Travel Capsule Wardrobes! What are they, and what are all of the different looks that you can achieve?
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of wardrobe staples that coordinate well and are classics that never really go out of style. Capsule wardrobes can be useful for any length trip, but my post below describes recommendations for trips lasting at least a week.
Some basic rules of the travel capsule wardrobe:
- Pack for a week even if your trip is longer – With the ability to mix and match every piece, you can create unique looks with just a weeks’ worth of essentials.
- Plan outfits in layers, not in singular bulk items – Multiple light layers are more versatile than individual heavy layers.
- Simplify the color palette – Limiting the colors will allow for more outfit options and cohesiveness. Select a few base colors for the majority of the clothing pieces, and then you can add a fun pop color or print piece to mix in.
This was my travel capsule wardrobe packing list for my own 6-week traveling honeymoon:
- 6 t-shirts or tank tops
- 2 long-sleeved shirts
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of shorts
- 2 pair of comfortable pants
- 4 dresses
- 1 romper
- 1 light jacket
- 1 blazer
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 sleepwear
- 7 pairs of underwear
- 6 pairs of socks
- 4 bras
- 3 shoes
- 1 purse
T-shirts or tank tops
Pack about a weeks’ worth of tops and mix it up between t-shirts, tank tops, and dressy tops. Since there are less bottoms in the capsule wardrobe, this is potentially where you will want to have color variety. Maybe do a black tank top, white tank top, navy blue t-shirt, white t-shirt, red t-shirt, and black dressy top. All those options paired up with the few pairs of bottoms will allow for many unique looks.
Even when going to the tropics, it’s great to throw in 2 long-sleeve shirts. On a chilly night, add your structured button-down long-sleeve or cardigan to pants, and you are set. If you get sun burnt on your shoulders and still want to go for a dip in the pool, consider wearing a long-sleeve cotton t-shirt over your bathing suit. For variety, try to pack a pullover and a button-down. If you are in a colder climate, you can always layer a tank top or t-shirt under your long-sleeve and a sweater or jacket over it.
I usually go with a dark blue jean when traveling, but I also have a pair of berry-colored pants that is a fun statement piece to take if I need that pop of color. The best part about a capsule wardrobe is that since the patterns are limited, all you really have to worry about is color coordinating. And a pair of jeans can go with nearly anything!
For me, 1 pair of shorts is enough for any length trip. I always go with blue jean shorts. I pair them with t-shirts, tank tops, nice shirts, bathing suits, etc.
Stretch or comfortable pants
There are several occasions I feel a pair of stretchy yoga pants or comfy pants are essential: long travel days, to lounge around your hotel, and to throw on if you feel sick. I also love to have a pair on hand in case we decide to go for a hike or do an activity like ATVs. At times like these, leg protection is essential, and I am definitely not about to ruin my nice jeans.
Dresses are actually my clothing item of choice. I wear them every day of the year, even in winter (tights and boots, people!). On vacations though, I still bring shorts and pants so I have options (as listed above). There may be people reading this who never wear dresses—in that case, I’d say add an extra pair of pants or shorts to your packing list. However, a dress is so very versatile. It can be worn as a bathing suit cover-up, a day dress, or even dressed up for a nice evening. Dresses also take up less space in your luggage than outfits that require multiple pieces. You can even put a sweater or shirt over a dress to make it look like a skirt outfit. How’s that for a capsule wardrobe chameleon?
You can dress a romper up or down depending on shoes and accessories. Not the most essential wardrobe piece, but you can wear a romper as a bathing suit cover up, a daytime outfit, or wear it for a night on the town. In my book, a piece this versatile, is noteworthy.
I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect jacket. I wanted something that was warm, was light-weight, and could roll up really small and be compact in my luggage or carry-on. I ended up finding the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket. It was available in several colors, and my hubby and I were able to get matching navy blue for our honeymoon. Yeah, we’re corny like that, but we looked cute while doing it!
Wearing a blazer over a dress, a pair of jeans, or even chinos really brings a casual look to the next level. An awesome addition to a capsule wardrobe. I’d personally go with black, beige, or navy because those fit in with the colors I wear most. However, if you had a fun print blazer, or a sports jacket, that could make a big statement over a neutral-colored capsule wardrobe.
