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Travel Clothing: How to Pack a Capsule Wardrobe for Your Summer Holiday

Updated on July 16, 2013
Presenting your capsule holiday wardrobe
Presenting your capsule holiday wardrobe

Packing Too Much

Let's be honest we've all done it- packed loads of clothes for our holiday and worn about 1/4 of it. Whilst women are the main offenders I think men are bad for it too- I know my husband is. This article will show you how to plan and pack a capsule women's wardrobe for a beach trip. This will all fit into a medium sized suitcase and can be used for a 2-4 week vacation.

My incentive for packing a capsule wardrobe was the fact I have to carry luggage for three little ones as well but there is also the issue of avoiding excess luggage fees and ease as added bonuses too. Moreover you wont be wasting hours of your holiday trying on different outfits and working out what to wear because a capsule wardrobe takes most of the thinking out of it for you.

How to Design Your Own Capsule Wardrobe

The examples I will be giving you should inspire you to put together your own capsule wardrobe out of what you already have. You might need to go buy a few key pieces to make it work but the idea is to use your clothes wisely to make lots of outfits out of only a few pieces.

There are a few basic rules that will help you get it right:

  • For bottoms- skirts, shorts, trousers etc go for neutral colours that can be paired with any colour top. I've gone for denim, white and black. You could go for beiges and browns and greens instead as long as those colours work with the tops you choose. If you like make one of your bottoms a statement piece in a brighter more out there colour but remember to make sure this colour will match most of your tops.
  • For tops- choose 4 plain tops in colours that match your bottoms. I went for four plain vests in black, white, purple and grey. Then add 2 more colourful, patterned and fancy tops. Finally choose two lightweight shirts. I have gone for a sheer floaty shirts in black and cream. They can be dressed down to stay cool in the day or dressed up to look smart in the evening.
  • For Dresses- As you don't have to match your dresses to any other item of clothing you can choose what you like here however a few plain coloured dresses are useful as they can be used to create two different outfits by accessorizing them differently. See the example below.

Choosing from two different accessory palettes can create two outfits from one plain dress.
Choosing from two different accessory palettes can create two outfits from one plain dress.
  • Pack two cardigans or summer jackets in neutral colours that complement your accessories. I have chosen a goldish/cream cardigan to go with my gold accessories and a light grey cardigan to go with my black accessories.
  • Choose a mixture of comfortable day clothes and some more tailored smart evening wear.
  • Don't pack stuff you will not wear- try things on before you go to save you packing something that doesn't even fit or looks horrible.
  • Most of all resist the temptation to pack every summery item you own- even resist the urge to pack every nice summery item you own.

An Overview of Your Holiday Capsule Wardrobe

These are the 30 items I have included:

  1. 1 pair of black skinny jeans- any trousers or jeans will do.
  2. 1 pair of light blue, floaty shorts
  3. 1 pair of tight dark blue denim shorts
  4. 1 floaty white skirt
  5. 1 floaty black skirt
  6. 1 short fitted denim skirt
  7. 1 black vest
  8. 1 white vest
  9. 1 purple vest
  10. 1 grey vest
  11. 1 orange patterned vest
  12. 1 blue and red patterned vest
  13. 1 sheer cream floaty shirt
  14. 1 sheer black floaty shirt
  15. 1 red a-line day dress
  16. 1 black a-line day dress
  17. 1 red floral a-line day dress
  18. 1 long blue maxi dress
  19. 1 bright patterned maxi dress
  20. 1 tailored purple floral evening dress
  21. 1 tailored stripey blue evening dress
  22. 1 black floral a-line evening dress
  23. 1 green swimsuit
  24. 1 pink tankini
  25. 1 beach shirt
  26. 1 gold cardigan
  27. 1 grey cardigan
  28. 1 pair of pajamas
  29. 1 black flip flops
  30. 1 gold flip flops


To put that in more general terms:

  1. 6 neutral coloured bottoms of your choice- make one of these bright if you wish
  2. 4 plain vests/tops
  3. 2 fancy, patterned vests/tops
  4. 2 shirts
  5. 3 day dresses
  6. 3 evening dresses
  7. 2 long dresses
  8. 2 cardigans
  9. 2 swimsuits
  10. 1 pair of pajamas
  11. 2 flip flops



Holiday Essentials: For the Beach

So as this is a beach holiday we'll start with what you need for the beach.

  • 2 swimsuits or bikinis
  • 1 beach shirt to go over your bikini
  • 1 beach towel

Avoid the temptation to pack every swimsuit you own. For a two week holiday two is enough. As a rule pack 1 per week you will be away. I have chosen to pack a swimsuit and a tankini for if I feel brave. Try to choose costumes with similar straps etc so you get an even tan.

One large beach towel is all you need to lie on the beach with.

A sheer lightweight beach shirt or kaftan is a great cover up for on the beach so you can nip over to the cafe etc without getting fully clothed again. It's also handy if you've had too much of the sun on your skin-well you never know!

