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The Best Convertible Travel Clothing for Women: Pack Less & Do More

best convertible travel clothing

Items that serve multiple purposes are great for travel. Any one thing that saves you from packing two things means more room in your bag. You’ll have less weight to carry around, fewer things to worry about losing, and you might even be able to pack a smaller backpack or suitcase.

This is especially true for clothing since that’s generally what makes up the bulk of your packing list. Convertible travel clothing can be worn in several different ways, which means you can pack one piece instead of two or three…or twenty!

Below are some of the best convertible travel clothing items for women we’ve been able to find- some of which we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing (others we are still working on acquiring). While the benefits of a multi-wear garment are apparent, it’s important to evaluate many factors before deciding to invest in an item before your trip. Things like the fabric and your trip style come into play, as fancy, slow-drying pieces won’t be good for your outdoors hiking adventure.

*Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Convertible Travel Clothing – Wraps, Tops & Dresses

Sometimes advertised as cardigans or dresses or tops, these clothes are so much more than that. These garments are like magical clothes that can be worn in so many different ways: dresses, skirts, shirts, cardigans, scarves. That way you can pack one piece of clothing that you can wear for many different occasions.

Although they come with somewhat high price tags, when you consider how many different outfits you’re getting from just one item, I think you’ll agree that it’s well worth a few extra bucks.

1. The Versalette

convertible travel clothing for women
Tam shows several ways the Versalette can be worn.

The Versalette is a big piece of fabric with hidden drawstrings that allow you to wear it in 30 different ways. It can be a top with varying necklines and sleeve options, a dress in many different styles, a skirt with different lengths, a scarf, or a cardigan. The different styles can transform you from day to night, dressy to casual, all with the same piece of clothing.

Tam does a great job at showcasing all the uses of the Versalette in the image above. I own a Versalette myself, which I bought after reading Tam’s review, but I don’t use it for as many options besides a dress and a top. That said, it’s gone with me from casual to dressy events, consists of a sturdy construction and fabric, and de-wrinkles itself rather quickly.

If you do plan to take this traveling, note the heavier fabric and longer drying time. It works well if you plan to wear it more often than not, especially on travel days so you don’t have to pack it.

>>Check out HPL reader Tam’s review of the Versalette here.

2. The Encircled Chrysalis Cardi, $128 USD

convertible travel clothing for women
Caroline demonstrates the many styles of the Encircled Chrysalis Cardi.

The Chrysalis Cardi, by Encircled, is essentially a circle scarf at its core but with some strategically placed snaps that transform the item into a cardigan, a dress, a skirt, a wrap and more. The different styles allow you to wear the Cardi in both casual and dressy situations, so you’ll have many uses for this one item. Caroline has worn hers to weddings and on airplanes and everything in between. She’s even come up with a few of her own styles.

chrysalis cardi petite

The Chrysalis Cardi comes in various sizes, including both petite and the new maxi (plus-size) version. I own the petite version, and I’m glad that I decided to go this route because it hits me at my knees while the normal size would be super long and make my short legs look even shorter (FYI I’m about 5’3″). I love wearing it as a scarf because, besides looking good, it is easily transformed to a smart looking cardi or wrap should the chill pick up. I loved traveling with it because I never had to worry about not having something smart to wear for nicer events.

The fabric (they are predominantly made of modal) drapes beautifully, but it’s not the fastest drying, or the lightest. This item is best used for travel when it will be worn often, not packed on travel days, and not when spending lots of time in the great outdoors.

>>Read Caroline’s Encircled Chrysalis Cardi review.

3. The Evolve Top, $92 USD

The Evolve Top

Another great item from Encircled, this top can be worn multiple ways to take you from one situation to the next. It can be worn as a tank top on warm days by using hidden snaps. For a little more coverage, the sleeves come down to a few different lengths. The top is also reversible so you can have a draping neckline in either the front or the back depending on which way you wear it.

I have this top and have worn it quite regularly in both casual and dressy events. Worn with the drape in back, some great slacks and heels, it’s something worthy of a cocktail event. Paired with leggings, and it’s ready for yoga.

