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The Careful Art of the Capsule Wardrobe

Despite all of my talk last week about all of the beautiful midi skirts and satchel bags and kitten heels that I would love to throw in my suitcase, I am a slightly fanatic follower of the capsule wardrobe system.

My favourite and equally, most despised part of preparing for my travels is definitely putting together my travel wardrobe. As in, a few carefully selected items of clothing that all mix-and-match together perfectly. And figuring out what stays and what goes is always much easier if I sit down and think about all of my available outfit options – if something doesn’t go with anything else, it stays behind, stored away in my Dad’s spare room. No, I’ll never be nomadic in the sense that I own nothing but the contents of my suitcase. I love books, and I love clothes, and ridiculous as it is to buy clothing and books only to leave them to gather dust while I’m off on my adventures, I can’t help myself. I try to be strict about clothes shopping though. At least, I try to limit myself to a general rule of timeless pieces that aren’t going to go out of fashion within a few months. I tell myself that that’s a reasonable solution, anyway. Books can be read at any time, and I will one day – a few always join me on my travels, and I churn through them at lightning speed when I return home. You should see the Olympic-speed page turning on Christmas day. It’s impressive, if I say so myself.

I always pack more tops than bottoms. I think everyone does, right? A pair of trousers – I rarely jeans because they’re so heavy and slow to dry – shorts, a skirt or two and a few dresses. Mostly light tops, a jumper, a light coat. For shoes, I take a pair for rainy weather – a pair of waterproof, quality-over-quantity brogues – something a bit dressier but also so easily casual – black ballet pumps – and sandals.

The result is endless possibilities… well, I say endless. At least 21. 40+ if on a chilly evening that requires a cardigan or jumper. I’ve met girls who’s backpacks are about as tall as they are, who are carrying about 50 dresses, 20 skirts, 20 pairs of jeans and tops… and then I walk around, slightly smug, in a different outfit a day for at least the first three weeks of my travels, with a tiny case that doesn’t need checking in, that I can lift into the overhead locker all by myself (not that I ever decline any kind offers of help… who says chivalry is dead?), I have room to shop, and most of all, I can skip around from country to country without snapping my spine under the weight when it’s time to move on.

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No doubt I could cut it down further – cut down on tops, limit myself to one skirt, but I find that if I’m travelling for more than a few weeks, I really don’t want to be too strict with myself, even if there is a very likely chance that I will find myself lured into clothes stores and markets abroad… I am pathetic enough that I find myself missing certain dresses or pairs of shoes, so now if it’s one of my favourites, I take it with me. Even if it is a bit cumbersome – like the pink skirt that is made from about 1000 layers of tulle, but it’s my favourite.

And yes, my suitcase also matches my wardrobe. Happy accident. Red suitcase, red handbag, neutral wardrobe. It just works. The red dress that has recently become a favourite is questionable though, I’ll admit. Red on red on red on red? Too much red… I think I’ll have to save that to days when my suitcase is tucked away in a hostel, warm enough that the red cardigan is not necessary…

There’s always that one item of clothing that doesn’t quite merge as perfectly as the rest.

A great site for minimalistic-but-fashionable packing tips here.

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2 thoughts on “The Careful Art of the Capsule Wardrobe

    • Emma Styles says:

      The capsule wardrobe method is really useful… though tricky to stick to at times if, like me, you’re big on clothes and fashion. Shopping is a terrible temptation…

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