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. A combination of classic pieces with a few accents will allow you to mix to maximum outfit effect, in any season.
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 missing checked bag. And since these pieces are mostly classics, you will turn to them again and again, at home.
Spring Capsule Wardrobe - The Pieces
CROPPED JEANS ~ MAXI SKIRT ~ TROUSERS ~ 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. I believe color can always work in a capsule, unless you are planning What to Wear on Safari, then you’ll want to stick to neutrals.
Making a color palette work comes down to a basic approach: start with neutrals, then layer in color. Colors can vary by personal preference and the season. If you’ve found your way here in fall, explore my Autumn Capsule Wardrobe for Travel.
For spring, I chose navy and white. From there, I layered in colorful pieces: a dress and skirt in shades of pink, and a green scarf. I also added two black basics. That created a spring wardrobe with enough color to make it interesting but it was still easy to combine the pieces.
In the photos below, you will see the spring capsule with the navy and white items and then with the colorful pieces added in.
This concept can work with any color palette. Begin with your neutrals, then layer in the color. Other examples: brown and cream plus blush and forest green. Or black and white plus avocado and coral. If you have no idea where to start, pick a favorite scarf or patterned blouse — make those colors your palette.
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. I like high-waisted jeans. If that’s not for you, pick a mid-rise pair instead. Jeans are very personal, so grab any favorite pair and we’ll explore the many ways we can style them for our vacation.
If you need a new pair of jeans, Everlane makes nice, well-priced denim. I like the Everlane Way-High Jean, which comes in several different washes.
If you need jeans and want to try them on (very helpful for me), I suggest Madewell. They have many styles in store and are relatively well-priced and often have sales.
They currently have a promotion where you can trade-in any brand of old jeans and get $50 off a new pair. They’ll recycle your trade-in. My current favorite pair is the Low-Slung Straight (they are more of a mid-rise on me). Explore all Madewell denim.
For a more tapered crop, I like Boden’s High Rise True Straight Jeans, which come in several colors. I own several items by Boden and love them all.
This well-priced pair by Land’s End comes in white and two denim washes: Women’s Recover High-Rise Straight.
2. The Maxi Skirt
I take a maxi skirt on almost every warm weather trip. I like the simplicity of it and think the style works for many women. 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. You could also select a neutral skirt; solid bottoms can simplify combining outfits. Any skirt that you like can work 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 from a few years ago. A similar style is the Vienna Skirt, and their website offers several options.
Quince also has a very nice Washable Silk Midi Skirt that my friend has and loves. The lilac or the navy would be nice for spring. I own many items by Quince; the quality and prices are great.
If you prefer something more sporty, I like Athleta’s Stride Midi Skirt, violet or black. I have many Athleta pieces I travel with.
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.
My wide-leg trousers are 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 closet might produce something that could work. Any lightweight pants in a neutral color, that you feel good in, are a winner.
If you’d like to buy something, I am listing a few ideas below.
Everlane make quality, well-priced items. The Dream Pant are made for travel — they’re wrinkle-resistant and work in day and evening outfits. They come in six gorgeous colors, an option for any spring capsule color palette. Or their Tencel Way-High Taper Pant in Ash Brown would be lovely for spring. They look like dress trousers but are lightweight and machine washable.
I own three pants from Athleta, and all have been travel staples. If you like something flowy, the Cosmic Wide Leg Pant is so versatile — comfy enough for a long flight and chic enough for an evening out. I love the olive color!
Spring Capsule Wardrobe - Daytime Outfits
4. Cotton Cardigan Sweater
To V or not to V, that is the question. I chose a navy v-neck cardigan for this spring capsule wardrobe, but a crewneck is equally nice as a versatile staple. I like that a v-neck is the perfect shape for a statement necklace without fussing with the buttons and neckline. My sweater is from Banana Republic and I’ve had it for years. Several options are linked below.
J. Crew Factory has a classic navy crew neck cardigan that is well-priced: Classic Cotton Cardigan Sweater.
This one at Banana Republic Factory has a deeper V than mine and is also affordable: the Forever Cardigan in Preppy Navy.
And this lovely relaxed-fit cotton cardigan by Everlane, the Organic Cotton Cardigan, comes in three colors.
