Mapping Out A Spring Travel Wardrobe

12-piece travel wardrobe capsule for Spring, using a neutral base of black, grey, navy and olive. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

The 12-Piece Travel Wardrobe Capsule

Going somewhere this Spring? If so, and you’re looking to pack lighter and smarter, here’s a Spring travel wardrobe capsule you can use as a starting point to plan your own travel wardrobe.

Top: Tee | Shirt | Tee (similar) | Tee
Second: Sweater (Plus) | Cardigan (similar) | Sweater | Jacket (similar) (Plus)
Third: Skirt (similar)| Jeans | Pants | Trousers
Bottom: Boots (similar) | Sneakers | Loafers (similar) | Sandals

(As always, the pieces shown are intended as examples. More Plus size options and pieces in a range of prices in the widgets below.)

When considering pieces for a travel wardrobe, I do my best to balance three factors:

  1. They work as part of a cohesive whole and can each can be worn in a number of combinations.
  2. They pack and travel well.
  3. They rise to the level of Smart Casual.

The 12-Piece Wardrobe above is built on a neutral palette of black, navy and grey. I’ve added some blue tops as color accents (though this could be any other color you like), as well as a dark olive jacket. I always recommend a core of neutral pieces as they’re easy to combine multiple ways, and adapt to varying levels of formality. You may prefer a different palette (brown instead of black, for example). And yes, you can always add more color!

Travel outfit with black pants, kate spade scarf, and sweater using pieces from the 12-piece Spring travel wardrobe. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Accessorized with: Earrings (similar) | Scarf | Bag | Guide

In general, I find that Smart Casual is as dressed up as I need to be when we travel. But if you have a special event on your itinerary (a cocktail party, wedding, formal nights on a cruise), you’ll need to add items as appropriate.

So let’s break it down…here’s what I included in this capsule and why:

Footwear

When planning a travel wardrobe, I always start with the shoes. It’s the most important part to get right. You want footwear that’s comfortable enough for several hours on your feet, and works with the rest of your wardrobe. I’ve shown four types of shoes here, but I usually try to bring just three pairs, including what I wear on the plane.

  • If you anticipate cool, wet weather, a pair of water-resistant ankle boots is a good choice. I almost always travel with a pair as I find them versatile as well as protective for travel days.
  • Sneakers, because they are a popular and comfortable choice.
  • As an alternative to either the boots or sneakers, you may prefer a pair of loafers or oxfords.
  • And for warm weather travel, I always bring a comfortable pair of walking sandals. (The style shown above is what I wore (comfortably) all over Paris last summer.)

Shop Travel Shoes

Bottoms

Travel outfit with jeans and a striped shirt using pieces from the 12-piece Spring travel wardrobe. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Accessorized with: Scarf | Bracelet (similar)| Bag | Guide

I find that a ratio of two tops to one bottom works best for me. I use the concept of “tabletop dressing,” keeping the bottom separates simple and using the tops to add interest and variety. I find straight leg pants that can be cuffed to be the most versatile cut.

  • I’ve included a skirt here as many of you have mentioned you tend to wear and pack them. This one isn’t too full, so works with the tops.
  • Some don’t like to travel with jeans, but I do. I find non-distressed styles are appropriate in most places, and are easy to style. If weather will be warmer, you may find a slightly relaxed cut that allows some air circulation is more comfortable than skinnies.
  • I always include a pair of black knit pants, either ponte knit in cooler seasons, or stretch crepe when it’s warmer. (During seasons when temperatures fluctuate, I’ll often pack both.)
  • A pair of soft trousers. For this wardrobe, I’ve chosen a taupe/grey color which adds some lightness to travel outfits, but won’t show dirt quite as quickly as white. Navy would also be good choice.

Shop Travel Bottoms

Tops

Travel outfit with beige trousers, olive moto jacket and a star print tee shirt. Pieces from the 12-piece Spring travel wardrobe. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Accessorized with: Earrings | Bracelet | Bracelet | Bag | Guide

To get the most out of your travel wardrobe, look for tops that layer well. This is key to a creating a travel wardrobe that accommodates a wide range of temperatures. Avoid or limit oversized and bulky tops. You’ll want to adjust the weight of your tops based on the forecast at your destination(s), but it’s a good idea to allow for temperatures either 20F/6C above or 20F/6C below averages.

  • I’ve included three tees in various weights and styles. One thing I’ve finally figured out is that when temperatures are too warm to layer, tops with color or pattern add a bit of visual interest and help the outfit look more “finished.”
  • I usually include one slightly dressier top, here a subtly striped silk shirt.
  • I’ve included two sweaters. One cardigan that can be worn either open as a top layer or buttoned up as a mid-layer. One pullover, which should be able to layer over the tees and shirt.
  • A lightweight blazer or jacket can add some structure and/or visual interest. This one (also available in Plus) would fit underneath a raincoat or other outerwear if needed.

