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From the UT Institute of Texan Cultures, "The San Antonio Light" Collection

I love this 1929 photograph of these Texas ladies who were probably not as old as they appear. The woman on the left looks like she isn’t wearing a bra or perhaps gravity—and nursing lots of babies—shifted everything south. The other thing that jumps out at me is their apparent lack of joy. They seem to be permanently annoyed, which makes me sad, but in many ways, their life was harder than ours. They also lived through World War I and the Great Depression, so that might account for some of their grim demeanor.

If I could go back in time and tell them I’m thinking about what to pack for my trip to Italy next month, they’d think I’d lost my mind. By 1929, Benito Mussolini had dismantled all semblance of Italian democracy and made himself dictator!

Even so I’d tell them I’m going to Italy with eight women from around the country, including our tour guide, a friend—who’s a certain age and who takes women on tours of Europe—plus another friend I met while walking down the street in New York City a few years ago. She’s a New Yorker who now lives in Florida, and we’ve met in NYC a couple of times since our first meeting. The last time was earlier this summer. We refer to ourselves as the other’s doppelgänger! It’s spooky how many things we have in common, down to the brand and color of paint on our walls. Five days before we join the rest of the group for a week in Tuscany, my Florida friend and a woman who’s the art coordinator for a well known Showtime® TV series and I are meeting to explore Florence and the surrounding area. At the end of the trip, I’ll say goodbye to everyone and take the train to see the Rolling Stones concert in Lucca!

After years of taking women to Europe, our fearless leader knows all the do’s and don’ts about packing. She strongly suggests we bring one carry-on bag so we don’t run the risk of having lost luggage that takes forever—if at all—to catchup with you. I’m reminded of Kim Alexis and her trip to Italy last year where she only took a backpack! Sorry, girlfriend! No can do! While I’m only taking one carry-on packed with clothes, I’m also bringing a weekender with cosmetics, purse, iPad, etc. I’m also bringing my black suede jacket, lined with black, curly Mongolian wool. I’ve named it my Lauren Ezersky jacket because it looks like something you’d find in Lauren’s closet. She’s the queen of cool, black duds. Since the Rolling Stones will be outdoors, at night, in the Italian hills, I’m thinking I’ll need that jacket. I’ll have to wear it and my black leather boots–very rocker chic–on the plane because they’ll never fit in my bags… Am I too old to wear rocker chic? Who cares?

Both Kim and our tour leader suggest we pick one basic color, such as black, tan or gray, and pair them with bright shirts, tees and scarves that all go together. We should bring three pairs of pants, six tops and two pairs of comfortable shoes: wear a pair and pack a pair. After seeing all the amazing fashionistas of a certain age on Instagram, like our own Cherie James, I’m thinking I need to kick things up a notch. I couldn’t find Cherie’s fabulous polka dot skirt in my size, and La Contessa, the Antique Goddess on Instagram has the same skirt, but it’s too big for her and me, so I’ll keep looking.

In addition to some 100 percent cotton tops, a few pieces of jewelry and a white, long-sleeved, sequined t-shirt to wear to the concert, here are a some of the things I hope will fit in my one carry-on bag:

A FUN, JAZZY SKIRT I CAN DRESS DOWN DURING THE DAY WITH A DENIM JACKET. Actually I’ve already bought the purple, satin skirt from Nordstrom’s, and I love it!


BLACK STRAIGHT LEG MID-RISE, STRETCH JEANS, BLACK LEGGINGS AND LEATHER PANTS. The jeans are great for being a tourist and the black leather pants are very rock ‘n’ roll.



Regardless of how much fits in one carry-on or what I wear, I plan on having a blast!

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  1. Brenda,

    Have a wonderful time in Italy!
    I appreciate another woman who wants to look good as an American tourist in Europe!
    If you wear the silver sneakers you will get noticed!
    I always over pack and I am no a Kim Alexis backpacking girl! Nor do I look like Kim Alexis. Sigh…
    I would volunteer to take care of your fur babies while you’re away but I know you have that covered too!


    • The last thing I want to dress like are the Americans who look like they decided to climb on an airplane instead of mowing their lawn. Yesterday I flew to Dallas and back, and Love Field was full of them! Yes, puppies are going to camp, but thank you, Robin!

  2. OH MY GOODNESS!YOU are going to where I lived in the early 1990’s!
    I would imagine your friend has a tour guide lined up for you but I have several friends in THE BUSINESS!AMERICANS who married ITALIANS and landed there years ago.Let me know if you need a referral……..
    YOU CAN DO THE PACKING JOB!It makes sense and you will be happy you do not have to wait for luggage!
    Where in TUSCANY are you staying?
    I want YOU to look up at SAN MINIATO AL MONTE the Basilica on the HILL that over looks FLORENCE.I was married there in 1986…………please say CIAO FOR ME and BLOW it a KISS…………………….

    • I need to catch up on your life! I know bits and pieces of it, but like all of us, you’ve lived a fascinating life! We’re going to be staying in a villa southeast of Florence. Can’t remember the name!!! I will definitely visit the Basilica on the hill. It sounds divine! I’ve been emailing a tour guide, but so far, she hasn’t returned my emails, so referrals would be appreciated. xoxox, Brenda

  3. Have a blast! (I know you will….You could be a one woman blast all by yourself!) I love your wardrobe choices…chic rock ‘n roll. And the pic of the 2 ladies is great! At first, I saw them as having a lack of vanity, but then I looked at the hats and the pearls at the neck of one woman, and I think they were putting on their best for the photograph.

  4. Awesome on the packing choices! You will look very chic at all times! I own motorcycle boots by Prada that I bought several years ago and a red leather motorcycle jacket all of which I still plan on wearing over 60 style! Heck, I just might put it in my will to be “laid to rest” in them. Always go out in style

  5. Sounds like a once in a lifetime experience!!! So excited for you – and you know I totally support buying silver sneakers!!!

  6. Hi Brenda–I have those Vince Camuto pewter slip-on sneakers and they are so comfortable. They go with so much and ran true to size for me. Get many compliments when I wear them too. Have a good trip.

    • Thank you, Rose! Love Vince Camuto plus I gravitate towards pewter colored things, and you’re right. It’s a color that goes with almost everything. My car is pewter. Brenda

  7. OKAY……….MY GIRLFRIEND FROM FLORENCE, ITALY left a comment here today and I do not see it!Let me know if it did not GO THROUGH!She is a TOUR GUIDE!!!!!!!!!

  8. Brenda – Your trip sounds AMAZING! And a Rolling Stones Concert to top it off! Good for you!!

    Ah, trying to pack light! I have gotten better at it but its still a huge challenge. Reading your post I thought about my trip to Lebanon which was in late September years ago. I decided on black as my staple for chic Beirut. We were told to visit in September after the summer heat is gone. Well, the last two weeks of September were insanely hot, over 100 degrees – not their norm at all. I instantly regretted having so much black in my wardrobe. It was also my first encounter with seeing so many Saudi women in their abayas. I don’t know how they can wear those black robes in the summer heat and also have their face covered in a black veil! It was stifling to watch as I was melting in my simple summer black dress.

    Safe travels my friend and enjoy every minute! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  9. Hi Elaine, Thank you! I, too, am choosing black and hoping I don’t regret it for the same reasons. I’m sure I’ll keep checking the weather forecast up until the day I leave. So many women in the world who are oppressed and you’ve outlined yet another one. I don’t know how they do it. xoxox, Brenda

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