How to Build a Travel Capsule Wardrobe
Sometimes it feels like there’s only two ways to pack for vacation. Either you pack so much you can barely squeeze your luggage into the overhead compartment, or you arrive at your destination completely unprepared.
Enter the vacation capsule wardrobe.
A traditional capsule wardrobe combines classic, versatile fashion staples to make it easy for you to roll out of bed, throw on a boho outfit, and look effortlessly chic every day. A travel capsule wardrobe uses those same principles to help you pack exactly what you need for vacation every time.
Whether you’re hopping in the car for a spontaneous beach weekend or finally going on the overseas vacation of your dreams, knowing how to build a capsule wardrobe can make traveling even more of a thrill.
Step 1: Plan to Pack as Little as Possible
It can feel tempting to pack for every possible scenario—What if it rains? What if there’s a heatwave? What if you run into the future love of your life?
A vacation capsule wardrobe helps you curtail that instinct and focus on packing smartly instead of extensively. While there’s no hard and fast rule for how many pieces to include in a capsule wardrobe, travel experts encourage you to pack as little as possible.
Some experts recommend a clothing item countdown to pack for a one-week vacation:1
- Five sets of socks and underwear
- Four tops
- Three women’s bottoms
- Two pairs of shoes
- One hat
Throw in a swimsuit and your exercise gear, and you’re good to go.
While some people may find the clothing countdown too restrictive, creating your own clothing countdown and scaling it for your vacation can help you focus on clothing you love and avoid overpacking.
Step 2: Consider Climate and Travel Activities
To begin planning your travel capsule wardrobe, start by specifying the type of vacation you’re envisioning. We’re all about versatile fashion, but packing for a ski trip in January looks quite different from packing for a beach resort in August.
Asking yourself the following questions can help you decide what to include in your vacation capsule wardrobe:
- What’s the climate like?
- What type of activities will I need to dress for?
- How formal do I want to dress?
From there, you can narrow down the specifics:
- If it’s a warm climate, you might want to prioritize clothes made from lightweight, breathable fabrics like cotton or linen blends.
- If you love spending all day walking through a new city, you’ll probably want to make room for a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes.
- If you love glamming up and hitting the town, you might want an elegant, sophisticated little dress.
- If your idea of relaxation consists primarily of lazy beach days, you might want a flowing sundress you can wear as a cover-up or out on the boardwalk.
Imagining your ideal vacation can help you customize your travel wardrobe in a way that makes the most sense for you.
Step 3: Find Complementary Colors
To get the most out of your travel capsule wardrobe, try to keep all of your clothing items within the same color scheme.
For example, you can build off of one of these color palettes:
- Warm colors (red, orange, yellow, coral), neutrals (blacks, browns, whites, tans), and an accent color (teal, navy blue, metallics)
- Cool colors (blues, greens, purples), neutrals (blacks, browns, whites, tans), and an accent color (pink, red, metallics)
- Pastels, neutrals, and one dramatic accent color
Many people gravitate to certain colors in their everyday wardrobe. If you have a handful of colors you love wearing, try using those colors as a foundation to build a cohesive travel capsule wardrobe.
Step 4: Select Your Signature Silhouettes
For another way to limit your packing (but not your fashion), try sticking to a few of your favorite silhouettes. Packing tops and bottoms with similar lines and fits can make it easier to mix and match everything in your suitcase.
Let’s illustrate this idea with a specific example: an outfit’s waistline.
A high-waisted mini short, high-waisted mini skirt, and high-waisted jogger all emphasize the same part of your body—your waist. They also stay fairly close to the natural shape of your legs. That means it’s often easier to find a top you love that looks equally flattering with each bottom.
In the same vein, the length of your denim shorts, pants, skirts, and dresses can affect which shoes set off your outfit best. Picking a few items with the same hemline can help you find a single pair of cute, simple, comfortable shoes that look equally natural with every travel fashion outfit.
We’re not saying everything you pack has to match exactly—how boring. But clustering your capsule wardrobes around a few specific silhouettes you love can make it easier to mix and match with savoir-faire as you travel for your upcoming trip.
Step 5: Include Variety in Your Vacation Capsule Wardrobe
We’ve covered some tips for building your travel capsule wardrobe around common fashion themes. But part of the fun of vacation is having enough options to pop open your suitcase and pick the outfit that perfectly matches your mood.
Once you’ve followed the main guidelines for your color palette, it’s time to throw in a few wild cards and accent pieces to round out your vacation capsule wardrobe.
Here are a few ideas to help get you started:
- Something super comfortable – Maybe it’s a flowing resort dress, a ultra soft jumper, or a simple tank top. Whatever “comfort” means to you, make sure you bring some of it on your vacation. After a long flight, you’ll thank yourself.
- Something that shows you off – We all have that fantasy of walking down the staircase into a beautiful room and catching the attention of that one person who matters most. Channel some of that energy into at least one of your capsule wardrobe pics. For some people, that’s a stunning bikini. For others, it’s a silk minidress with a plunging neckline. Whatever your signature style, try to pack at least one reoutfit that makes you feel effervescent.
- The just-in-case outfit – Remember as a kid when you were going somewhere that probably wouldn’t allow swimming, but you packed a swimsuit just in case? We think that’s the sort of optimism everyone should bring to their vacation. Whatever your “maybe” activity is—clubbing, hiking, brunch, swimming—make some room in your suitcase for spontaneity.
You can also add variety to your travel capsule wardrobe through accessories. A bright anklet, bold gold earrings, or a radiant sarong can give you some flare without taking up too much space in your luggage.
Step 6: Make Your Travel Capsule Wardrobe Wish List
With all that in mind, you’re ready for the final step: building your travel capsule wardrobe wishlist. While everyone’s clothing item list will look different based on their personal style and the length and location of their vacation, we’ve made a list of some of our favorite capsule wardrobe ingredients to help you kick things off:
As with traditional capsule wardrobes, we recommend taking your time to build your collection. Why buy several inexpensive tops for women that aren’t quite right, when you can buy one high-quality top that fits you like a glove and will last for years? Know what you want, and don’t settle.
Build Your Capsule Wardrobe with ViX
At Vix, we create sophisticated, fun, free-spirted swimsuits, comfortable sun dresses, and resort casual wear. Founded by Paula Hermanny as one of the first luxury swimwear brands in the U.S., we find inspiration in the details. Vibrant prints, rich colors, beautiful cuts—it all adds up to beautiful garments handcrafted in Brazil that you can wear for years to come.
The best part of your vacation shouldn’t be what you’re wearing—but it does make the experience even better when you feel absolutely confident in your own skin. And with ViX, finding that confidence for your vacation capsule wardrobe has never been easier.
- New York Times. How to Pack a Suitcase. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/travel/how-to-pack-a-suitcase
- Vogue. Headed On Holiday? 8 Must-Pack Vacation Style Essentials. https://www.vogue.com/article/what-to-wear-on-vacation