Fashion & Beauty

Traveling in Style

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

I am sick, sick, sick of this long, cold winter, with its—

Incessant freezing temperatures,

Blizzard-like conditions,

Winter wind that destroys the skin,

Time lost daily in order to dress and undress,

Layers of clothing, tights, socks, boots to put on, then remove,

Heavy coats—and who has more than two? They are not only heavy, but a big fashion bore,

Hats that make everyone’s hair look like two-day-old “bed hair,”

Destruction of boot and shoe color and shape from the salt and the sopping-wet sidewalks,

Those unpredictable pools of hidden cold slush and water,

And the peril to our bones lurking beneath every heap of black ice on the sidewalk.

That said, we need to get away!  And many of us want nothing more than a long weekend. We asked Karen Weiner Escalera, a veteran globetrotter who has worked in the luxury travel business for more than 30 years, to suggest destinations both sumptuous and warm—resorts no farther than a long weekend’s plane flight from the Northeast. (See Part I of Karen’s luxe list, “Out of the Vortex, into the Sun.”)

Next Friday we’ll feature four Karen-vetted resorts more accessible to Midwesterners, with a fashion focus on resort clothes. But today we’re spotlighting luggage. I hate the ubiquitous black soft bags that all look alike on the luggage carousel. We replace our mattresses, pillows, and towels. But many of us may still be using the luggage we acquired in college or for our honeymoon!

I took my first airplane flight when I was 24 years old, to meet the family of the beau with whom I had a serious relationship. This family lived in the Southwest, with horses and trails. Nothing else needs to be said about that, except that they were terribly athletic. I saved money for the entire summer in order to fly first class, since I knew that the plane would crash and St. Peter would surely welcome the first-class passengers into Heaven differently from those in steerage. It was still a time when dressing for a flight was considered important. I wore a summer white knit suit, gloves, a hat, with matching shoes and handbag. I had also saved for new luggage—all matching, of course. In the early 1970s, Samsonite was considered to be quite wonderful for those of us who were aspirationally middle class. I bought two large, square bags that, understandably, were meant to be checked and a nifty matching carry-on train case. Pictured below was my Samsonite matching luggage—except that mine was camel in color.

samsonite vintage

Now that we’re in the 21st century, I find these aubergine Samsonite Luggage Pixelcube 30 Inch Spinner case and matching carry on bags stunning. I love the shape, the hard surface, and the flexibility of movement.  There are many sizes, but I would chose a carry-on size and a larger, to-be-checked size. It is so nice to see a former friend that has not only aged well but has learned that reinvention is necessary to success.  Great job, Samsonite!

Samsonite pixelcube

I lament, as do so many of you, that airline travel today is often worse than taking the Greyhound bus. But I believe that we can each do our part to raise the fashion bar for air travel, starting with new luggage. Since the airlines charge extra for over-sized and overweight bags, new technology in the design of luggage has made it easier for those of us who fly commercial to have beautiful luggage and not have to mortgage the house just to get our bags checked for the flight! LV zephyr 70 editI do have Louis Vuitton luggage, but it is quite old now. I have two garment bags and one carry-on zip-up soft bag.  This luggage is now 19 years old and I can attest that it has withstood treatment that would have destroyed most armored tanks. I used the LV carry-on bag as my “stork bag” when I was a practicing obstetrician.  It went with me to the hospital for every delivery, carrying reports, clean underwear, a change of clothes, a hair dryer, hair products and toiletries. I recently had to take it back to LV for a new zipper.  How nice is a company that will replace a zipper in a bag bought almost two decades ago? Try getting the zipper replaced on that cardboard-and poly-whatever fabric that covers one of those black bags on the luggage carousel!

