Wardrobe basics combine to create stylish and comfortable outfits for a spring vacation
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I really struggle with packing so decided that the simplicity of a spring capsule wardrobe could be the answer to traveling light and looking stylish on a spring getaway.
I’ve scoured my favorite retailers, as well as my own closet, to come up with a simple yet chic collection of spring BFF’s (best fashion friends) – pieces that will carry us stylishly through a week in Paris, Prague or Pasadena. After going through this process, I believe a capsule wardrobe can work for anyone; the right combination of basics with a few accents will allow you to mix to maximum outfit effect.
Even better, I’ve created this spring capsule wardrobe to fit into a carry-on bag, if you wish to travel light. I recently traveled with only a carry-on to Europe and it was wonderful to not have to worry about a checked bag. And since these pieces are mostly classics, you will turn to them again and again once back at home.
Spring Capsule Wardrobe - The Pieces
CROPPED JEANS ~ MAXI SKIRT ~ TROUSERS ~ NAVY BLAZER ~ CARDIGAN SWEATER ~ PULLOVER SWEATER ~ COTTON SHIRT (long-sleeved) ~ COTTON SHIRT (short-sleeved) ~ T-SHIRTS ~ TANK ~ DRESS ~ TRENCH COAT
MULE LOAFERS ~ SLIDE SANDALS ~ SNEAKERS
Spring Capsule Wardrobe Color Palette
You will notice that this capsule wardrobe is colorful. Does it have to be? No, whether or not to add color to your capsule is your personal choice of course. I believe color can always work in a capsule (unless you are going on safari – then you’ll want to to stick to neutrals. Making a capsule color palette work comes down to a very simple formula: start with a palette of neutrals, in this case I chose navy and white, then choose to add one or two accent colors. Once I had my foundation of navy and white pieces that I knew combined into the outfits I needed, about 75% of the total, I added shades of pink and a couple of pink patterned items and a green scarf. Combined with the navy I had a perfect spring capsule wardrobe color palette – enough color to make it interesting but not overwhelmingly busy. In the photos below you will see the spring capsule with only the navy and white items, and then the same wardrobe with the colorful pieces added in.
This concept can work with many different spring color palettes. Begin with your basics, then layer in the color. Other examples: Start with brown and cream and add in blush and forest green. Or start with black and white and add in avocado and coral.
Spring Capsule Wardrobe - The Essential Pieces
1. The Cropped Jean
Cute, comfy and ready for long travel days – the cropped jean is a perfect staple in your spring capsule wardrobe. The warmer weather brings the chance to let our ankles show, but the jeans don’t have to be cropped – any favorite pair of denim will do.
The jeans in my capsule are the Emma High-Waisted Crop by Citizens of Humanity (pictured). They may be hard to find now, but similar styles are everywhere at the moment. I love a high-waisted jean – I think it’s very flattering. If it’s not for you, pick a mid-rise pair instead. Jeans are very personal so just grab a favorite pair from your closet and let’s have fun exploring all the ways we can style them.
Everlane makes very nice, well-priced denim. I like the Everlane Way-High Jean which comes in several different washes.
For a more tapered crop, I love the look of Boden’s High Rise Classic Slim Jeans. I own a few things by Boden and love them.
And this well-priced pair by Land’s End come in white and two denim washes: Women’s Recover High-Rise Cropped Flared Jeans.
2. The Maxi Skirt
I take a maxi skirt on almost every trip. I love the simplicity of it and think the style works for many women. I am curvy, so straighter skirt styles cling in the wrong places on me. This is a great piece for dressing up in the evening but is also cute and comfy for a day of sightseeing with sneakers. With this spring capsule color palette I picked this bright skirt as an accent to an otherwise neutral palette. You could also go with a neutral skirt – often neutral bottoms can make combining outfits simpler. In fact, any skirt that you like will do – as long as it goes with several of your tops and either of the sweaters or the blazer. (Examples in the photos below).
If you like the one pictured here it’s by Lucy of Paris and there are similar pleated styles still available in several patterns: the Austin Pleated Skirt which is a similar color to the one pictured and the Eliza Pleated Skirt, a brown leopard print and the Dorothy Pleated which is black and white. Note this item is recommended to be dry cleaned. Also they are not final sale. Sorry about that – I bought mine is 2019.
