Geek travel: Planning outfits using matrices

Posted: - Modified: | geek

It’s easy to pack for business trips: two pairs of Tilley slacks, X Tilley long-sleeved tops, other accoutrements, and I’m good to go. Trips home can be challenging: some casual, some dressy, some whatever. I used to pack for trips back home by throwing random clean clothes into my suitcase. Okay, I exaggerate. I tried to put some some rhyme and reason into it. Sometimes things just don’t line up, and I end up in this horribly clashing outfit.

Somehow everyone else in the family has developed a signature style, smooth and harmonious. (My dad and Columbia shirts; my mom and violet, my eldest sister and smart clothes, my middle sister and stylish dresses…) Also, my dad and my sister are professional photographers. Not only do my fashion mistakes stick out like a sore thumb, but they’re also immortalized in our family pictures.

Having discovered that I can substitute geekiness for style when it comes to pairing colours, I thought about how I could use the same technique to make the trip better. So I made a spreadsheet of the days we’d be gone, wrote down the general activities, and started planning what to bring.

Trip Friends Wedding Bohol Bohol Bohol Bohol Trip
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Dress X
Brown skirt X X
Stretch pants X X X
Cargo pants X X X
Board shorts X X
Cream tee X X X
White tee X X X
Pink tee X X X X

This was okay, but it didn’t let me see how well I balanced the outfits. So I remapped my table, using tops and bottoms as columns and rows, and labelling the intersections with the days.

Cream tee White tee Pink tee Dress
Dress 9
Brown skirt 7 10
Stretch pants 15 5 8
Cargo pants 13 11 6
Board shorts 14 12

Okay. Confession. It didn’t actually turn out this neat. The first time around, I ended up with two repeated outfits and more blank entries, so I swapped items until I balanced things more evenly. It was fun solving this geek problem with real-life constraints like avoiding wearing one item twice in a row. Solving it was like scribbling my way through a game of Sudoku or figuring out just the right vertex colouring for a graph.

W- took a look at my compact bundle of clothes and said, “Is that all you’re bringing?” Torn between the desire to test the combinatorial possibilities of my geekily-derived travel wardrobe and the practical benefits of bringing more clothes just in case, I followed his advice and wrapped a few more items around the jars of home-made jalapeño jelly we also packed. We’ll see how closely I can stick to my spreadsheet-supported plan, though!

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