Thursday, October 11, 2007

What to Wear: India

McKay is about to embark of a big adventure and needs shoes that are up to the task:
I really enjoyed your post on what to wear sightseeing in Europe in October. I’d love to get your suggestions for my trip – 3 weeks in India in November! I will have a short stay in Mumbai, but for the most part will be based in Delhi with some overnight trips to Agra and Jaipur thrown in. We’re sightseeing and probably walking quite a lot. Packing light is key. Thoughts? I’d especially appreciate some shoe suggestions – I’m not a huge wearer of sneakers for everyday, but I think I’m going to need something really comfy for all the walking we’ll be doing.

It will be dry, and the averages that time of year for Delhi are: Average High 82° F - Average Low 55° F. My main concern is shoes – I don’t want to spend money on something I won’t wear once I get back, but at the same time, I want to make sure my feet are comfortable. So something that I can wear without socks, but that is still really comfy? I’m really a flip-flop girl all summer long, but I don’t think shoes that open are a good idea in such an unsanitary environment.
As much as I wish it was possible to pack trunks and trunks of beautiful clothes for a trip straight out of "A Passage to India" it sadly isn't. Here's a good basic wardrobe that is grounded in reality but still a little romantic:

Boots - A pair of boots isn't really that easy to pack, but I think they'd be perfect for almost any city trek you have in mind. Stylish worn over or under jeans and good with skirts too. Easy to wash off. This pair is cheap enough so that you can throw them away before returning home if needed. You'll have to wear socks with these, of course.
Sneakers - In my book, you can't really beat puma for shoes that work well in urban situations and for long hikes. They're pricey but tend to last forever. No socks needed.
Ballet Flats - You can wear them with almost anything, even for a fancy night out if needed. Very easy to pack and disposable at $15.
Dress - Because it is nice to have a dress when you travel. I have this dress in green and it is comfortable and impossible to wrinkle.
Jeans - Always a travel must have.
Shirt - This would be the time to wear a bright yellow and orange color palate.
Scarf - Purchased in India.
Earrings & Bracelet - From Cost Plus, although I recommend buying your accessories over there.
Sunglasses - Aviator style.

All you really need on top of this is some more shirts, a fleece jacket and an extra pair of pants. Enjoy your adventure, McKay!


Aviva said...

Old Navy flats are surprisingly durable and comfortable. I have a $20 pair from last year that I adore.

Katie said...

Great suggestions!

I love having skirts and dresses when I comfy and cute in pictures!

Alyson said...

Cute suggestions, but might I add an additional shoe rec? If you are doing a lot of walking, I've found that NOTHING beats Keens. They aren't the absolute cutest shoes, but honestly, if you are walking for hours each day, you really need pain-free feet. I have a pair of mary janes and a pair of thong sandals, both of which I wear without socks. I have worn them throughout europe and have never had foot pain from walking(even when my travel companions do!) Such a vast improvement over the normal tennis shoes I used to wear when travelling!

lsaspacey said...

Yes, I agree Keens would be great, but check out Merrells too. I took a pair of merrels to Ireland a few years ago, they felt wonderful, and there are some really cute styles.

evolvingtastes said...

All the suggestions look pretty, but it will get really hot in those boots anywhere in India. I'd suggest a pair of flip flops or other open toe shoes instead, which she likes anyway. Buying some accessories there is a cool idea. Would love to hear from McKay when she gets back. :)

Renee said...

Definitely avoid the boots and probably the jeans. As an experienced traveller, you will never travel light with something that takes that much space. Also, it will be too hot for boots. As to jeans, I find that if it's above 70F and I'm walking around a lot, jeans become very uncomfortable very quickly. Or at least, don't plan on wearing the jeans during the day. Try out the Keen shoes, or go to a high quality department store (e.g. Nordstroms, Macy) and say you need good walking shoes for a trip. If they can't help you, they can likely point you in the right direction. Not all walking shoes are ugly! :) Or, just buy the Pumas - I never wear running shoes "at home" but I always wear them when travelling because they are so comfortable. And wear ankle socks with the Pumas -- I destroyed a beautiful pair of Reeboks by not wearing socks with them (the smell was so bad, a friend called them "weapons of mass destruction").

Also, if you're just going to be sightseeing and doing touristy stuff, I really recommend downplaying your wardrobe. Wearing obviously nice things all the time will just make you a target of the kids and pickpockets. If you're planning on going anywhere swanky, then specifically save those outfits for those times.

If you're trying to travel *very* lightly, I'd take a black dress, instead of one in color. They hide the dust you'll encounter much easier, and you can easily change the outfit with scarves and jewelry, or a cardigan. I've bought really great, completely unwrinkable, easily dress up-able black dresses for $20-25 at Target, and I always pack them.

