Travel Clothing: A Symphony of Horrors in Nylon

Posted on
Jun 23, 2015
Posted in: Rants and Raves

When I’m not complaining about things that I have voluntarily brought upon myself, or tormenting my husband, I’m a travel writer. Since my beloved refuses to check luggage, a large portion of my time on the road is spent washing my underwear in the hotel sink and sniffing my shirts to see if they can be worn “just one more time.” (Because, as my friend Ruth would say, “I’m a goddamn lady.”)

And I have to travel with a guy who is effortlessly fashionable, while I look like I’m in the middle of doing laundry.

Despite that, I can’t bring myself to buy clothing that’s actually intended for travel. I’ve tried, time and again, because it seems to work for travel expert and human turnip Rick Steves. He traipses across the globe – from beaches to mountains to formal events – looking like he’s about to do yard work. There’s brilliance in the paradox he creates: by being appropriately dressed for nothing, he is ready for anything.

His approach is brilliant, as long as you don’t mind looking like a sartorially-challenged substitute math teacher. I’m sure Steves has attained some sort of REI-sponsored inner peace which eludes me because I refuse to wear pleated khakis.

But I still diligently search the e-commerce bowels of the web, hoping to find something both travel worthy and cute. It’s a hopeless endeavor, fraught with with chinos. Today’s rant was fueled by the brands, trends, and articles of travel clothing that I came across in my most recent foray into polyester hell. This is why I still don’t own travel clothing. And probably never will.


Travel Brand Names That Were Thought of While High

I have tried to figure out how one of the most prominent travel clothing brands got its awful moniker, and this is the only thing I could imagine:

“We need a brand name that’s awkward for everyone involved, and one that also lets young people know how out of touch we are.”

logo_vertical black

I guess the peyote wore off, because they’ve now changed their name to Toad & Co. Which is sort of a lateral move.

Their naming convention for clothing isn’t much better:

“We have a serious problem.”


“It’s one of our sweaters … it’s … it’s kind of cute.”


“Is there anything we can do?”

“There’s one thing that just might work.”




Screenprinted Crimes Against Fashion

I’m 34 years old. Do you know what I want?


I want all my goddamn clothing to have giant shells screenprinted on it.


The Cinched Burlap Sack Dress

Apparently everyone who designs travel dresses went to the same school of design, if by “school of design” you mean “dumpster where they got really really high and subsequently thought that tying a matching belt around a cloth bag constitutes a dress.”


Conveniently doubles as a hospital gown.



I love how murderous this model looks. Like, she can’t believe she’s fallen so low.


Next stop: Rock bottom. And after that, the Newport News clothing catalog.

And this one is just incredulous:


“This … this is a joke, right?”

Still, I think the folks at Ex-Officio take the cake, because they managed to design a dress that looks like you’re a bridesmaid at a mass cult wedding.



And then, because that apparently wasn’t enough, they took a page from Horny Toad’s Guide to Shitty Marketing, and realized they couldn’t call the color above “turquoise” or “aqua.” So they went with this:


Also available in Bile and Pink Eye.


Also Doubles As a Prison Uniform!

I had to screencap the name of this shirt, because I figured there was no way you’d believe me otherwise:


I almost hyperventilated with joy when I saw this. IT IS CALLED THE BONEHEAD SHIRT. It’s like a gift from the gods of consumer idiocy.

I can’t argue with the appeal, though:


Sometimes you really want to cosplay as a FedEx employee. I get that.

Weirdest. Comic-Con. Ever.


Women’s Clothes That Are Inexplicably Infantile

“I’ve completed the design for the dress and-”

“Does it have a bow?”

“Excuse me?”

“Does it have a bow?”

“Well, no, but-”


“Um … so, you want me to …”




Originally Designed for Zack Morris, It Can Now Be Yours!

This is called the “Flashback windbreaker” which only further supports my suspicion that the people working at Columbia Sportswear are fucking with me.