Shop Travel Tops

Base Layers

  • I always pack a few silk tanks and camisoles, and wear daily underneath my tops. They insulate and (I believe) help keep my tops and sweaters fresher longer. I can rinse out or hand wash in the sink, and they hang dry overnight.
  • If there’s any chance that the weather will turn cold (always a possibility in Spring, especially at altitude), it’s a good idea to include some thermal tops and bottoms. They can also double as sleepwear on cold nights.
  • For no-show socks, these are the best I’ve found. They stay in place, wick moisture, and don’t pick up odors. For regular socks too, I’d recommend lightweight wool in general over cotton or synthetics for the same reasons.

Paris Style Report: Scarves

I’ll cover outerwear and bags in a subsequent post. And yes, I’ll also show you some ideas for adding color to a travel wardrobe. 😉

I’ve also updated my SHOP page with more travel wardrobe suggestions…go have a look  👀

What items do you always pack for travel?

Stay in touch.

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22 Comments

  1. February 19, 2019 / 3:27 am

    Nice assortment here. One thing I try to keep in mind is the lengths of tops, so that they layer nicely. A tunic might look great on its own, but if it’s cold and I add a sweater, it might look weird unless it’s the right shape and length. As a result, I try to stick to similar kinds of tops, the the T-shirts you have here.

  2. Meg
    February 19, 2019 / 4:16 am

    I have many smart wool no show socks. WHIle I love them , I have always been irritated by the thick edging they have sewn on the tops. I found a brand called “Feetures” from Zappos that work great. Seam free toes and no bulky edging to bother the tops of my feet. I love the loafer and Oxford ‘no sock’ look so this was a bonanza for me.
    Carefully noting all your ideas for a spring river cruise in chilly Bavaria… 🙂
    Gathering my EF pants and light tops now. Of course a raincoat is a must because it always rains on my vacations. The shoes are all walkable and easy to mix, thanks for the ideas!

    • Ann Hicks
      February 19, 2019 / 8:32 am

      Hi Meg, same for me with the edge of no show socks. I found these on amazon and the edges are smooth and flat, they come in sizes so don’t cut into my feet and have a tiny bit of cushy arch support. These are my go to socks. I also have the lower cut ones by this brand but I don’t like them as well as these. https://www.amazon.com/Womens-Support-Sponge-Cushion-Shoe-Size/dp/B0721QMK6J?ref_=w_bl_sl_ap_ap_web_14560228011
      Not cheap, but I have had two pair that I wear a lot and they are still going strong!

      • Kathy W
        February 19, 2019 / 1:11 pm

        These socks look great. I’m going to try them out!

  3. Marguerite
    February 19, 2019 / 7:54 am

    I’m headed to London, March 1st. Transitional weather is a given. I’m taking two different pair of black ankle boots and one pair of sneakers. Outerwear is still the question mark. Weather forecast tbd the day before departure. However, coming from Texas, it always seems cold to me!

  4. Bernadine
    February 19, 2019 / 8:22 am

    This is the BEST! We usually cruise Europe in Sept/Oct and I am not as restricted on my packing.
    However, this September we will be touring Germany for 16 days and then “recovering” in Nice for 5 days.
    I really needed to see this! Your style is almost identical to mine, so the pics make this so easy for me! I recently lost some weight, but my lower body is a bit curvier, so I am working on getting bottoms that fit me better. Also, loved & bookmarked your piece on black pants!

  5. marsha calhoun
    February 19, 2019 / 9:40 am

    This is precisely what I need for two upcoming trips – a short cruise to Mexico, and a long cruise/stay to and in New Zealand. The first doesn’t have a weight limit, but the second certainly does, involving as it does a long flight home. I so appreciate your sharing these ideas, and knowing that they are based on your own adventures and careful considerations!

  6. Carol Montanti
    February 19, 2019 / 12:19 pm

    Such a great post Susan! I’ll be sure to keep this on hand to doublecheck my travel wardrobe for Paris in mid April. I often go that time of year so I know layers are important. I’m taking grey and navy neutrals, with a little pale pink for colour, instead of my usual red, am already putting those items in a pile in the closet, will be checking this post I’m sure!
    Thanks again!

  7. Alexandra Martella
    February 19, 2019 / 1:48 pm

    Found a nice, comfy, travel worthy longer skirt (to my knees) at Nordstrom rack yesterday ~ Philosophy brand under $20. Black, navy, grey. Was hesitant as it seems pretty inexpensive but felt great on!

