Autumn Capsule Wardrobe for Travel

TRAVEL STYLE

Wardrobe basics combine to create stylish and comfortable outfits for a fall vacation

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As an avid traveler, I have discovered that a capsule wardrobe for autumn travel, or any other time of year, simplifies packing and and getting dressed while away.

In fall, I like to combine wardrobe classics: jeans, button-ups and sweaters mixed with trousers and a blazer to create looks that are casual but put together. This is especially true if I am headed to Europe, my favorite fall destination.

I believe a capsule wardrobe can work for anyone — the right combination of pieces allows you to create a maximum number of attractive outfits with less effort. 

Buying clothes with capsule wardrobes in mind also helps me to spend less money — I invest in classic items that don’t go out of style. Hooray, more money for travel!

Fall Capsule Wardrobe Essentials

DARK JEANS ~ TROUSERS (2) ~  BLAZER  ~ CREWNECK or CARDIGAN SWEATER ~ TURTLENECK BUTTON-UP SHIRT (2) ~ SILKY BLOUSE ~ T-SHIRTS PEACOAT or TRENCH COAT~ SCARF ~ BELT

LOAFERS ~  SNEAKERS ~ BOOTS

Choose Your Autumn Color Palette

So, where do we start planning a wardrobe for autumn travel? I always start with a color palette, and I have created four color options to spark our imagination. We each have different color preferences, skin tones, and clothes hanging in our closets. Of the four fall color combos below, are you drawn to a particular one?

Fall capsule wardrobe items in the color palette: tan, cream, cognac and mustard. Tan trousers, cream silk blouse, cognac brown belted jacket, mustard peacoat, brown booties and a tan handbag.
Fall capsule wardrobe for travel in shades of grey, and black and tan. Grey trousers, a grey sweater, black blazer, tan trench coat, black ankle booties, and a grey handbag. A plaid scarf is also shown in colors of grey and tan.
Fall capsule wardrobe items in the color palette: blue, white and plum. Blue trousers, a plum cardigan sweater, white cotton shirt, navy overcoat, white sneakers and a plum handbag.

Sticking to a color palette allows us to pack less because the items easily mix and match. It also makes it simpler to get dressed — everything goes with everything else. A color palette can start with neutrals and then you have the option to layer in some color. 

Tip: If you want to explore adding color but are nervous about going all in, try incorporating an affordable piece — a plum crewneck sweater, a mustard blouse, or a green scarf. Handbags are a fantastic accent as well but can be more expensive.

Eight pictures of a woman in different outfits from an autumn capsule wardrobe. Color bars are shown at the bottom of the photo in black, grey, tan and camel.

For my autumn capsule wardrobe, I chose black, camel, tan and grey, and one of my trousers has a subtle houndstooth pattern. There’s also the blue in my denim, but I think of denim as a neutral; it goes with everything.

After picking my colors, I take a shopping trip to my closet; I am looking for anything I already have in my palette. I try everything on to see what fits and I feel good in. With those pieces as the foundation, I decide what I want and need to buy. I find that approach more fun and less overwhelming than buying a whole new wardrobe for fall.

If you do require a new wardrobe, consider choosing things you can wear year after year, at home and away

Shop Your Closet

After my own closet deep dive and found I needed new boots that were both water resistant and stylish, and an affordable wool crewneck sweater, in a neutral color, either oatmeal or grey. I also wanted a double-breasted blazer; there are so many cute ones right now.

I ended up buying this lovely Black Knit Blazer from Loft. It’s great quality for the price and slightly oversized for layering. I also bought a Quince cashmere sweater and these waterproof Nisolo Chelsea Boots. I’ve had to size up a half-size in some Nisolo items but found these were true to size.

What I bought for my autumn capsule wardrobe
& trip to Paris

A slender woman in her early 40s is dressed in a black double-breasted blazer, layered over a yellow and white striped shirt. She is also wearing blue jeans and a slender belt.
I bought this Loft Double-Breasted Blazer for fall
& this affordable cashmere sweater by Quince

I am listing the 15 or so pieces in our capsule, with recommended options for each. I’ve tried to include a variety of price points and focused on brands I own and like; I also own some of the specific pieces which I am noting as well.

Happy shopping! 

1. Classic denim - straight or trouser style

A pair of women's blue jeans for are pictured against a white background. The style is slightly wide at the bottom.

Cute, comfy and ready for exploring, a classic pair of jeans is ideal in any capsule wardrobe.  The jeans I am wearing in some of the photos are a few years old, by Paige. 

