Traveling far and frequently has become the norm with living on the opposite side of the country from most of my family. With countless trips for holidays and vacations each year, you’d think that so much travel would teach me a thing or two about efficient packing.
But it wasn’t until recently that I finally figured out the art of the capsule wardrobe when packing for any of these extended trips. Easier said than done, managing to whittle down two weeks’ (and three stops’) worth of belongings into a carry-on suitcase felt like a personal breakthrough.
With an itinerary that involved everything from walking and exploring new places to nicer dinners out and more relaxed family time, packing for that much variety was the main challenge. My first important lesson: Avoid anything too specific. Hyper-trendy pieces are no use to you when you’ll only wear them once in the span of several weeks. What’s more, building a base of neutral pieces means that the outfit combos can be virtually endless.
Which brings me to my second lesson: Let the accessories, shoes, and bags do all the talking. The third lesson: Choose footwear wisely. Avoid packing shoes that only go with one or two articles of clothing, and instead opt for your most versatile pairs. With these basic rules in mind, I built a capsule wardrobe out of 12 pieces. And yes, it lasted me for two weeks of travel.
Scroll down to see (and shop) each piece in my travel capsule wardrobe and keep reading to see it in action.
A long coat in a neutral tone like black or navy is ideal for traveling to colder climates, as it keeps you warm while still achieving an overall sleek look.
A plain sweatshirt to throw over everything is a must, and this version stands out from the rest.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wear this piece multiple times a week in the winter. It’s thin enough to layer under pretty much everything. On this trip, I wore it under the slip dress and, for a forward look, under the T-shirt.
As essential as a white T-shirt is to any capsule wardrobe, I found myself never tiring of n: Philanthropy’s super-soft lightweight fabric and stylish cutout.
The slip dress has come to inhabit the same versatile space as, say, the ankle boot or the skinny jean. In other words, its ability to be dressed up or down makes it the only dress I deemed worthy of packing.
I’ll admit that a pencil skirt isn’t the first piece most would choose to pack for vacation, but it was surprisingly simple to dress up with the ankle boots and sweater or down with the T-shirt and sneakers.
Pick one trend piece, and try and get as much use out of it as possible. For me, it was a pair of leather pants that I wore as casually as I’d wear jeans.
Look for boots with a low-enough heel to be comfortable walking around in all day (if you’re the type of person who likes exploring new places on foot) but provides a substantial lift to wear for dinner and drinks.
The key to efficient packing, I've learned, is for each piece to have multiuse value. Case in point: not just any pair of sneakers, but ones that double as “fashion sneakers” and running shoes, meaning one less pair to squeeze in an already cramped suitcase.
Danse Lente's architectural shape puts a decidedly sleek spin on the classic tote bag, making stylish travel looks a no-brainer.
Lastly, a small handbag that doubles as a crossbody was a must. Its vibrant colors offered each of my darker looks a touch of something eye-catching.
Scroll down to see the capsule wardrobe in action.
For any occasion that warrants a more forward approach, try this modern take on Western details. Wear these leather pants (sized up for a trouser fit) cuffed to expose the ankle boots, which have a distinctively cowboy-style shape. To ground the pairing, pop the long coat over it all.
Here’s where the power of the versatile slip dress comes into play. Layered over the thin turtleneck, it’s slightly more elevated, while over a simple T-shirt, it becomes a low-key weekend uniform.
For travel days and sightseeing excursions, try this relaxed combo. An easygoing trouser-and-sweater combo offered all the comfort of leggings, albeit with a bit more polish, while bright accessories pop against the monochrome palette.
This cool off-duty look is perfect for a casual dinner with friends or an afternoon of shopping.
For events and family gatherings, this combo offers a neutral palette and more classic shapes.
Style Du Monde
Give the slip dress the cool-girl treatment by wearing it with athleisure essentials: sneakers and a sweatshirt.
Style du Monde
While the T-shirt and sneakers make this look feel casual, throw the long coat over it all to finish it off.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.