We love to travel in Spring and Fall, but the weather can be wildly unpredictable. I want to pack light, while still being prepared for a range of conditions and activities. When planning my travel wardrobes, I have a good idea of what types of pieces I’m going to pack, but will choose the exact items close to departure to take advantage of the most up-to-date weather forecast.
12-Piece Travel Wardrobe Capsule
Here’s a sample 12-piece travel wardrobe capsule for Spring. Think of this as a “starter kit”. Over the next few weeks, I’ll show you some variations using this capsule as a base that can be added to or tweaked for different types of travel. As always, the pieces I’ve included here aren’t necessarily the exact pieces I own. Some of mine are a few years old, and I’ve tried to show similar items that are currently available.
I’ve learned to stick with mostly simple, neutral pieces. They’re key to building a cohesive wardrobe, and you can use accessories to change up the look. Think “tabletop dressing,” and focus on your top half for variety. For most travel, I find that a ratio of 2 tops for 1 bottom works well. These are not clothes that will get you street style snapped, but you’ll be comfortably and appropriately dressed for most venues.
I’ve used a mix of tees, sweaters, and blouses. You can vary this mix based on your preferences and climate. The important thing is to choose pieces that can be layered. I’ve learned to avoid bulky, oversized pieces for travel for this reason. Even the jacket (similar) I’ve shown here will fit underneath most outerwear. To maximize your wardrobe, each of your tops should work with most of the bottoms you’ve selected.
I tend to avoid 100% cotton tops, as they’re often heavier and slower to dry. Fabrics that include viscose, tencel, rayon, modal, linen jersey, silk and silk jersey are my preferences for travel. For sweaters, I like wool blends and cashmere. But if you’re allergic to wool, lightweight cotton and cotton-blend knits will work.
You may or may not want to include jeans. I always do, and find I wear them most often. I look for styles with stretch, and some polyester or rayon in the blend which will make them more lightweight and quicker to dry. For the black pants, I’ve included the ponte knit pants I always take, but you might prefer something lighter (the Eileen Fisher stretch crepe are a favorite) or more tailored. I find slim cut pants easiest for travel, though wider legs are fine if that’s more your style. I would just advise against cuts with a very wide flare or that touch the ground.
Though I rarely pack skirts, I’ve included one here because I know many of you do.
If you prefer dresses to separates, you can subtract 2 tops and one bottom for each 2 dresses you pack.
More Little Black (and Navy) Pants
I’m not counting shoes as part of the 12 pieces, but have included them here as a reminder to choose your footwear first. The three styles I’ve shown here would cover you across a wide range of temperatures, but you should adjust based on the forecast at your destination(s).
More travel footwear options here:
Do you have travel planned this year that presents a packing challenge for you?