Plan Your Perfect Summer Travel Capsule Wardrobe
July 31, 2021
Get Ready for Your Upcoming Trip with the Perfect Summer Travel Capsule Wardrobe
We’ve all taken that trip where we show up to our destination, unpack our suitcase, and realize that our brain must have been taking its own vacation while we were packing. Perhaps you went with the last-minute “throw every article of clothing into the suitcase that is remotely cute in our closet” technique. Or, maybe you attempted to create outfits for each day and evening of the trip. That might work well for a one-destination vacation, but I would guess that your suitcase was bursting at the seams. That’s not ideal when you are having to constantly pack, unpack, and transport said suitcase on planes, trains, and automobiles. I have now gone to Europe every year since 2009 (except for 2020) and most of those trips were for multiple months on end. Over time, I have continued to make adjustments to my summer travel capsule wardrobe, and after packing the below pieces for a three-month trip to Europe, I feel confident that these recommendations will serve you well.
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BTW, if you’re looking for a great suitcase for travel, I would recommend the Away Medium or the Delsey Chatelet for hard side luggage, and the TravelPro Maxlite 5 if you prefer soft side. The Away suitcase is the trendiest, the Chatelet is the prettiest, and the Maxlite 5 is by far the most practical.
Summer Travel Capsule Wardrobe Items
1. The Black Brami
You’ll be sweaty, you’ll be sticky and you’ll be walking 25,000 steps a day. A brami that has built-in-bra support is ideal, but I have struggled to find many that do this. Free People makes bramis with high-quality material though, so you should feel supported throughout the day while sightseeing in any one of these styles. And please share in the comments if you know of a black brami with built-in bra pads!
2. Solid White T-Shirt
It’s the ultimate staple piece. The basic white-tee. And, it’s also a great item to include in your summer travel capsule wardrobe because a t-shirt covers your shoulders from the hot sun and the white goes with everything. Finding the perfect white tee can be a little challenging. You want to find a shirt that isn’t see-through and doesn’t wrinkle easily. I personally have had the best luck with Topshop t-shirts. I own a regular sized white tee and a white crop tee from Topshop and took both with me on my 3-month Europe trip. Topshop’s material is thick which I really like even if it can be a little heavy in the summer because the shirts aren’t see through, they don’t wrinkle at all, and they don’t get little holes in the bottom of the shirt like my other white Madewell tees do. Inventory might be limited though, unfortunately, since Topshop filed for bankruptcy. Abercrombie has quality white tees and Norstrom, of course, has multiple quality brands of white shirts.
3. Black Jumpsuit
There are pros and cons to wearing jumpsuits or rompers while traveling, but I believe that the pros outway the cons overall. Let’s get the number one con out of the way first. Unless your jumpsuit has snaps in the crotch area (and most don’t), you have to take the whole article of clothing off to go to the bathroom. And, if you are OCD like me and find yourself in a slightly precarious public restroom situation, that might be a problem. Here are the pros. A well-fitting jumpsuit is the easiest thing to slip on and your outfit instantly looks so put together even though there was zero effort involved. A black jumpsuit also transitions perfectly from day to night so if you can’t make it back to your accommodation in time for dinner, you can wear the jumpsuit at the cathedral (with an arm covering) and to the bar later and still look great. I like my black jumpsuit to have adjustable straps and be made of wrinkle-free material like Polyester and Spandex.
4. Skirt and Shirt Set
A matching skirt and shirt set is the perfect way to spice up your travel capsule wardrobe because you can create a whole of host of outfit combinations from it. While most of the other pieces in our wardrobe are basics, you should absolutely look for something trendy and bold. I love the idea of a mustard yellow, emerald green, or rust colored set. And patterns work too! I purchased this awesome mustard colored crop top and maxi skirt with an adorable flower print from Nordstrom Rack. Not only was I able to wear the set together when I wanted a great look for an evening out, but I also wore the skirt with my black and white basic shirts and the crop shirt with my plain black bottoms. Abercrombie has really stepped up their game — I would have never dreamed of going on their website if I hadn’t seen a haul from a fashion vlogger where I fell in love with every item — so I would definitely look to see what sets they have available for the summer season.
