How Robes Became My Ultimate Packing Staple

robe cumbersome clothing travel man repeller

My one goal in life is to be the kind of person who boards an international flight with exactly one tiny tote bag in tow. Partly to witness the strangers whose mouths I’d leave agape with wonder as to what kind of mysterious, zero-belongings life I lead, but mostly because I hate luggage. Rolling suitcases recall the childhood trauma of being forced by my parents to use a rolly backpack to prevent textbook-related back injuries and “weekender” bags have been known to slip off my slopey shoulders and knock the airport coffee out of my hands. But despite my aspirations, here I continue to exist: a rolly-bagged and/or coffee-stained commuter who is decidedly not traveling light. Because I must travel with robes.

Now, I’m not referring to post-shower, Big Lebowski-esque, terry cloth robes. I’m talking colorful, often-floor-length, “I just killed my husband and I’m going to finish my martini before I call the cops” robes. And no matter how many of those magical little packing cubes I order on Amazon, a long robe is still going to take up more space than any other article of summertime clothing I own. So if a robe is going into my detestable duffle, it needs to take the place of at least five other items in order for me to validate its entry. Not unlike a trendy nightclub. Checking luggage is never an option.

So allow me to re-introduce you to the hardest working article of clothing in my closet, and then get ready to free up a few hangers of your own. Once you’ve chosen the robe life, there’s no going back.

robe cumbersome clothing travel man repeller

The Airplane Throw

Who among us hasn’t optimistically dressed for the tropical weather at their destination instead of the AC-pumped metal tube that will get them there? But before you pack a sweater you will wear exactly twice then spend the rest of the trip schlepping, reach for your robe. Not only is it primo material for a mid-flight self-swaddle, it can also be bundled into a cushion when your rock-hard headrest isn’t quite cutting it. (Plus, it has way more panache than even the world’s most luxe neck pillow.)

The Textile Souvenir

There’s a corner in my parents’ garage dedicated to boxes of textiles I acquire when traveling. What better way to remember a country than by the very fabric (sorry!) of their culture? But considering I currently lack a use for 50-plus throws, towels, and bedspreads, most of these scores from abroad are collecting both dust and my parents’ resentment. The answer, my fellow textile admirers, is robes. Functional is fun!

The Beach Towel

Actual beach towels: Can only be used at the beach, never seem to dry completely, become ingrained with sand forever, stained with sunscreen and sangria.
Robes as beach towels: Can be used on and off beaches, air dry on the body, fine weaves repel sand, beautiful patterns hide unsightly stains.

The Anti-Flasher

I don’t know if I’m somehow wearing backpacks incorrectly (?) but I cannot wear them with sundresses without the hem of my dress ending up between the backpack and my sweaty back. The only hack I’ve found so far is layering a nice long robe with ample fabric to keep the tuchus tucked away.

robe cumbersome clothing travel man repeller

The Sun Screener

On a recent trip to the flat and brutally hot town of Marfa, Texas, I could feel, nay, smell, my skin burning underneath my SPF 50. Enter (you guessed it!) a robe. It’s a layer of protection for short walks between overpriced coffee shops that also keeps things breezy between the legs, fabric blowing in and out like one of those Air Dancers you see outside of car dealerships.

The Wall Hanging

Your trip is over, but still, there’s more! After traveling one summer during college, I returned to my dorm and promptly decorated the walls with long colorful jackets and silky robes. The 3M hooks and blue masking tape detracted slightly from the intended sophistication, but the robes were excellent conversation starters and easily accessible on hungover Saturday mornings. And folks, when you’re redefining clothing as art, your budget (psychologically) increases. Wall hanging, robe—you can have it all.

Photos provided by Chantal Strasburger

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