I can always tell when a lot of you are planning travel because I start to see more and more emails with packing questions. Many people want a wardrobe that they don’t really have to think about once they’ve arrived at their destination; that’s why I cooked up the idea of a “Whatever’s Clean” Wardrobe. If all goes according to plan, you should be able to pull any available garments from these wardrobes and assemble a reasonably presentable outfit. Certainly, some combinations are going to be better than others, and you’re going to like some outfits more than others, but overall, you’ve got mountains of flexibility, after doing a bit of strategic thinking…
First off, let’s start with a great color inspiration – a scarf from Kathkath! (this really is a 2-woman operation, and well worth our support…)
For hypothetical purposes, let’s say that we have a heroine who loves flowers, but who doesn’t want to be “that lady” who always wears flowered things. And she’s going on a trip during which she will be confronted with weather that’s very difficult to predict. I’m starting her out like this – some flowers, sure, but nothing overwhelming.
In order to make sure that our heroine is as prepared as possible for the unexpected weather awaiting her, I’m going to organize her packing around this template:
Packing a perfectly interchangeable travel capsule wardrobe isn’t easy, and it requires a bit of planning! Primarily, you have to decide what “segment” of your wardrobe is going to provide the variety. You can take printed or patterned second layers with you – a fabulous patterned cardigan would make a great central point of a travel wardrobe – but if you do that, you’re not going to be able to take printed or pattern tops and bottoms unless they coordinate with said print cardigan!
The easiest option for this situation is to limit printed and patterned pieces to tops, to use either accent colors or neutrals as 2nd layers, and to use your neutral colors on the bottom. These kinds of wardrobes won’t be flawless – there will always be combinations that work better than others – but you should be covered, literally and figuratively, for most situations.
After a lot of looking, and quite a bit of swapping in and out of garments, this is what I foresee our heroine packing:
This gives her a bright assortment of clothes, with plenty of neutrals to anchor everything and make it efficient:
Just to be sure, you can plug the garments into the template to see that she does indeed have the bases covered:
While I have infinite confidence (ahem…) that this wardrobe will work well, I like to go through a lot of the various outfit combinations just to make sure that I haven’t gone astray!
Would this all hang together better if I revisited this with all of the accessories included?
PS – For more travel wardrobe inspiration, check out the Packing section of The Vivienne Files.
The KathKath Scarf is gorgeous. I can see how having the matching pink sweater & cardigan will be very useful if the weather gets cool.
Taste of France says
You also could layer the oxford shirt under the blue sweater….wonderful collection.
Really pretty ! I couldn't get the Longchamp suitcase link to work, though – is that available in the US?
Janice Riggs says
I just fixed the link, I think! Crossing my fingers,
and giving you a hug,
I enjoyed this combo and the explanation for the choices. As much as I like to look at the clothes, it is the explanations that make it work for my closet. Questions for those that have the LLBean perfect fit pants since they are featured here: How do they look after a long, cramped flight? Do they bag at the knees or behind? How well do they hold color after frequent washings? Thanks
Janice Riggs says
I always fly in Bremerton pants from Eddie Bauer. They do look a little bit loose in the knees for a few minutes after we land, but seem to "tighten up" after a few minutes. Any readers who fly in the Perfect Fit pants who can offer up some feedback?
Yes, I practically live in the LLBean perfect fit pants. (I have several pair.) Recently wore them on two five-hour flights and they held up beautifully. No baggy knees. Also really comfortable.
In fact, when I travel I generally take two identical pairs of these pants. (Wear one, pack one.) Not too exciting, but really simple.
Note: I generally wear the original fit, not the slim fit which Janet lists. Both models have pockets, but the pockets on the original fit are much deeper than those on the slim fit. When I'm sitting, my cell phone sometimes falls out of the pocket on the slim fit. This doesn't happen with the deeper pockets on the original fit.
Can't say enough good things about these pants. Almost as comfortable as sweats but way more polished.
Kris, thanks for the review of the pants. I've been looking at toke them for an upcoming trip. Hoping the plus sizes are a good fit for me.
Thank you! I am trying to plan for a trip and this gives me lots of ideas. My destination is warm and humid but I can see that it would be easy to replace some of the heavier things with more summery type clothing! And I love flowers too!
I really appreciate the travel posts because I really need to read and think about it over and over again. I am still a mad magpie when I pack for trips, thinking emotionally rather than practically. I pack special pieces rather than "boring basics" and always have items that are not worn but are carried around with me literally weighing me down.
We are planning a trip next year for 3-4 weeks in England, Scotland and Belgium in late spring. I am seriously considering only packing denim and solid colour tops, then having some scarves and jewellery to add interest. The denim can be indigo, black or cream with accents of cognac and cinnamon.
