How to Pack a Capsule Wardrobe

Inside: We will identify exactly what a capsule wardrobe is and how to pack one. Whether or not you live your daily life with a capsule wardrobe, learning to pack one for travel is the best way to pack like a minimalist. 

“I own too much black.” -Said No One Ever

If you’ve yet to search Pinterest for “how to build a capsule wardrobe” let me just say, don’t. You just may find yourself contemplating cashing in your 401k to reinvest it in boutique blazers, booties and horizontal striped cotton shirts. Or you’ll swing completely to the opposite side of the pendulum and disregard the idea of simplifying your wardrobe all together.

The images are intimidating.

I’m not suggesting it can’t be done. I’m just saying it requires we check our expectations and resist the familiar urge to lean toward perfectionism and comparison.

We can still simplify while living our real lives and being true to ourselves at the same time.

What is a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe?

Courtney Carver, creator of The 333 Project and author of Soulful Simplicity defines it as

“a small collection of 33 items including clothing, jewelry, accessories and shoes that encourage you to wear your favorite things every day (not the trendiest things, the most stylish things, or the perfect things … your favorite things).”


Capsule Wardrove
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Mix and Match

A capsule wardrobe should allow you to create multiple outfits by mixing and matching the items you’ve selected for your capsule.

For example, a skirt should be able to be worn with a number of your tops. Those tops should be able to match all or most of the bottoms you’ve chosen.


Capsule Wardrobe
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

My Take on a Capsule Wardrobe

A capsule wardrobe is often associated with a very limited number clothing.

While establishing a specific number of items can be a great boundary, I don’t believe it’s requirement of a capsule wardrobe itself.

My take on a minimalist wardrobe looks a little less specific. I suggest we manage our clothing like we manage the rest of our possessions. Keep what we love, ditch what we don’t. And for the love of all that is good, stop accumulating crap!

Whether it’s 33, 66 or 3 items, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not about playing by the rules, but about being your best you. I do that through fewer items, just no specific number.

Obsessing about creating the “perfect capsule wardrobe” will distract us from the point of this whole “less is more” mindset and leave us purchasing for a trend rather than slowly curating a lifestyle.

If a capsule wardrobe with specific number is where you’re at right now…go for it! Be sure to tread slowly and continue to be intentional.

Travel and a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

When it comes to travel howeverI sing a different tune. Travel is the exception to my “no rules” rule. Vacation is the perfect time to pack a minimalist capsule wardrobe.

We can all easily create a capsule wardrobe from what we already own, in order to vacation more simply.

Capsule Wardrobe

I always thought vacationing was about wearing all my favorites. I packed them and their accessories with no regard for the space they required.

A mini-capsule wardrobe allows us to pack fewer items, get dressed with ease and create a new look with the same pieces. 

My Capsule Wardrobe Packing Process

1. Think it Through

The first thing I do before packing is consider what I want out of our trip. Will we be relaxing by the pool all day? Do we intend to do a lot of walking, climbing, hiking or eating? Will we be indoors or outdoors?

All of these things play a factor in helping me narrow down exactly what I really need.

I also regularly check the weather the week leading up to my trip. If a storm is rolling in, I know I may need an extra cardigan or different shoes.

2. Pick One or Two Favorites

I then choose one or two of my favorite pieces. I pick a couple of tops or maybe a sun dress that I am really looking forward to wearing on my trip. These will be the center of my capsule wardrobe.  

3. Pack Around Your Favorite

After selecting the one or two pieces you really want to bring, choose the rest of your clothes to match those.

For example, choose a skirt and shorts that match your favorite top. Then another couple of tops that match those bottoms.

When we traveled minimally through Europe for eight days, my favorite tops matched my cardigan, teal shorts, skinny jeans and jean shorts. This was, I was able to create multiple looks with the same tops.

(If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of my travel series, I suggest you take a couple minutes to go back and look at Why to Travel Like a  Minimalist and How to Pack Like a Minimalist).

Capsule Wardrobe
2 dresses, 1 bathing suit cover, 2 bathing suits, necessary undergarments (no extras), 6 tops, 3 shorts 1 cardigan, 1 jean, 1 book, 1 beach sandal, 1 Birkenstock, 1 tennis shoe (which I didn’t end up needing. Always a work in progress.

Choose clothing in the same color palette and style that will match those favorite pieces. This will come in handy when it’s time to pack shoes.

4. Fewer Shoes

When we went to Paris a few years back, I took about seven to nine pairs of shoes. I’m shaking my head as I type this because I am absolutely not exaggerating. We were there for six days. It was ridiculous!

Capsule Wardrobe
Photo by Jaclyn Moy on Unsplash

I ended up getting a blister from my new shoes on day two and, long story short, I had to wear the same pair of open toed sandals for the rest of the trip. For some reason, it still took me years to recognize the root of my problem.

I now only bring shoes that will match all of my outfits. During our minimalist European experiment last fall, my black Birkenstocks (not an affiliate link, I just love them so much, especially for travel!) were one of my favorite pieces. I made sure everything I packed matched those Birkenstocks which allowed me to pack fewer shoes.

A few years back I would have needed to bring heels for the fancy dinner we never did, flats for the skinny jeans I wore one time, and my brown boots for that one shirt I thought needed to come along. Do you see what I mean?

Shoes quickly take up a lot of space and a capsule wardrobe helps keep them in check.

5. You can wear something twice

GASP! This used to be a vacation no-no to me. When you give yourself permission to do this it’s a game changer!

Now, if you’re taking a five day vacation, you can still bring five tops. I’m merely suggesting that you don’t need to bring five tank tops, five t-shirts, five dresses, five long sleeve shirts, and five different cardigans for those just in case moments. If it turns out to be a more of a scorcher than you thought, you can wear a tank top twice. We just don’t need all the options we once believed would provide freedom. They only weigh us down.

Capsule Wardrobe
I wore this tank top a couple times on our trip…and that view!

The minimalist capsule wardrobe works because you re-wear items when necessary by mixing it up a bit. You can add a scarf, or cardigan or wear shorts one day and then capri-pants the next time around. (Are capri pants still a thing? I never know. They are in my world). Or you can simply just wear the same outfit again. Remember this…nobody cares.


I’m not an accessory girl. I’m just not.

My accessories are sentimental and I intend to keep them that way. My earrings are still the same small diamond earrings my husband gave me on my wedding day. I have two necklaces and both of them involve the names or pictures of my children. (Here’s my favorite!).

So when I travel, I keep it just as simple.

I would encourage you when you travel to choose smaller and fewer accessories in order to pack lightly enough to fit it all into a carry on.

So, there you have it. My strategies for packing with less in order experience more. I hope they help as you either begin or dive even deeper toward a more minimalist, yet meaningful life.

Part 1 and 2

This post is part 3 of a 3 part series on traveling like a minimalist. Click on the links below to check out previous posts. 

Part 1Why To Travel Like a Minimalist Pinterest Image
Part 2
How to Pack Like a Minimalist


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Declutter Your Life

It’s time to stop managing our families and start leading them!

2 years ago I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I had no capacity to mom on purpose.

Living with less has gifted me time, space and some much needed perspective of what truly matters most. Below is the link to my FREE Beginner’s Declutter Like a Minimalist Guidebook. It takes a deeper look at the 7 Steps to getting started highlighted in my popular post, Declutter Like a Minimalist.


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