For a fresh spring pattern, I absolutely love this skirt by Boden. It’s on my spring wardrobe wishlist! Rosemary Linen Midi Skirt.
Quince also has a nice Washable Silk Midi Skirt that my friend has and loves. I adore the navy – it would be perfect with this navy, white and pink color palette.
If these options feel a bit dressy for you, and you prefer something more sporty Athleta’s Release Midi Skirt in black comes in lots of sizes.
3. Lightweight Trousers
After your jeans, this piece will be fundamental to your capsule wardrobe. Choosing the right trousers is important because they have to be comfy enough for wearing all day, and stylish enough to dress up in the evening. If you’ll be dressing up – more the case of this capsule is for Europe travel. (More on a capsule wardrobe for Europe below).
I chose wide-leg trousers by Rag and Bone. They are a couple of years old but I am listing several options below. This is where a search of your own closet might produce something that could work. Any lightweight pants in a neutral color, that you feel good in, is a winner.
If you’d like to buy something I am listing a few ideas below.
Here’s a fabulous option I am eyeing for my own spring travels, The Dream Pant by Everlane. These are made for travel, chic enough for day and evening and comfy enough to nap in. And they’re wrinkle resistant! They come in 6 gorgeous colors – a foundation for any spring capsule color palette.
I own several pants from Athleta and they are perfect for travel. They are wrinkle resistant and are available in sizes 0-26. These Nolita Wide Leg trousers are adorable and come in black and blue which are currently on sale – great for a tighter budget. The fabric is ideal for travel!
If you prefer a cropped pant for spring, these Endless Pant are also a great option. The color choices are lovely, something for any spring palette: there’s a mauve, a pale grey and a green, as well as black. You could also substitute this pant for the cropped jean if you prefer to skip jeans.
For something more flowy look at the Studio Wide Leg Pant. These are what I would wear on the flight to Europe – comfy enough for sleeping in. I love the olive color!
Spring Capsule Wardrobe - Daytime Outfits
4. Cotton Cardigan Sweater
To V or not to V, that is the question. You’ll see in the outfit photos that I chose a navy v-neck cardigan for this spring capsule wardrobe, but a crewneck is equally nice as a versatile staple. I do like that a v-neck is the perfect shape for a statement necklace without fussing with the buttons and neck. My sweater is from Banana Republic – I’ve had it for years. This is a ubiquitous staple; several are linked below.
This one at Banana Republic Factory has a deeper V than to mine and very affordable: the Forever Cardigan in Preppy Navy. (Made with LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded viscose fibers, a breathable fiber derived from certified renewable wood sources, produced using methods that reduce water impact and emissions by up to 50% compared to traditional viscose.) (MORE ON SUSTAINABILITY BELOW.)
Paris-based Sézane has a classic French cardigan: the Gaspard. I especially love that it comes in 20 colors, at last count. So no matter your spring color palette, there’s a color that will work, neutrals and accents. Note that these are wool, so ideal for early spring, cooler destinations, evenings, and so on. I own three Sézane sweaters and the quality is great. I have my eye on the Gaspard in Rosewood.
This lovely relaxed fit cotton cardigan by Everlane, the Organic Cotton Cardigan, comes in three colors.
And J. Crew Factory has a classic navy crew neck cardigan for a tighter budget: Classic Cotton Cardigan Sweater.
5. Pullover Sweater
What says spring in Paris, or anywhere else, more than a striped sweater? It makes a statement, yet stripes are classic and versatile. I might even call them a neutral. If you aren’t as striped obsessed as I, pick any sweater you like. It only has to work for daytime in this capsule, but if you want to go with something more versatile that you can dress up, lovely! Make sure it goes with either your trousers and/or skirt as well.
6. Navy Blazer
My spring capsule wardrobe began with a navy and white palette, so I chose a classic navy blazer. If I am traveling to Europe in spring, it’s jacket season and I am packing a blazer. If you were going somewhere warm you could opt for white linen, or a classic beige linen. You could also pick something with a bit of pattern, but in that case I would choose a solid skirt that works with it.