Would you consider working that for me? The weather will be variable and I will need one outfit that is just a bit more dressy for a few better dinners and theatre in London. But that could be a denim shirtdress that can be worn with sandals or as a topper coat. We are travelling with another couple, so I don't want to bore them or myself but I really do want to travel lightly.
Deb from Vancouver
Janice Riggs says
First off, you're going to be traveling, so you won't be bored! And if you're traveling with people who expect you to dress in a way that keeps them entertained… well… I have words for them!
Let me see what I can do about your wardrobe; I think your idea of packing all solids is spot-on, and will make life much easier as you move into the 3rd and 4th weeks of travel!
Another wonderful template. This one really resonates with me as I am putting my packing list together for a 2 week trip to Ireland and will be traveling carry-on only. Thank you for simplifying things for me (and reducing stress and anxiety over what to pack!).
This is a great approach to packing. I love the scarf and the wardrobe palette is one I have used for travel. Though if I were bringing just 13 pieces on a trip (it could happen someday!), and those 13 included the outerwear layer, I would likely swap an additional top (long sleeved?) for one of the 5 bottoms. – nancyo
Janice, thank you for this post…very timely indeed! I am leaving in less than a month for a 4-week trip to Chengdu, China (hot, humid…11 million people, so urban). My Daughter lives there and I am traveling with her Sister. I've been there before, so I know what to expect (bathrooms… blech…so I only wear casual skirts). Since I had great success this past Autumn/Winter using your templates for a core wardrobe (black, charcoal, white, with teal and sapphire) I am trying to figure out how to pack for a month without taking everything I own! My Spring/Summer colors are khaki, grey, white, with green and blue…a lighter riff of the Autumn/Winter scheme. Should I double up on some of the Whatever's Clean? The flight time is about 30 hours, so I'm thinking black yoga pants; JJill has some very nice ones that I love and don't stretch out at the knees. But I hate to use up a clothing item I will only wear this one time for traveling to China and back again. Any ideas? Thanks. Laura.
Cornelia Estey says
Your packing posts are truly the best. Long gone are the days that I would pack half my wardrobe for every imaginable scenario only to repack mostly unworn clothes. For long haul flights, I always travel in Eileen Fisher's jersey pants. They are as comfortable as pajamas and I still look good and well dressed getting off the plane in Europe. They are wonderful.
Thank you for another great set of ideas! My packing plans are always derived from your planning schemes. But, here and elsewhere, you have 5 bottoms and 2 cardigans/jackets, for 6 tops. Is that the ratio that works for you? I always want more toppers, and can get by with fewer bottoms. Just curious!
Janice Riggs says
I like 2/6/5, but for myself, I like one of my six to be a button-front shirt that can double as a topper if the weather gets warm. Especially in the summer, I'll pack a long-sleeved linen shirt that can play all of the various roles. If you wear a 2nd layer consistently, I can absolutely see the desirability of a 3rd jacket or cardigan, just for variety. It's an open-ended concept, so do what suits you best!
I like the new template. I think the Whatever's Clean wardrobes are my favorites. I'd like to see you revisit this in other colors.
This is an absolutely perfect travel wardrobe! I could happily go anywhere in the world for any long length of time in this.
A McSweeney says
Hi Janice, do you have a link to a post that explains the set up of the 'whatever's clean' wardrobe? I think I've read all your posts, but I kind of skated over the 'whatever's clean' ones for some reason, and I can't seem to find my way to the 'original post', if indeed there is one! Your help would be much appreciated :).
Janice Riggs says
I don't think I've ever gone through it step by step, but there are a LOT of posts her about these kinds of wardrobes. Start here: https://www.theviviennefiles.com/2013/02/9-more-whatevers-clean-summer-wardrobe.html
That post gives 9 examples, and you can sort of glean from that how the system works. Also, check the Labels to the left, and check near the bottom for the Whatever's Clean, Whatever's Clean Autumn, and Whatever's Clean Summer wardrobes.
I need to build them their own page, I can clearly see! But hang in with me – I'm going to do a few more of these in the next few weeks because they're so useful for warm weather…
A McSweeney says
Another great travel wardrobe! 2 white bottoms would make me a little nervous, I'm rather messy! LOL! But it sure does give the summer vibe to an outfit. Uncertain weather is the hardest for me to deal with. This has a lot of good ideas. Thanks Janice!
Southern Lady says
Wow! This makes things so simple. I just returned from a 3 week trip to Egypt and Dubai. This would have been so handy to use. I will use this for my trip next March. Thank you so much!
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