5. Soft Pants/Paperbag Style Pants
The holy grail summer outfit item – you will want to wear these pants every single day of your summer trip. It’s not even worth bringing jeans to destinations like the Mediterranean over the summer because you simply just won’t be able to stand the heavy material. But, bring a pair of cropped black pants with some subtle stripes, made in a wrinkle-free material of course, and you will seriously struggle to want to wear anything else. These kind of pants are incredibly comfortable, look stylish, are breathable, and can go with anything if you choose a subtle pattern. I like to buy a style that is high-waisted so I can pair with a brami or crop top or tuck in a shirt that is a regular length.
6. Black Tank Top
I’m not sure how I would get through the summer without my solid black tank from Target. They have changed it up a bit from when I bought my tanks many years ago — mine were made by a different Target brand — but the Universal Thread tanks still have fantastic reviews. They are only $8 and that’s not even the sale price. You will wear this black tank with every single article of clothing you bring on your summer vacation. Old Navy also has classic black tanks for $6 that are much loved.
7. Blue and White Striped Midi-Dress
You might think that a blue and white striped dress is a fluff piece and shouldn’t necessarily be included in your summer travel capsule wardrobe, but I would beg to differ. Nothing says “I’m spending my summer on the islands of Greece” or “I’m picking lavender in the fields of Provence” more than blue and white. No matter where you go, blue and white stripes are just a vibe. Luckily, you can choose from a huge selection of dresses on Amazon, Nordstrom Rack, or wherever you prefer to shop. I personally prefer midi-style dresses for travel because it can be pretty windy during the summer and I don’t want to have to worry about my dress flying up while sightseeing. You can combat this problem easily with a pair of bike shorts though. And, I don’t like maxi dresses for traveling because I just don’t want it dragging on the ground as I’m hiking up to the Acropolis.
8. White Button Down Shirt
This was an item that I actually did not include in my initial travel capsule wardrobe for summer, and one that I probably needed the most. Two girls that I met during my travels wore one daily and I was straight up envious.
I don’t need to tell you how hot it can get in certain places over the summer. So hot in fact that even if you aren’t at the beach intentionally tanning, the back of your neck and shoulders are bound to turn pink from a sunburn. A white button down shirt prevents your skin from burning due to the harsh rays and is lightweight enough that you can actually wear it somewhat comfortably during the hot summer days. It’s also a perfect coverup if you plan to visit any religious sites and need your shoulders covered. Combine the white button down with the soft pants and you’ll be allowed in every entrance. Plus, you can always tie the shirt around your waist if you decide it’s just too hot to wear at that moment.
9. Black High Waisted Shorts
Like I mentioned above, jeans are a no-go if you are traveling to a true summertime destination. The material is just too thick. And, even if you are visiting a locale where your thighs wouldn’t sweat profusely from jean shorts, would they really be a comfortable option for you? If you have the body type where jean shorts fit you well and don’t ride up, then more power to you. I am envious because jean shorts are a classic! But no matter how hard I try, jean shorts just don’t fit me that well. What does fit me splendidly? Black shorts made of polyester and spandex. Make sure that they are long enough so they won’t ride up or allow for your thighs to burn on hot car/bus leather but short enough so that they still look cute with your outfits.
10. Swimsuit (1 or 2)
Depending on the nature of your summer travels, you should plan to pack one or two swimsuits. And this is where I differentiate between a trip and a vacation. If you’re taking a trip and spending your time primarily sight-seeing in a big city or meandering small towns in the countryside, then one swimsuit should be plenty. However, if you are visiting an island to vacation, you should pack two or three swimsuits.
