The 15 Piece Travel Wardrobe

3 week Europe travel wardrobe

Putting together this 3 week, 15 piece travel wardrobe has been a real challenge, not so much for the length of the trip (our longest yet), but for the variety of both weather and activities on the slate. Our first stop, Amsterdam, is likely to be cool and wet, at least for the first few days. Bordeaux has good odds of being sunny and warm. London and Paris are anyone’s guess at this point. I’ve gone back and forth, but ultimately I decided to Go With What Works™ based on past travel wardrobes. Yes, that means lots of black (and some navy).

I am changing a couple of things up, though.

  • Luggage: I still recommend the Lipault spinner bag, but I’m trying out a new carry-on spinner suitcase, one with firmer sides and a bit more capacity. Last year when I compared and chose the Lipault over the Briggs & Riley spinner, the B&R was decidedly a heavier bag, though I loved the design and features. B&R has re-designed the bag (mostly exterior details from what I can determine); it’s now about 1 lb. lighter than the one I wrote about, and only about 1 lb. difference from the Lipault, a reasonable tradeoff for the extra space. Which I may need because…
  • Usually I don’t plan to purchase clothing while traveling to wear on the trip, but rather than pack sandals (a 4th pair of shoes) that I may or may not need once there, I’ll purchase along the way if needed. (I love European footwear, and sandals will always be used back home.)
  • I’m allowing myself to pack a few more pieces than usual.
  • Shopping happens. 😉

As with past wardrobes, I’ve selected mostly simple and lightweight pieces that can dress up or down, and will layer easily as needed. I’ve used scarves for color.

So let’s get to it…here’s the core. I gave myself an allotment of 15 pieces, not including accessories, shoes, underpinnings and outerwear. You can click on each item listed below for links. Some of the pieces here are from past years, so are not currently available; in those instances I’ve tried to link to something similar.

15 piece travel wardrobe


  • 2 silk tees, one navy, one black, both 3/4 sleeve (Eileen Fisher, linked to similar style)
  • 1 silk tunic, sheer hem, black, 3/4 sleeve (similar) (Eileen Fisher)
  • 1 linen long-sleeve tee (similar) (Eileen Fisher)
  • 1 black sheer silk shirt (similar) (Eileen Fisher, linked to similar style)
  • 1 cotton gauze top (similar) (J.Crew)
  • 1 cotton ikat popover (similar) (Talbots)
  • 1 linen tunic shirt (similar) (Everlane)



  • 1 tropical weight tuxedo style (similar)




*Decided this one was redundant, will look for something along the way in a different color.

I know some don’t like to travel with jeans, but they are my go-to’s at home and I’ve never regretted bringing them. In addition to being easy to style, they can be worn several times in between laundering. Nothing I’ve packed needs to be ironed. Most of the tops can be hand washed and hung to dry. All of these pieces fit into the framework of a “long over lean” silhouette which makes it easy to put outfits together.

travel outerwear and bags
That leather jacket looks teal in this photo, but is actually a soft navy.


  • 1 utility jacket (Sandro, linked to similar style)
  • 1 navy lightweight leather moto jacket (Vince, this one comes in several different color options)


What didn’t make the cut:

  • Short sleeved tees. I always pack them, almost never wear them. The lightweight collared shirts are just as comfortable and more versatile, as well as looking just a bit more polished.
  • Skirts or dresses. I’ve found they complicate the equation. Using the concept of “Tabletop Dressing” I can utilize the black pants with one of the dressier tops and jacket if needed.
  • Lots of sweaters. I tend to overpack sweaters, which can be bulky and heavy. Both of these selections can be hand washed if needed.
  • Lots of jewelry. I’ve packed a few earrings, a couple of necklaces and bracelets. I’ve found that a few pieces are all I need.

You can see more of my travel wardrobe suggestions on my SHOP page. I’ll do my best to post outfits daily during our trip. Tomorrow I’ll show you how I pack toiletries, medications and makeup.

When you pack for long trips, do you have a strategy for maximizing your options?

For more ideas and suggestions, please be sure to check out my Travel Wardrobe Resource Page.

