Knit Jersey Dresses: Travel Wear for Women Over 40 or 50
by Christina Gregoire
Wrinkle-free knit dresses are your chicest friends. You can survive a whole trip with just one or two comfortable jersey dresses. So, pack light and change your look daily with accessories, just like the tour guides do.
I have updated this article. Some of the photos are from 2 years ago, when I first wrote it. Most photos are new.
I know that many women like to wear pants, but I have found that stretch-jersey dresses are better than trousers for travel in Europe and North America. Actually, I think that knit dresses are perfect for life in general. So, even though I have lots of stretchy travel skirts and pants, I always find myself reaching for the quick ease of dresses.
And, why is that?
- Is it because these dresses are comfortable? Yes.
- Is it because jersey knits don’t wrinkle? Yes.
- Is it because I don’t have to match a top to a bottom? Yes.
- Is it because wearing one color from head to toe makes me look thinner? Yes.
- Is it because I get more respect in Paris when I’m wearing a skirt or dress? Yes.
A Perfect Travel Dress:
Here's my criteria for keeping or sending a dress back:
- Can I wear it in Paris?
- Can I wear it on a cruise ship?
And, along with the correct answer to, “Does it make me look fat or old?” I have to answer yes to one of the questions above or I will throw the garment back into the box and drop it off at the post office.
Well, I may not go back to Paris anytime soon, but I want to be prepared...just in case. And, I know I will be on a cruise ship again because that’s what my husband likes to do and it’s his money.
Casual Black Dresses:
Black, of course, is always in style. So, I anchor my travel wardrobe with a few black pieces, but I also like to mix things up with dark brown, dark blue, dark green, dark teal, and grayed-purple dresses. And, that's because too much black near my (older) face makes me look funereal and casts horrible shadows on my complexion. So, if you are over 40 or 50...or egads!...over 60 like me, you may want to experiment with other shades and prints or learn how to tie a flattering scarf near your face.
Dresses With Stretch:
Whether you are updating your everyday wardrobe for driving around in the suburbs or you are packing for your holiday in Italy, you should look for knit dresses without zippers. You know...find dresses that slip on over your head like tee shirts, because these will become your fave things to throw on whether you are in Tulsa or Tuscany.
To find the best assortment, try googling variations of these keywords:
- Stretch Travel Dresses
- Jersey Wrap Dresses
- Casual Knit Dresses
- Long Jersey Dresses or Short Jersey Dresses (Minis can multitask as tunic-tops over leggings when you're cold.)
My Favorite Travel Dress:
I promise not to steer you wrong with the following dress. I bought one of these dresses in 2010 (when the style first came out) in a small…even though I’m a size 12-18 depending on the brand…and I still wear the old version of this dress. Well, I tie a wrap cardigan over it so you don’t notice how tight it is through the stomach. Buy this dress:
- Voyager Knit Seamed Travel Dress: If you can only afford to get one dress this year, this is the one you want.
When I saw that they had this fabulous Voyager dress again, I bought two colors in XL. The XL size is a bit large on me, but I like the floating drapiness of the fabric when the dress is a little too big. So, I now have the Voyager Jersey Dress in black, eggplant, and navy... and I will try to get it in magenta at some point. You’ll wear this dress in summer (of course) and you’ll wear it in winter with a cardigan or a jacket or any layering piece. It comes in petite and plus sizes. The only bad thing about this dress is that it only comes in four colors.
There are other good dresses at Travelsmith, but I generally don't like their prints. They may look good on you, but they look sucky on me. (They must have listened to me. The chevron print on the Marina Maxi Dress isn't bad. I like prints on travel dresses, but I'm fussy about the prints I wear. I wish they'd put a similar print on their reversible dresses.)
Simply Be and Marisota Travel Dresses:
You really need to have several non-wrinkle frocks in your closet...just in case you find a cheap last-minute trip to some cool, beautiful city with lots of art museums. And, if you don't end up going to Florence or London, you can always wear your "travel" dress when you go to work or when you go to Starbucks.
Simply Be and Marisota are sister sites from London. I sometimes get them mixed up because they are both plus-size sites. However they start at US size 8. Is size 8 a plus size now? Their clothing goes up to a US size 28, which I think that would probably be a 3X.
