More than likely, your RV is going to have less storage space than you had in your more traditional home. Assembling a versatile wardrobe to take on the road is part of almost every nomad’s journey.
This was a tough one for me. Before I hit the road I had a huge dresser, a huge walk in closet and a spare closet. All at times overflowing.
I value variety in my wardrobe choices. I love wearing fun things, fun colors, fun textures and playing around with style. And I also love being comfortable – most of my clothing is soft & stretchy. And I love going to conventions and festivals where I can play dress-up with costuming.
So after I met Chris and he proposed I move into his little rolling home on wheels – which was a 45 sq ft teardrop trailer – I had some serious work ahead of me. All the space I would have to myself was a plastic drawer that would be my dresser.
Over the years I’ve learned to thrive with having a wardrobe that fits in a small box, a wardrobe that I could fit in a backpack to now an abundant *4* drawers and half a hanging closet.
All without ever feeling like I was compromising my style.
So here’s some of the things I’ve learned to pass on:
There are several ways in which full time RVing can impact how clothing fits in your life.
Here are a few:
Limited audience – Not that what other people think really matters, but when you live a stationary life you encounter the same people over and over again. You’re more likely to feel self conscious about a small wardrobe. But when you’re on the move, you’re constantly interacting with new people who won’t notice that you’re wearing the same top as earlier in the week. Well, that’s of course pressuming that top isn’t smelly because you’ve overworn it.
- Simple care rules – Because of the limited storage space, sorting your laundry into delicates, whites and colors can be challenging. Carrying an iron and ironing board is not all that practical. Finding a reliable dry cleaner on the go may be more logistics than is worthwhile. Assembling your wardrobe to be easy to care for can make life on the road a lot easier! Most of my wardrobe can be folded up into a drawer.
- Variable climates – Dressing for the weather is a lot more challenging on the road than living in one place. You can have a complete climate zone change by driving a few dozen miles, regardless of the season. From hot arid weather on one side of a mountain range, to blustery cold weather on the other. Clothing that can be easily layered works well, and takes up less space than carrying around multiple bulky sweaters.
- Variety of occasions – While full time RVing can enable pretty much non-stop comfy and casual clothing, there may still be times you need to change it up. Such as attending a wedding, reunion, funeral, business meeting, festival or a date on the town. Keep some room for dressier items.
- Choose your staples wisely – The key to versatility on the road is to consider where that versatility should be. I quickly found that I couldn’t keep both patterned bottoms (skirts, pants & shorts) AND patterned tops. That left too many items in my wardrobe of limited use without the right coordinating pieces. So I standardized – my bottoms are mostly solid colored staples, my tops are more interchangeable where I can play around with variety.
- Consider laundry availability – Keep in mind how accessible doing laundry will be for you on the road. Will you be living away from hook-ups to run your onboard washer & dryer? Will you be dependent on laundromats? Make sure you have enough clothing to get you between laundry days, as well how your daily activities might change on the road (sweaty long hikes, hitching up the toad in the rain, muddy campgrounds and dump tank disasters.)
Downsizing – How to Pick What You Keep
The first challenge of assembling your mobile wardrobe starts with choosing what you keep from your existing dressers and closets and what gets donated, sold or gifted.
If you have the time in advance to prepare, start keeping track of what you actually wear on a routine basis. What are your tried and true stand-bys? Start organizing your dressers and closets by putting your laundry away into a dedicated section, and see what you actually wear most often.
The stuff that you hardly ever touch, the stuff that never makes it into the new dedicated fresh laundry section? That’s the stuff to start purging first.
You can start putting it away into boxes or hard to reach spots, and see if you even miss it. Start learning to live with a limited selection of clothing, and see how well you adapt. When you decide you’re ready, it’s now easy to take that box to your favorite donation center or consignment store.
Of course, if you’re working an office job right now that you won’t be taking on the road, adapt this for sorting your weekend clothes from your work clothes.
When you’re ready to start purging further, our 7-step purge process might be helpful.
