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. 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
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 Smart Cropped Tapered 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 High-Rise Wide-Leg Blue 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 don’t always cling in the best places. This is a great piece for dressing up in the evening but is also cute and comfy for a day of sightseeing. I picked a bright skirt as an accent to an otherwise neutral palette, mostly navy, white and black. You could also go with a neutral skirt. 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 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.
For something a little more sporty, casual and neutral, Athleta’s Release Midi Skirt comes in neutral blue or black and 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 it has to be comfy enough for wearing on a busy travel day, and stylish enough to dress up in the evening.
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.
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 lots of colors -the fabric is ideal for travel! For something more flowy look at the Studio Wide Leg Pant.
Here’s another nice option by Everlane: The Easy Pant.
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.)
Boden’s V-Neck Relaxed Cardigan, is currently half price and has a striking white stripe detail. Really pretty.
J. Crew Factory has a classic navy crew neck if you prefer that: 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 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 comes in white, indigo and olive green. I am very happy with it. It’s incredibly soft cotton, and I would be happy with one in every color! Note that the fit is boxy, and it’s not a long shirt for tucking. It does come in tall if you would like a longer fit.
I also love this option from Everlane: The Linen Workwear Shirt. Almost the exact same price and linen is a lovely fabric for a spring vacation. Another boxy style, so size down for a more fitted look.
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.
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 include a neutral dress in a capsule in similar colors to everything else. This is the one thing in your spring capsule wardrobe that doesn’t have to go with anything else. A dress is a stand-alone piece, it can be anything. You should love it and feel comfortable – that’s the only prerequisite!
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.
I’ve fallen for the Cindra Washable Silk Midi Dress by Amour Vert. It comes in three patterns (Piazza is my favorite) and yes, “washable silk”! Three cheers for no dry cleaning!
11. Trench Coat
If you don’t already own a trench coat this could be the piece your 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.
If you want to spend a little more, the Cuyana Classic Trench is classically chic. It also comes in olive and navy.
For a longer style, I like Everlane’s Gathered Drape Trench.
If you want to 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
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!
These Women’s Linnie Tailored Mules by Sam Edelman are very similar, slightly more expensive.
Tory Burch makes a chic style, the Jessa Mule, which comes in black and cream.
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 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 Esplar Canvas Sneakers by Veja.
Spring Capsule Wardrobe
15. Accessories: 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 Travel
Our spring travel capsule has to work for evening as well. 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 a trip to California! Note that the one I bought is a traditional tote style with an open top. They also have gorgeous totes with a zippered top, if you want something specifically for travel: Classic Leather Zipper Tote.
Sustainable Clothing Brands for Capsule Wardrobes
Many of the brands listed here make sustainable production a priority. Athleta, Boden, Eileen Fisher, 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 last 20 plus years, why many of those were a part of this wardrobe. Once you own them, the sustainable thing is to wear them as much as possible.
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 wardrobe doesn’t have to be boring basics? 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!