7. Short-sleeved White Shirt
Another workhorse of the spring capsule wardrobe, the short-sleeved button up shirt. This piece should be ultra comfy and breathable, keeping you cool through a day of sightseeing or lounging with a good book and a great view. There are lots of high-tech breathable fabrics that will whisk away any hint of perspiration, but I also love classic cotton. I bought this shirt which is part of Banana Republic’s new Heritage line, a return to their roots as a clothing for adventurers. Adventure is always in style!
The Banana Republic Essential Roll-Cuff Shirt that I bought for my spring travel capsule is sold out but luckily I have recently discovered the brand, Quince! They make stylish products at great price points and i’ve already bought a few items from them I am very happy with. This 100% European Linen Short Sleeve Shirt is $39.90 and comes in seven colors. Like the one I am wearing here, it’s a relaxed somewhat boxy cut.
8. Long-Sleeved Button-Up
I love the look of a long-sleeved shirt rolled up; I think it is so versatile for spring travel. I was imagining a trip to Europe when I planned this wardrobe and chose black. But you could go with any solid color that works with the rest of your capsule wardrobe.
If you prefer linen to cotton, I own Boden’s classic Linen Shirt and the quality is fantastic. I’m linking to a pretty navy. The golden limed green would also be great in a spring capsule wardrobe with color.
More Daytime Outfits
9. Tee Shirts + Tank
You can decide how many t-shirts you need, perhaps depending on whether you have access to laundry and how warm it will be. I chose 3 tees for my spring capsule, a white, a black and a striped, as well as a pink tank which you will see in the outfits below.
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.
My pink tank is by Athleta. I am linking a similar one below.
10. Spring Dress
I never understand why people choose a dress for a spring capsule with colors that blend in with everything else. This is the one thing in your spring capsule wardrobe that doesn’t have to go with the color palette. A dress is a stand-alone piece, it can be any color or pattern.
You should love it and feel comfortable. And just make sure it works with at least one pair of shoes, and possibly your cardigan or blazer for layering. But you could also just wear your trench coat if it’s chilly.
I picked this pink chevron patterned dress because I liked the colors for spring and the jersey material makes it easy to pack – it doesn’t wrinkle!
It’s from Loft in 2021, the Chevron Dress Flounce Pocket, so I am linking a few other dresses I love. Note: that if you do purchase this specific dress on resale somewhere, you will need to wear a stretchy “tube bra” over your regular bra because it clings a bit at the chest.
Boden’s Easy T-Shirt Midi Dress comes in several colors, solids and patterns, in sizes from 2-22. I own one dress by Boden and would happily fill my closet with them. They are very well made and comfortable.
If you prefer something sleeveless, Athleta’s Santorini Midi Dress travels really well. As the name suggests in reference to the island of Santorini, this would be fabulous for spring in Greece! (I was in Greece mid-May last year, and it was very hot. I wore all my sundresses.)
11. Trench Coat
If you don’t already own a trench coat this could be the piece you invest in, especially if you are headed to Europe in spring. The classic trench is versatile and a true wardrobe staple.
Mine is 10+ years old, by Tory Burch. However, this classic style will now and forever be available from a variety of retailers. The old-school original was made by Burberry in 1916, so I’ve included it below, as well as a couple of stylish alternatives. You could go with grey or black but not if your style inspiration is the same as mine – Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
I really like the J. Crew Classic Trench: available in tan or navy, sizes 00 to 24.
And if you want to channel Audrey Hepburn and splurge on the ultimate investment piece, or just explore a trench treasure trove, you can see Burberry’s current collection here: Burberry Trench Coats.
Even More Daytime Outfits
Spring Capsule Wardrobe Shoes
If you told me you start planning any capsule wardrobe with shoes, I would tell you that you are brilliant. The right shoes solve most problems that come up when planning the essential pieces to take on your trip: The problem of space in your luggage, the problem of comfort and practicality, and in the case of Europe, cobblestones aren’t especially forgiving. And of course, the requirement that you like how it all looks when you head out the door.