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  1. Considering the varied scope of your acitvities, I think this is perfect! I agree with you about the tees vs shirts as I find myself leaning more and more towards the latter most of time now even at home. For me, maximising my options would mean packing one silk shirt dress that weighs almost nothing and takes up hardly any space. I think I’ve got the mixing and matching of separates working for how I like it to, but a dress will always be my ‘no brainer’ item. Given my bias 🙂 I would so love to see you wear a dress version of one of your tunic shirts – I think you’d look fabulous with the heels!

    1. Great idea silkpathdiary. A silk dress is so light and in the right style, can be worn over pants for versatility. I will be on the hunt for one now.

  2. Returned yesterday from three weeks in Amsterdam. The weather was very unreliable – cold and damp, with a few hours of sunshine here and there. My warmer weather stuff went unused, and I wore my single long sleeved turtle neck to death. I had ruled out a black cardi, and that was a mistake. I did wear all of my tee shirts layered under a soft boyfriend jacket, under my leather jacket almost every day. On the worst days I topped it with a pashima and leather gloves, too. Hope your weather is nicer!!

    1. You never know about weather! I left for Amsterdam the day after you posted this. I had checked the weather app right before packing and leaving and rain was predicted 5 out of the 7 days I would be there with temps in the 60’s. I packed accordingly. Turns out it only rained at night and our last 2 days there the temps were in the 80’s! You have to just pack for everything and use layers. I didn’t use the long-sleeve layers under the shirts or my short boots. I did wear my skirt and bought a pair of sandals. And I had a wonderful time in that beautiful city.

  3. Thank you for your suggestions, madam 🙂 We’ll be travelling to Paris, Besancon (also my maiden name!) and Strasbourg in mid-August so I’ll have to “tweak” your suggestions for the climate. But this is very helpful; merci!

  4. Help! I,m going to Paris in mid August and I,m not sure what to pack. We will also be going on a Danube river cruise spending a couple of weeks in Italy before heading home to Australia.

  5. And toiletries, make up, underwear, stockings, socks, sleepwear, robe, medications? all of this will fit in a carryon? will you be doing laundry while on this trip? I’m curious.

    1. Hi Jacqueline. Yes, it all fits between the carry-on and “personal item.” 🙂 I’ll post an addendum tomorrow to show how the bag looks packed and how I work the toiletries within the TSA regs.

  6. Returned from London a week ago. The weather was nuts – 72 and sunny one day (I was drenched in sweat) and 49 with wind/rain the next (freezing)(should’ve packed the silk underwear). Good luck!

  7. I went on a river cruise to Amsterdam and Belgium the end of April/beginning of May. As far as the formality on the cruise, it really was somewhat casual (no formal nights as on an ocean cruise). We had dinner with different people every night. Think tabletop dressing and you’ll be fine, Wendy.

    I had a lot of layers because we had two rainy days (but no heavy downpours) and underpinnings worked great. I even had a down sweater that packed into its own pocket that really came in handy on the chilly, windy days. The weather got warmer towards the end of the trip. I think you have just the right travel wardrobe.

  8. I went on the Danube cruise in may as well. The “smart casual” dinners were a relief as I had been in Europe for several months and I don’t pack “dressy” clothes for Europe. It did rain but it was not cold. One of my travelling friends has the down sweater and I will buy one before my next European trip. Sue, I found that my Eileen Fisher items washed so well in the basin. In 10 weeks, I did not visit a lavandería and I certainly did not iron.

  9. Looks great! I put a preliminary list together yesterday and it was very similar to yours, but I’m only going to be in Paris for one week so I have a little less. I’m waiting now to see what the forecast is for the end of next week as it may go from the mid 60s to the mid 80s and I’ll need to bring a bottom to accommodate the heat (likely a pair of navy linen pants).

    I too am doing navy and black with a little white and olive green thrown in the mix.

    I suspect you’ll pick up a couple of tops on the way…can’t wait to see the shoes you bring back. Too bad we won’t be in Paris during the soldes!

    Bon voyage – je vous remercie pour vos counseils.

  10. Bravo my dear! Bravo! I know how much work it takes to do a pared down traveling wardrobe … and you my dear are an expert! I am excited to follow along on your latest adventure!!

  11. Great tips. I tend to overpack. I find sticking with a color theme works best for me. Black and pink or black and red. Since I’m going to the “grande brocante” in Lille, I need to pack light!

