Planning a trip to London and wondering what to pack? These helpful tips will keep you warm, dry, and looking posh!
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Dressing for London as a tourist is difficult - you want to look nice, you might walk 15 miles in a day then head out for a fancy meal, and it could (and likely will) rain, unexpectedly, at any moment.
Lately, we've been spending at least one of our yearly trips in the U.K., including two recent trips spent entirely in London. Dressing for vacation is always hard, but I find it's even harder when it's somewhere I want to fit in and look chic and fashionable...and it's especially challenging when it's one of the coolest cities in the world. For me, my goal is to look presentable no matter where I happen to find myself on a day's travels, and to be wearing the right clothes that are appropriate for the weather and the physical activity - and there's no reason to make sacrifices on either count!
Check out the staples I never leave behind:
By far the most important piece you'll want to bring is the right coat. It shouldn't be too warm, as it really doesn't get too cold, and you'll want to be able to remove it (if and when) the sun comes out. Additionally, unless you're traveling in the height of summer, the coat is the thing most people will see.
Overall, I'd recommend either a Barbour jacket or a trench. Barbour - a classic English brand - has a wide selection, including the traditional waxed jacket which, in fairness some will say, is a bit more English country than London (but well that's me!), to more "casual," lighter jackets and quilted jackets. The waxed jacket, though, is waterproof and can have a removable hood added, which makes it perfect for spending a day touring. The Queen has a well-loved Barbour coat. When she sent it in for refurbishment (which is common with Barbour coats, as they're meant to last a lifetime), the company offered her a new one, which she politely declined, preferring to keep her old one!
The British trench coat is, of course, another staple. Burberry is the quintessential classic, and is now available in a variety of shorter and more colorful versions. A darker, less-of-a-statement trench, such as this, or one from London Fog, which is actually American but has a wide and seasonably varied section of classic, yet more affordable coats, also works well for the younger set.
As far as an "overcoat," remember that it doesn't normally get terribly cold in London. However, I'd likely include one, especially for evenings out, etc., when it's not only chillier, but you'll likely want to look more formal. Unstructured overcoats, such as this one from Topshop, were all the rage this past winter - they were quite similar to the one Robin wears in much of the C.B. Strike series which is, incidentally, phenomenal (and in a soon-to-be-arriving post on great English detective series).
Though the British are notoriously relaxed about being rained on, on the occasions where the drizzly progresses to a downpour, you'll want an umbrella. Additionally, there are occasional wash-out days, in addition to the usual dreariness. I opt for a compact umbrella that I can jam into a pocket before departing in the morning, use for 20 minutes as needed, dry off, and stuff back into said pocket. If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere with infrequent rain, or you fill-up the suitcase with treasures from my all-time 'favourite,' Fortnum & Mason, you could always donate the umbrella to the hotel when you depart, if you select a budget friendly option!
Another option is a much larger umbrella/walking stick. One of our hotels, The Goring (full post), had free hotel umbrellas for guests' use, seen in many of these pictures. If you're inclined toward a larger umbrella, I'd vote for buying it once you get there, rather than hauling it over with you, if you find that, upon your arrival, your hotel doesn't supply them. Most high end ones will, given the inevitable rain and equally inevitably unprepared tourists!
Of course there are "chicer" shoes than boots, but for my money, you can't beat good, solid boots for walking long distances and encountering dirty streets, public transit, random mud, and, of course, the aforementioned rain. I've banged on about them before, but these Blondo boots just can't be beaten - waterproof and comfortable, they look classy and get the job done (and don't get ruined) in a downpour.
When I was doing my research for this blog, I found these amazing Hunter loafers that are, you guessed it - rubber! I've never tried them on (and I certainly wouldn't give them their first try on a big trip to London!), but they could be worth investigating if you're looking for another, very waterproof option!
Depending on the time of year, the U.K.'s damp weather can really be bone chilling. I personally like a bit of a turtleneck for everyday wear, even in spring - many of these pictures are from mid-April, to avoid needing a scarf. Barbour, unsurprisingly has classic options such as this roll collar sweater and cozy crewneck. Similarly, here are a few crewneck, roll collar, and turtleneck sweater selections from a few other vendors!
Dress, loafers, and a long jacket
If you're fortunate enough to encounter some days of lovely British sunshine, enjoy! I'd still bring the umbrella out with you in the morning, if I were you (the picture of me with Sir Winston, the trench coat, and the umbrella was taken the same week as the shot below!). But, for the warm days, I personally like a dress and a light jacket, along with a pair of loafers to protect the feet during all the walking! (My American readers should be reminded that Europeans do not wear beach flip flops unless they are...you guessed it! Also, your feet would get filthy in metro London without proper shoes!). Modcloth has some phenomenal loafers, which would, of course, also be lovely for drearier days, though I'd be careful in the rain. If you're looking for less of an investment, TJ Maxx always has a good selection, though you may have to dig to find your size and the right fit.
If you do want to carry a purse (generally I jam everything into my Barbour's pockets, but a purse is necessary every now and then!), I love a good Longchamp Le Pliage - a classic, even if it's not English! If Kate carries one, it's perfect in my book! If you're looking for a British option, a recent discovery of mine, last time we were in Covent Garden, was The Cambridge Satchel Co., purveyor of all sorts of classically designed traditional handbags.
Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your visit to the U.K.!! I hope you'll check out a few of my other posts on visiting England - my favourite place in the world! xx
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