Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe in Black and Beige: 1 Piece at a Time

It seems that there are some among us who are struggling to pull together what they want to pack. This isn't particularly surprising - travel is stressful enough, and the unknown factors of weather and activities can throw almost anyone into a small panic. So I'm going to approach the "1 Piece at a Time" idea with the thought that we're packing a suitcase, rather than assembling a capsule wardrobe.

Let's assume that you know what you want to wear for traveling - you've got a gloriously beautiful cardigan that MUST go with you:

What do I wear for travel?
Tee – L.L.Bean; pants – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Missoni

Based on this outfit, it will be really easy to work with a core of black neutrals, and then add in some beige, too. There's enough white in the cardigan to make white shirts or blouses an option, too. While this might be a subdued for a long-term wardrobe, for a trip it might be a calming option to make getting dressed easier!

black, beige and white wardrobe color scheme
Tee – L.L.Bean; pants – L.L.Bean; cardigan – Missoni

After I arrive at my destination, I always want to get into my hotel room for JUST a minute or two - wash my face, brush my teeth, reapply sunscreen, and maybe change my shirt for something a bit fresher and brighter. Here's where a nice white tee shirt would be useful:

adding a white tee shirt to a beige, black and white travel capsule wardrobe
Tee – L.L.Bean

Traveling with black pants to me automatically screams "get a black cardigan or jacket in here!" This gives you a nice sort of casual suit-ish look under which you can wear pretty much any top you pack (or buy...).

adding a black cardigan to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Cardigan – J. Crew

Now that you've got a few tops in hand, it's time to grab another pair of pants. While many people refuse to travel with light-color pants, I think that a pair of light khakis break up this non-stop black pretty nicely. But I always have laundry done when I'm on vacation - it's part of how I treat myself and give myself a break!

adding khakis to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Pants – L.L.Bean

For this step, I would start looking about to see if I had anything that included both of my neutral colors. These kinds of "bridge" garments are very versatile, and bring some pattern or texture into a fairly simple wardrobe.

adding a striped top to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Top – Max Mara

Right now, when you look at the strip of clothing across the top, it still looks pretty dark, so I think it's about time to include a cardigan or jacket in the light neutral. Please note here that you don't have to match these colors exactly - it's enough that they're in the same family and that they look harmonious together.

adding a beige cardigan to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Cardigan – Simply Be

For me, no suitcase is complete without a pair of jeans! If you aren't a jeans person, this could be an opportunity to include another pair of pants in a slightly different style, or a casual skirt.

adding black jeans to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Jeans – L.L.Bean

Time for more print or pattern - these (along with accessories) are the things that will keep you from getting bored with a travel wardrobe.

adding a print tee shirt to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe

You could easily travel with just what's already been included! But now is the time to take a hard look at everything you've assembled and ensure that you're going to be prepared for all of the activities that you anticipate. In this particular example, I'm thinking that this woman might be going out for a lovely dinner, or to a concert. That means we should look for a couple of dressy-ish things. Not over the top sequins and glitter; just something feminine and pretty.

adding a silk blouse to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Blouse - Tibi

A skirt gives you lots of more dressed-up options!

adding a black skirt to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Skirt – NIC+ZOE

And a simple silk top in one of the neutral colors can be layered under cardigans or worn on its own...

adding a silk top to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe

This is another one of those "wardrobe essentials" that I like to pack - a v-neck sweater can be sort of dressy/flirty when worn alone, but completely warm and useful for layering.

adding a black sweater to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Sweater – J. Crew

Now, when we look at the strip of clothing on the top of the page, it's clear that we're going to need another pair of pants, or another skirt. I chose a beige skirt for variety, but another pair of pants, or jeans, would also serve the same purpose.

adding a beige skirt to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Skirt – L.L.Bean

Now, this wardrobe is REALLY pretty complete, so I'm tossing in a pretty dress just for the heck of it! It IS a vacation - looking lovely, and sparking a bit of romance, or admiration, is always fun!

adding a black dress to a black, white and beige travel capsule wardrobe
Dress – Dorothy Perkins

If you're feeling nervous about your choices, you can always lay them out in a "4 by 4 Wardrobe" arrangement, to see if it all looks coherent. I'm not positive, but I think there are at least 50 outfits possible from these 16 pieces. Even if something is completely destroyed somewhere along the line, this wardrobe would still be sufficient for almost anything, sort of welding, or a royal ball.

a 4 by 4 travel capsule wardrobe in black, beige and white

Tomorrow, the accessories! That's where the fun REALLY starts...

