Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Airlines Will Charge to Check Even the First Bag

Starting next month, American Airlines will charge $15 to check just one bag. I wrote in an earlier post that the writing was on the wall. Jet-fuel prices are now about 75% higher than three years ago and fuel costs represent about a third of the ticket price.

Reducing weight is critical. Newsweek recently had an article on airline seating, wherein it was claimed that reducing weight by one pound would save $200 in fuel per plane over the year. Suppose the average luggage weight per passenger decreased ten pounds, for about one ton total per flight on average. If my math and Newsweek are correct, that's $400,000 per year for just one plane. How many planes in the fleets of all U.S. airlines? Pretty soon, we're talking real money and real fuel savings.

Don’t despair. You can “lighten up” in ways that give you benefits instead of fits. Lightweight travel is safer and easier than carrying a heavy load of things you don’t need.

In four decades of advising people what to pack, the common thread is that they aren’t sure what to take, so they take too much. My husband and I have been traveling overseas on long trips since 1971. We take only carry-on bags that weigh 7 to 8 kilos full (about 15 to 17 pounds) and we dress well. People kept asking how we did it so I published two books that show you. You can learn about both “It’s In The Bag” books at

You *can* travel comfortably, and in style, while keeping ticket prices as low as possible.
Here’s a tip for security checks, where you must remove your shoes. I bring a pair of lightweight, nylon sox (old and valid plural of sock) to wear over my stockings and then remove them before replacing my shoes. This keeps my stockings and shoes clean. Please share one of your travel tips with us.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Presidential Race and Color

You may think that this article will be about the race and skin color of those running for U.S. President but that is not the main subject, only a minor one. The real focus here is that political people choose to wear certain colors in order to influence voters. Here we expose some of their strategies.

If you want to “dress for success,” you must consider the psychological perception of colors. Who are the people you need to impress? Certain businesses are more conservative in their dress codes and that includes color. Conservative occupations include government, banking, aerospace and industrial products. Dress codes are more relaxed in advertising, apparel, design, media and consumer products. In fashion and filmmaking, being trendy or even “off the chart” can be a plus. Not so in government.

The colors that elicit the most respect and are therefore most “powerful” are navy or dark blue and dark or medium grey. Barack Obama and John McCain usually wear these colors. Black is another possibility but it has a major drawback: The details disappear (black-hole effect) on TV. Since politicians are frequently on TV, black is not the best choice. Dark brown is also a conservative color in southern and rural areas but does not get as much respect in northern or urban areas. Many of Mike Huckabee’s supporters probably thought brown suits, as well as sport coats, were just fine. It is interesting that Hillary Clinton has frequently worn brown in this race. She may be trying to appeal to rural voters and send a subliminal message that she is “down to earth.” I don’t recall her wearing much brown as First Lady. Have you noticed that First Ladies often wear pastels or bright colors? With pastels, they may be trying to send a signal that they are soft and feminine and not the “power behind the throne” but Nancy Reagan wore a lot of red. She just loved that color. Truthfully, neither red nor brown are terribly flattering to Hillary’s skin and hair color. Some other bright colors are better choices for her and she can wear them with black or navy slacks, which are practical for travel. If she becomes President, she may want to wear more muted colors because bright colors draw attention to themselves and away from your face. For important meetings, you want people to focus on you, not on your clothing.

Even in government and other conservative occupations, women can wear colors such as dark teal and plum but men have far fewer choices. You can expect Barack and John to pretty much stick with the grey and dark blue. It is tempting to think that a brown suit would always be compatible with brown skin but it is more complicated than that. Barack’s skin has cool undertones and most brown shades won’t be as flattering to him as dark blue and dark grey are. I have met women with very dark skin whose best colors are the same ones I wear, and I always have to buy the lightest shade of make-up. John McCain has a different problem. Although he looks nice in medium or light grey, those tend to emphasize his hair color, and therefore his age. He should probably wear dark blue and only the darkest greys.

Even if you do not plan to run for public office, you can learn about choosing your most flattering colors, consistent with your occupation and the places you travel, by visiting and reading about the Custom Wardrobe book.

I welcome your comments about candidates for any office and their clothing (but not their politics.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

United Airlines Charges to Check More than One Bag

If you bought a non-refundable fare on United Airlines, you can check one bag free but the rest will cost you. The second costs $25 and the third and fourth $100 each.

This news may shock many in the U.S. but some airlines in other countries have been charging to check even the first bag. The writing is on the wall and more airlines may join in.

Sure, there are costs to the airlines for baggage handling but fuel costs are the killer. Jet fuel has jumped to $107 per barrel. I don’t blame the airlines for trying to minimize the weight or recoup the extra cost from those who are adding to the problem. I’d rather see that solution than have the fares increase for all passengers, even those who “travel light.”

Several years ago, my husband and I were in San Francisco, talking with a fellow named Bob in a bookstore. Bob proudly told us about all the clothing he took on a two-week trip to Paris, including eight pairs of shoes. Most guys probably don’t even own eight pairs of shoes. Many women do; I have what I affectionately call the Imelda Marcos Memorial Dressing Room, but I don’t take more than three pairs, even when I’m traveling for months at a time. Anyway, Bob was proud of the fact that he was such a fashion plate that he had to pay for excess baggage. My husband and I had trouble keeping straight faces until after we left the store and broke down laughing.

I don’t want to pay more for my airfare in order to subsidize “Beau Brummel” Bob and his excess baggage. If you’d like to avoid extra charges and lighten your travel load, but still be well dressed, there are two books that show you how. Visit to see them.

Feel free to leave your (polite) comments regarding these issues.