If going someplace tropical with a pool and a beach, I will up my bathing suit count to 2, as I know I’ll be getting my tan on daily. However, if my hotel is in the jungle, or the mountains, and I’m far from the beach, then I’ll only be packing 1. If a beachy vacation, I pack 1 strapless bandeau option for good tan lines, and then a one-piece fun strappy bathing suit. You can get away with wearing a one-piece bathing suit with a pair of shorts and it looks like a tank top.
While at a resort in China for a 7 day stay, I actually purchased this donut pool float. The resort charged a daily rental fee for floats, so I avoided the fee by buying my own. It was expensive, so I suggest you just bring your own.
If you plan on packing sleepwear, keep it light. No need for your heavy pair of sweatpants when you can adjust your hotel room thermostat to any temperature you want. Additionally, with most hotels offering robes, you can layer that on to gain the cozy feel you desire.
I normally wouldn’t travel with a robe, but when else will I be able to wear this “Bride” robe around the world!?
Always pack 7 pairs minimum. They don’t take up a lot of space, and some days you may wear more than 1 pair. If going away for longer than a week, you will have to do laundry or hand wash, but bringing along lightweight quick-dry underwear allows for a quick laundry turnaround. Always be conscious of color even with underwear. If you are bringing white pants, you will need nude undergarments.
Even if going to a tropical location, I always pack 6 pairs of socks. I account for about a pair a day for a week. On travel days, I always wear socks in the airport just in case I have to remove my shoes through security. No bare feet on those airport floors please! I’ll plan to wear socks any day I wear sneakers for hiking or physical activities. And since I like to keep my hotel rooms frigid, some nights I’ll wear them to bed to be extra cozy.
Depending on the climate and planned events/activities, this one can change. Essentially, I like to pack 2 regular skin-tone bras, 1 skin-tone strapless bra, and a sports bra. Keeping your bras skin-tone will allow for blending under any color clothing. If you don’t plan on wearing tank tops or strappy dresses, you can replace the strapless bra with an additional regular bra. If you don’t plan on doing any exercising or physical activities, you can also replace the sports bra with another regular bra. Only packing 4 bras, you may have to hand wash while on your trip, but bras can be washed in the sink and hung dry overnight in the bathroom. Easy enough! Additionally, if you are going to a tropical location, you may spend more time lounging daily in a bathing suit. In this case, you can remove a bra from your packing list.
Socks And Bras
There are 3 essential shoes that should be covered when packing: sandals, sneakers, and dress shoes. Sandals can be taken from beach to around town easily. Sneakers will protect your feet from the elements should you do active or outdoor activities, and they can also be worn on travel days. For dress shoes, I recommend picking something that isn’t too fancy. Pick an espadrille for example. These dress shoes can be worn on a formal night but also a regular night with a more casual outfit. For example, I can wear espadrilles with my formal dress out to dinner, and then the next day I can wear those same shoes with jeans and a t-shirt for a nicer take on a casual outfit. Had I only packed pumps, that would limit the number of times I can mix and match them.
Sneakers, Flip Flops, and Espadrilles
When traveling, I like to always pack a small cross body bag. It’s nice to have free hands and piece of mind that the bag is more secure around your person. This style bag can be easily worn for a night out on the town, or it can be dressed down with a pair of shorts for perusing a street market. You can go with a statement bag that is funky but has coloring that matches with the primary colors of the capsule wardrobe, or you can keep it more neutral with similar coloring.
On most of my travels, I pick up at least one souvenir. I decided for this specific trip to keep an eye out for a new scarf (my favorite accessory) and a long skirt (appropriate for temples). Therefore, I did not pack either of these items from home but purchased them while abroad.
So just how many unique looks can I create with my limited travel capsule?
SIXTY-THREE LOOKS, and that’s not even including outfits with the jacket and blazer!
With all those options, I will have to do some laundry on my next big trip, but I can pack light, look stylish, and have room in my luggage for all my souvenirs!
Now go get packing!
P.S. This post is hopefully helpful for my female readers, but keep your eyes peeled for a future post on capsule wardrobes for men by a guest blogger, my hubby!