I am currently loving trouser-style jeans with a loose fit and wider cuff. I think they are very flattering. If those aren’t for you, you could go with a straight cut, another classic. But any jeans that you love will work. I tend to prefer a darker wash for fall and don’t wear jeans with rips and holes (personal preference).  

SHOP

My current favorite denim is by Reformation; I own two trouser-style pairs from last season. A current similar style is the Val 90s Mid Rise Wide Leg in the color Burnside. 

I also really like J. Crew denim; their dark wash is great. For a straight jean, my current favorite is the Vintage Slim Straight in Resin Rinse. 

Everlane also has a terrific variety of styles that are well-priced. Options include wide, curvy, straight, and relaxed, and they come in several washes.

If you want to be able to try on different styles to find what works for you, Madewell is a great option. I own two pairs and really like them. They have many styles in their standalone stores and are also carried in Nordstrom

Budget-friendly option: this well-priced pair by Land’s End comes in three denim washes (I like “port indigo”) and sizes 2-18: Women’s Recover High-Rise Wide-Leg Blue Jeans. 

2.Trousers for Autumn (2)

A woman wears the Everlane Way-High Taper Pant in Black, pictured only from mid torso down. She also wears a beige and grey patterned sweater and black loafers.

A trouser pant is a foundational piece for a autumn capsule wardrobe so I am including a lot of options in the shopping section below. My fall wardrobe has two pairs, I suggest a dark color for one, it won’t show spots (but pack your Tide pen anyway), and whatever you like for the second pair. You could do another solid or if you like pattern, a houndstooth.

A loose-cut trouser is especially comfy for sightseeing and lots of walking.  Choose a fabric weight depending on the season and destination. I’ve also included two options from Athleta that look sleek but feel like yoga pants. Great for the plane! 

You could also go with a skirt in place of a trouser. Any skirt could work, as long as it goes with your shirts, sweater and a blazer for layering. 

SHOP

The black trousers I wear in some of the photos are a wool blend by Vince, from several years ago. Pictured above is the Everlane Tencel Way-High Taper Pant in black. And Abercrombie has an affordable trouser with fantastic reviews the A&F Sloane Tailored Pant. It comes in 15 colors and sizes 23-37. 

The Hampshire Ponte Wideleg Pants are another great option for fall travel. They are machine washable; in six colors sizes 0 – 22.

If you want your travel pants to feel like leisure wear, here are two great options from Atheleta. For a flowy style, the Athleta Cosmic Wide Leg Pant.  If you prefer something tapered, the Athleta Endless Pant are fantastic. I bought them in brown. 

Budget-friendly option: the Quince Stretch Crepe Pleated Wide Leg Pant. I’ve just ordered these to try them out; I’ll update this when they arrive. 

If you would like to add a skirt for fall, I haven’t tried but really like the Washable Silk Skirt by Quince. It’s well-priced and comes in 10 colors. XS to XL.

3. Blazer (my fall capsule wardrobe favorite)

Susan Heinrich stands in front of a large blue door on cobblestones in the Marais area of Paris. She is wearing a black blazer, jeans and blue ballet flats with a bow.

 I love traveling with blazers. They are the perfect capsule wardrobe item because they work with everything: jeans, trousers, skirts and dresses. A nice blazer instantly elevates any outfit; one of my favorite ways to wear it is with denim and sneakers or flats as I am here, in Paris. 

For autumn travel, I choose this double-breasted blazer by Loft because I wanted  the option to layer a sweater underneath on a cool fall day in Paris. But I still want it to feel tailored. 

Very oversized blazers are in style this fall, but I think they are a bit hard to pull off without looking like you’re wearing your dad’s blazer.

SHOP

J. Crew has nice blazer options; I have two and am happy with them. For a classic style fit I love the Regent Blazer in Wool Flannel. It comes in sizes 00-24, in classic, petite, and tall and the wool is considered “four season” (it’s fairly lightweight).  The camel color is gorgeous for autumn, and it comes in black and navy. Consider sizing up if you want to layer a shirt and sweater underneath. 

Double-breasted blazers look great buttoned or open. A budget pick is mentioned above: the Loft Knit Double-Breasted Blazer. It looks much more expensive than it is.

Boden offers a wide variety of blazers that are well-priced for the quality. Explore Boden blazers. 

And Sézane has lovely blazers at a moderate price point in lots of gorgeous colors.  If you like a double-breasted blazer consider either the Christie Jacket or Michele Jacket, both gorgeous. The latter has front patch pockets, a bit more casual.

For a classic single-breasted option the Ralph (black only) or the Romane for a sleek navy pinstripe.