I find these new LV designs, like the Zephyr 70 pictured above, for larger checked bags, incredibly luxurious, with sleek lines and the familiar LV initials. I actually don’t like showing someone else’s initials on any accessories, but LV won my heart almost two decades ago. My mother-in-law had this luggage. I thought she had the most exquisite taste.  The Husband told me before I acquired my first piece of LV luggage, “You can’t carry your dresses on planes in a garment bag from Saks anymore. Buy a beautiful garment bag that will last forever.” So he paid for it, and I own it.

globe trotterIf I were buying new luggage—and I just might—Globe-Trotter would be my first choice.  The beauty of the train case,  the matching carry-on, and the three bags designed to be checked  are easy to admire.  I do not travel light, as you may have gathered  from my previous descriptions of travel adventures.  I take everything that I might need—just in case. Everything but an evening gown, unless the travel includes a gala.

Once I accompanied The Husband to China.  I packed my own food and water, as I always do when traveling to countries with less than stellar food and water safety (I had completed a year-long fellowship in the specialty of  infectious-diseases that ruined me for travel forever). I packed two elegant day suits with matching shoes and bag, along with one cocktail dress and more casual clothes, rain gear, winter gear, and a Hermès scarf in its signature orange box, just in case I needed to present someone with a special gift.  This was my first trip to China, and we were there only 36 hours, with time spent before and after in Tokyo. The Husband never checks any bags and hates that I always over-pack. But after this trip he understood that being prepared on a trip sometimes makes a big difference. His company was in serious negotiations to complete a big deal with an important Chinese government–supported business.

I was given a Mercedes with a driver/guide/spy for my day in Beijing. In the short period of time I was there as the wife of the CEO,  I had the “Big Three” tour during a nasty, cold day filled with fine mist and pollution.  I saw the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Summer Palace. I did not climb the Great Wall, march about, and have my photo taken with damp hair.  While we were in the midst of the Summer Palace visit, the driver/guide/spy told me at 3 p.m. that I had been invited to have tea with the daughter of the former president of China. Back to the hotel I went, repaired the damage done to my coif, put on a fab suit, added the  matching shoes and bag,  and brought along  the special gift for this important woman—a Hermès scarf in its signature orange box. She was chic, cultured, beautiful and quite brilliant. I am sure that she had many Hermès scarves. But I had brought the right ceremonial gift from New York to present to her. This visit turned out to be a turning point in those negotiations. The Husband knows now that traveling light is not always right. People like me need sturdy luggage and appreciate the beauty of the form as well as the function.

A Note on Protecting Your Luggage

We all know what happens to our luggage as it emerges from the steel carousel at the airport: new scuff marks, black streaks of grease and dirt from the conveyor belts, and dents or cracks. To prevent luggage injury, or even mistaken identity, many companies have created covers to protect luggage and make them more easily identifiable. Some are made in clear plastic or PVC materials and others are made from neoprene or other durable fabrics in fun prints. To keep your new (or vintage) luggage pieces looking their best during your travels, you may want to consider a getting a luggage protector.


A Note on New Airline Rules & Regulations for Baggage, by Erica Suk

New rules and regulations on carry-on and checked baggage by airline companies have us constantly wondering how much extra we have to spend on air travel tickets. To make things a little easier, here is a quick guide to the baggage fees and regulations of five popular airlines.

checked baggage chart

Carry-on baggage

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  • karen escalera February 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Very helpful article, especially about the new airline rules and regulations. Thanks! My pick for top luggage is German brand Rimowa often called the “Mercedes Benz” of luggage. Here’s my review:

  • Marcia S Kupferberg February 22, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Love you Dr. Pat!!!!

  • Cher February 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Love all the luggage and the story from Dr. Allen. I use “Bric” Luggage… and LOVE IT.

    For a ten day trip, I manage to pack well, bring along pro camera gear, and laptop and no checked luggage!

    I have a flat tote bag that I use, that I take out of rolling back at the entrance of the plane. I remove the tote, put computer in there, leave rolling back for them to check and for me to pick up upon arrival.

    I have a smaller bag, that slides into the handle of rolling bag- which holds valuables, passport, etc.. I board with the required 2 bags.

    I have it down to a science, as the art of traveling.. can be quite the challenge.

    I have new outfits for every day, and save so much time not having to check luggage. the key is to roll your clothes tightly!

    Great story..

    Cheryl Fleming Photography