I used to be all about the Target swimsuits, but as I get older I’ve realized that they just don’t fit me as well as a swimsuit should. So, I’ve transitioned to purchasing swimsuits from Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off 5th. That way, I get the high quality fabric of a designer swimsuit, without the ridiculous price tag of an item of “clothing” that is literally smaller than the dish towel I use to wash my dishes. If it’s off-season and these stores don’t have great options, Amazon has some great swimsuit brands like CUPSHE available.
11. Swimsuit Cover Up/White Dress
You’ll want something to wear heading to and from the beach, so make sure to pack a beach cover up in your summer travel capsule wardrobe. Amazon has a ton of really cute swimsuit cover ups for really affordable prices. Or, if you wanted to pack something that is multi-functional, you could bring a white dress. Wear it as a beach cover up during the day and as a dress in the evening with some camel-colored flat sandals or white tennis shoes. A white dress is definitely a quintessential summer look, just make sure you pack one that is made of a wrinkle-free material.
12. Colored Cropped T-Shirt
Thus far, the only bit of color we’ve added to our summer capsule travel wardrobe is the shirt and skirt set. And that makes sense because ultimately, the goal of the capsule is to mix and match items as much as possible. But, I think it’s prudent to add another pop of color that can be worn with both the high-waisted black shorts and black and white striped capri pants.
13. Raincoat (Optional)
If you are heading to a location that tends to rain or thunderstorm in the summertime, you should pack a lightweight raincoat that rolls up nicely in your packing cubes. I got my rain jacket from Target a few years ago, and it’s thin, but lined and has large pockets for any items that need to be stored if it abruptly starts to rain.
Shop Raincoats on Amazon
14. Bold-Colored Skirt/Dress for Photos (Optional)
If you want to take a lot of professional-style travel photos during your summer travels, you might want to consider packing a bold-colored skirt or dress. The bold-color makes the image pop and a skirt or a dress looks so much better than shorts or pants do in a photo. I’m pretty low maintenance so I wish this wasn’t the case because it does seem a bit ridiculous to pack an additional item specifically for photos, but I do recommend this Amazon skirt if you plan to shoot some professional photos.
Socks, Underwear, and Bras
Bring a week’s worth of socks and underwear and the necessary bras. Don’t underestimate the number of socks! Your feet will sweat walking all those daily steps and you’ll want to change into a clean pair as much as you possibly can. If you plan on traveling for longer than a week, make sure to book an accommodation like an Airbnb where you can do laundry to wash these items. Pack a few detergent strips in a ziplock to prevent any messes! Or, you can bring some travel-sized Tide packets and wash in the sink. You could also take your clothes to the local laundromat, but I personally advise against because you’ll spend your day or night there instead of out exploring.
You’ll want to pack around four pairs of shoes. These include a pair of white tennis shoes, a pair of camel-colored flat sandals (Sam Edelman shoes are my favorite), a pair of running/walking shoes like the Nike Flex Runs, and a pair of flip flops which also work as shower shoes if needed. I personally would not bring any heels. If I am trying to keep my packing to a minimum by creating a travel capsule wardrobe, heels are more suited for a single-destination vacation.
Travel Accessories: Sunglasses, Purse, and Hat
I always bring a pair of Quay sunglasses with me; they are durable, affordable, and trendy.
There are foldable travel sun hats that you can pack in your luggage along with your summer travel outfits. I own the Lanzom Panama Roll Up Hat with adjustable strap and I am absolutely in love with it.
My go-to travel purse is the Travelon Anti-theft backpack. It’s not the most stylish option, but it certainly gives me piece of mind that I won’t be pickpocketed and doesn’t exacerbate my lower back pain as much as a crossbody.
I’ve also written up a full list of travel accessories for Europe that might be helpful to you when deciding what accessories to bring on your upcoming travels.
Are there any other cute travel outfits for summer that you would include in a summer capsule wardrobe? Let us know in the comments below! And, in the meantime, check out these other posts:
Europe Travel Planning
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