It’s made from 100% polyester, and features an elasticized waist, for those of you who want to want to reenact scenes from Saved By The Bell as you stroll through the Vatican.

TOTAL DIGRESSION: In looking for pictures of Zack Morris (because I graduated college with honors and now this is my life), I found a TUMBLR DEDICATED TO ALL OF HIS SHIRTS.

My obvious reaction:

And then:

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled rant.)


Shirts That Are So Ugly, I Begin To Question My Own Grasp on Reality

This shirt falls into that miraculous section of the color spectrum that makes everyone – regardless of complexion – look like they are suffering from an acute case of jaundice.


To its credit, it is hard to find a top that so effortlessly transitions from the garage to the miniature golf course.


Convertible Pants (A.k.a., The Least Sexy Article of Clothing Ever Created)


An excerpt from my soon-to-be-self-published adult novel, Unzipped Passion:

The Contessa looked back at Sebastian, as he tried to keep up with her pace over the rocks. His skin glistened, stains of sweat leaving Rorschach-like prints on his oversized plaid shirt (“From the Rick Steve’s Nylon Collection,” she’d whispered seductively in his ear when she’d given it to him, along with the pants he now wore). His busy life as a pediatric heart surgeon and three-time Olympic gold medalist skier left him unaccustomed to the heat, and he was soon near fainting. 

“Lie down!” the Contessa demanded, when she saw him starting to swoon. He dutifully obeyed her. Men always did.

With a firm hand pressed against his sculpted chest, she deftly zipped off one of his pant legs, then the other. Sebastian opened his mouth to protest, but when he felt the rush of air on his toned legs, he could only moan in pleasure.



“How did you …?” he started to whisper, but could barely finish.

“Convertible pants,” she said, gently mopping the sweat from his brow with a detached pant leg.

Sebastian let out a deep and throaty laugh. 

“Are you always so full of surprises?” he asked, staring at her with his deep green-gray eyes.

She smiled and knelt closer, her lips barely brushing his ear as she whispered into it.

“REI was having a sale,” she said.

Inside his Keens, Sebastian felt his toes curl.


Shorts That I Assume are From The Bob Hope Collection

Amazon says that there are only 13 of these left in stock:


Which means you’d better hurry, or you’ll have to borrow your grandfather’s pair.

And for those of you who want something a little more conservative, for the office:



Night of the Living Skort

I thought this trend died in middle school, but someone decided to resurrect it from the bowels of hell.


Which is fortunate for those members of the population who want the constriction of wearing both shorts and a skirt, while simultaneously leaving the locals wondering if you just flashed them.


Pants With a Rise That Is So High, It Threatens the Fabric of Spacetime

For people who don’t want to have sex on vacation. Or ever again. Because just undoing the zipper will take an ETERNITY.


Made of 100% nylon, because who cares what your genitals smell like!


Clothing That is Inexplicably Bright and Fuzzy

Somehow, someone got the impression that people who travel want to do so while clad in a neon pelts, similar to what our nomadic ancestors wore when they went to raves.


Warning: If you buy this, be prepared to have red paint thrown on you. People don’t take kindly to those wearing Muppet fur.


(Heavy sigh.)

If you need me, I’ll be washing my underwear in the sink.


Leave a Comment

  • Running Meg

    Wait. You don’t check baggage? And yet somehow Rand always looks so dapper? Witchcraft, I say!

    • Everywhereist

      It’s horrible, Meg. Just awful.

  • Please tell me you’ll be starting your own clothing line for women. Even if Mr. Fashionable is the ghost designer, anything is better than our current possibilities as female travelers.

  • Emily Love

    yes! thank you. the convertible pants kill me. I did however see this recently, they don’t look too bad..

  • I’m also in the ‘underwear-in-the-sink’ camp because of these monstrosities.

    That said, I have to give… props?… to the creative color ideas.

