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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 outdoor hiking adventure.
Convertible Travel Clothing – Wraps, Tops & Dresses
Sometimes advertised as cardigans or dresses or tops, these clothing items are so much more than that – they’re 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 Encircled Chrysalis Cardi, $168 USD
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.
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 into 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.
2. The Evolve Top, $128 USD
Another great item from Encircled, the Evolve 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, 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.
Encircled also created the Revolve Dress which is worth checking out since it offers a dress, tunic, or top in one garment.
3. Helene Clarkson Nadi Wrap, $58.81 USD
The Nadi Wrap is a rectangular piece of fabric with rows of buttons along the sides. It can be worn as a scarf, poncho, skirt, top, and more. The material is great for travel because it resists wrinkles and dries fast.
It is a simple garment but can look quite dressy and takes up very little space to pack. Helene Clarkson also makes a variety of other high-quality, versatile items for the urban traveler, including many that are reversible.
- Read how to use these first 3 items plus a pair of Helene Clarkson reversible pants to make 8 unique travel outfits.
4. Vacay 2-Piece Dresses, $156+ USD
A different take on convertible clothing, Vacay makes an assortment of two-piece “dresses” and jumpsuits. Each is a top and a skirt (or pants for jumpsuits) that when worn together look like one garment, but can also be worn separately.
Many of the tops are also front-to-back reversible and some skirts work as strapless dresses, providing even more outfit options. Best of all, there are no buttons or snaps to fiddle with so you won’t struggle to create any of the styles.
Some come in fun patterns, while the Versatiles collection is solid colors. They are designed for travel with wrinkle-resistant fabric.
5. Birch & Grace Short Top, $36 USD
Coming in at a lower price-point, the Short Top can be worn at least 18 ways including as a jacket, shrug, cape, vest, and multiple tops. This design is a bit on the simpler side compared to an item like the Chrysalis Cardi, but we like that it seamlessly transforms between styles without any drama.
Keep in mind that it is lightweight, so it won’t provide much warmth. Each one is handmade by women in Indonesia following the principles of Fair Trade. One size fits XS to 3XL.
6. Kameleon Rose The Ultimate Travel Dress, $83.98 USD
This is a tube dress with buttons along the bottom that allow it to be worn 20 ways, including several different dresses, tops, skirts, and even harem pants. The fabric is lightweight, crease-free, and quick-drying, plus there is a hidden zip pocket!
7. Diane Kroe Origami Travel Dress, $109.99 USD
An asymmetrically-cut dress with batwing sleeves, it has a hidden snap detail and can be styled into various dresses, skirts, and tops. There are multiple colors and fabrics to choose from, including a travel jersey that is environmentally friendly, fast drying, and breathable.
If this style doesn’t work for you, Diane Kroe has many other versatile and travel-ready tops, pants, and dresses to choose from. All of their products are available in sizes up to 20.
8. Maxi Dress / Skirt
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.
- Looking for a shorter style? Try the ExOfficio Wanderlux Convertible Skirt on Amazon, which has a hidden zip pocket.
Convertible Travel Pants
1. Zip-off 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.
2. Kameleon Rose The Ultimate Travel Pants, $90.35 USD
An alternative to standard zip-off convertible pants, these don’t turn into shorts but can be worn 10 ways thanks to a hidden zipper and elastic ties. Besides pants, they can be styled as a strapless jumpsuit, long sleeve shirt, halter top, or even used as a bag!
Like The Ultimate Travel Dress, they are made of travel-friendly fabric and have a zip pocket.
Reversible Travel Clothing
Reversible clothing is a new addition to Her Packing List after discovering the Splice Clothing brand and all their amazing reversible items. We’re including reversible clothing in our convertible clothing list because it is technically multi-way clothing that converts looks (but the looks are colors).
Learn more about my experience with Splice Clothing here.
1. Splice Clothing’s Jaisalmer Reversible 4-Way Tunic
The Jaisalmer Reversible 4-Way Tunic from Splice Clothing is one of my new favorites that I am excited to travel with after the pandemic. But it is an item I am currently wearing regularly in my normal life, so win!
Not only does this tunic offer a blue and green version, but you can also switch it back to front for either a v-neck or boat-neck look. It’s a super versatile tunic that I have layered in cool weather and worn alone on warmer days.
2. Splice Clothing’s Dubai Reversible Snap-up Top
Made completely of cooling lyocell, the Dubai Reversible Snap-up Top is a long-sleeve, button-up shirt that goes from gray to black. It’s a lightweight top that feels amazing and works perfectly as a layer in warmer weather!
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 cute top and shoes, and suddenly they look a little fancier.
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!
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!
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!)
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.
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.
Love my Endless by Diane Kroe. Lightweight flirt material – I take it everywhere I go.
Awesome – we’ll have to check that out!
Kathy C. says
I love Diane Kroe’s stuff. And it is made to fit plus size too! Pricey but sooo worth it!
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.
Little J says
Local *FABRIC* store, not clothing store.
That’ll teach me to not proofread my own writing. 😛
I love love love items that can be used for more than one purpose! That is my key to packing light on trips. Great post!
Yes! Do you have any items that you are currently using, Shelby?
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.
Absolutely love your recommendations, travelling these days often means carry on only so these convertible clothing options are great!
I have two Journey Shawls by Kooshoo. Beautiful fabric and fun to wear. I have received many compliments
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.
Can you guys review these brands??
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!