Having a minimalist capsule wardrobe has been my key to making packing, traveling, and everyday life more stylish, but also a million times easier. In this post, I’ll teach you exactly how to build a capsule wardrobe for travel so that the next time you take a trip, you can take the guesswork out of packing and styling.
I have included options of links for everything you need for a capsule wardrobe for travel, along with my own personal travel photos for outfit inspiration and wardrobe capsule examples. This guide will show you exactly how to create a spring or summer capsule wardrobe.
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Table of Contents - Jump to: Capsule Wardrobe Overview + Tips Everything You'll Need + Links Travel Capsule Wardrobe Check List (Save + Print)
What is a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe for Travel?
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing that works cohesively and interchangeably together, in order to maximize the number of outfits with a minimal amount of clothing. A capsule wardrobe for travel will ensure that you are comfortable and effortlessly stylish, while packing light.
Capsule Wardrobe Tips and Things to Keep in Mind:
Price of a capsule wardrobe:
Capsule wardrobes do not need to be expensive. Here you will see I’ve built one directly off of Amazon. I like shopping on Amazon because they usually offer the best prices, and make shopping and returns a breeze. If you didn’t know, there are many brand names sold on Amazon!
You probably have a lot of these pieces needed to get your capsule wardrobe ready, but if you were starting ENTIRELY from scratch, by shopping from the Amazon links I have provided and getting the recommended amount for each category, you can create a brand new capsule wardrobe for around $1000! That is A LOT of items for that price, and they don’t need to be purchased all at once! You can build up your capsule wardrobe by picking a few new pieces a month.
Capsule Wardrobe Color Palettes
If you are aiming to build a minimal capsule wardrobe, the key is to keep your capsule wardrobe colors to a neutral color palette with elevated basics. Colors include black, white, shades of nude/beige/tan and earth tones. Keeping to these colors while avoiding logos or busy patterns will give your outfits the minimalist look. If you love bright pops of color or prints, these can easily be incorporated as statement pieces when the rest of your wardrobe is neutral and can be easily be worn with other clothing items.
For example, a colorful floral dress could work with almost any jacket that is neutral; or a brightly colored jacket can be worn as a statement when the rest of the outfit is neutral. Accessories such as bags, shoes, or jewelry or another way to incorporate color into your outfits. Feel free to pick bright colors for any of the below items and they will still work with the rest of your minimalist travel wardrobe because the majority of your pieces will remain neutral.
Colors can also work seamlessly with neutrals when they are muted, such as blush, dark green, or a muted powder blue. If you take a scroll through my Instagram feed, you’ll find that The color palette I personally gravitate to looks something like this:
How much & what to pack:
You probably won’t be bringing every single item from your travel wardrobe capsules with you on every trip, but creating a capsule wardrobe will make it much easier to know what to bring.
In order to pack light, my rule of thumb is to pack 1-2 pieces of clothing from each category every day of the trip (Not a complete outfit, but just one or two articles of clothing.) Make sure you pack more tops than bottoms. Picking from your capsule travel wardrobe will give you endless outfit combinations that will all work together. You really can’t go wrong!
For example, below is what my packing list might look like on a week-long trip. I’ll use Miami as an example which would be a beach and city type of trip:
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 pair of denim shorts
- 2-3 tops (1 dressy, 1 casual tee, 1 bodysuit)
- 2-3 dresses (1 mini, 1 maxi, 1 day-to-night)
- 1 jacket (denim, leather, or blazer depending on the type of trip/time of year. Can also be worn on the plane)
- 1 sandal that can be worn day or night
- 1 short heeled sandal
- Enough underwear, bras, socks etc. (Usually a personal preference so it varies)
- Pajamas (and can also use the lightly worn tops for sleeping.)
- (and one pair of leggings that I’ll be wearing on the plane with a fitted layering top and sweater and/or jacket, and sneakers because they are bulkiest.)
If you’re somewhat of an over-packer (which I am totally guilty of) and you don’t want to go the minimalist packing route, you can opt for 1 complete outfit per day of your trip, plus a few evening pieces, with accessories that can take your outfits from day to night.
Some general packing tips:
- Use packing cubes! They are seriously a game changer. I like these.
- Lay your clothes flat, or roll them. These ways take up less space than folding, and rolling helps prevent wrinkles. For inevitable wrinkles here and there, make sure to never travel without packing wrinkle release spray. Works great as af abric refreshener, too!
- Don’t pack anything “just in case.” Pack only what you need! I promise you’ll survive with what you have, and if you can’t, it’s a good excuse to go shopping.
Travel Capsule Wardrobe Planner – Everything You’ll Need:
Below is everything you need to start a basic travel capsule wardrobe. It includes everything from basics to outerwear for warm weather trips. I’ve also included shoes and accessories so that your travel wardrobe is 100% complete.
