The Consummate Traveler: Simplify Packing With a Capsule Wardrobe

September 11, 2014 Updated: September 11, 2014

Have you ever struggled to figure out what clothes to bring along for a vacation or business trip? This is a constant sticking point for me. My business trips last three weeks, so I need to take enough work and casual wear to last me. However, narrowing down what to bring is often a burdensome task. I have been reading many blogs lately about simplifying your closet (and life) by reducing your wardrobe to between 10 and 50 items. This is known as a capsule wardrobe.

The basic principles of the capsule wardrobe are to build a small collection of core garments that flatter you, in a few neutral and vibrant colors, that can mix and match with each other. I am planning to take on the capsule wardrobe challenge myself in the coming weeks. I feel that my closet is currently too stuffed, which makes the process of packing too overwhelming and inefficient. It is time for a change. I’d like to share the steps that I will be using to implement this exciting process into my life for fall/winter 2014.

1. Set aside current favorites: I know everyone (including me) has a handful of clothes that we gravitate toward and wear week after week. Grab those out of your closet and drawers and set them aside. These items will be the first candidates for your new capsule wardrobe. If you live in a multi-season climate, I would suggest doing this for each of the four seasons. However, start with the season that you are currently in or approaching and leave the rest for another time.

2. Make two weeks of outfits: Based on your favorite pieces, try making at least two weeks worth of work and casual/weekend outfits. Of course, items can be repeated. For inspiration, I like to check out fashion blogs on the Internet or current magazines to get ideas on how to put things together. In my opinion, having two weeks of unique outfits provides enough variety to keep a wardrobe interesting, but does not let things get out of hand.

3. Identify what is missing: Once you have two weeks of basic outfits for both work and play, identify if there are any staples you are critically missing that would tie multiple looks together or add a pop of color. This could be anything from a brown belt, red heels, or a perfectly fitting navy blazer. Go shopping with your list in hand, and buy the best quality you can if it is a core item (shirt, pants, shoes). For accessories consider less expensive options. However, if you coordinate doing this exercise with a friend or two, maybe you can even swap with each other and forego shopping all together.

4. Remove everything else from your closet: After you have constructed your core wardrobe, store all remaining items in your closet away in the garage, attic, or spare room. Once the clutter is removed you will likely learn to live happily with less. After several months pass, if there is anything that you miss very much or keep reaching for, make it a core piece. As for the rest, donate it to your favorite charity.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels.