How to Build a Travel Capsule Wardrobe (Because Over-Packing Is Inevitable)

November 22nd, 2018 at 5:00pm

Whether the trip lasts two days or two weeks, you can always count on me to have a suitcase filled to the brim. We’re talking get-two-friends-to-sit-on-it- to-close-it full. I have the habit of being an over-packer. I always have been. It’s strange though, in my everyday life, I wear the same three pieces of clothing on a constant loop, but when I travel it’s another story. What if I want to wear that one floral shirt that I haven’t worn in two years? What about bringing that unique pair of sandals, even though we’re going to the mountains? Over the years I’ve gotten better. With the help of a slow, and painstaking, transition to the minimalist side of the spectrum, I’ve developed the perfect travel capsule wardrobe.

You might be asking, “What is a capsule wardrobe?” I have you covered. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that is paired down and adapted based on seasons. Or in our case, trips. For a season, a capsule wardrobe contains no more than 37 items. Our travel capsule wardrobe however, will contain a total of 10 items for a weekend trip. Don’t freak out, this capsule does not include underwear, pajamas, or workout gear. Here we’re simply focusing on actual, wearable day clothes. This capsule will have the ability to adapt to destinations, weather climates, and occasions. This sounds like a lot, but I promise it’s manageable. I’m here to guide you. The perfect travel capsule wardrobe is here for all of your over-packing worries. Let’s jump in.

Scope Out the Vibe of Your Destination

I am starting with this tip for the travel capsule wardrobe, because how can you pack if you don’t know anything about where you’re going? It’s important to start by searching for the average weather in your destination. At least get the 10 day forecast so you’re never caught without an umbrella. If you’re just going home for the weekend, you may not need that pair of heels. On the contrary, if you’re going on a girls weekend out, maybe limit the sweatpants. The organization process is all about looking at your wardrobe and determining what pieces fit the vibe of the trip you are taking. Being realistic in your trip’s itinerary is key here. Don’t pack for a fancy dinner if you know you’re more the take-out on the couch type.

Plan Ahead of Time

This step may be the most important in regards to the overall packing process. Plan your outfits ahead of time. I make mental images and sometimes even write down specific outfits I know will work. I have a friend who even goes so far as taking pictures of each outfit she can mix and match with what she has packed and keeps them in an album on her phone. This allows you to see what you have and the various ways to pair pieces together so you never have that scary “what do I wear” moment while getting ready. By planning ahead of time, you can ensure that everything you’ve packed is being used and there are no unnecessary pieces being included.

Basics, Basics, and More Basics

Now onto the clothes. Let’s start with the first few items you’ll pretty much always be packing: the basics. When packing basics, it’s really important to pack around them and keep them at the back of your mind. For a weekend trip with 10 items, my basics make up 50 percent of what I pack. My go-tos are a pair of black jeans, high-waisted jeans, a black turtleneck, a jean skirt, and a white button-down shirt. Pick silhouettes and styles that are true to your style, flattering, and are easy to dress up and dress down. These can be adopted for various seasons and destinations, but for now, let’s say we’re packing for going home for the holidays. My basics are the core of my capsule, they rotate in and out and act as a firm foundation for any outfit I choose to build upon them.

Limit the Shoes (I Know, I’m Sorry)

Here comes the hardest part…packing the shoes. For this travel capsule wardrobe, the limit is 10 items. Unfortunately, shoes are indeed included in this count. For a weekend trip, I try and pack no more than three pairs of shoes. One pair of black boots, one pair of white sneakers, and one statement shoe. Obviously these can be edited to suit your personal style and trip destination. My personal pick for a statement shoe tends to be my favorite cheetah print mules from Topshop or another sort of loafer/mule that I can dress up or down depending on the need.

The Statement Piece

Last, but certainly not least, the statement piece. If you’ve been keeping count, we’re up to 8 so far. Every travel capsule deserves some fun. A statement piece can mean anything. An extra top, a fabulous coat, maybe a dress if you’re planning something fancy. For a casual weekend trip however, my “statement pieces” are anything but. These two extra moments are usually saved for another pair of black boots I just can’t live without or an extra oversized sweater for maximum coziness. If the trip calls for an occasion, I’ll put down the extra sweater and swap it out with heels and a dress. The statement pieces are meant for fun. A place to let your maximalist dreams run wild while still ensuring you’re able to avoid overweight fees.

Minimalism is hard. Especially for someone obsessed with clothes. That being said, the travel capsule wardrobe has been a life saver. Something that mixes the best of minimalism with the best of seasonal dressing is always a win in my book. It’s been about six months or so, almost three seasons, with this capsule system and I couldn’t be more pleased with how my packing stress has diminished. I’m happier with what I pack, I actually wear all of my pieces, and the number of mornings I run around screaming, “I have nothing to wear!” have drastically decreased.

How would you customize this travel capsule wardrobe? What trips are you planning? Let us know in the comments or tag us @cfashionista!

Featured image by Lea Muhigi


  • Kate McGregor

    Hi, Hello, I'm Kate. I'm currently a senior at Belmont University studying the Entertainment Industry and Marketing. Fashion is my life, but I'm seriously afraid of color, so it seems fitting that the two loves of my life are black boots and even blacker coffee.