Capsule Wardrobes :: A Smart Way to Pack for Travel

Capsule wardrobes have exploded in popularity lately, but they really aren’t anything new. They’re the brainchild of London boutique owner Susie Faux, who came up with the term in the 1970’s to describe a dozen essential pieces that you could use to create a complete wardrobe year round.

That sounds far removed from the thirty or so pieces lifestyle bloggers tell you that you need per season to create your capsule wardrobe. But it’s the perfect philosophy to help you pack for your next long trip and keep everything down to just a small carry-on or roll-aboard, which is what we try to do. The more we travel, the less we find we need. And the less laundry we have to do after, too!

If you’re looking for some ideas on how to build yourself a travel capsule wardrobe that will let you bring just about everything you need in just a few pieces, here’s how we plan our packing.

Pick A Color Scheme

The first thing we usually do is pick colors so that pretty much everything we bring will go together. That gives you a lot more options for outfit combinations, and reduces decisions you have to make when you’re just trying to get out the door in the morning.

Mix + Match Tops and Bottoms

Try pairing up your different top options with different bottoms. See how many different outfits you can make just with those options. Then think about what else you need to add even more variety in terms of accessories.

Pick All-Purpose Accessories

Simple, classic pieces are good for any event, whether it’s giving a lecture, dining in a nice restaurant, walking around town on a tour, or adventuring.

When I travel, I bring simple accessories either in my color scheme or in blacks or grays. I hardly every wear jewelry, but I stash some simple silver earrings, a simple necklace, and a statement necklace in my things so I can dress up an outfit if needed. And you can never have too many scarves. Ever.

See What I Mean?

No? Not quite?

With a little Polyvore action, I can show you what I mean. And let me do it quickly, because I can seriously get lost in that website.

I love green, and a lot of my travel capsule wardrobes are green and gray, so let’s play with that idea.

Capsule Packing


There are twelve possible combinations between these tops and bottoms. Dress your shoes up or down depending on the occasion and how much walking you have to do. Get a nice, simple, high quality jacket and purse in the mix that will work for any occasion, and that’s all you’ll have to bring. And you can add many new combinations by throwing a couple scarves and a hat and a small assortment of complimentary jewelry into your bag.

It doesn’t seem so far-fetched to have four tops and three bottoms work for a week worth of clothing now, does it?

Doing Your Laundry

But what if you don’t want to just wear the same things over and over? What about laundry? That’s not a worry if you’re just going to visit family or friends, but what if you’re staying in a hotel or traveling? Don’t worry – you can still do your laundry in your hotel room sink!

Here’s all you need to make a travel laundry kit:

  • A small mesh bag
  • Concentrated liquid detergent in a small plastic bottle
  • A small drain stopper

Wash your duds in suds, wring them dry to minimize the amount of dripping, and carefully hang clothes over the bathtub on the shower curtain or, if your hotel has one, on the stretchable clothesline. And if they pick up lint in the process, a piece of Scotch tape works as a perfectly good lint brush.

What are your best outfit and packing tips for travel?


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  • I always pack in one color scheme, it makes things infinitely easier! And usually, it’s black or navy blue. I am addicted to scarves so I bring several to add some color.

    • I love all things navy! You get the versatility of black without looking too somber, although I imagine bright scarves help with that! I love navy and pale pink and also navy and bright yellow right now!