How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe For Your Semester Abroad

November 7th, 2022 at 1:00pm

Study abroad is swiftly approaching for many this semester. Here is what you need to know as you prepare to shop for your new abroad wardrobe. While I, personally, did not study abroad during my college experience, I did take a three week getaway to Europe this summer where I somehow fit all my clothes into only a carry-on and still never repeated an outfit. I think that has to count for something. 

If you have extra space, use it, but, if you don’t, then keep reading. Here is how to create the perfect capsule wardrobe for your next European excursion. 

A few weeks before you leave, pour yourself some tea, coffee, or wine, turn on some music, light a candle, and get ready to have a fashion show. The number one tip for success when it comes to packing is preparation. While it may seem dreadful, preparing for a trip is exciting so have fun with it. 

When creating a capsule wardrobe, find items that can be styled into multiple outfits. This does not mean your outfits need to be simple, it means you need to be creative. Before putting an item in your suitcase, ask yourself — can this item be worn with three or more different outfits? If the answer is yes, keep it. If the answer is no, consider putting it aside as an extra option if there is room at the end.


The most worn item on my trip was my oversized white button down shirt. This is a must! Is it a little chilly after dinner? White button-down. Do you need something to wear over your swimsuit? White button-down. You want to dress up your workout dress? White button-down. Look at that — right there are three ways to style it. 

With ‘90s minimalist styles trending right now, it is the perfect time to wear all the basics. Other great staples to have in your bag are a neutral tube top and bodysuit. Black, white, nude, or grey, these tops will go with everything while giving off an effortlessly chic aesthetic. 

Image via Princess Polly

Princess Polly Sienna Shirt

Comes in White. $55.

Image via Free People

Free People The Carrie Tube

Comes in Black, Blue Jay, Gold Rust, Spring Fling, Guava, Cappuccino, Serenity, Hot Fudge, Rose Smoke, White. $30.

Image via Skims

Skims Fits Everybody High Neck Bodysuit

Comes in Onyx, Cocoa, Oxide, Umber, Sienna, Ochre, Clay, Mica, Sand, Ruby, Fuschia, Sugar Plum, Ultra Pink, Neon Orchid, Marine, Khaki, Ultra Violet, Mykonos. $58.


When it comes to bottoms, denim is a must. However, it adds a lot of weight to a suitcase. One pair of jeans is about one pound, so the more you bring the heavier your suitcase is (which may seem fine at first, but will be horrific when your hotel does not have an elevator and your room is on the fifth floor). I recommend a simple, versatile pair like the Abercrombie Ultra High Rise ‘90s Straight Jean, and if the weather permits, a good pair of jean shorts is a good addition. 

For the days you do not feel like throwing on denim, a pair of loose trousers is effortlessly chic. Europeans tend to dress more conservative and classic so with these, you will blend right in. Think Matilda Djerf and her Scandinavian style. Pair them with a sweater or a tube top, and you have the perfect outfit for any occasion. 

Abercrombie & Fitch Ultra High Rise Straight Jean

Comes in Medium Wash. $90.

Image via Reformation

Reformation Petites Mason Pant

Comes in Oyster, Black, Black / White Stripe, Cafe, Corvette, Green Stripe, Khaki, Mushroom, Navy, Stone Stripe. $178.

Image via Levi’s

Levi’s 501 90’s Women’s Shorts

Comes in Drew Me In Short – Light Wash, Black Worn In, Light Wash Indigo. $70.


Dresses are the easiest outfit, however, packing too many can take up room unnecessarily so having a few staples is a must. The Alo Yoga Airlift Fly Dress is a great staple to have. Whether you spontaneously go hiking one day or need an airport outfit, this one is perfect. 

We know you will probably hit the town a night or two so another great dress to have is the Beginning Boutique Ellie Brown Strapless PU Mini Dress. Pieces that you can take from day to night are crucial. Throw on a white button down under this dress and pair it with some sneakers for an adventurous day before removing the white button down and changing to some platforms for a drink at a rooftop bar. Like I mentioned before, it is all about creativity. Do not be afraid to try something no matter how weird it may seem. 