Holiday Essentials: Accessories

Accessorizing wisely can double the amount of outfits you have. Choose two colour palettes for your accessories- I have gone for gold and black. This means I have packed 1 pair of black flip flops and one pair of gold flip flops, 1 set of black jewellery- necklace and earrings and one set of gold jewellery- necklace, earrings and bangles and 1 reversible hat- brown on one side and black on the other. This means you can create different looks by either going for gold accessorizing or black accessorizing. Of course you can choose whatever colour palette you want but either choose two neutral colours that will go with everything or choose one neutral and one bright if your clothes are fairly neutral.

  1. black necklace
  2. black earrings
  3. black hat
  4. black flip flops
  5. gold necklace
  6. gold earrings
  7. gold bangles
  8. brown hat
  9. gold flip flops

I know it's tempting to pack all your lovely jewellery but there is no need- two necklaces, 2 pairs of earrings and some bangles is all you'll need.

You will notice I have only packed two pairs of shoes- flip flops at that but let's be honest they are all you end up wearing on holiday anyway. Every year I pack loads of heels and never EVER wear them because you don't want to be trotting round in the heat in uncomfortable shoes. If heels really are your thing and you can't live without them then pack no more than 2 pairs. If you like going on long walks when on holiday you might want to add some shoes you can walk in as well.

Holiday Essentials: Shorts

You'll probably find you live in your shorts when on holiday so make sure you pack some nice comfortable and flattering ones- two should be enough if you are taking skirts as well. If you are not a skirt person then you could take five pairs.

To create the most amount of outfits for the least amount of clothing you need to take neutral shorts that will ideally go with all 8 of your tops- see the picture on the right.

Holiday Essentials: Skirts

Skirts are cool and flattering. I have chosen two longish floaty skirts that will go with all my tight vests and a shorter denim skirt that will go with all 8 tops. Think about the cut of your clothing as well as just the colours. For instance my two floaty skirts will look not go with the four floaty tops I have as they need balancing by my more fitted vests. My demin skirt on the other hand will go with all the tops. So for three skirts and 8 tops I have 16 different outfits.

Again if you are not a skirt person pack some extra shorts instead.

Holiday Essentials:Dresses

I love dresses so I have included maybe more than you need to...

Dresses are great for holidays as they are a complete outfit in themselves, they are flattering and can keep you cool if they are nice and floaty. A few long dresses are great for if you can't be bothered to shave your legs but also if you want to visit any religious sites whilst abroad.

Chose three day time floaty, comfortable dresses, three more fancy and tailored evening dresses and two long dresses that will work for both day and night.Try to choose a mixture of plain and patterned dresses in a variety of colours. Of course try to choose colours that are going to match your accessories palette.

Other Items

Ok so that's the main wardrobe sorted you will also need some other things:

  • Cardigans or summer jackets - choose them to tie in with your accessory palettes
  • Some pajamas- 1 pair should be enough- of it's hot you probably wont wear them
  • A lightweight dressing gown- I like a silk one as this keeps you nice and cool
  • Two bras in white and black or light and dark to wear with all outfits
  • Knickers wise I'll let you decide how many you want or need to take. Some people can get by with just 7 and washing them- other people will want 28 so they can have two a day. They are only small so take what you want.
  • Don't forget you will be wearing some of the stuff when you travel so that saves even more room in your case. I am travelling in a vest with one of the cardigans and the skinny jeans. You will note I haven't included any outfits involving the jeans. I theory you could make another 8 outfits using the jeans but hopefully you'll be packing these just to travel in and as a safety net against bad weather.


Have fun planning your capsule wardrobe- remember this is just a guide so feel free to change pieces to make it work for you.

Your Holiday Capsule Wardrobe

Bottoms
Tops
Dresses
Accessories
Other
1 Pair of Trousers to travel in
4 Plain Vests
3 Floaty Day Dresses
2 Cardigans
1 Beach Shirts
2 Neutral Shorts
2 Fancy Vests
2 Long Maxi Dresses
2 Hats
2 Swim Suits & Beach Towel
3 Neutral Skirts
2 Floaty Shirts
3 Fancy Evening Dresses
2 Flip Flops
Pajamas & Dressing Gown
 
 
 
2 Sets of Jewellry
Underwear

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Nice tips and very useful hub! The pictures are so nice.

      I agree, most of us pack things, which we may not even use on a holiday.

      Very well done--Thanks for sharing!

    • Meg Moon profile image
      Author

      Meg Moon 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for your kind comments

    • profile image

      Trekka 3 years ago

      Great tips. Personally, I'm a fan of rolling clothes but I had never thought about layering items before - will have a try next time.

      Thanks :)

    • Meg Moon profile image
      Author

      Meg Moon 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      @Trekka- Thanks! I'm never sure whether to roll clothes or lay them flat- I usually end up doing a bit of both

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      Splendid information. I plan on this linking this hub to a hub on luggage.

    • Meg Moon profile image
      Author

      Meg Moon 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Cool go for it!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

      I wish I had learned this long ago. Often I will get to a place and find I packed nothing suitable. My daughter travels a lot, I will send this to her. Thanks for the ideas.

    • Meg Moon profile image
      Author

      Meg Moon 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      This year was the first time I did it- but it was great not to have all those wasted outfits- and a lighter bag!

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