe since participating in the challenge, although admittedly it contains many more than 6 items and may need a little pruning in a few weeks’ time. Running a capsule wardrobe makes packing for holiday – well, for me, at least – easy breezy. I’m not sure the same can be said for the smallest members of the house – how do they amass so.much.stuff!
Now, if you’re anything like me, I am the household packer. I pack for everyone. I’ve really got the art of packing down to an art form. Good job too because when you pack your car for a self catering holiday with small children, you end up taking a lot of stuff you never knew that you needed on holiday before you had children (emergency potty, scooters, bikes, favourite foods, favourite character plasters, Calpol, thermometers, several device chargers, toys, books and wine. Lots and lots of lovely wine. Maybe a bottle each of Aperol and gin for good measure). This holiday was no exception. Even with a carefully selected small pile of clothes (see below) the boot and footwells were still fit to bursting.
My Capsule Holiday Wardrobe
All you need for a week away. Note the optimistic sun hat!
So, how did I “build” my holiday capsule and how much did I take. Also, did it work, I hear you ask. Because frankly, I couldn’t have done this a couple of years ago. I would have had at least 2 outfits for each day, with shoes to match and emergency things for those “just in case” moments.
Firstly, my improved understanding of the fashion industry and my “must try harder” ethical attitude has made me question my buying habits and “need” for so many clothes. When the warmer weather started to appear at the end of Spring I made a pledge that I would try to avoid buying new summer clothes and that I would try my best to get by with what I had. Fashion Revolution are a brilliant place to start for information and inspiration around ethical fashion. One of their initiatives for Fashion Revolution Week was to encourage fashion lovers to create a haulternative vlog in place of the more traditional haul vlog. They set out 9 ways that you could refresh your existing wardrobe in place of buying new. I haven’t made a haulternative vlog but I remember reading about it in their fanzine earlier in the year and remembered that the nine categories are a great place to start when building a wardrobe with a conscious.
In reality for me (I can’t sew) I fit into the love story and slow categories. The majority of my summer clothes are the best of the things that I’ve bought over the last 5 or 6 years. The things that I love wearing and that have stood the test of time. Clothes that I bought before I was pregnant with The Big One that were boxed up and kept in the loft for all that time; things from last summer and newer clothes that suit all seasons. As for the slow category, I only really buy from ethical companies these days. People Tree are my go to brand. Their clothes wash well and fit well. I bought a couple of new dresses in the People Tree sale at the end of July: a simple organic cotton dress with a cherry print and a handwoven dress. I’ve already worn the cotton cherry dress 5 or 6 times in the space of a month. And that’s another point. If you’re going to buy new, only buy garments that you’ll wear at least 30 times. Livia Firth, eco-fashion activist founded the #30wears campaign, and I think it’s a brilliant way of applying the mental breaks before buying a massive pile of cheap, disposable clothes. I’m already 25% of the way to 30 wears with the cherry dress. It must be love.
Back to the packing. As I now only buy new things that will go into my existing wardrobe I had plenty of garments that worked together in a smaller capsule for holiday packing. I took inspiration from the two new dresses and chose items that would work and complement them. Here is a list of what I chose to takeaway with me. All of these items mix and match and work for variable weather – good job too, eh?
- A pair of washed-out black skinny jeans
- A black pinafore dress
- A pair of black denim shorts
- The cherry dress
- The handwoven dress
- A charcoal cardigan
- A red vest with orange lace detail on the back
- A grey marl t-shirt with rainbow print
- A 3/4 sleeve breton t-shirt
- 7 pairs of knickers, 4 bras, 2 pairs of socks and a pair of tights;
- pyjama bottoms, 2 vests and a sloppy Joe tee for lounging in during the evening or for bed if it was cold.
- a waterproof coat.
- swimsuit and sunhat.
- wellies, trainers and sandals.
Did it work?
Yes, it worked. It worked very well. The jeans, tops and cardigan plus wellies and coat for walking; the dress and trainers for a lovely day out at Kingston Lacy (highly recommended National Trust property in Dorset – easily the best I’ve visited); the Breton and jeans for dinner at a lovely country pub; the comfy cherry dress for travelling in a hot car; the pinafore dress and t-shirts for mooching around farm shops and taking the girls swimming. The only item I didn’t wear while we were away were the shorts because it simply wasn’t warm enough. Sob.
I packed all of our clothes into a large laundry bag made from recycled plastic and this too works well for trips where you are travelling in the car. It’s softer and therefore more flexible than a hard suitcase for packing stuff around it. It’s actually one of my top packing tips for families travelling by car.
So now, if I could just pick a holiday like I can build a capsule wardrobe and pack for a family of 4, maybe order some better weather – we’d all be laughing!