Wardrobe Curation: Travel “Capsule.”

A mere day and a half after returning from a much-needed vacation, I experienced a whirlwind of major events at home– I started a new job and made my first “grown-up” purchase (A car! Yay! Now I need to learn how to parallel park!). The dust has settled a bit and I’m almost caught up on sleep, so as promised in my last post I am giving a recap of how my “travel capsule” fared during the two weeks I was out gallivanting through Spain and Morocco.

As I mentioned before, all of my clothes and toiletries were packed in a single backpack. This might seem like a trivial issue to most, but it is something I am quite proud of. Historically, I tend to over-pack for trips regardless of their length. However, this time around I was determined to travel as lightly as possible since we were planning to pass through several cities during a short span of time; the thought of dragging a heavy suitcase around over bumpy cobblestone streets did not appeal to me at all.

In addition to the self-imposed space constraint, I kept a few other considerations in mind as I decided on how and what to pack for this trip:

  • Weather: We were traveling in late November. Based on the local weather reports from previous years, I anticipated that the weather would be somewhat cool (mid 50s to mid 60s) and progressively warmer as we traveled south. I packed garments that could be worn separately or together in various combinations of layers, depending on how warm or cold (or rainy) it was on a given day.
  • Access to laundry facilities: We booked the majority of our accommodations through Airbnb and all of the places had a washing machine. However, only one home we stayed in (at the “halfway point” of our travels) also had a dryer. Since we were spending just 2 to 3 days in each city and had a limited amount of time for line drying, I packed tops, undergarments, and socks made with quick-drying fabrics that didn’t wrinkle easily (Tip: These Pink seamless hipster panties are really comfortable and dry pretty fast after hand washing. I highly recommend them). I packed and alternated wearing 3 pairs of pants, washing and drying them completely at our halfway point along with other garments that required a bit more effort to dry. Since I was likely to be wearing items more than once between washes (not something I like to do, but unavoidable given the circumstances), I tried to stick to a wardrobe with a relatively dark/neutral color palette, which could more easily mask dirt and unexpected grime.
  • Planned activities: Lots and lots of walking around town =  packing comfortable footwear. Lots and lots of eating = selecting stretchy fabrics and forgiving silhouettes.

So, here is an inventory of what I had in my backpack, with a bit of commentary/reflection.

Tops: 5 button-up shirts, 5 tees.

  •  Black and white piped blouse: This was the only shirt I didn’t wear on the trip. I packed it because it coordinated with the overall color scheme and it always travels well (i.e., it unfolds completely wrinkle-free when unpacking). Realistically, this top was a bit too thin to wear on its own and I didn’t anticipate how static-prone the poly fabric would get in the cold, dry air. If I could go back in time, I would have left this at home and replaced it with something less delicate and more casual/utilitarian from my closet, like my green military shirt.
  • White shirt: This got the most wear out of me at the start of the trip. A classic white shirt is usually my default when I want to look put together with as little effort as possible. However, this top was actually more wrinkle-prone than I expected and with no access to an iron, I was reluctant to re-wear it after the first machine wash. In retrospect, I would have packed my non-iron fitted white shirt instead.
  • Black and white dot print shirt: The reason I would have gone with a non-iron white shirt is because this non-iron dotted shirt worked out pretty well in the “capsule.” It managed to stay fairly wrinkle-free and presentable after a couple of washings and line drying.
  • Navy and white gingham shirt: The same comments apply to this non-iron shirt.
  • Chambray shirt: My #1 draft pick. Up until now, I never quite appreciated the versatility of the chambray shirt. However, I wore the crap out of this top during my trip. It layers nicely, the fabric is soft, and the hue is forgiving with small food stains. To my surprise, it produced some casually chic outfits, even when it got wrinkled in the wash and in my backpack.
  • Red striped shirt: The casual cut of this top is loose on me, but the fabric is hefty and warm. This layered well underneath my white and chambray shirts.
  • White tee: Another nice, basic layer.
  • Navy striped shirt: What can I say? I like my stripes.
  • Grey turtleneck: When the cold weather starts to hit, these Uniqlo heattech layers are a staple in my wardrobe. The stretchy heattech fabric is soft, minimizes odors from perspiration, and retains body heat without being bulky. Better yet, the fabric dries quickly.
  • Grey tee: Not your typical grey t-shirt. The silk jersey is light and comfortable. This looked good layered under a button-up shirt, worn over longer-sleeved tees, and on its own.

Bottoms: 3 pairs of pants.

