Packing Problems Solved by a Wardrobe Wizard–Jia Collection

I have a packing problem. My problem with packing is that I’m too proficient, which is quite problematic. I’m quite proud of my prolific packing skills, though part of me sees it as a curse. And that part is my back.

On my recent European trip to Munich, Switzerland, Austria, and Paris, I learned a lesson. No, I didn’t learn that I shouldn’t put so much stuff into my bag. Instead, I learned how to say, “Oh my god, this is heavy” in German, Romansh, Swiss-German, Swiss-French, Austrian, and French. Though, a grunt is universally understood.

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Add my Tumi backpack, and this is pretty typical.

I profusely apologized more times than I can count to taxi drivers, bellmen, airport workers, and random helpful people on the train. I rationalized my heavy bag by mentioning that it was full of ski stuff for my two weeks in the Alps. Of course, I didn’t need two ski jackets, three pairs of ski pants, and enough Under Armour to start my own store. Frankly, my vow to pack better is also similar to my pledge to eat more vegetables. I start with the best of intentions, but that broccoli just rots away in the refrigerator untouched, just as my suitcase continues to tip the scales at the airport. I guess that’s why the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

My trips tend to be longer compared to most. After all, many Americans only get two weeks of freedom per year. And in my skewed, travel-centric world, I see fourteen days merely as a jaunt.  My trips also are quite varied. For instance, I may stay in luxury hotels and dine in restaurants with dress codes, but I’m also pounding the pavement touring a city or doing something sort of sporty in the country. Throw in varied climates, and that’s a recipe for a packing disaster.

I’m a clotheshorse from way back, and it’s difficult for me to find a happy medium between my Boy Scouts “be prepared” motto and my want-to-be “less is more” mantra. These two are conflicting at best. However, last summer I got an email from a lovely lady by the name of Jia Li asking if I’d like to collaborate with her. She identified herself a clothing designer living in New York City. Well, you can imagine THAT grabbed my attention. Jia said her line is designed for women on the go and who travel a lot.

That’s totally me!

Jia Collage

These two pieces will be mine.

I tried not to get too excited, as most women’s travel-type clothes I’ve seen involve zip-off pant legs in various earth-tone colors. And that just ain’t my bag, y’all. So, I hopped over to Ms. Jia’s site to check out exactly what sort of wares she was peddling.


What I found on the Jia Collection website wasn’t some lovechild of Eddie Bauer and Chico’s. Nope. These were clothes that I would actually love to own. Dresses, skirts, shirts, coats, all beautifully done, and not a single cargo anything in sight. I browsed through the pages, taking mental note of the items I wanted, which keeping track of the things I didn’t want would have been a lot easier.

Jia Collection

Six ways! How is that even possible?

I jumped over to the Press page.  Ok, so the likes of Travel + Leisure, InStyle, Lucky, and O Magazine have featured Jia’s creations. Stars like the always stunning, Kerry Washington {Scandal, anyone?}, Jennie Garth {hello, Ms. 90210 herself} and Julia Ormond {who didn’t adore her in Sabrina?} have been spotted wearing Jia Collection.

This was one email that wasn’t going in the deleted message bin. Furiously my fingers tapped away on the keyboard. I gushed about her designs and praised her creativity and style. A few more emails were exchanged, a Skype call was taken, and then a package was delivered to my front door. In that brown box, perhaps, was the path to solving my over packing woes.

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Thanks, Whitney Martin, for this awesome old-school film photo.

Being that it was August, which in Houston equates to the face of the sun, Jia sent me two dresses from her spring/summer collection. The Estee, with its A-line silhouette, can be worn two ways. The Florentina, a knit wrap dress, can be worn four ways. Easy-peasy. By just looking at the dresses, I knew I could throw on some metallic sandals and chunky bracelets and be dressed for a casual brunch. Or, I could strap on a pair of heels and some blingy jewelry, and I’m suitable for cocktails at a swanky locale.

As advertised, the dresses were versatile. I took them to Toronto, where they looked city chic. They then made their way to Maui and O’ahu. Both were island appropriate and comfortable for my grazing through two food and wine festivals. Thank goodness for stretchable knit and a flattering fit.

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Don’t let the St. Moritz sunshine fool you. It was cold, but I was warm.

Winter rolled around, and again, a big, brown box arrived at my door. Knowing that I was heading to the Alps, Jia sent a care package to help keep me warm. I ditched my beloved J. Crew winter coat for the Hayden. Faux shearling on one side and brown leatheresque fabric on the other, this coat can be worn six different ways. Seriously, I didn’t believe it until went all Inspector Clouseau on the coat. Sure enough—six ways! I wore it long in the mountains, then zipped off the bottom and wore it short in the cities. It was perfect.

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Leaving Davos for Innsbruck…and off with the bottom.

The coffee-colored Lidiya lambswool and angora sweater was a welcomed addition to my stuffed suitcase. I actually pulled out three sweaters and replaced them with Jia’s {progress, people!}. With removable sleeves it can be worn as a long or short-sleeved sweater. I even threw a cream-colored turtle neck under the short-sleeved version for an additional look. Something that I didn’t figure out until I got home is that tunic-length sweater can actually be made shorter with a synch and knot. So technically, this sweater can be worn four ways {or six if you do my little turtleneck trick}. Super!

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Because a fur hat and a glass of whiskey are perfect accessories in St. Moritz.

Perhaps admitting I have an over-packing problem is the first step on the road to recovery. Who am I kidding? I’ve been through this process previously. I profess that I’ll do better, then I find myself paying the price in overweight fees and sore shoulders. Maybe the second step is acquiring every piece designed by this wardrobe wizard, or at least adapt the Jia Collection’s chic, multifunctional mantra. I’m starting to realize that sometimes more is just more, especially when it comes to clothes. Better late than never.

Jia Collection is offering a discount of 25% to my readers. Please enter “LEAHTRAVELS” upon checkout.


I was provided pieces from Jia Collection to preview. In no way was I persuaded to write a positive review based on the perfectly tailored pieces, the phenomenally creative designs, or the pretty patterns. As always, opinions are mine. Find Jia’s recent interview on Forbes.

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  • Lance | Trips By Lance
    April 17, 2014

    No matter one’s traveling style, unless you’re camping in a tent or prepared to hand wash in the sink every other day, overpacking is a problem for most travelers. I have no answers. I haven’t been converted to cargo pants that zip off into shorts. Other than that, I’m not sure what options exist for men. But I know for women, especially my wife who wants to be stylish first, having options like this that can be worn multiple ways is important.

    • Leah Walker
      April 20, 2014

      Thank goodness you’ve not gone to the zip off pants dark side. I could totally take you shopping, Lance. Lots of options exist for men. Actually, it’s so much easier for men to pack for all occasions. Though, I’m sure your wife has got that under control for you.

  • Traveling Ted
    April 18, 2014

    Was that a Jia dress that you wore the night you took away my fanny pack? Looks like a great line of clothes. Having comfortable, easy to pack, versatile, good looking clothes is a must for every traveler.

    • Leah Walker
      April 20, 2014

      No it wasn’t, Ted. But you can bet I’ll be stealing that fanny pack the next time I see you AND will be wearing a Jia dress.

  • Erin
    May 9, 2014

    Wow, these are so beautiful! I’m such a chronic overpacker as well, I might have to invest in a couple of these types of pieces. Looks like they’d pack beautifully without creasing too much as well.

    • Leah Walker
      May 19, 2014

      They’re perfect for packing. Take a look at Jia’s Website. I’m sure you’ll find something you love.


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