2 pairs of black leggings/yoga pants
Let’s start with some basics. If you’re traveling, a couple of pairs of leggings or yoga pants are essentials for a capsule wardrobe. Whether for travel days, hiking or exploring, or to wear on its own or under a maxi dress when it’s chillier, comfortable leggings are a must. Here are a few of my favorites:
Casual leggings: These super comfortable cotton leggings are great to wear casually i.e. not active or sport leggings, although you totally can wear them for this purpose too. I love them because they are a cotton stretch that hold me in comfortably around the waist but are not overly constricting. These are my go-to plane leggings and I have multiple pairs of the same because I love them so much!:
Active leggings: For a more active or yoga legging with more support, these are a great Lululemon Align dupe.
2 pairs of jeans (Blue light-wash and Black)
One pair of jeans in a light wash and one in black are a necessity for any classic capsule wardrobe. You may not be bringing them on a hot and humid beach vacation, but they are perfect for city trips. For an effortless and chic look, I prefer a relaxed fit that is not too skinny and not too loose. I also always go for structured denim as opposed to stretch because they are more flattering for every body type — trust me on this!
My favorite jeans that I think look great on everyone are Levi’s 501 and the Levi’s Wedgie Icon fit for a more cropped look. Levi’s in general are my favorite for denim and the price point is great, too. Whether you are trying to build a capsule wardrobe for petites or a capsule wardrobe for apple shape (or you could be a combo!) these styles will look flattering on you.
Tip: Don't be afraid to size up! You may be surprised at how much more you might like the look and feel of your jeans.
1 pair of light-wash denim shorts
A high-waisted pair of denim shorts is especially important if you’re building a summer capsule wardrobe. Again, I like Levi’s 501 in a light blue wash. You can use your shorts to easily throw over a one-piece swimsuit for a bodysuit look, or with a crop-top, a tied-up t-shirt, or a tucked-in blouse.
This is the particular pair of 501 shorts I like that has a nice wash and the right amount of distressing, but I’ve included other denim shorts I like too:
2 casual t-shirts
I’ll take at least one t-shirt with me on a trip anywhere I go. One white tee is a must for your essential capsule wardrobe, but the other can be a selection of black, tan, heather grey, or even something with a print such as a graphic tee. For an elevated look, I like to tie up my t-shirt in a knot so that it’s cropped and wear it with layered gold necklaces and under a denim or leather jacket (either worn fully or draped over the shoulders.) This look can be paired with any type of high-wasited bottom, such as jeans, shorts, or leggings.
2 tight layering tops
A tight cropped shirt, skinny strap cami, or some type of other tank top or layering top in black, white, and/or nude can not only be used for layering, but can be worn on their own when chosen in a more modern cut and paired with accessories. The type will depend on your own personal travel style. Here are various styles I love that each come in multiple colors:
I LOVE the look of bodysuits tucked into jeans, with a jacket worn over the shoulders. A look like this can be dressed up or down depending on the type of shoes. One black and/or one white are great to start, with a nude one if you love them as much as I do. A ribbed black mock neck is always a staple for me, as is a white square neck.
2 “dressier” tops
When I want something a little dressier, I usually turn to button-down shirts in fabrics like linen or silk. I use the term “dressy” loosely here to describe anything that isn’t a basic tee or tank.
An oversized white linen button-down top is so versatile. It can be worn on its own as a dress, tucked or half-tucked into jean pants or shorts for an effortless look, worn as a bathing suit cover-up, or worn open on top of a bodycon dress. Here’s my white linen shirt worn 4 different ways:
1 White linen (or other lightweight) button-down shirts:
1 Other dressier top:
3 short/mini dresses
For most summer trips, I live in dresses, and your summer capsule travel wardrobe just won’t be complete without them. Dresses are great for dressing up or down whether wearing sandals, heels, or sneakers. Dresses are also a great way to incorporate color and prints into your wardrobe because they are great as stand-alone pieces.
Here are 3 types of dresses you’ll need:
1 bodycon dress (great for taking from day to night):
1 little black dress:
2 maxi dresses
Every vacation capsule wardrobe needs at least two maxi dresses. They are so easy to just throw on and wear, especially if you’re at a resort.
Here are a few of my favorite maxi styles:
2 bathing suits
Having at least 2 bathings suits to alternate between is a must, especially for those beach vacations. That way, when one is wet from the previous day, you have another to wear. I like to pack a two-piece and a one-piece.
1 denim jacket
A denim jacket is a staple for any type of basic capsule wardrobe. Summer dresses look great paired with a light wash denim jacket, but a white or black one can also look great, too if you’re looking to add to your neutral capsule wardrobe. Spring, summer, and even a soft autumn capsule wardrobe can all be complemented by a denim jacket.
1 leather jacket
A black leather jacket (can be vegan leather of course!) is also a necessity for a capsule wardrobe for fall, winter, or even a chilly summer night to drape over your shoulders. As you expand your capsule wardrobe, you may want to venture out and consider getting some leather jackets in other colors, such as white, tan, blush, or even my own person favorite, this beautiful light blue leather jacket which I have linked below.