Image via Alo

Alo Airlift Fly Dress

Comes in Black. $128.

Image via Beginning Boutique

Beginning Boutique Ellie Brown Strapless PU Mini Dress

Comes in Brown, Black. $65.


Depending on the time of year, this may be more important to your travel wardrobe. Jackets are bulky which makes it difficult. However, having one go-to that can pair with any outfit is crucial to your success. An oversized leather jacket is chic, easy, and warm. It is the perfect staple to throw on with jean shorts, over a dress, or for some extra warmth on the airplane.

Image via Zara

Zara Faux Leather Oversized Jacket

Comes in Black, White. $90.


When it comes to packing shoes — the fewer, the better. They are bulky and heavy so packing versatile pairs is key. For example, a pair of sandals like the Princess Polly Lola Platform Sandal or Sam Edelman Women’s Bay Flat Sandal that can be worn to a lazy, luxurious beach day or to that aesthetic restaurant all over Instagram. You may be hitting 30,000+ steps a day so comfortable shoes are a necessity. 

You are probably tired of people saying this, but it is true. However, don’t fret, comfortable does not mean ugly. Personally, I love a good chunky sneaker like the Fila Disruptors or the Steve Madden Possession Sneakers. The chunkiness not only looks badass, but provides more cushion and support for your foot. My go-to for years has been my Filas. My friends can attest — I live in these, so they were the perfect shoes to bring on my trip because *blister prevention tip* you should not bring a pair of shoes on your trip without breaking them in first. 

Image via Princess Polly

Princess Polly Lola Platform Sandals

Comes in White, Beige, Pink. $75.

Image via Sam Edelman

Sam Edelman Bay Slide Sandal

Comes in Light Gold Leather, French Oak Croc, Dark Mahogany Croc, Soft Silver Leather, Carmine Rose Croc, Forest Green Croc, Black Leather, Bright White Leather, Saddle Leather, Almond Patent, Black Patent, White Patent, Molten Gold. $100.

Image via Shopbop

Fila Disruptor II Premium Sneaker

Comes in White. $70.

Image via DSW

Steve Madden Possession Sneaker

Comes in Off White, Black, White / Black. $100.


I am an accessories girl so limiting this was a difficult one for me. However, you can still spice up an outfit with easier-to-pack accessories like jewelry or fun hair pieces. Doing this will take an outfit from basic to stylish. 

Image via Artizan

Artizan Maya Layered Necklace Set


Lazy Sunday Jewelry Metalli Large Chain Necklace

Comes in Gold, Silver. $50.

Image via Free People

Free People Pretty Little Flower Braid Ins

Comes in Silver Turq, Gold Onyx. $24.

Image via Princess Polly

Princess Polly Bratitude Headband

Comes in Beige. $12.


Purses are crucial when traveling. From your lipgloss to your passport, you need a cute yet secure purse to hold all your goodies. I recommend a neutral color in order to help it to pair perfectly with any outfit, and a zipper is a must for Europe. Whether it be the JW PEI Maze Bag for a more stylish look or you go for a more casual look with the Madewell Hyer Goods Upcycled Leather Fanny Pack, both are the perfect bag for your European adventure. 

Image via JW PEI

JW PEI Maze Bag

Comes in Almond, Black, Sage Green, Grass Green, White, Light Grey, Ice, Classic Blue, Classic Blue Suede, Yellow. $129.

Image via Madewell

Madewell Hyper Goods Upcycled Leather Fanny Pack

Comes in Black, Jet Black, Cognac, Olive, Forest Green. $185.

When you shop any of these pieces, make sure to tag @cfashionista in all your social media posts. I cannot wait to see your fashionable creativity abroad!

Featured image via @miamcmanus. Design by Her Campus Media/Francesca Grima of Unsplash.