  8. Angela in NZ
    February 19, 2019 / 8:15 pm

    I remember you usually include a wrap for air travel, so I now pack a cashmere blend button poncho from Woolovers. It’s even going with me to Niue (South Pacific) in August as it’s cool at night at that time of year.

  9. Lily
    February 20, 2019 / 9:47 am

    One item I am buying/packing from here on – NUDE tee shirt bras. I was constantly hand washing the one I packed on my last trip. Nude always works. Try everything on before you leave. Especially out of season clothes you may not have worn in awhile. Most importantly, walk-able footwear.

  10. Barb Hansen
    February 20, 2019 / 9:53 am

    This is a great post for me, my husband and I are planning a trip to Ireland in September and I need reminders to layer and to mix and match to pack light. Thanks so much.

  11. February 20, 2019 / 10:36 am

    Such a great travel wardrobe!

    FYI: I really like Veja sneakers – they are comfortable, a little wider than other fashion sneakers, and available in some fun styles and colors. I have a gold leather pair with embroidered stars (purchased at Madewell) and a new pair of black leather velcro ones. I remove the insole and use orthotics.

    It’s an ethical company too!

    https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/veja-espalar-3-lock-sneaker-women/5081547
    https://www.madewell.com/madewell-x-vejatrade%3B-esplar-low-sneakers-in-star-embroidered-gold-leather-J9289.html

  12. Alison M Gunn
    February 22, 2019 / 7:06 pm

    I have a ‘uniform’ of sorts, nothing fancy, but mostly washable which keeps me either warm or cool depending on the time of year. I like JJill pants for travelling because they wash and dry really easily in a sink. I find that black is not the best color to travel in; light-to-dark grey, like charcoal, is. I will usually bring two pairs of JJill pants in either navy or charcoal. If I’m travelling into winter temperatures, I include silk thermal underwear, or if the temperatures are warmer, my cotton-rich JJill pants work okay. If it’s *hot* I will always bring a maxi skirt or a maxi dress. In winter I pack my Eddie Bauer winter coat, which has a waterproof exterior and a button-in liner. I have Mephisto tall and short waterproof (Gore-tex) boots for winter as well as Mephisto hiking boots, but warmer temperatures means my walking shoes (usually Dansko) and sandals (Aravon for problem feet). I also wear compression socks to fly in. I always have some kind of cardigan sweater for the flight, but if it’s winter it’s cashmere and I bring my cashmere scarves.

  13. Amy
    February 25, 2019 / 6:42 pm

    I love the look of this wardrobe. Do you have any suggestions for a stylish and lightweight rain jacket? I have trips planned for Portugal (June) and Italy (October). I have a couple Uniqlo Down jackets, but I don’t think I will need something that heavy.

    • Susan B
      February 25, 2019 / 6:59 pm

      Hi Amy, thanks, and yes I’ll be covering rain jackets and other outerwear next week. 🙂

  14. Amy
    February 25, 2019 / 6:46 pm

    If you’re looking for no-show lightweight socks, check out Stance (available on Zappos and at Nordstroms). They come in sizes, so there’s a better fit.

  15. Laurel
    February 28, 2019 / 6:36 am

    Lisbon and Porto – mid-April to early May….your travel wardrobe suggestions are very helpful for a Canadian trapped in chilly winter and dreaming of spring.
    I’ll use these ideas as I assemble my items for packing – river cruising, wandering both cities. Any further suggestions for visiting this part of the world at this particular time happily accepted.
    Cheers to Spring!

  16. Alexandra
    March 8, 2019 / 11:25 am

    So in May we are headed to the UK and Israel. Any suggestions for packing for two different locales with different weather? I am a bit stumped as I don’t want to overpack! Thanks.

  17. Dandelion
    March 24, 2019 / 10:41 am

    I’m going on my first overseas trip, Scotland in June, and love your carry on wardrobes! Any ideas for hats? I have thin hair and my scalp “talks” to me if it’s uncovered in the sun too long.

    • Susan B
      March 24, 2019 / 11:01 am

      Hi Dandelion, thanks! Here are some ideas for hats:

      This “squishable” hat is pricey, but blocks 95% of UVA/UVB rays. http://bit.ly/2JAqQPl

      And here’s one that doesn’t have the same SPF rating, but is much more budget-friendly: http://bit.ly/2JxSJHI

      And another budget-friendly option in a cloche style: https://shopstyle.it/l/09q8

      • Dandelion
        March 24, 2019 / 2:32 pm

        Thanks for the great ideas!

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