  12. I’ll be leaving in 2 weeks for 3 weeks in paris and bologna. Having done this trip before, I know just what I’ll pack: 2 sundresses and 1 shirtdress (which take almost no room); 3 pants: blue jeans, white jeans, loose linen pants; tees: 2 tanks, 1 long sleeve (all with stretch, majestic); 4 buttondowns: 1 lightweight linen, 1 cotton; 1 silk; cotton pencil skirt; pullover and cardigan, adidas leather sneakers in nude, flat sandals, black ballerinas, lightweight army anorack, scarves. These give me lots of choices. Hope this is helpful for someone traveling a little further into summer weather.

  13. I am packing similar base pieces, with different outerwear and very lightweight handbags since we walk so much. I have to take about 6 pairs of ugly shoes since everything hurts my feet in different ways. Also taking two long tunics that can go over pants/leggings and serve as dresses in case it gets very hot (we got caught in a heat wave one year).

    You can go anywhere in your choices. I’ll keep an eye out for you!

      1. Will do. We will be in Paris June 2-26 (I think that’s the end date). Many possibilities that don’t require much pre-planning: Rodin garden in the evening (museum is still being renovated, I think), cafe at the Louvre, evening in the big field by the Eiffel Tower, Jardin du Luxembourg…on and on. Oh–the Jardin des Plantes is very nice–I went there for the first time last summer.

  14. I spent 3 weeks in Europe last July. It was *hot,* even on the Yorkshire moors. I relied on light pants, skirts, and dresses. Ended up sending my jeans home with my husband — too hot and heavy. Leggings, scarf, and exact same leather jacket that is shown above were enough to cover any cool spots, like airplanes and theaters. I am an EF fan, but also find Fresh Produce cotton dresses and Sympli clothes great for travel. P.S. Have found your blog so interesting and helpful!

  15. Excellent packing choices! I have many of the same Eileen Fisher clothes and they are always my first choice for travel. I very much enjoy your blog! Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  16. Oh, btw, keep meaning to tell you about DeKas restaurant in Amsterdam.Situated in a park, brilliant building, much of the food picked from the attached greenhouse and gardens through which you can wander. Kristin at K-Line told me about it before we went, luckily, and it’s one of my lifetime-memorable meals. Wrote about it in this post: If you get a chance (probl try to reserve ahead) you should go. . .

  17. I’m preparing to order some new lightweight luggage but am not able to compare the B&R and Lipault pieces in person. I like all the exterior pockets, etc on the B&R. The linear measurement of the B&R seems to be slightly less overall than the Lipault, so I was wondering – is the B&R interior more spacious because the telescoping handle is completely on the outside? BTW – I consider your wardrobe planning a miraculous feat and would love to accomplish the same for myself…..

    1. Pam, thanks. Yes, I believe the handle on the outside is what provides the extra interior capacity on the B&R. Also, I find the exterior pocket on the B&R more functional and easy to access.

  18. I’m not financially lucky enough to travel like y’all above but, whenever and wherever I do travel, I always pack too much so this blog is helpful even for me.

    1. Jan–My husband and I are teachers. The only really expensive part of the trip is the flight. With Abritel and AirBnB (and the chambres d’hote for the French countryside), the lodging can be quite reasonable. With those options, you get a kitchen. Food shopping is a lot of fun.

  19. Great packing list! We are headed to Paris for two weeks at the end of June. Your post will help me pare down my own packing so I will have plenty of room left for the inevitable splurges! We will be there during the sales, and I always find a few things that just have to come home with me. On a different note, I just wanted to say that I look forward to your blog posts, and your fashion inspiration has helped me with enhancing my own style. Keep up the good work, and I hope you have a fabulous and safe trip!

  20. Brilliant! Where did you purchase you’re luggage? What size cubes do you buy? How do you use the MarcJ acobs purse? Is it your travel purse? Do you still use your Lipault 19″ with your B&R? You may make me a convert! Can’t wait to see how you pack your pills and makeup. I way too many of both. Love your packing obsession. It helps us all.

