The Fundamentals You Need To Build A Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Hand-luggage and endless outfit options belong in the same sentence.

Calling all the girls who want to build a travel capsule wardrobe for roaming around Europe!

Ready to build our capsule wardrobes together?

This post goes right back to the basics. Capsule wardrobe basics that is. The step which genuinely makes holiday prep more enjoyable. It would even be accurate to say that having a selection of clothes which can be readily rotated is the secret to packing light, or lighter. I can’t promise zero ‘I don’t know what to wear’ moments, but I am pretty confident you’ll have less of them.

Whilst the concept of a travel capsule wardrobe can be incorporated for all kinds of trips, I’ve themed this one around Europe city breaks. Here you’ll find the items which feature in my own travel capsule wardrobe, the maths of putting it all together, and the packing tips to help you in the quest to limit the baggage.

Hey, they don’t call me the overdressed backpacker for nothing…

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The Travel Capsule Wardrobe Masterclass:

Whilst I don’t hold any official styling credentials, when it comes to finding outfit options from a small backpack, I’m your girl. My trip to ‘The Big Apple’ pretty much confirmed it.

(I’ve got a guide for first-time visitors in NYC which I think you’ll like, if New York is on your list for 2024)

Here’s Why A Capsule Wardrobe Is Seriously Fundamental

Capsule wardrobes, in general, are the glue to looking well-dressed at all times, despite mix-and-matching the same pieces over and over.

However, securing a travel capsule wardrobe prevents overpacking, lessens the stress of finding photo-worthy outfits, and turns your clothes into full looks, rather than individual holiday pieces.

What To Consider Before You Build A Capsule Wardrobe

1. A common misconception is that capsule wardrobes are expensive to build. Instead, you just need items which don’t look like they’re holding onto their last strings. Whilst quality pieces do tend to be pricier, there’s plenty of stores which have somewhat-decent quality at fair price points.

(See below for some of my favourites!)

2. The majority of capsule pieces are likely ones you already have in your closest.

3. You don’t need many items at all. When I’m travelling around Europe, my capsule wardrobe probably has around 20 – 25 pieces, excluding shoes. That’s actually pretty reasonable, right?

4. Having a collection of practical pieces doesn’t mean you can’t shouldn’t buy ‘trendier’ pieces.

On the contrary, I’d fully encourage it. Personality is a reflection of what we wear, after all.

5. Colour palettes are the underrated hero for capsule wardrobes. The linking factor which basically forces clothes to work together.

Needless to say, my wardrobe relies heavily on black or neutral clothing…

Pinterest post for building a Europe travel capsule wardrobe

A Few Good Places To Pick Up Capsule Wardrobe Items

Everyone has their own preferences with shopping locations, but if you’re looking for some ideas on where to find additional items for your next trip around Europe, the below might be worth a look:

H&M. I think the price vs. quality point is pretty solid here. I particularly rate H&M for bottoms, or trousers.

Arket. A bit of a holy grail for upper garments. The tailoring is *chef’s kiss*

Skims. The bodysuits are brilliant and hold their shape well when washing. Kind of expensive, at around 60-70£ per item, but I’ve yet to find a dupe better than the original.

Topshop. I still think Topshop is the denim. Whilst physical stores no longer exist (seriously this must have been the biggest plot twist of the pandemic), you can find Topshop on ASOS. I do have some jeans from ASOS’ range too, but they don’t seem as structured as Topshop ones.

Adanola. I adore the gym wear/leisurewear basics Adanola have.

Sisters & Seekers. Another solid option for loungewear staples. Think ‘I want to be comfy on the plane but also look put-together’ vibes.

The Essentials That Just Seem To Make Life Easier

Something I’ve noticed with my own travel capsule wardrobe is that the below essentials always seem to appear.

The table isn’t to be taken too literally, but it’s my exact starting point when considering a weekend in Milan, a quick getaway in Lisbon, or a nostalgic journey back to BCN.

A BlazerBodysuits (a few)Trench coat
Leggings*Tank Tops (a few)Skirt
Baggy jeansPlatform boots (or normal!)White trainers
Oversized shirt‘Nice tops’ (a few)Waist belt
Dress Cargo Trousers**Oversized sweater
My Travel Capsule Wardrobe (Items Which Might As Well Have Their Own Passport)

*The best leggings are the ones that don’t have too much of a ‘gym shine’ to them – they’re easier to dress up.

**Or just some sort of trousers which fit both the ‘casual’ and ‘dressy’ criteria.

How I Style My Capsule Wardrobe For Travel Around Europe

These are the equations we don’t get taught at school.

A few days in Sofia in November saw a lot of the above items added to my backpack by default, which then prompted some quick maths on how I could potentially pair everything together. Here’s what I came up with, if imagining the contents of the entire table made the cut for this trip.

  • Cargo trousers + platform boots + long sleeve + blazer
  • Dress + oversized sweater + platform boots
  • Another long-sleeve bodysuit + dress + trench coat + trainers
  • Tank top + leggings + blazer + trainers
  • Another tank top + oversized shirt + skirt + platform boots
  • Cargo trousers + oversized sweater + trainers
  • Skirt + another long sleeve bodysuit + trench coat + platform boots
  • Baggy jeans + the ‘nice top’ + trainers + blazer (or trench coat)
  • Leggings + bodysuit + trench coat + trainers
  • Another nice top + cargo trousers + trainers (or platform boots)
  • Oversized shirt + skirt + waist belt + platform boots
  • Another nice top (under dress) + dress + waist belt + trainers
  • Baggy jeans + another tank top + platform boots + oversized shirt
Pinterest post for building a Europe travel capsule wardrobe

+ Here’s How To Pack Like A Pro With Only Hand-Luggage…

Stock Up On The Samples

There’s something about toiletries which have the ability to take up 1/2 a backpack within seconds.

We can fix this though.

You know the samples which you typically get when purchasing full-size products, or the ones you can pick up in department stores for creams, foundations, perfumes etc? Keep them stashed away until your next trip! They take up barely any space, don’t weigh you down, and won’t even need to come back on the return flight.

Take A Backpack Rather Than A Cabin Suitcase

The moment you’re asked to squish your carry-on into one of those measurement containers, it’s game-over if you’ve got a hard shell suitcase.

For this reason, backpacks are my preferred bag to travel around the globe with. Not only for the convenience but for the logistics themselves. They’re just so…mouldable to whichever shape you need?

The backpack I use for all my travels is from a brand called ‘Rains’. Absolutely not sponsored by any means, There’s just something so aesthetically-pleasing about their products. More importantly though, the material is waterproof.

Elastic Bands To Roll Items, Rather Than Packing Cubes

I just can’t get behind packing cubes and don’t understand the hype.

Instead, a tub of elastic bands will do the trick for rolling up your clothes so tightly, in ways which packing cubes can’t. Of course, you’ll be pretty dependant on an iron with this route, but most hotels/accommodations will have one.

Failing that, a mini travel iron is also never a bad shout.

Duty Free Bag At The Ready For Your Plane Items

Make use of the ‘duty free bag in addition to your carry-on’ policy before buying additional hand-luggage. That’s at least 2 pairs of shoes extra, which you’ll now be able to bring with you.

Really Really REALLY Struggling With Space?

As a last resort, luggage clips/straps might help you out when attaching a hoody, or two, to the exterior of your backpack.

They also hold mini handbags pretty well.

Tried + tested…

Your Author:

Yaz is the writer behind ‘The Strawberry Snaps’ and is here to make travel a frequent part of 9-5 lifestyles.

For her story, click here.

Liked This Post On Creating A Capsule Wardrobe For Europe Travel?

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