My one regret is not getting it in a different color as black is not something I enjoy wearing every day. Also, made of the modal that Encircled loves, it takes a bit longer to dry than I would prefer for travel clothing.

>>Check out my review of the Evolve Top.

Encircled also created the Revolve Dress which is worth checking out since it offers a dress, tunic, or top in one garment.

4. Sharmbaa Shawl, $89+ USD

sharmbaa shawl
The Sharmbaa Shawl worn several ways.

This design is a bit on the simpler side compared to items like the Versalette and Chrysalis Cardi, but we like that it seamlessly transforms from a scarf to a cardigan (with sleeves!) without any drama. It comes in a variety of fabrics (cotton, modal, wool knit, etc.) and designs, so there is sure to be one to suit your specific style. Many of the designs seem a bit too fancy for most travel though.

We haven’t gotten our hands on a Sharmbaa shawl yet, but from looks our main concern would be that it doesn’t provide much warmth should it be used as a shawl or cardigan. As a summer fashion piece however, it might work just fine.

>> Learn more about the Sharmbaa shawl on their website.

5. HipKnoties, $49.99+ USD

hipknoties

HipKnoties, like the Chrysalis Cardi, is essentially a tube of great looking fabric (available in 3 sizes) that can be transformed to dresses, tops and wraps. However, instead of using snaps, the method of securing the designs involve clear ties (much like hair ties).

There are both pros and cons of the ties. Since the designs are not reliant on snaps that can’t be moved, there are numerous more options for the HipKnoties- and well-fitting ones at that. On the other hand, ties might be a little less secure, and a little less seamless.

The garment gets a lot of great reviews, but the main caveat would be that the fabric is sometimes too sheer. However, coming in at around half the price of something like the Versalette or Chrysalis Cardi, it might be on your list of convertible clothing to test out.

>> Check out the HipKnoties convertible dress on Amazon.

6. Twelveways Dress, $85

twelveways dress

The twelveways is simple yet offers the same sort of versatility as a tube maxi dress, but with a bit extra thanks to some strings you can pull to shorten it, fully taking this item from dress or skirt to top also.

We can see this article being great for beach vacations when you want to be covered up a bit while still wearing your swimsuit. The material itself seems like it would be quite thin, but again, we can’t really tell without one to test for ourselves.

>> Check out the Twelveways dress on their official site.

7. Kooshoo Journey Shawls, $109 USD

kooshoo journey shawl

The Journey Shawl by Kooshoo is a multi-wear scarf, made of tencel, with strategically placed buttons so that it can be worn as a shawl, a hood, a poncho, a halter top, and a dress. Of course, it’s not something you can wear without other clothes underneath, but it is cool to have the option of changing looks with something that is essentially a scarf.

>> Check out the Kooshoo Journey Shawl on Amazon.

8. Maxi Dress / Skirt

Styling a maxi dress.
Brit+Co shows us how to transform a simple maxi dress into loads of different looks.

If you’re not looking for anything fancy, your standard run-of-the-mill maxi dress or skirt will be a nice multipurpose addition to your travel wardrobe. Shoot for one with a stretchy top so that it will work around the waist and all areas of the torso.

>> Check out this simple yet versatile maxi dress on Amazon.

Convertible Travel Pants

Well known throughout the travel world, those pants that zip off into shorts aren’t always the most attractive article of clothing you’ll come across. But if you find the right pair, ones that fit you like normal pants, they can be a helpful addition to your travel wardrobe especially when adventuring outdoors and to more rugged destinations.

By packing these pants, you’ll have one piece of clothing that can serve as both pants and shorts. Some convertible travel pants have zips or buttons that let you turn the pants into capris, so you’d have three different uses for these pants depending on the weather. Others only change into capris, but the usefulness is still there.

The trick is to make sure the pants are comfortable on you. If they have an awkward fit, you may not end up wearing them at all, and they’ll end up taking up precious space in your bag. Our best advice would be to try before you buy and then to wear them around before you leave. If you can do that, then the pants will make sense packing.

>>Check out some of our favorite travel pants for women.

Versatile Clothing That Doesn’t Convert

Some clothing doesn’t physically change, like the zip-off pants or the Encircled Cardi, but they can be worn in dressy or casual settings depending on what else you wear. By packing clothes like this, you can use the same item for multiple situations.

Look for simple items that are comfortable and don’t automatically scream “gym wear.” With the right cut and style, a pair of comfy black pants you might wear on a long bus ride can be dressed up with a cut top and shoes, and suddenly they look a little less fancy. A solid-colored top can be worn with jeans to go sightseeing or with a skirt and a fun necklace for a night on the town.

Some items you might enjoy reading about:

What’s your favorite convertible travel clothing? Do you have clothes that can be worn in multiple ways? Share so we can add to our list!

best convertible travel clothing

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Rachel M says

    Thanks for this- I’ve heard of some of them, but others are new to me. So excited to see that the Chrysalis Cardi is at least theoretically available in a plus size option – hopefully the fact that it’s sold out while still marked as “New” will convince them to do another production run!

  2. Lady Light Travel says

    I’ve tried several convertible clothing items and have yet to find one that looks good on me. I have a large bust and a small waist. Any strapless style is OUT. I can’t get the convertible dresses to work! Either my bra straps are showing or the soft material clings to my bust, making it look huge.
    I’d love to hear of some pieces for a curvier figure.

    • Little J says

      I am a D/E cup with a significantly smaller waist. Cowl necks are the way to go with a figure like ours! That and not cinching something all the way in to our natural waist, but just pulling it in a little bit.

      I have the Cardi and when I tried to do their wrap dress (not shown in the above review) the belt was absolutely not working for me because it had to be tight to my natural waist. I found a different way around it by stealing the Hipknoties way of creating a waist (bunny ears they call it) and ended up buying Hipknoties bands after a few rubber bands of mine broke … which eventually led me to buying Hipknoties altogether.

      Just a comment to say: I understand you! (and cowl neck all the things!)

  3. Monica says

    I have and love both the Chrysalis Cardigan and the Evolve top. I do wish I had sized down for the evolve top, but I still love it – it’s just a looser fit.

    • Jen says

      Monica, I totally agree. I bought a large Evolve top, but could definitely get away with the medium. That being said, the larger size is super comfy while still looking dressy if I want.

  4. Little J says

    I own an American Apparel circle scarf, a few maxi skirts, Versalette, Cardi, and Hipknoties. I’ve found that combining items from these three clothing systems makes my life even better. See @ http://ift.tt/296VvlF

    That said, the tube-of-fabric concept is great and I think that Hipknoties bands ($8 for 10) are absolutely an essential tool in turning any tube of fabric into something draped and great. For a cheaper tube of fabric option, the local clothing store (especially with sales and coupons) can get you 2 yards of jersey/knit/stretchy which dries as quickly as you wish and is as sheer as you wish. If you cannot sew a straight seam to tube the fabric, a local tailor sure can for less than $10.

    Most of my travel wardrobe now is tubes-of-fabric, undergarments, and a pair of faux-leather leggings. Everything else can be constructed on the spot depending on what I need.

  5. Svenja says

    Really love the idea of all these items, even though they just are not exactly made for fashion-challenged me. Have always been a jeans & t-shirt kind of girl, still am, won’t change in the foreseeable future, but I always enjoy reading articles like this.

    My favorite multi-purpose item right now has to be my string bikini top, which doubled as my everyday bra for almost all of our recent 4-week road trip. Comfortable, quick-drying, just the right support & cover for me.

  6. Kate Joyce says

    Do Macabi Skirts count? I love mine, and along with some wool baselayers and a few linen and cotton tops, that’s most of my wardrobe, at home or on the road. I wear them as pants and shorts, mostly, in the summer; as a skirt in winter with wool leggings. Love the pockets and the easy wash and quick dry.

    • Keri says

      Also really interested in a review on Kameleon Rose!
      I have the encircled cardi (love it), the encircled evolve top (love it, but wish I had gotten a better color), and the hipknoties (didn’t feel secure and couldn’t figure out how to get it to look ok on me….a bummer), but always looking for more versatile clothing!

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