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 | Tee
Second: Sweater (Plus) | Cardigan | Sweater | Jacket (Plus)
Third: Skirt | Jeans | Pants | Trousers
Bottom: Boots | Sneakers | Loafers | 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:
- They work as part of a cohesive whole and can each can be worn in a number of combinations.
- They pack and travel well.
- 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!
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:
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
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
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
- 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.
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?