  • Dark rinse denim: I’m a fan of Loft denim (lately I’ve been alternating between this pair and their denim leggings, shown here), so naturally, I had to add these to the “capsule.” The fabric is stretchy but resilient, and the dark hue is versatile and hides dirt well.
  • Black jeans: These sateen jeans are extremely comfy to travel in, especially on long plane rides!
  • Grey cotton pants: Upon further reflection, I’m a bit indifferent towards these pants. They fit well and are comfortable (particularly after eating large meals), but they don’t retain warmth as well as the dark denim and black jeans I packed. For future trips in cool climates, I’d probably switch these out for another pair of denim.

Special occasion: 1 dress, 1 sleeveless blouse.

  • Little black dress: I packed this v-neck sheath just in case we went to a fancier place for dinner. I ultimately didn’t end up wearing it, but the thick black jersey fabric travels really well when rolled up in a backpack. In the past, I’ve flown cross-country in this dress, stepped off the plane, and headed straight to a dinner party without having to refresh/resteam the fabric. It’s that good.
  • Sleeveless blouse: Glad I packed this tunic-length top for the much warmer weather in Morocco– all the walking we did was making me sweat!

Layers for warmth: 1 scarf, driving cap, 2 sweaters, 1 vest, 1 puffer jacket.

  • Blanket scarf: This came in really handy on the plane– it really was the size of a small blanket. I wasn’t too fond of all the lint that came off of this particular scarf, though (luckily I packed a travel lint roller). For future trips, I would prefer to pack my old wool Pendleton scarf, which also works well as a travel blanket.
  • Driver cap: I usually wear a wool fedora in colder weather, but the stiff structure makes it hard to pack for extended trips. My trusty driver cap was much easier to stuff into my backpack and still managed to shield the world from my many bad hair days.
  • Brown sweater: The fabric on this thing is sooo soft, but to my annoyance it pills easily after several wears and washes. Not a fan.
  • Quilted vest: I reviewed this vest before, and as I expected it was a great second layer of warmth. No regrets on this purchase.
  • Down puffer jacket: I was going to pack a light wool jacket for my trip, but at the last minute I switched it out for this instead. I’m glad I did– this hooded jacket saved me during a couple of cold, rainy days and even colder, rainy nights.
  • Grey cardigan: This wool cardigan also got a lot of use during this trip. I have no complaints about it.

Accessories: sunglasses, jewelry, shoes.


From left: Ray-Ban wayfarer sunglasses, Alex and Ani evil eye bracelet, Anthropologie initial bangle, Mougin & Piquard x J.Crew watch, J. Crew Cece studded flats, Vans metallic sneakers

  • Sunglasses: No vacation would be complete without a pair of sunglasses to hide people-watching!
  • Bracelets and watch: I intentionally kept the jewelry to a minimum on this trip.
  • Ballet flats: I love my ballet flats. Not gonna lie though– these are cute but it was a terrible idea to pack these. They are usually comfortable to walk around in all day in the city, but after a few hours of walking on old, uneven cobblestone streets, my feet wanted to cry.
  • Slip-on sneakers: I reviewed these here, so you know how I feel about them. I’m so glad I packed these. Compared to the ballet flats, these made me feel like I was walking on pillows.

The only things I left out of the above list are my undergarments (I packed enough to last a week) and my pajamas (just my yoga workout clothes since they dry fast). But yeah, I think with the exception of a couple items, this “travel capsule” was pretty successful.

What are your travel essentials? Please share!

– j.

4 thoughts on “Wardrobe Curation: Travel “Capsule.”

  1. Melissa@AllThingsSimplified says:

    Congratulations on your new car and your new job! 🙂 It sounds like you had a really great time on your trip, and I’m glad that your travel capsule was a success. I’m sure it made your trip much more enjoyable to not be lugging around extra (and unnecessary) clothing.

    • fivesouth says:

      Thank you! I had very relaxing trip (I actually haven’t been on a non-work-related trip for over 5 years!) and traveling light really helped keep the stress levels low 🙂

  2. Engineer L says:

    Congrats on your new job and car! As an overpacker myself, I’m super impressed that you were able to pack so lightly for your vacation. Even for overnight trips, I tend to stuff my carry-on suitcase full of things I *might* need but don’t actually use. like too many pairs of shoes.

    • fivesouth says:

      Thanks! I also tend to pack too many pairs of shoes when I travel– I originally had a pair of heels stuffed in my backpack, but I soon realized that despite their cuteness they weren’t going to be realistic for my trip and all the walking we planned on doing. Oh well!

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