Autumn Capsule Outfits

Susan Heinrich wears trousers and a striped t from her spring capsule wardrobe
Trousers + Striped T
Susan Heinrich wears a maxi skirt and a navy blazer from her spring capsule wardrobe
Maxi Skirt + White T & Navy Blazer
Susan Heinrich wears a cropped jeans and a pink shirt from her spring capsule wardrobe
Cropped Jeans, Sleeveless T & Scarf

4. A wool crewneck sweater (or cardigan)

I’ve included a crewneck sweater for fall because it’s an ideal style to layer under a blazer (as I did in the photo above). You could also do this with a v-neck sweater, depending on your preference. 

I recently purchased this Quince cashmere crewneck for my own fall travels. Yes, cashmere can be affordable (this one if $50), and it’s both warm and lightweight, making it ideal for travel. 

Affordable Cashmere Sweaters for Fall

SHOP

Budget pick: the Mongolian Cashmere Crewneck from Quince comes in 17 colors and is very soft and light, yet warm. After wearing it in Paris, I highly recommend it. They also have cashmere v-neck sweaters.

For just slightly more ($75) Naadam offers a similar sweater: the Essential Cashmere Sweater. I’ve just ordered my first one to see how it compares to Quince. New York Times Wirecutter did a review of best cashmere sweaters and Naadam is their pick.  I understand it is slightly thicker and not quite as long as the Quince option. Note these run small so they advise sizing up. 

Everlane has nice quality Cashmere Classic Crew Sweater in XXS-XXXL but at a higher price point (in six colors).

For inclusive sizing, and if you want to try it on in store, J. Crew has a nice selection of crewneck cashmere sweaters in sizes XXX-Small to 3X: Cashmere Classic Fit Crewneck

If you don’t want wool, Banana Republic Factory has a nice blend option in both neutrals, and fun fall colors: the Volume Sleeve Sweater.

5. Long-Sleeved Button-Up (2)

Long-sleeved black cotton shirt, a capsule wardrobe essential

From my perspective, buttoned up in my favorite oxford shirts,  button-up shirts are capsule wardrobe staples, in fall, and the rest of the year. They are versatile and ideal for layering as the weather turns cool. Wear it on a warmer day with jeans and your sleeves rolled up, or layered under a crewneck sweater and your blazer. You can also wear them open over a tank, on a nice day. 

SHOP

Pictured here is the Banana Republic Oversized Button-Up Shirt, which I wear in my capsule. I also love Boden’s classic cotton which I have in blue. After trying several brands last spring, it came out as the winner. COS has a slightly oversized version for under $100: COS Oversized Long-Sleeve Shirt. 

For a budget pick, Quince has a lovely Organic Cotton Poplin Shirt in white, black and a blue stripe.

6. A turtleneck

A women's dark brown turtleneck is pictured against a white background. It's a slightly loose style.

A turtleneck is ideal to wear with jeans or trousers, or to layer under a blazer. For fall I like something that is thin enough to layer under my blazer. And if you are adding color to your autumn capsule, this is an ideal piece to do it with! 

SHOP

Banana Republic has a turtleneck sweater in multiple colors that is currently under $50, the Merino Wool Turtleneck. It comes in a cream and dark brown both ideal for a neutral palette, but if you want to add a hit of color, look at the gorgeous red brick or pretty azure blue. I have it in the cream and the merino wool is quite soft and has a nice drape to it. It’s also “responsible wool” certified. 

If you prefer a non-wool turtleneck, the Soft Luxe Turtleneck Shirt comes in six colors, XXS-XL. 

J. Crew also has a thin turtleneck that’s great for layering, the Women’s Tissue Turtleneck

7. A scarf/poncho

A camel colored cashmere poncho wrap over a t-shirt. Ideal travel essential or capsule wardrobe item.

A wool wrap or poncho will be one of your favorite things. I have them in black and oatmeal and bring them on every trip. It’s a cozy layer on the plane and an ideal accent to on a cool evening. Some poncho styles allow you to wear it as a scarf as well.

SHOP

Pictured above is a classic option by J. Crew: Cashmere-Wool Blend Poncho

For a luxe poncho consider the NAADAM Cashmere Ribbed Collar Open Front Poncho in black. It also comes in a gorgeous burnt orange color called cider, and three other muted shades. (Currently out of stock. I’ll update when they are available again)

I just ordered my first cashmere sweater from NAADAM, a company that specializes in affordable and sustainable cashmere. I will add more about it when it arrives and compare it to Quince.  