  21. Great choices. I’m getting ready for 10 days in the Canadian Maritimes and the weather is highly variable. Carryon luggage is all we use, too. Your trip sounds busy and fabulous! Thanks for sharing your packing/fashion wisdom.

  22. Love love love your blog! I used the 19″ Lipault carry -on on my recent trip to Europe but, unfortunately, packed it just a little too heavy and could not cajole Air Transat to accept it – check on was free so no problem, but I had to laugh at all the effort i’d put in to take carry on! Agree also that the outside pocket of the Lipault is not really useable when the case is full. I too packed dark wash jeans and wore them to death in northern England. Also found that my black, Eddie Bauer narrow leg travel pants to be perfect in London during the day when it was quite warm. I find London is more casual than Paris especially if you eat in pubs as we did.
    Have a great trip!

  23. I can vouch for the Eileen Fisher black slim stretch crepe ankle pants. I have them–and have had them for about four years now. Not only have they been very versatile, but they have held up well for four years!

  24. Love your travel wardrobe- it will all work just fine. I’m just back from a couple of weeks away and agree about the shirts vs ts. I packed my leather jacket as an afterthought and was SO glad I did- I wore it constantly.

  25. Tish Jett just did a post today about cocktails in Paris with black pants – it’s a classy outfit! I think you will be glad you left the skirt out and used the space for something else.

  26. Was in Bordeax 10 days ago and currently in Paris. Weather has been cool but mostly nice. With an umbrella you are set. Paris was warmer than Bordeaux. Bought a pair of Paul green booties after you showed a pair of them. They have not left my feet! bonne journee.

  27. Bon voyage! This is great list; your carefully edited items are an inspiration (I tend to overpack at times). I will be leaving on a Budapest-to-Amsterdam river cruise on Saturday myself. Still deciding how formal to go for dinners and whether to pack gym clothes. I’m thinking all that walking should be enough… My go-to pieces are Eileen Fisher as well. I do add a few J. Jill silk infinity scarves for variety. They pack down to nothing and are less voluminous on than my cotton/linen scarves. I have B&R luggage myself, including the international carry-on spinner and really like it. In my view, it’s the best combination of quality and function; better than my Tumi. Have fun! I really enjoy your blog

  28. I try and wear my nicest coat or trench on the plane and therefore, I declare it “doesn’t count.” I rely also on a black pantsuit (I know, I just used the word pantsuit): Theory or Max Mara or even Banana R. I use the pants as my black pants and the jacket on it’s own too. We like a few dressy city dinners, so then I wear it as a suit with a navy or white collared shirt. Love your travel insights. I used to pack for weeklong European business trips in a carry-on. Here’s the short version: one pair of black heels and one pair of black flats worn on plane. That was it for shoes. Keep up the great work and Bon Voyage!

  29. Very nicely done! I also subscribe to the Go With What Works and also Tabletop Dressing formulae! Tones down my instinct to have to have a dress for dress up and the extra footwear issues that entails!

    May we ask what and how does Monsieur pack for carryon? Men’s shirts need proper laundering and ironing IMO and we need to time our stays where we can either do laundry ourselves in an AirBnb or if in a hotel, where we will have time to drop off and to take delivery of the clean shirts! And men’s footwear takes a ton of room too!

    1. Yes, men’s clothing presents some different challenges. We pack le monsieur’s shirts in one of these packing envelopes which really does prevent wrinkles. We also pick up a small spray container of Febreeze at our destination which helps freshen shirts between launderings. And plan on using a laundry service at least once on most trips. I should also be open that I have not yet been able to convert Monsieur to the joys of carry-on travel. We do keep him to a single medium-sized bag that can be carried and maneuvered, but it’s too big for carry-on travel.

  30. I take one piece of outerwear, depending on weather, a light trenchcoat, leather jacket or ultra-light down sweater. Since I’m in the city and duck inside in buckets of rain (and bring an umbrella) this works, every time, But- if Monsieur does not do carry on, you are •still• at the baggage carousel so, why take small bag that leaves little room for shopping?

    1. Duchesse, two reasons really: avoiding lost luggage and keeping my bag small and light enough to manage easily. And I will check it on the way home, plus we bring a folding duffle to carry any overage from purchases.

