I have a confession to make. I over-packed a lot when I first started going to westie events. If you’re not sure how to pack for your first westie convention, and are afraid of overpacking, then this post is for you. This post will give you a checklist that will ease your worries about forgetting stuff, and then you, too, will pack like a westie weekend warrior. This “how to pack” will be composed of two parts – A) Wardrobe: what to wear and what not to wear, and B) Other weekend essentials.
Part 1: Wardrobe:
DO: Find outfits that are comfortable!
Chances are, if you are taking several workshops in a row, or dancing late into the evening you will want to be comfortable. Ladies often wear tanks/loose shirts, leggings, and dance boots/sandals. Gentlemen commonly wear tanks/shirts, jeans (or sweats if it’s late night dancing), and dance shoes.
DON’T: Wear super formal or uncomfortable clothes! You are going to be dancing a lot throughout the weekend! Tops with thick/unbreathable material tend to cause dancers to sweat after a period of time. You’ll find yourself constantly changing shirts if the material doesn’t breathe well. Plus, workshop environments tend to be easygoing and casual. There’s no requirement to be in dress clothes. The same applies to social dancing. Hopefully you feel inspired to dance all night long during late night, so don’t let your clothes restrict you. Shorts are not typical Westie wear, but some do enjoy wearing shorts for late-night, typically with dance boots, as another way to be comfortable and keep cool. It’s important to note that even though casual clothing is acceptable, many westie events are family-friendly. I’d recommend making sure there are no profanities on your graphic tees, no sagging pants, and that ladies are not “giving the whole poker hand away.” 😉
DO: Dress Business Casual:
Competition clothing tends to land on the business casual side. Ladies: A nice blouse can accent your movements and slacks can show off your leg lines. If you’re more comfortable in leggings and boots, find a flowy dress shirt to compliment the leggings. Gentlemen: Dress shirt, slacks, and dance shoes. If you prefer jeans, I’d opt for a dark denim pair with no holes.
DON’T: Be /too/ scandalous. Refrain from wearing something too revealing while competing, or something you would not want your boss or parents to see you wearing. Remember, you’re being judged on the dance floor. Your dancing represents you, but also the way you carry yourself. Judges do take your appearances into consideration.
DON’T: Wear skirts or dresses or high heels! In certain patterns like rotations, the skirt becomes a focal point and can distract the judges from what they need to focus on — your leg lines! Tight skirts don’t allow for a full range of movement. Skirts and dresses may be worn as a personal style choice, but it’s good to know that they’re not the typical Westie wear. Slacks or leggings are a good way to go, and, trust me, you’ll be a lot more comfortable. Just note that leggings show everything and will do nothing to hide faulty leg lines. High heels make spins and solid ‘anchor’ patterns much harder to complete and are not typically worn in West Coast Swing. Don’t risk hurting yourself! Wear the dance shoes you feel most comfortable in.
DON’T: Stress too much about your wardrobe! Weekends are meant to be fun, and this is an opportunity to show off your style. Many people enjoy dressing in unique ways to show off their personality, from bright colors to unusual combinations, so feel free to let loose and experiment.
Now that you know what to pack, you may be wondering how pack. Fear not westie grasshoppers, Westie packing Sensei will teach you everything you need to know.
Disclaimer: Everyone packs differently! This is just my own personal method, so use this as a guideline, and, over time, you’ll create your own style of packing.
DO: Invest in organization. Before we actually get into what to pack, I advise using something called packing cubes. Here’s a video on how they work. >Click Here<
This set from Eagle Creek ($23) comes with three cubes: a large, a medium and a small. It keeps you organized and efficiently uses your luggage/duffle bag space by packing a large set of items into compartmentalized spaces. Lots of travel bloggers swear by them!
DO: Save space by rolling instead of folding. Rolling your clothes instead of folding them makes them easier to pack in these cubes. Here’s a video on packing: >Click Here<
DO: Use this handy packing checklist
- PJ’s: if you’re sharing a room with people, be sure to bring sleepwear that you’ll be comfortable in! For women this may mean bringing a comfy sports bra or light robe. Men, don’t assume your roomies are ok with you walking around in your undies–for the sake of us all, please ask ahead of time or bring some shorts to wear!