How to build a travel capsule wardrobe in a black, white, and beige color palette


  1. Interesting as alway. One comment/suggestion from me: As the shoes are the most important yet the most difficult part of a travel wardrobe (at least for me), I always start this process with the footwear. I chose one, two, maximum three (versatile) pairs of shoes for my trip, according to the weather and planned activities, and then work my way up. First I look at bottoms that will go well with these shoes, then at tops that will work with both the bottoms and shoes. Maybe that could be an idea for a post?
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I agree. I have bad feet and have to have very supportive(and usually not terribly cute) shoes. The post I need could be entitled "Start with Clunky Shoes."

    2. Yes! I am with Sonja and Amy. Feet always come first in my travel wardrobe planning. - nancyo

  2. I love the idea of these pieces but in my case I would probably switch up the beige for a soft grey - but with the same principles applicable. I look forward to the accessories.
    PS - I think Auto Correct may have struck in the last line - have a feeling you meant "short of a wedding"????

    1. When we got married (second wedding for both of us), we had wedding invitations printed here in Spain. Luckily I'm good at proof reading, as they had put John & Sue's welding!!! Clearly the Spanish printer used the same software as Janice!

    2. Actually, I was thinking welding - since the woman in one of last week's posts was going to be welding. But wedding works too!
      hugs all around,

    3. A pair of jeans, a t shirt and closed shoes - of course you are set for welding as well. That is what I usually wear in the studio.

      Welding for wedding would actually be cute for a pun loving couple - welding two people together.

  3. Another very useful post: I hope that you are planning other combinations for those of us who prefer warmer colours!

  4. Lovely combinations. Thank you for another great post! Suz from Vancouver

  5. I am currently in the South of France with a wardrobe using these colors, and it is working perfectly. My jacket, one long black pants, capris in black and natural, skirts in black and natural are all linen which is working wonderfully in this heat. I used the 4x4 concept to plan. Thanks, Janice.

  6. Janice,
    This would work beautifully for me if the levels of contrast were closer together between dark and light. I would use perhaps, olive
    green or a rust brown as my darkest color paired with beige or ivory. I love how you give us permission for colors not to match exactly, although then I think the value needs to jump up or down a bit, so that it looks intentional, and not just a poor use of eyesight or judgement ! I usually start packing with 3 pieces of each neutral selected at once -- top, topper, and bottom of a given color. Then move on to the second neutral the same way, then adding in more tops, toppers, and a bottom. I have not yet been brave enough to go with an all neutral color scheme, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow's post on adding accessories to brighten things up a bit !
    As you would be wearing 3 of the 16 pieces to travel, would you attempt to put the remaining 13 into a carry on ?

    1. I might try to put them into a carry on, depending on how big the clothes are for the woman in question, and how generous the interior space is in the bag. With toiletries in a tote bag, it might be possible...

  7. This is very useful for an extended trip: if you have to do laundry, you don't have a lot of fussy colors.
    I have to tell you about my great French soldes find: a pair of black, crinkly palazzo pants from Mango. Perfect for travel. Crinkly = no wrinkles (actually intentional wrinkles). Lightweight. Pockets. Black. Comfortable. Easy to dress up. Half off! I am thrilled.

  8. I like this idea. If you used Navy and Cream instead of Black and White, what color would replace the gray? I guess I am color challenged. ;)

  9. Clicked on that link for this beautiful cardigan... Be still me little heart. It is beautiful indeed.


  10. Thank you for doing this. It always looks so obvious when you do these posts but I always struggle mainly with the self discipline required to stay with just two colours.
    Deb from Vancouver

    1. I'm the same Deb. I look at an outfit and think, 'Oh yes, with a teal shirt,' or 'A russet scarf ...' Yet it's the simplicity of these outfits that is so appealing. Just have to get my head around texture and pattern as constituting variety.
      Robyn in Tasmania

  11. Oh, this is wonderful! I have used these two travel colors for years, w/accent colors thrown in as accessories (small and packable ones, such as pins, gloves and scarves, bien sûr). When it's not black and beige, it's navy blue and beige w/the same accent colors.

    Always so inspiring, Janice.

    Cheers, M-T
    The French Touch

  12. One of my favorite color combos for travel! Easy and classic! I do sometimes throw in an accent color but try not to. :) Depends on how long the trip is.

  13. My favorite travel wardrobe colors are black, white, and taupe - similar to what you have here and this is giving me great ideas! I usually have denim along with me too, and sometimes an accent color. So, yeah, it's hard for me to restrict myself, but I am paying attention! - nancyo