  31. Just came back from 3 weeks in Marseilles France, Florence and Rome, Greece and Istanbul. It was hot – plus 29 Celsius every day and does not cool down at night. so beware – a travel wardrobe like this will not work – you will be in the hospital with heat stroke! Oh, and add the humidity as well. I never wore long pants, or a jacket even once.

    1. c, thanks but we’ll be quite further north for this trip. Temperatures in Amsterdam right now are forecast for highs of 70F/21C, lows in the 40’s and 50’s F. My crepe pants and lightweight blouses will take care of warmer days.

  32. Looks great. I live in Paris. I’d make one change — the boots. Most women don’t wear boots at this time of year. Can you substitute a pair of flats even if they have a slight heel. If it rains, you can wear the tennis shoes. Have fun. The weather is gorgeous here today; sunny and warm.

    1. Hi Sherry, I prefer the boots for travel days even if I don’t wear them much after Amsterdam. Looking forward to the nice weather in Paris!

  33. OMG, you’ve written a doctoral thesis, Susan.
    Brilliant. So much good information. I did a similar post earlier this year, however, I didn’t get into the luggage, makeup bags, and so on. This is great to know.

  34. Would truly appreciate assistance in planning my wardrobe for 28 day trip to Australia we just booked for next April. Still having those “personal summers” so light weight is my operative word for any packing. Big EF fan, but hate linen options because it wrinkles. Can you recommend any other quality brands with light weight separates with plus size options? Thank you!

  35. A question about the Eileen Fisher “underpinnings”… Are the tanks substantial enough to stand on their own if I were to wear one under a long-sleeve shirt but found that I needed to remove the linen shirt for a “personal summer” moment?
    I struggle with a “broken thermostat” and find that I’m often too warm, off and on during the day. Layering works best for me, but the silk tanks I now own are too thin to be worn independently even if just for a minute or two, or ten.

      1. FYI, I purchased the Eileen Fisher silk tank and am really happy with it. The fit is perfect (thank goodness EF makes petite sizes) It fills that “hole” in my wardrobe and is exactly what I was hoping for. Thank you so much for the recommendation!

  36. I just subscribed to your blog and I absolutely love it!!! I have searched the web many many times and could never find anything that was age appropriate for me. Would you have a capsule wardrobe for a tropical getaway possibly all inclusive for 2 weeks? I have searched the web high and low and can’t find anything that applies to someone in my age group (62 years that would be stylish yet functional.

    Many thanks for your suggestions.

      1. Thank you so much…that really helps and I think I’ll be able to adapt my wardrobe now. I’m looking so forward to traveling carry on only and now I think it’s actually possible!!!

  37. I’m going on a Rhine cruise at the end of September, plus a few days in Germany with a business dinner. Cruise line A-Rosa does not have formal dinners, but does have a few sit-down dinners with service. I’m hoping the 15 item travel wardrobe will provide a good framework for my packing. What do you think? I always struggle over the coat issue. Were you happy to pack a leather coat on your trip? Did you wear it enough to justify?

    1. Hi Susanjane, I’ve found that short of straight-up formal, my 12-item and 15-item wardrobes have covered me for just about any venue. A simple outfit in black or navy can be accessorized to look more dressy, or can dress down to “smart casual.” With regard to the leather jacket, I’m not sure but think you may find it too warm still in September. My suggestion is to keep an eye on the weather forecasts, and adjust accordingly. Otherwise a linen, tropical weight wool or lightweight silk jacket may be a better choice. Have fun!!

  38. Very helpful! Thank you for doing this! I am still struggling a bit as we will be both in the Alps & then Italy in September. Layers, layers, layers! 🙂 I am curious though, does the 15 piece include what you are wearing on the plane?

    1. Hi Kai, thanks, am glad you’ve found this helpful! Yes, this and the other travel wardrobes I’ve shown do include what I wear on the plane.

  39. help – heading to China end of October. Visiting Beiging, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tibet, Cambodia, and 3 days on the Yangtse River. What should an over 60 overweight woman pack?

  40. I have the Lipault duffel style around 22 inches that fits in most overhead bins. I couldn’t resist the purple color. I use the zipper packing cubes and am amazed by how much it holds.

  41. I would love to know how you styled each outfit. I loved all the choices but I have a hard time putting things together. I need outlines!