Shoes for a Capsule Wardrobe for Europe
My basic rules of thumb is no more than three pairs of shoes on any trip adn this is especially true if you are packing light, say a carry-n only for Europe. The shoes will change with the seasons and destinations of course, but the criteria will not. At least two pair need to be shoes you can comfortably wear all day, and do a lot of walking in. I say two because even the comfiest shoes can give you blisters if you walk in them long enough (I was recently reminded of this in Paris) and so you need a second pair to alternate. A third pair can be more dressy, say for evenings.
I had spring Europe travel in mind when I selected these; I chose a mule-style loafer, a sandal slide and a pair of sneakers. All of them are comfortable, stylish and worked with all of my outfits.
12. Mule Loafers
Are these mule-style loafers the MVP of this spring capsule wardrobe? Chic, comfy and well-priced – I think they are! They are inspired by and a nice copy of the classic, the Gucci Princetown.
Every time I slipped them on with one of my outfits, I instantly felt more put together. I did end up exchanging the pink for the tan. I think they will take me right on through October in Europe! (I’m planning a fall trip to Paris & Copenhagen…) And there are several other color options as well. I love the white for summer!
13. Sandal Slides
A flat slide-style sandal in a chestnut color truly goes with everything you’ll wear this spring. Dress it up, keep it casual. I love these, no accident considering they resemble the classic Oran sandal by Hermes.
Mine are from Target. I never buy shoes from Target because I don’t buy a lot of shoes. So when I do, I typically invest in shoes made to last. But rules are made to be broken and when I saw these I grabbed them. I have been pleasantly surprised, they are so comfy and have held up well with considerable wear. Mine aren’t available this season but you can get an even nicer pair – the Alibi by French Sole.
Or if you are in a position to splurge on Hermes, well, I won’t tell you not to. They are also linked, because when do I ever link to anything from Hermes?!
Any sneakers will do for a spring capsule wardrobe, and don’t worry about being under-dressed. Even in Paris women wear comfy running shoes to elegantly speed along the cobblestones.
Since it was spring and I was ready for a new pair, I chose the Esplar Canvas Sneakers by Veja.
Spring Capsule Wardrobe Accessories
15. Scarves, Belt, Statement Necklace
With the right accessories, your capsule will feel much more varied. I always travel with scarves, and included two of my favorites here. Mix in one fabulous belt by Sézane, and garnish with a pretty necklace which makes it easy to dress up for evening. My necklace is a souvenir from a trip to India. Anything fun will do!
My belt was also a recent purchase – it’s the Artemis by Sezane. It comes in many wonderful colors and the lack of holes makes it really versatile. Try belting it overtop of a button-down shirt as I did below for evening.
Capsule Wardrobe for Spring in Europe
Our spring travel capsule has to work for evening as well and I did plan this capsule with the idea that it would work for a trip to Europe. I am showing you three outfit options here but I think we can stretch it to six evenings for a week away. I would wear the dress twice – with or without the blazer. And I could also pair the skirt with the black long-sleeved shirt and necklace. If I had space (and I did when I packed it all in a carry-on) I would tuck in an additional lightweight blouse that I would wear in the evening with the trousers.
Tote Bag for a Spring Capsule Wardrobe
I recently invested in a new tote bag, the Class Structured Leather Tote by Cuyana. I absolutely love it. I use it most days and it’s already come with me on trips to Toronto and California! Note that the one I bought is a traditional tote style with an open top. I use it at home to carry all my books to French class or if I am going to work at a coffee shop. Cuyana also has gorgeous totes with a zippered top, if you want something specifically for travel consider this: Classic Leather Zipper Tote.
Sustainable Clothing Brands for Capsule Wardrobes
Many of the brands listed here make sustainable production a priority. Athleta, Boden, Sézane, Reformation, Amour Vert 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 well-priced 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”.
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 own many J.Crew and Banana items which I’ve purchased over the years.
And I am making a point to purchase from small sustainable retailers, going forward. That’s why I’ve included them here; I hope you’ve discovered some new favorites. If you have a favorite sustainable clothing brand, please share in the comments below.
Have I convinced you that a spring capsule doesn’t have to mean boring basics and that there are endless combinations to choose from when you create your own capsule wardrobe color palette. The right combination of pieces will be easy, comfy and stylish. Try not to fret too much over this jacket or that sweater… the goal is simply feeling good and enjoying yourself on your spring adventure! Happy travels.