- Undies: don’t forget to pack enough undies for however many days you’ll be on the road. That may include Monday if you’re staying Sunday night.
- Socks: If you wear socks with your boots or other shoes, make sure to pack enough pairs.
- Bras: Just a reminder for the ladies. Note that sports bras are great for dancing and you can find ones with cool strap patterns.
- Laundry Bag: I like to bring a laundry bag (usually a pillowcase or net bag) to put dirty clothes in after I’ve worn them. That way it’s much easier to unpack when I get home since the dirty clothes are already sorted out.
We’ll talk more about personal items to bring in the next packing article, but this is a good start!
- Tanks/Shirts: One per day of workshops and one per night of social dancing (or more if you need to change shirts while social dancing)
- Leggings (or sweatpants): One per day is usually enough.
- 1 Swimsuit/Bathing Suit
- 1 Coverup (or t-shirt)
DO: Wear some items of clothing more than once! If you are already wearing a pair of leggings or jeans to the airport, that is one less pair you need to pack for the weekend.
- (2-3) Shirts (Depending on how many divisions you’re competing in)
DO: Pack an extra change of clothes in your carry-on (if you’re checking bags). Unexpected things can happen! What if I split my pants? Spill something on my top? What if my luggage gets lost? Fret not! It’s generally smart to pack an extra shirt and pair of pants in your backpack/carry-on, that way you have an insurance policy for those “oh no!” situations.
DO: Check out the event’s personalized merch or traveling vendor booths!
Some events make custom tanks, t-shirts, and other gear. Event Directors also bring in dance shoe and westie clothing vendors as well (like our very own Wandering Westie clothing line, SHAMELESS PLUG! ;))
It’s not a bad idea to leave some space in your bag for new dance apparel you get at the event.
DON’T: Forget the last thing: shoes!
- Social Dance Shoes – Toms were very big in recent years, but Swayd boots are most popular now due to their comfort, flexibility, and fashionable look. Some wear Westie sandals (with a short, chunky heel) or jazz shoes, men will often wear their favorite street shoes (and may suede them themselves or take them to a cobbler); comfort and danceability is paramount!
- Competition Shoes – Westie sandals (with a short, chunky heel) are thought to be best for the optimal expression of technique, and thus are the most common footwear for competitions. However, in the past year Swayd boots have also gained popularity and acceptance, both the short heeled boots (which are often worn in comps by top pros) and the Szekely boots with a standard, chunky heel. Men should generally wear dance shoes (which are usually sold by vendors at events) or dress shoes for comps. For both men and women Toms and very casual shoes are discouraged for comps, where you want to present yourself in the best light.
- Beach/Pool Shoes (if there’s a beach outing or pool party) – You’ll wear your day/walking shoes to the airport so no need to pack them, but you might want to bring a pair of sandals for the beach or pool if the event has anything like that.
If you need a pair of dance shoes you can order online >here< or pick up a pair at the a vendor’s booth at events.
DO: Check event information for formal or theme nights. Most events have formal and/or theme nights. Some, such as SwingDiego, Sin City Swing and the US Open have ‘red carpet’ nights. For events like these, cocktail dresses are popular amongst ladies, and gentleman may wear a nice-fitting suit or tuxedo. Others may have fun theme nights where you can dress up in a costume or special clothing. Check past event photos and the event website for reference (theme nights are listed on the schedule).
DO: Ask Questions. You’ll come to see that you don’t need to pack the whole closet. If you still have concerns about your wardrobe, you can always post your questions on the event’s Facebook page, email the Event Directors, or ask past attendees. You’ll come to find out the Westie community is super helpful. Never be afraid to ask questions!
Look out for part two of our how-to-pack series! Until next time, I’m Stephanie Pham. Keep dancing!