  • Christina C

    God, travel clothes are the all-time worst!! That being said, I did invest in convertible pants for a week long hiking trip. Didn’t wear the damn things once. Can we just wear yoga pants and flip flops instead. I mean, if you are going to give up, may as well do it in something comfortable that makes your butt look good.

  • Andi Plummer

    The convertible pants also fit in the Dad fashion line (my dad being one of the investors). And did you notice on the Bonehead shirt it lists “Dry cleanable”. Is that a thing? It has the ability to be dry cleaned? Is this a special feature? I don’t understand.

  • CatAJ

    I live near a Mayan ruin in Central America that is a popular cruise-shipper day trip destination. So every Thursday I get treated to a tourist fashion show. People seem to fall into 2 camps. There is the prepared-for-anything, with their convertible pants, khaki hats and vests with a million pockets (what do they put in there??). Then we have the it’s-to-hot-for-clothes ladies who mostly wear spandex volleyball shorts and a strappy camisole with their neon nikes. Sometimes I want to drive by and shout Just wear normal clothes!

  • Standby Sojourners

    I almost hyperventilated trying to stifle my laughter in the office. This may be the most honest piece of travel writing I’ve ever read. Now on to that Zak Morris tumblr….

  • God it’s like you climbed into my brain and pulled out all that has been boggling me lately. I’ve been searching for fashionable, functional travel clothes for weeks and it’s unbelievable how effing ugly they all are. Why is so hard to make a t-shirt in a performance fabric that isn’t hideous? Anyone know of ANY brands that have achieved this apparently impossible feat?

  • You missed an entire section of the Chico’s catalog! A full line of polyester travel clothes! You are a bit too young to have noticed them yet, I think!

  • I confess that I have convertible pants. I also have a husband who works at REI, which is why I ended up being a person who owns convertible pants. And, I want to hate them, but they really are so damn convenient.

    Also, I found an “activewear” shirt yesterday that I actually think will pass as non-workout wear in public. It was on sale at REI. Although, I understand if you don’t want to take fashion advice from someone who owns convertible pants.

    Anyway, here’s the shirt if you’re interested:

  • Deborah C Malone

    I have to completely honest here, I didn’t even realise there was such a thing as travel clothing. I usually just throw a few bits of my regular clothes into a bag and head off. Why can’t you just wear normal clothes? I don’t get it, do they need to be special? What am I missing here?
    Mind you, I may have owned a pair of convertible pants when I was 10 or so…

    • Alison Shae Lee

      Backpacking, hikers, breathable clothing for hot conditions, clothing that can keep heat in when temperature drops to cold after a 30 degree day. It’s so hard to find cotton clothing here in Canada too. Tried wearing nylon or blends in Italy? I died.

      • Deborah C Malone

        I’ve honestly never had much of a problem. Maybe I’m lucky where the temperature doesn’t affect me very much.

  • Christine Foltzer

    I love when you rant. I was practically in tears it was so funny.

  • Nicelle Herron

    Remember how our hotel room in Vietnam looked after we did sink laundry? I would recreate that scene and overpack time and again than wear travel made clothes. There has to be some sort of cute and functional clothing options out there. It can’t just be caftans for the rich and stock clothing for the rest of us, can it?

  • Brilliant, just brilliant! I have no idea what happens to people when they plan a trip and they lose all common sense and think they need special “travel” clothes. Even items that could be normal and are made of decent materials are ruined by those god awful swoopy designs (also present on a lot of yoga clothes) “Travel dresses” are the worse– cut at a length flattering to no one, they define frump. If you want to be easily indentified as an American in Italy, I recommend you wear capri style cargo pants– the choice of every American woman standing next to a tour bus (usually topped with an aqua blue top). You missed out though on my favorite travel fashion genre–the travel shoe– no worries I already wrote an entire post on this– Travel Shoe Myths Debunked– as a preview, my favorite fugly look is the shoe/sneaker hybrid– with cutouts.

  • Adina Marguerite

    I share your horror of “travel” clothes! Ways I’ve worked around it; yoga clothes (Lucy & Prana) and climbing clothes (Gramicci). The later brand, Gramicci is basically taking all of my money. They make these cotton hemp blend t-shirts that for real wick moisture and dry out after a sweaty hike! Their tops are basically all I pack now-a-days, even managed to blend some in to my day job wardrobe.

  • Susan Swartz

    I LOVE your writing! I can always rely on you for smiles and laughs in an otherwise glum day.

  • Adelaide

    I believe a post of “travel shoes” may be in order…

  • Okay, so I am the dork who wears travel clothes. Not a lot of them, and not everywhere, but I do. They are perfect for hiking and crazy outdoor activities where the only person who will see you is a deer. Ironically, my suitcase is half full of these and half designer rental clothes (yes, rentals…I won’t be washing clothes in the sink).

  • As a designer of a women’s travel clothing line, I couldn’t help but comment!

    Your article illustrates exactly why I gave up my corporate career to become a fashion designer. Being a frequent traveler and road warrior, I struggled to find travel clothing that I didn’t want to hide in a box under my bed when I returned from a trip. Zip off pants are a personal pet peeve.

    Thankfully the industry is evolving and travel clothing is becoming more chic by the day!

  • I read this while sitting in a coffee bar in Rome, and as I’m sure you know, Rome is super popular with the zip-off pant, quick-dry shirt species of tourist. Right now there’s a group of them sitting right beside me, and they look like they just stepped out of one of those screenshots in your posts. One of them is even wearing hiking boots and has a hiking pole, because clearly the streets of Rome are super physically demanding. Anyway, they’re all starting to look at me really strangely because I’m practically crying with laughter while looking from my laptop to them to my laptop again…

    • Everywhereist

      I really hope you managed to sneak a photo. It’s so fun to see Rick Steves devotees in their unnatural habitat.

  • D:C

    I am crying reading this. So freaking hilarious! I will say, I am a huge fan of Icebreaker brand merino-wool “travel” clothing. Everything they make is created with an active wearer in mind, but there’s none of this tacky shit. Okay, some of the tee-shirts are screen printed. BUT, their skirts, dresses, leggings (aka my travel pants because they ARE pants when you’re not in America, says me) and sweaters are simple and cute!

  • lisa hughes

    One word: Patagonia. Even their skorts rock. I own three pairs. Nuff said.

  • Janine Pangburn

    Yes, yes, yes…I giggled and have thought all these things and more roaming about in every time I have to purchase new road wardrobe—they are all a crime against intelligent design. You’ve noted the torture of them all~~ And that’s why I’m sticking with my yoga capris and never ever gonna dry til September jeans…

  • Literally wiping tears of laughter. The excerpt from Unzipped Passion pushed me over the edge. Let me know when it’s available on Kindle.

  • Carla Rountree

    This just might be the best travel article I’ve ever read. Also, I am now indebted to you for introducing me to the term “human turnip”, which I plan on using in the future. A LOT.

  • Andrine

    Too funny – loved the illustrations. Thanks!!!

  • BWHAHAHAHAHAH. Thank you thank you thank you. Just for everything.

    I happen to love Athleta skorts. Keeps the inner thigh chafage at bay. And Betabrand makes some nifty “travel” clothes. FYI.

    Rick Steve’s Nylon Collection….whoooosh.

  • Lucy Smith

    I’m dying (figuratively of course). This is too much and the laughing won’t stop. It’s so true, why are there so many people travelling out there who insist this awful uniform has to be a thing! It needs to end. As usual another freaking hilarious post. Keep em’ coming!


    OMFG this was so funny. Thank youuuu!

  • How did I miss this post?! This is all so true!

  • Oh boy, I just stumbled across this and I loved it! Continuing on the theme of terribly named travel clothing, I just had to share: Prana’s “Meme Pants” with you. Yeah. They’re a thing. (

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