I consider myself a very resourceful traveller and packer. Also know as: ingenious, imaginative, inventive and creative, according to Google.
Firstly, you have to remember I don’t go on ‘holidays’. What I do, most of the time, is live in a place, for extended periods of time — normally around 6 months — with little insight on where I might go next. Including some short trips to explore my local surrounds here and there. What that means is that everything comes with me. Essentially, this is less about ‘packing’ per say, and more about ‘owning’. The things I own eventually all have to get packed up and carried with me.
There are several perspectives to having a capsule wardrobe. One is that I’m a huge believer in owning less and loving more. I’m a natural minimalist, and I’ve been travelling for long enough that I notice that we all end up wearing our favourite 6 outfits and forget about the 27 other options we were adamant we absolutely need while packing. The other is simply around ease and weight. There is a limit to the size of my 2 duffle bags with skateboard wheels, and there’s a weight limit to my strength and patience of dragging them around.
I first discovered the concept after spending 6 months in Asia a few years ago, and seeing that everything I owned was tattered and worn to death, decided to create a new wardrobe with an intentional notion:
A travelling capsule wardrobe is a small collection of items including clothing, jewellery, accessories and shoes that encourage you to dress as your most authentic self in your favourite things every day anywhere in the world.
There are 3 steps to build the foundations of a travelling capsule wardrobe.
1. Define your style guide.
For me, that’s simply a sentence: My style guide is channelling a combination of Alexa Chung, Amélie and a bohemian version of Brooke Shields from Blue Lagoon which essentially translates to something I like to call “child-of-the-cosmos nana chic”. (Try saying that 3 times really fast ;)
2. Determine your style uniform.
Those are the things you feel most yourself in, that you are happy to wear over and over again. For me, they include bikinis, short and long playsuits, floral/printed mini dresses, pencil mini skirts, denim cutoffs, skinny jeans, basic cotton t’s and camis, kimonos, soft fluffy sweaters, a raincoat and leather jacket. Gold jewellery as my skin has decided to be sensitive to non-precious metals, followed by silver and brass. Flat shoes, I don’t do heels, in the form of ankle boots, sandals and a pair of runners. Part of my style uniform is also fabric and texture. I am obsessed with how things feel and exclusively buy natural fabrics, my favourites being cotton, linen, silk, cashmere, suede and soft leather.
3. Decide on your approach and budget.
While others recommend having 4 seasonal capsule wardrobes, I tend to have 2: warm weather and cold weather. I give myself 2 very intentional shopping frolics per year, based on when things start to wear out or need replacing. I rarely renew my entire wardrobe, instead, I add pieces to the collection and let go of what is old or worn, and give away anything that I love but hasn’t become fully integrated into my rotation for some reason. I like to buy all the things together at once to make sure that my purchases are going to blend in well with each other and what I already have and be multi-purposeful.
Every time I purchase something I think to myself “Will I love this for a very long time?” and “Can I make this work multiple ways with things I already own across many seasons?”.
While I don’t have a specific budget I allow myself to buy beautiful, well-made high-quality pieces that I feel will last a long time and tend to spend around $1,000 USD per buying set, so around $2,000 USD a year. There are environmental consequences to throwaway fashion, which makes having a capsule wardrobe even more desirable to me. I love that I love everything I own.
Since I rarely shop for new clothes, there are basically only 2 places I buy in. Online at FreePeople.com and in vintage stores as I travel around the world looking for those unique, of-of-a-kind precious pieces that I know no-one else will ever have. Like the velvet bodysuit, I picked up in Budapest a few weeks ago. Occasionally, I’ll buy elsewhere, but it’s rare.
There are a total of 56 items of clothing, 5 pairs of shoes and 13 accessories in my travelling capsule wardrobe. Plus a bunch of bags, to carry all this stuff with me. Here’s what I have:
- 6 long and short playsuits
- 5 pairs of jeans (including a pair of vegan leather leggings)
- 4 skirts + 1 pair of shorts
- 9 dresses for both summer and winter
- 10 t-shirts/sleeveless t’s
- 4 bodysuits to layer or wear as tops
- 8 knits/long-sleeved warm tops
- 3 kimonos, a leather jacket, a fur vest, an olive blazer and a raincoat
- 3 leggings, 2 cosy sweaters, and 2 sets of sleepwear which all doubles as loungewear
- 10 panties, 6 bralettes, and 4 pairs of thinx, 2 bikinis, 6 pairs of socks
- 5 pairs of shoes: 2 x ankle boots, 2 x sandals and a pair of runners
- 3 pairs of earrings, 5 rings, 2 necklaces, 1 bracelet, 2 sunglasses
And all the bags:
- A very small shoulder bag that essentially acts as my purse that I bought this year in Corfu, Greece.
- A brown shoulder bag that I bought in New Zealand in 2016, but has been out of action since this one’s 👆 arrival.
- A leather backpack that I adore which acts as my mobile office. I found it at a flea market in Oakland, USA for $30 last year.
- A black 5-Cities carry-on case that is the perfect dimensions for a week away absolutely anywhere and weighs nothing.
- A handwoven French basket I got in Canada which doesn’t travel easily but is a joy to use when I am settled so it stays.
- A Quicksilver water-resistant split-level wheeled suitcase I bought in Australia in 2014.
- A massive Dakine wheeled duffle bag that my drug-dealing ex-boyfriend bought me when we lived in Amsterdam in 2012.
The things I can’t travel without.
Seeing that almost everything comes with me when I move around, I’ve already refined my list to my absolute favourites, but if you told me I had to pack a carry-on case and move to a deserted island I would absolutely include: this linen sleeveless playsuit from Free People, my Spell Kimono from like… 6 years ago, the black, worn and faded One Teaspoon shorts that desperately need to be replaced that I wear all the time, all of my bodysuits, my vegan leather leggings, my 2 favourite cashmere knits in red and light grey, my leather jacket that I bought in a sale in 2011, this short playsuit from Urban Outfitters, this dress from Faithfull The Brand which I actually was given from a friend of mine who modelled for them, and also this dress from Free People.
How to start your own travelling capsule wardrobe.
If you are starting with a full wardrobe, and want to trim it down into a capsule wardrobe that can travel the world with you, start by pulling all the clothes you own down onto the floor or your bed, separate them into categories and then be ruthless. Keep only what you absolutely adore, give away anything in good condition that you haven’t worn in the past 6 months (even if you love it) and then get rid of the rest. And in the future, be mindful. Even “recycling” clothes are no longer sustainable. Those fabrics still often end up in a landfill somewhere.
Around here, we do things a little differently...
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