5. Pullover Sweater
What says spring in Paris, or anywhere else, more than a striped sweater? It makes a statement, yet stripes are a classic. I might even call them a neutral. If you aren’t as striped-obsessed as I am, 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, that works too. Make sure it goes with either your trousers and/or skirt as well.
I am wearing the Leontine sweater by the French brand Sézane. It’s available in multiple colors; if your favorite is out-of-stock, check back as Sézane restocks frequently. Madewell also has a lovely striped sweater, perfect for a spring wardrobe, and it comes in two colors: the Conway Pullover Cotton Sweater. It is an oversized style, so size down for a more traditional fit.
For more French style inspiration, you might enjoy my story: French Wardrobe Basics.
6. Navy Blazer
Since my spring capsule wardrobe was created around a navy and white palette, I chose a classic navy blazer. If I am traveling to Europe in spring, I am packing a blazer. If you were going somewhere warm, you could opt for linen instead, navy, white or beige are all nice. You could also pick a blazer with a bit of pattern, but in that case I would choose a solid skirt that works with it.
I like the classic fit of J Crew’s Going-Out Blazer in Stretch Twill and it’s available in sizes 00-24, in classic, petite, and tall.
If you are headed somewhere warm, or it’s later in spring, I love the pale color and relaxed fit of the Classic Relaxed Blazer in Oyster, by Reformation.
For a linen option check out Quince’s European Linen Blazer. Three gorgeous colors and it’s only $70! I bought their linen shirt and really like it. Quince makes stylish products at great price points and I own several other items from them that I am very happy with.
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 is sold out. Here are some similar options. Quince has a European Linen Short Sleeve Shirt which comes in seven colors. Similar to the one I am wearing, it’s a relaxed, boxy cut.
I also love this option from Everlane: The Short-Sleeve Box Shirt, in a classic neutral for any spring capsule wardrobe: white, black, slate blue, and ReChambray blue (made from recycled cotton), and this one from Madewell: Signature Poplin Camp Shirt.
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. I also love a striped shirt for spring!
If you prefer linen to cotton, I own Boden’s Linen Shirt and the quality is fantastic. I’m linking to a pretty navy; it also comes in white. And this Quince Linen Shirt, as I mentioned. Boden is slihtly softer but I like them both.
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
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 make sure it works with at least one pair of shoes and possibly your cardigan or blazer for layering. But you could also 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.
I love Sézane’s Alani dress. Shirt-dress styles are classic. I own several and wear them often. For something colorful, Boden’s Linen Kaftan Maxi comes in two pretty options, a solid coral and a stripe, in sizes from 2-22. I own one dress by Boden and would happily fill my closet with them. They are well-made and comfortable.
If you prefer something sleeveless, Athleta’s Santorini Midi Dress travels well. The name references the island of Santorini, and this would be fabulous for spring in Greece! (I was in Greece in mid-May last year, and it was very hot. I wore light dresses every day.
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 rule of thumb is no more than three pairs of shoes on any trip and this is especially true if you are packing light, say a carry-on for Europe. The shoes will change with the seasons and destinations, but the criteria will not. At least two pairs of shoes you can comfortably wear and walk in, all day. 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), so you need a second pair to alternate. A third pair can be more dressy, say for evenings. You’ll find more tips on comfortable shoes for Europe in Shoes for Paris Travel.
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 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.
My exact Veja Esplars may be unavailable, but you can explore all their cute styles here: Veja Store.
And again, any sneakers will do. Classic Keds are always cute.
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!
The Artemis Belt by Sézane comes in many wonderful colors and the lack of holes makes it really versatile — it can be worn higher or lower. Try belting it overtop of a button-down shirt as I did for an evening outfit.
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
My tote bag is the Class Structured Leather Tote by Cuyana. It’s a traditional tote style with an open top. I do travel with it, and use it at home to carry my books to French class, to meetings, or to work at a coffee shop. Cuyana also has totes with a closed top, the Easy Zipper Tote.
Cuyana totes are pricey. For something similar for less, I like Quince’s Classic Leather Italian Tote. It’s available in four lovely colors, including classic black and cognac.
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 an effort to purchase from small sustainable retailers, going forward. That’s why I’ve included them here; I hope you’ve discovered some new brands. And 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!