1 black blazer
Everyone needs a classic black blazer in their closet, not just a piece for a business capsule wardrobe for work! It will easily elevate any minimal style, and your personal style can reflect the type of blazer you buy, such as oversized or in a lighter color for spring and summer. A blazer can be dressed up or down depending on what you wear it with, and is the perfect accompaniment for a city or street look.
Travel Capsule Wardrobe Shoes
1 pair of sneakers
A white or neutral pair of sneakers. You can’t go wrong with crisp white sneakers because they can look good with so many different outfits. It doesn’t matter the brand or the style — here’s where your own personal preferences come into play. Don’t worry about keeping them clean! You can throw most sneakers into the wash in between trips.
2 pairs of sandals
You’ll want at least one pair of comfortable sandals you can walk around in or wear to the beach/pool, and one dressier pair that can be worn at night or to dinners.
1 For walking, pool, or beach:
Related: The Best Travel Sandals for Comfort & Style
1 dressier for day or night:
1 pair of comfortable heels
A block heel sandal is my go-to heel style to take on vacation. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
1 black bootie
When traveling to colder destinations, I always like to wear a simple black bootie. I think a classic Chelsea boot is perfect and timeless.
Spring & Summer Capsule Wardrobe Accessories
The key to looking stylish, elevated, and put together is in the accessories. Having just a few staple accessories will take any outfit from just ok, to perfect, and adding the right amount of jewelry can make your casual capsule wardrobe more dressed up. Here’s what you’ll need:
3 layering necklaces
Three necklaces that can be worn separately or layered. I recommend a snake chain, a paperclip chain, and some type of coin necklace. I promise if you just wear these 3 necklaces with any outfit, you can make even a potato sack look chic and put together. I recommend the brand Gorjana because of the quality and price point. I’ve been able to wear their jewelry without taking them off to shower, swim in the ocean, or in a pool and they’ve held up fantastically.
Other pieces I personally always wear and love: A simple pair of gold huggies and some stacking rings will complete your look:
1 pair of sunglasses
You probably aren’t taking a trip without bringing a pair of sunglasses, and just in case something happens to them (like losing them in the ocean, oops) you probably don’t want to bring the most expensive, designer pair. Ray-Ban Wayfarers are always a classic and a good place to start, but if you’re prone to losing your sunnies then perhaps a more affordable pair is better suited for your capsule checklist.
A purse with a zipper and preferably crossbody will be your safest bet for travel. Even better are the anti-theft purses made specifically for travel! Here are 3 purses I recommend that are stylish and secure.
1 crossbody travel purse
1 straw sunhat
For pool lounging or beach days. I can’t travel to any warm destination without bringing one of these hats.
1 baseball cap
For outdoor activities, pre-hair-washing-days, or just to style with an outfit.
Other Optional Pieces to Consider for a Complete Capsule Wardrobe
If you’re looking to expand your capsule wardrobe after investing in the above pieces, here are a few more staples from my closet that I find myself wearing often and taking on trips.
Loose white pants: A must for a beach vacation capsule wardrobe. White linen pants are especially light, comfortable, and look great with a bathing suit or bodysuit.
A co-ord set: Makes throwing together an outfit super effortless, plus you can mix and match it with your other pieces, too.
A shacket: Not quite a shirt, not quite a jacket. I find these to be so versatile and a great transitional piece. They look great worn over a bodycon dress for a casual look or over an active set for an early morning hike.
A black jumpsuit: I’ve found a black jumpsuit to come in handy so many times. Whether wearing for day or night, it’s a very simple outfit to throw on that can be dressed up with accessories and shoes to reflect a more personal style.
A black mini skirt: This can go with so many different types of tops. A black high-neck bodysuit is my go-to for a more sophisticated look, but a t-shirt works great, too. I personally love vegan leather mini skirts, but other types of fabrics look great too.
Black leather pants: When you don’t want to wear jeans, black leather pants are a super chic and dressier option.
Black turtleneck, roll neck, or mock neck sweater: A winter staple for me!
Lastly, a few more necessicites: black bike shorts, a matching jogger set, a cute atheleisure set, a sherpa jacket, a neutral chunky knit sweater, black tall boots, and a black and/or camel peacoat or trench coat. If you have all these pieces, consider your closet complete!
5 thoughts on “Build a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe for Travel (Or Life!)”
Wow, you’ve truly thought of every needed piece for a capsule travel wardrobe, and I love the graphics you created to pin and save!
Thanks so much! ☺️
Such great ideas, I’ve never really had much luck condensing my wardrobe for a trip but these are really helpful suggestions, and loving some of these clothes
Great tips. I have never heard of a “shacket” before. Had to look it up. I am all about packing minimally when I travel. Getting a few pieces that are versatile is so important.
I hate lugging luggage! These are great tips!