9. Tee Shirts

Three t-shirts in a stacked pile: white, black and striped, are staples of a spring capsule wardrobe

T-shirts are a nice capsule basic, yearround. I always wear one on the plane, under other layers in case it’s warm. Two tees are plenty for a fall capsule, unless it will be warm and you don’t have access to laundry; then I’d add a third.  I chose versatile white, a black and a striped, but colors depend on your capsule colors. 

Most of us have t-shirts in out wardrobe. If you need a new one, my striped tee is by Boden. I also have t-shirts by Vince, Madewell, Banana Republic and so on. I am linking a few options below. 

And I am wearing the 

SHOP

Reformation makes a soft and well-priced classic: Perfect Vintage T. This tee is a relaxed fit.

Boden has a fabulous Short-Sleeved Breton T as does Amour Vert: Berkeley Dream Knit Tee.

In Motion Seamless Tank by Athleta is similar to mine which I bought a few years ago. 

8. Trench Coat

Susan Heinrich sits outdoors at a Paris cafe in fall wearing a trench coat, wide-leg jeans and blue pointed-toe flats.

Whether you pack a trench coat or a wool coat in your fall wardrobe depends on where you are going and when. Amsterdam in mid-September will differ greatly from London in November. 

If you don’t already own a trench coat this might be the piece you invest in.  A classic trench is practical, versatile, and timeless — a true wardrobe staple.

My coat is the Scott Trench from Sézane; it’s a bit of an investment but the quality is fantastic. I compared it to many other options before I made the purchase. 

You can find this classic style at a variety of retailers. Choose between single or double-breasted. As for color, tan is a classic; I also love black, navy, and olive green. 

SHOP

I love this affordable option by Quince, the Comfort Stretch Trench Coat. It’s available in classic tan and lovely navy.

If you like a black trench — I think they are so chic — Everlane’s Cotton Modern Trench comes in black as well as tan and olive.

Of course, if you want to splurge on the ultimate investment piece, there’s the Burberry classic, the Kensington Heritage Trench.

Shoes for An Autumn Capsule Wardrobe

9. Loafers (my favorite shoe for fall)

A woman's feet pictured in black French-style loafers on a tiled floor with the words: Monoprix Champs Élysées in decorative tile. Visible are her legs with blue denim and a beige trench coat. She is in Paris.

Loafers are the MVP of my autumn capsule wardrobe for travel. Whenever I put on a nice pair of loafers, I feel more put together, so I always pack black loafers for a fall trip to Europe.

I like a classic style but chunky loafers are also trendy right now. Penny loafers are also a nice alternative.

 

SHOP

Sam Edelman makes a nice pair of classic loafers, the Loraine, found at Nordstrom and other retailers and available in many colors. They closely resemble the gorgeous Gucci classic, the Jordaan.

For a penny loafer, Cole Haan has a nice option this fall: the Lux Pinch Penny Loafer. And this similar pair from & Other Stories, the Leather Penny Loafer comes in black and brown. Full sizes only. 

I am loving Sézane’s André Loafers; they come in patent black and six other colors.

10. Boots for Fall Travel (waterproof options)

Two pairs of chelsea-style women's ankle boots are pictured. One in brown and one in black, They both have tan soles.

Here’s what I think about waterproof boots. If I am traveling in fall, it might rain. If I am on a vacation that will involve a lot of walking around, I want my feet to stay comfortable and dry. So why would I risk it with boots that aren’t at least water-resistant? Unless you’re certain it won’t rain on your vacation, or maybe you have other rain-friendly footwear to bring, I suggest boots that can get wet and keep you dry. Those are the options I am including here.

SHOP

I just ordered the Eva Everyday Chelsea Boot from Nisolo. They have waterproof uppers with a rubber sole and come in six colors (black and brandy are shown above). As soon as they arrive, I will wear them in the rain and update this with my thoughts. I own another pair of shoes from Nisolo, which I like, the Flatform Sandal. Nisolo tends to run small, so I size up a half-size, although Nisolo tells me this boot runs true to size. 

Another waterproof ankle boot is available by Toms, the Dakota Water Resistant Boot. It’s a classic style at a great price in six colors. I own Tom’s classic cotton slip-ons and like them as a company.  

Splurge option: Aquatalia is a fantastic Italian brand with beautifully made waterproof boots. They are an investment but I found mine at Nordstrom Rack for half price. You can explore options here: or the full offering at Aquatalia

11. Sneakers for Autumn

White canvas Esplar sneakers with a blue accent, by Veja

Any sneakers will do for a capsule wardrobe, and don’t worry about being under-dressed. Even in Paris, women wear comfy running shoes to elegantly speed along the cobblestones.