Oh, and check the humidity level for where you'll be. If it's high, you'll definitely want to have sleeveless tops and dresses (and at night use a lightweight scarf as a shawl or as a belt-ish sash).

Lana said...

Having been to India December last year, I agree with Renee. During the Mumbai stint of my trip, I wore jeans, shorts, knee-length skirts, tank tops, and light loafers/flip flops. One thing that I brought which worked out well for me was a black shirtdress - I could wear it as a dress or throw it on (unbuttonted) over jeans and a tank if I got chillier at night or use it as a beach cover up (I later went on to Goa). Definitely lose the boots, bring Tums, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses and maybe a hat. And a bag with good zippers and sturdy straps that will fit all your needs for the day (sturdy straps because some pcikpockets will simply cut the straps of your bag and run away with it)

love.boxes said...

I'm so jealous, I've always wanted to go to india.

amy said...

Ditto on losing the boots, and I wouldn't even wear ballet flats. Not comfy at all for lots of walking - you need something with more support, like the suggestions above. Versatility in your wardrobe is key, so avoid all these colored items and go for basics you can mix and match. Accessorize to differentiate the outfits!

There's lots of good travel outfit advice on actual travel boards, such as Fodors. :)

McKay said...

hi all, thanks for all the advice so far. I think between Emily's stylish suggestions and some of the more practical comments, I've gotten some great ideas. Isaspacey, I tried some Merrells on the other day (yay TJMaxx!) and found that they just aren't right for my feet, but I think I might have to "cave" to the Keens. Not really my style, but I've read so much about their comfort and walkability that I think I'm going to have to Zappos myself a pair. (I live in the BOONDOCKS of VT, so a really good department store isn't an option for me right now!)

Keep the ideas COMING. I'm getting a little nervous about what to pack, so all suggestions are great!

Sharmyn said...

Having lived in Delhi for over a year - I agree with everyone about the boots. I would wear them in Europe anyday but not Delhi. I got a good pair of walking sandals that had a tiny bit of a lift to keep me above the street grime. Honestly, I threw my shoes away when I moved back to the States. I knew what I had been walking in and didn't want to take it back home.

Keep in mind that you will be in the land of cheap and beautiful clothing! You must make FABINDIA one of your first stops. You will be amazed at the beautiful things there are to buy. I really like the Fabindia at N-Block Market but there are other locations as well. If you do make it to N-Block Market try Colors - its a fun shop. You can't beat Anohki in Kahn Market. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. And if you are up for the bazaar - Sarojini Nagar is the best! Seriously, wrap skirts for a $1.00? You can also have clothes custom made within 24-hours from some of the vendors there. Remember bargaining is the name of the game.

I wore light skirts, cotton blouses and scarves for warmth and a collapsible straw hat.

Have a great time - and really don't drink the water. But may I recommend fresh lime soda - ask for it in the restaurant. I always liked it sweet but you can get it salty if you like.

Renee said...

I'm all for taking the ballet flats (I love ballet flats) -- as long as they're not used as walking shoes. Unless someone weighs 100lbs (and probably even then), it's just a really bad idea for your feet.

Save the ballet flats for going out at night.

Oh, I don't know if you've ever travelled abroad before, but DEFINITELY don't take a fanny pack or a day pack. (Use a day pack only if you're actually hiking in nature.) There is nothing that screams "I'm a tourist, so please target me for your scam/pickpocketing" more than a fanny pack or day pack. I always just carry a roomy, over the shoulder purse (like I generally do in the US), and I've never had a problem (in over 32 countries).

Since shoe shopping is difficult for you, I recommend trying the Keen's and if they don't work out, buy the most attractive pair of running shoes you can find (and stand). Your feet will definitely thank you.

Renee said...

Oops. I meant that I carry a purse with a long strap that I put on one shoulder and have the strap across my body. It's best to have both hands free -- especially when travelling.

Lisa & Jeremy said...

Having spent a few weeks in Italy this summer, I would recommend Privo brand shoes. I bought some from Nordstrom, Mesa style in white. They were perfect with casual skirts and with any pants and were great for walking. Have fun!

Anne said...

Privo is a subset of the Clarks brand and you can find Clarks at a multitude of online stores, I do warn though, as great as they are for travel and walking, a lot of times they do require breaking in, and I would skip wearing them with no socks, it's harder on your feet and the shoes both. Clarks also makes good supportive walking sandals. I agree about not taking anything you're super fond of and no nice jewelry, I'm about to pack for a trip overseas as well and I'm trying to take muted colors with bright scarves as accents (cheap and easy to pack) and no jewelry that's worth real $$. Ballet flats I would skip unless you're going out at night and want to dress up a little, and I would say the boots will be waaay too warm for where you are (it will be freezing where I am so I am bringing some decent-looking Merrel boots so I can beat the crap out of them).