These two fabulous travel dresses are from Marisota. See the red maxi dress and the polka dot dress in the third photo (above):
- Joanna Hope Jersey Maxi Dress: The red maxi dress.
- Joanna Hope Spot Jersey Dress: Same site. Polka dots = spots in UK.
Black Travel Dresses:
Black is tres chic in Paris, and in the cooler months it seems like the fashion rule is that you MUST wear at least one black item or you'll stand out like a clown. However any of the single-colored dresses on this page would be great for day-tripping (with flat shoes or boots) as well as for eating out in the swankiest restaurant in the toniest of towns (just add different accessories and a pair of heels.)
You should always get dresses that multitask unless you're buying something special for a wedding or for meeting the Queen of England. Some of these dresses in brighter prints would be fine for the beach as well as for tourisiting about. They'd also look great in casual restaurants, especially when visiting a warm-weather destination. Polka dots are fine anywhere at any time of year.
Inexpensive Jersey Dresses at Target:
Who shops at Target? Moi? But, of course. You never know what you'll find here. Just try to get something that has enough fabric. Personally, I like dresses that flare a bit. Flared dresses give you room to breathe and room to move... and room to get out of a taxi without flashing your undies. There are several cheap black jersey dresses at Tarjay that might work.
Even if you don't wear these dresses on your next vacay or cruise, some of them are about $10. And, for $10, you can wear them around the house and they will still be a bargain.
Neiman's Last Call:
It's almost always worth the extra effort to see what's available at high-end stores and their sale sites, especially if you luck out and find something on sale in your size. I'm going to try to link you to larger sizes because most of the designer dresses in run small. Just being practical.
- Last Call Jersey Dresses: I would assume that you'd want to go up a size with most of these designers (like DVF and Catherine Maladrino). One exception is Eileen Fisher. Her clothing runs slightly large.
Usually The Rack has good dresses, but I'm not seeing much right now that would be good for travel. I'm seeing better stuff at the regular Nordstrom's online store. If you want plus sizes, go to dresses and hit the link for plus size on the left.
Plain or Printed Dress?
If you get a dress in a plain color, you can wear it with black tights and a Liberty scarf for springtime in London...or you can add a gauzy wrap cardigan and a chunky necklace to give it a different, funky feel for San Francisco.
On the other hand, dark printed dresses will never show dirt. You can slink around the gritty Paris Metro without a smidge of grime showing on your sleeves. And, you can spill coffee to your heart's content and just blot the stain dry with a napkin.
Jersey Dresses for Packing Light
I love stretchy jersey dresses because you can scrunch them up into a tiny space in your carry-on bag. A single perfect frock will take you through almost every day of your vacation. Well, you should pack two or three dresses...just in case. (I wash my travel dresses in the sink when I'm in Europe or when I'm cruising.)
Mini, Maxi, or Midi?
If you aren't sure what length of dress you want, most Boomer-aged women in Paris (as of 2013, my most recent trip) are wearing their skirts just above the knee. And, those hemlines should be fairly constant for a few more years because Parisiennes buy fewer, but more expensive, clothes than their American sisters.
Midi-length dresses are also good for travel. Over the years, I have discovered that I look best in tea-length dresses that fall around mid-calf or longer (like maxi dresses). You may prefer knee-length hemlines or hemlines that hit just above or just below the knee. However, if you are over 40 or 50 and you don’t know what hemlines look good on you with your current silhouette, it’s time to find out, baby.
Wear what looks good on you. I love long dresses because they balance out my broad shoulders. Hey Babe, you should never be afraid to try something new.
More About Fashion for Baby Boomers (and younger women):
Photo Credits: prshots.com.
- Main Photo: Alex on 2012. Company no longer exists. Bummer. Try Eastex if in the UK.
- Knit Jersey Travel Dress: LaRedoute.com 2012.
- Jersey Travel Dresses for Women Over 40, 50, 60: Travelsmith, Marisota (2). If you're under 40, we'll let you wear this stuff. Just don't look better in it than we do. The red Marisota dress comes in two other cute colors. (Link above.)
- Jersey Dresses for Spring, Summer, Beach: Simply Be. These are for spring & summer 2015. They should be in soon.
- Jersey Travel Dresses for Day or Night: Betty Barclay UK only.
What do you think of this article? Do I rock or do I rock? Or... do I not rock. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page to let me know I'm not all alone... that this is not a diary... that someone is reading this.