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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Khan

Streamlining Your Travel Wardrobe: A Capsule Approach

capsule wardrobe

I have several international trips planned for the fall to Europe and North Africa after the long pandemic enforced hiatus. I am excited to be traveling again and I decided it was a good time to reevaluate my wardrobe and earmark what I planned to bring. I have been traveling internationally for 30 years and I was always an over packer. Over packers come in several different guises:

The Procrastinator – this is someone who just never plans ahead, leaves packing until the night before and then just starts throwing things in their bags. Often, they end up arriving to their destination with something important missing from their suitcase, such as a bathing suit.

The Soup to Nuts – this is someone who wants all the options, someone who wants variety, so they end up bringing 5 of everything. They end up wearing 1/3 of what they brought.

The Contingency – this is someone who packs for every eventuality, who does not want to be on the road without everything they need. Maybe it will rain, maybe there will be a cocktail party, what if the strap on the sandal breaks, you get the picture.

The Emotional – these are people who are attached to their things. They tend to have a favorite of everything, and all the favorites have to be along for the trip, or they will feel stressed out.

I was a Contingency packer for years. I would pack something for every potential activity, all weather possibilities, and I would take a wide selection of shoes in case of blisters. Why do the cutest shoes have to cause blisters? Over the years I have honed my packing skills and now I am a streamlined packer, with the help of the capsule style travel wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a group of versatile clothing pieces that can be worn in different combinations to create a variety of outfits. The items are harmonized by color. In a word, it is the perfect way to travel light! To make travel prep even easier, you can save the basic list of items and change up what you pack based on destination, weather, and potential activities.

Basic Capsule Travel Wardrobe Necessities, add subtract as needed:

  • 2-3 pairs of pants (jeans, chinos, dress pants, cargo, palazzo)

  • 1 skirt (solid color is best)

  • 1-2 dresses

  • 2-3 camisoles

  • 3-4 t-shirts (short-sleeved, long-sleeved, or combination of both)

  • 3-4 lightweight tops or blouses (button down, tunic, denim/chambray)

  • 1 lightweight sweater or kimono/ruana

  • 1 pair of leggings  1 rain jacket with hood

  • 2-3 bras  1 pair of pajamas

  • 5-7 pairs of underwear or panties

  • 1-2 hats (baseball cap, straw hat, beanie)

  • 4-5 pairs of socks

  • 3 pairs of shoes (sneakers, sandals, one other comfy yet stylish option)

  • Purses and a tote bag (more on this later)

  • Accessories (scarves, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, sunglasses)

I have done some very strategic and savvy shopping during the pandemic when we were stuck at home. I shopped some fantastic sales online at my favorite stores, I watched tons of You Tube videos on style, including clothing hauls, and read the pile of magazines that I had accumulated in 2019 when I was too busy with work. All of this helped me to find some really great additions to my closet. At this stage in life, I know what styles work with my body type, which fabrics I like because they are comfortable, wash well, and travel well, and I have really weeded out my closet. I got rid of things that were not working (usually impulse purchases), that I never wore (too small, too big, wrong fit, itchy) and this all allowed me to identify some pieces that I needed to buy that I would need for my upcoming trips.

Capsule Wardrobe for Germany (Saxony Region) in September

  • Khaki A-line skirt (Old Navy)

  • Black jeans (Macy’s)

  • Blue jeans (Beall’s Outlet)

  • Black t-shirt (TJMaxx)

  • White t-shirt (Beall’s Outlet)

  • Leopard t-shirt (Old Navy)

  • Red t-shirt (Kohl’s)

  • Black lightweight cardigan (TJMaxx)

  • Burberry inspired ruana/kimono (DSW)

  • Denim short sleeve button down blouse (Beall’s Outlet)

  • White gauzy button-down shirt (TJMaxx)

  • Straw tote (JCPenney) Capsule Wardrobe for Turkey & Greece in October  Blue and white sundress (Old Navy)

  • White midi skirt (J. Jill)

  • White shorts (Talbots)

  • Blue jeans (Beall’s Outlet)

  • Polka dot wide leg jump suit (Old Navy)

  • Straw tote (JCPenney)

  • Yellow t-shirt with sleeve tie detail (Walmart)

  • White gauzy button-down shirt (TJMaxx)

  • Black t-shirt (TJMaxx)

  • White t-shirt (TJMaxx)

  • Light blue t-shirt (Costco)

  • Yellow light weight cardigan (NY&Co.)

  • Blue and white kimono with white tassels (DSW) Capsule Wardrobe for Morocco in December

  • Black jeans (Macy’s)

  • Khaki chinos (Talbots)

  • Blue jeans (Beall’s Outlet)

  • Gunmetal midi skirt (Loft Plus)

  • White long sleeve t-shirt with lace sleeves (Amazon)

  • White gauzy button-down shirt (TJMaxx) Graphic t-shirt (Kohl’s)

  • Black t-shirt (TJMaxx)

  • White t-shirt (TJMaxx)

  • Coral t-shirt (Target)

  • Rosy floral kimono (Amazon)

  • White and floral kimono (Steinmart)

  • Black tiered gauzy midi dress (random shop in Bangkok)

  • Rose light weight cardigan (TJMaxx)

  • Pink leather tote (TJMaxx)

As you can see, I can easily travel for a week or more with these pieces. The reason I like button down shirts is they are versatile. If it is long enough it can be a bathing suit coverup, you can wear it as a layering piece with a cami or t-shirt underneath. I can wear the bottoms and switch up the top and create different looks.

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