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The first time I experimented with a capsule wardrobe was about a year and a half ago when I challenged myself to live off a capsule for an entire month. This was a test of creativity (and will) and I enjoyed almost every second of it. If you want more on this experiment, get caught up here! My favorite part of the capsule was when I had to pack for a week-long family vacation and surprisingly got my entire wardrobe into one carry on suitcase. Never in my life, ever, had I been able to fit all my clothes for a trip into one small suitcase! Major victory!
Now that Eric and I are prioritizing travel, I wanted to try and create a capsule wardrobe that would last me a few months on the road (major hint into our upcoming travel plans...). So I took to my closet and ended up with 27 versatile pieces perfect for any summer travel plans! And the best part? They all fit into one side of a carry on suitcase. Yep, you read that right.
PS: Scroll down to the bottom of this article for links to all my items!
1 travel wrap
1 casual blazer
1 button down shirt
2 dresses (one casual, one fancy)
1 pair of leggings
1 pair of casual pants
1 pair of jeans
2 pairs of jean shorts
1 pair of athletic shorts
1 long sleeve shirt
1 tee shirt
5 tank tops
2 beach cover ups
3 pairs of shoes
Why It Works
Capsule wardrobes are the best way to pack for a trip because you have fewer pieces that give you more options. This may sound counter-intuitive at first, but instead of packing by occasion (i.e.: 5 lunch outfits, 5 dinner outfits), capsules allow you to pack by item type (i.e.: 5 shirts, 5 pants) that can all be mixed and matched together to make new styles. This automatically gives you more creative styling ability with fewer options! Less is more, right?
The outfit options feel endless with this capsule, but I captured a few of them to give you an idea of the looks you can create. If I had seen these looks separately, I would have no idea that they were pulled from the same "pile" or capsule.
These athletic pants are some of my favorite and are such a staple of this travel capsule. I want to be super comfortable when traveling but still look put-together. I never know what we're going to get up to so I want outfits that can adjust to a last minute hike or a trendy lunch spot. These pants take you from travel days to coffee on cobblestone streets.
All the shirts in my capsule are essential basics. It's all about minimal effort here so I like to keep it simple. Plain tees and tanks in different materials and necklines spice up otherwise boring options. For example, this shimmery white cami is great for more sophisticated night looks while a classic basic tee looks good on hikes and styled casually.
All my tops can be paired with any of my pants, creating dozens of options and looks. I wear tanks the most in the summer (layering is everything!) so I made sure to have plenty of sleeveless shirts but also added in a long sleeve and a short sleeve for when I want my shoulders covered.
I chose two pairs of jean shorts, one in a beige color and the other a standard jean wash. I love the beige shorts because they bring a whole new color and look to the wardrobe.
If you're trying to pack more than one pair of jeans for your summer trip: stop right there! Unless you're like my husband and will wear jeans everyday no matter how hot it is, you should only have one pair of jeans. I chose my favorite medium-wash button fly jeans. These have a great stretch to them and can be worn a few times before needing washing (no stretching out!).
Also, I love this linen button up because it can be styled in multiple ways. You can leave it buttoned and tucked or tie it up for something more fun.
Ah, dresses: the best and worst items to pack. Dresses are a single-item-outfit, which is such a blessing because hello, easy to style! But this is also their downfall because it’s more difficult to change up the look. Because of this, I decided to include only two dresses in my capsule and picked two totally different dresses.
One is a casual dress that shines during the day: brunch, exploring, etc., while the other one is a dressier option for nighttime: romantic dinners, parties, etc. These two items should cover your bases entirely. Plus they can be styled with my all-time favorite item, my travel wrap. Using it as a cardigan, it’s perfect to add a little flare.
Items Not Shown
There are a few items not pictured that are worth mentioning, like leggings. I added a pair of my favorite leggings to my capsule to give me another comfy lounge/travel day option. These are also great for adventure or workout days. And speaking of working out, one of my tanks is a dedicated workout dry-fit tank. I also included a pair of workout shorts. We love to be active on vacation so I wanted a dedicated workout outfit for major hikes or gym days.
Swimwear is another big component of summer travel! I chose 4 swimsuits in a variety of colors and styles (a one piece and 3 mix and match bikinis) to maximize my options. I’d recommend adjusting this number based on how often you think you’ll be in the water. We’re planning on having a lot of beach days and will also have a pool at some of our Airbnbs so I wanted to make sure I had enough to mix and match. I also included two beach cover ups.
And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering...what about the shoes?? Alright ya’ll, shoes are tough!! The goal with picking shoes is to pick based on FUNCTION, then FASHION. Here’s a foolproof way of choosing the right shoes to have:
FUNCTION: Pick out 2 pairs of shoes that will get you through 90% of your activities. For me this is a pair of sneakers that are good for hiking, day-long walks, etc. and a pair of athletic sandals. While I love flip flops and cutesy sandals, they just don’t serve a big enough function besides looking cute. I know I walk a lot so having a flat-footed sandal is just not going to support the adventures I’m looking to take. If you feel like your bases aren’t covered enough, select one more pair of shoes for the remaining 10% need. I opted for a chunky heel sandal that instantly dresses up jeans and dresses for a nicer look. These are also super comfortable and I know I’d be able to wear them for long periods of time.
FASHION: Now that you know what type of shoes you need, go to your closet and pick out the most versatile options. For example, if you’re only bringing one pair of sneakers you’ll want a color that you can wear on adventure & casual days. I love the look of a white sneaker so that’s what I went with. When in doubt, start pairing outfits together. After writing this article, I’m actually considering swapping out my black chunky heels for a pair of nude chunky heels. I originally liked the idea of black shoes because they match almost everything, but I think a nude heel allows for more versatility.
Bottoms & Shoes
Tops & Dresses
Now it’s your turn! Take these tips and go create your own capsule travel wardrobe! Let me know below how it turns out :)
Also, for making it this far, here’s a fun video we did on capsule wardrobes & the pains of packing. Happy travels!
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