 

SHOP

I love my Allbirds wool sneakers for fall travel. They are lightweight and comfy. Pictured above are the Esplar Canvas Sneakers by Veja, a French brand widely available in the U.S. They also come in leather a more practical choice for fall as they are easy to clean.  Explore the many cute Veja options here: Shopbop Veja

Cariuma is another brand I’ve recently discovered. I tried on my sister’s pair, the IBI in Sand Knit. They are ultra-lightweight, great for travel, and really cute and comfy. I plan to order my own pair.  They are ethically and sustainably made and if you have any issues with your feet, they easily accommodate orthotics.

And Rothy’s Lace-Up Sneaker in off-white which they call “blonde” is another cute option. It would go with everything and not show dirt as much as white (but they are washable). I size up a half size in Rothy’s flats but these run true to size.

12. Accessories

A grey plaid scarf, black belt and tan handbag are pictured against a white background.

Accessories are one way to add color and variety to your autumn capsule wardrobe. I always travel with scarves and chose a wool plaid for fall.

Have you considered your belt as an option for adding color? I am seeing many brightly colored belts and love the idea of using them as an accent. I haven’t taken the plunge, but would love one. The belt pictured is the Artemis by Sézane. It comes in neutrals and several gorgeous colors, including a yellow and lilac that would be lovely for fall.  The fact it doesn’t have holes makes it versatile; it can be worn higher or lower on your waist. Try belting it over a button-up shirt.

The handbag shown is the Mini Double Loop Bag by Cuyana in the color cappuccino. 

Capsule Wardrobe for Fall Travel

A good capsule wardrobe will work equally well for the day and evening. Here are three outfit combinations ideal for an evening out. Just slightly elevated from our daytime outfits, I appreciate having something to change into after sightseeing.  When I have space I like to bring a lightweight blouse exclusively for the evening that works with my nicer trousers. That way, I know I will always have something to change into for dinner.  

Evening Outfits

Spring capsule wardrobe evening outfit - dress and a navy blazer
Dress + blazer & belt
Spring capsule wardrobe evening outfit - maxi skirt and a navy sweater
Maxi skirt + navy sweater & necklace
Spring capsule wardrobe evening outfit - light trousers + black shirt and belt
Trousers + black shirt & belt

Tote Bag for an Autumn Wardrobe

I recently invested in a new tote bag, the Classic Structured Leather Tote by Cuyana. I absolutely love it. I use it most days and it’s already come with me on trips to California and Canada. Note that the one I bought is a traditional tote style with an open top. They also have gorgeous zippered totes, if you want something specifically for travel: Classic Leather Zipper Tote. 

For a budget-friendly but still luxe option, I like the Quince Italian Leather Tote. 

Susan Heinrich carries a tan tote bag by Cuyana, with two additional photos of the outside and inside of the bag

Sustainable Clothing Brands for Capsule Wardrobes

Many of the brands listed here make sustainable production a priority. Athleta, Boden, Sézane, Reformation, and Veja are all certified B Corps. To earn B certification a business must meet high standards of performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits to sustainability and supply chain practices.

Everlane, a great source for elevated basics, gets high marks for sustainability in many areas, but isn’t B Corp Certified. You will find the name of the factory a piece was made in, in each product listing when you click on “More detail”.  Likewise, Quince isn’t B Corp Certified but sources sustainable materials like organic cotton and linen, Mulberry silk, and cashmere. Quince is transparent about its partner factories, including wages and working conditions, and is BSCI and Bluesign® certified.

The bigger brands mentioned here, such as J. Crew and Banana Republic are making strides toward sustainability but have a long way to go. Some of their products use sustainable materials.

I hope you’ve discovered some new brands to try. If you have a favorite sustainable clothing brand, please share in the comments below. 

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I hope this has given you some inspiration for your autumn travel wardrobe. Whether one new scarf or an entire wardrobe created with what you already have, the most important thing is feeling happy with how you look and comfortable as you explore, whether in Paris or Portland. 

So which color palette will you choose for your capsule wardrobe? Please share in the comments below. And I’d love to hear where you are going. 

Bon voyage! 

Susan prepares for travel at the Denver train station. She is pictured next to Monos Check-In Medium bag and the Monos Metro backpack.

For more on packing efficiently you might enjoy: Packing Guide for Overpackers. If you are already looking ahead to spring, explore my Spring Capsule Wardrobe for Travel.

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About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.

Susan

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