Thrift & Consignment Shopping
As you adapt to life on the road, you will probably find that you need to adjust your wardrobe to fit your changing locations and preferences.
I’m not much on shopping myself, I’m more of a purchaser – I know what I want, I go into a store and buy it. But thrift shopping has turned out to be a fun and easy way to keep a varied wardrobe onboard.
Thrift stores are like having an unlimited sized closet with access portals all over the world for just a low per-item storage fee.
Since I love variety in my clothing and can quickly get bored of wearing the same selection after a few months, we routinely stop in thrift stores and swap out our wardrobe.
Some of the benefits of thrifting:
- Affordable clothing – Instead of paying new retail prices, we get gently used items for a fraction of the cost. What was once a $40 top is now just pennies on the dollar.
Little commitment – Since we’re not paying top dollar for our wardrobe, we have little risk in trying out a piece of clothing to see if it works for us. If it doesn’t, it gets donated back. This makes it fun to integrate in colors or styles we might not otherwise.
- More variety – Instead of just choosing from what the retail industry decides is in fashion today, we can find a variety of styles and colors to better suit how we like to dress. As our staples start to wear out, we keep an eye out for these discontinued items to replace our tried and true favorites.
- How does it hold up? – Since thrift clothing has usually been through the wash a few times, we get to see how the fabric is holding up. It’s always a guessing game with brand new garments – sure it might look good today, but what about after that first wash?
- Supporting a good cause – Most thrift stores are run by charities with the clothing donated to them.
Thrifting allows us to maximize our limited storage space for what we forsee our upcoming months including. If we know we’re heading somewhere warm, we can concentrate on shorts, t-shirts, swim suits and sun dresses. If we’ll be attending a festival, or going on a cruise – we pick up fun items.
If we know we’re heading somewhere that we’re expecting chilly wet weather, like say hosting a lighthouse on the Oregon coast, we can hit the thrift stores and stock up on long pants, layerable items and wet-weather jackets. Stuff we don’t normally need onboard.
When we shift our routing, we do a round of purging and donate back what we no longer need.
Importance of Shoes
I have a long held philosophy about the importance of comfortable shoes and how they contribute to my experience of the world.
Uncomfortable shoes can severely limit my time exploring. A walking city exploration cut short because my feet are in pain is annoying. I hate having to take a break to let my feet rest. Or a hike ended too early because I can no longer comfortably traverse the terrain.
Take care of my feet, and I can go on and on exploring without thinking about my feet. I can soak in more of the world, and add to my collection of experiences.
Rub my feet the wrong way, and I’m less able to enjoy what is around me.. and what’s the point in that for the sake of cute shoes?
Versatility in shoes on the road is vitally important if you plan to venture much beyond your RV’s door. But there’s not much space to store a large variety of shoes onboard. Heck, many RVs don’t even pre-think storage space for shoes at all.
As a nomad with limited space, having the one shoe to rule them all is important.
When I had less limited closet space, I could afford to have a variety of shoes more situationally geared and for matching different outfits. And I could also audition multiple pairs at once, and see what I found myself pulling out of the closet on a daily basis.
That’s not the case when living a mobile lifestyle. The limited shoes I carry with me must be even more versatile and perfect than ever before.
Pay a lot of attention to the selection of shoes you bring on board. Versatility is key in style, colors, materials and purpose.
For me, I currently favor a high quality stable feeling sandal, that can look cute with a skirt for meeting up with friends, and keep me out hiking on the trails. And it’s no secret, we’re also fans of minimalist footwear, like the Vibram Five Fingers.
For shoe shopping on the road, we’ve fallen in love with Zappos.com. We can order up a bunch of candidates after reading reviews, have them delivered for free next business day. We try them on, and with the included easy free shipping back, we can send back the ones that didn’t work out.
So there you have it, that’s how I’ve been able to keep a versatile wardrobe on the road for many years – and why you see pictures of us in lots of outfits.
What are your tricks to assembling an ideal mobile wardrobe?