My dream capsule wardrobe packing list: What I wish I’d packed

RTW packing list

As I’ve been thinking about returning to the States, there are few things I look forward to more than having all my clothes back (this is aside from seeing my friends and family again, obviously). You see, for the year before we left, I’d been wearing what’s known in the blogosphere as a “Capsule Wardrobe.” It’s basically a small seasonal wardrobe filled with only things you love that look good on you and look good together. It makes getting dressed actually really wonderful, which is why I’ve been fantasizing so much about having my wardrobe back.

But cruising Pinterest and blogs like this and this got me wondering why I couldn’t be just as in love with my travel wardrobe. I fear I may have gone a bit too practical in my packing (see the full list here, including the non-clothing must-haves); I didn’t care in Southeast Asia where almost everyone dresses pretty sloppy (it’s true, sorry!), but in Europe it’s a little distressing. For example, I have almost nothing I’m comfortable wearing on our weekend getaway to Milan. A few of my mistakes:

  • I assumed I’d end up in India and want loose-fitting yoga pants. I certainly could have bought said pants there, and without a definite plan to go to India, I shouldn’t have packed with that in mind.
  • I had no idea I’d be in Europe, so that was a bit unforeseeable, but I still would have loved looking a bit classier everywhere we’ve been.
  • I focused too much on layerable neutrals, which leaves everything feeling very blah when I’m not wearing several layers.
  • I wanted to exclusively pack things I already owned; this wasn’t necessarily a mistake by any means, but it was a constraint.

So just for fun, I decided to share my daydream packing list. What I would have brought if I’d known everywhere I was going (Southeast Asia, Australia during their fall, and Europe in the summer) and could have gone on a shopping spree.

My fantasy packing list

 

Dresses:

1 pretty, patterned maxi dress: The navy-and-white patterned maxi I bought in Bali has become my go-to for any time I want to feel fancy, but it would also work with sneakers and sandals for a day of sightseeing. With a light cover-up, it’s modest enough for churches, too.
Swingy tank dress: This is perfect for going out at night (when you don’t want to drag a maxi dress/skirt through the spilled beer in a bar) or, again, with sandals or sneakers for sightseeing. Also doubles as a beach coverup. Personally, I’d go with black or navy, but a jewel tone also won’t show dirt too much, if you don’t love black as much as me.
Bonus dress: I love dresses, so I’d probably pack one more. Something light and at least knee-length. Sidenote: Longer dresses are also great for maintaining modesty when you need to sit on the ground or a curb (somehow happens a lot for me?).

Bottoms:

Shorts: I really don’t love shorts, so I didn’t bring any, but I caved and bought a $2-pair in the Gilis ’cause it was just too dang hot. If I could have bought my dream pair, I’d want something light that would dry quickly (both from sweat or wet bikini bottoms) but could look a bit nicer with the right top. If you love shorts, you could maybe do a pair of denim shorts, too, but I just don’t find them practical — if it’s hot enough to need shorts, denim is not ideal.
Light maxi skirt: The skirt I brought has a great flowiness, but the fabric holds way more moisture than I’d ever realized. It takes days to line dry and looks very casual. I’d rather swap it for something lighter and in a fun color or pattern.
Lightweight pants: I love my olive-colored quick-dry Athleta pants. They’re one of the most “colorful” items I brought, yet work with everything and actually look pretty nice.
Legging-fit pants: My favorite outfit silhouette is fitted pants and a flowy top. I have no idea why I forgot this when I packed for this trip…
Jeans: My dark Uniqlo skinny jeans were an absolute lifesaver in the colder climates of Australia and New Zealand.
Yoga pants: I’m still glad I brought 1 pair of yoga leggings. Great for hiking, travel days, lounging, and — obviously — yoga. I might go with a more fun pattern, since no one is buying that these are real pants anyway.

Tops:

Chambray shirt: I wear this all the time! It’s great for layering (under a dress or sweater or over a tank or dress) or wearing on its own.
Silky button-down: I wish I had another lighter-weight long-sleeve shirt that I could layer for greater outfit variety in warmer weather. I actually have this black Uniqlo button-down back home.
Flowy black T: I love having a black t-shirt, but it feels a little too blah with jeans, for example. Something a little blousier would feel more like a real outfit.
Graphic T: I don’t know who I was kidding trying to “fit in” by avoiding graphic Ts. No one in Asia is believing I’m a local, so I’d rather have some more fun outfit options.
Patterned or textured T-shirt: Just to have another interesting top option.
Long-sleeve Uniqlo base-layer: This was a lifesaver in colder climates, and takes up almost no space.
Silky black tank/cami: As a base layer or to have another dressy top.
2-3 colored tank tops: They’re small and lightweight and great for exercising or just general sightseeing.
Lightweight sweater: The merino-blend Uniqlo sweater I bought in Melbourne is very light and has been pretty durable. It was essential in Australia and New Zealand.
Flowy black cardigan: In love with mine. Doubles as a blanket on cold transportation.
Waterproof rain shell: Not high-fashion, but a must and very light.

Shoes and Accessories:

Converse All Stars: If I could add one pair of shoes, this would be it. I just hate how dusty my bare feet get walking around in sandals in Europe. In Asia, the practice of slipping shoes on and off makes it impractical to wear laced shoes, but I wish I’d had these in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
Doc Martens: I’m really happy with mine for both city walking and hiking.
Walking sandals: I’m glad I had slightly nicer sandals than plain Tevas, though I wouldn’t mind even nicer ones.
Croc sandals: I actually thought about buying these (this isn’t the exact style, I couldn’t find the ones I’d looked at), and after seeing friends wear them as shower shoes, beach shoes, water shoes, and walking shoes, I regret not getting them.
“Cute” backpack: I’ve got no qualms with my backpack, but I certainly feel like I look silly wearing it in the city. I wish I had something a little more cool.
Cross-body purse: I love mine that I bought in Chiang Mai. If I were only traveling in Europe, though, I might carry something a little nicer.
Scarf: A scarf (or pashmina or sarong) is one of those things everyone says you’ll pick up as a souvenir…well, I never did, though I routinely wished after leaving Asia that I had. To be honest, I just felt like everything I had was so frumpy that frankly, any funky, cool patterned scarf would just look kinda bag-lady. Instead, I wish I’d picked a statement scarf at home when I had my whole wardrobe in front of me and I could pick something suitable.

What’s interesting is that this list is very close to the exact quantity of clothing I have with me now (1 more pair of shoes, 1 more shirt), so this isn’t a lot more stuff, yet I’m way more excited about it. I will definitely be using this list as a template for my future trips.

3 thoughts on “My dream capsule wardrobe packing list: What I wish I’d packed

  1. So one good idea that I’m picking up is to wash and line dry everything that you are thinking of bringing on a journey like this beforehand. I’m hoping to use your packing experience for my travels to Japan.

    1. Yay! I hope it’s useful. And yes, great idea! Definitely wouldn’t hurt to wash/dry everything by hand at least once.

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