July 15, 2022
I’m long overdue to spend some time looking in detail at how one can choose a 13-piece “Whatever’s Clean” wardrobe; you can’t just grab a baker’s dozen pieces of clothing and stuff them in a suitcase!
If you’ve been visiting The Vivienne Files for a few years, you certain recognize the idea of 13 garments for a travel capsule wardrobe – 3 to wear and 10 to pack.
But let’s think about a specific travel situation that one of us is confronting week after week; packing for the weekend plus the Monday work day…
First – what items of clothing do you need?
You can always “right-click” on this template, and print it out, and then jot down notes about what you’re considering…
Secondly, you need to make a few choices about colors – how many, and which ones.
Some day, I’m going to try to sort a wardrobe with 13 different colors. Maybe the very last day of The Vivienne Files!
And you also want to think about choosing garments individually, or packing complete outfits. If you know what you’re going to be doing during the time that you’re living out of a suitcase, outfits can make life easier…
Let’s look at an example, to see if that helps make any of this clearer!
First – Friday work. A simple, classic outfit with some pretty pink accents. This establishes that navy is one of your primary neutrals, white is either an accent or a neutral in your wardrobe, and you might want to include more pink in your capsule wardrobe:
Saturday – both casual AND dressy! A navy top and stone pants can get you through the day (you have navy loafers from yesterday that you can wear)…
For evening, pop off your navy top and pull on a beautiful pink cashmere sweater – you might want to change earrings, back to the ones that you wore on Friday. Add some gold accessories, and your stone pants will be dressy enough to go most places:
At this point, it’s clear that beige might be your 2nd neutral, and that pink is one of your accent colors!
This is how it looks in the template…
Sunday is another casual day; a long tee shirt with short pants and a white hoodie should be appropriate for most things one might have planned:
Here’s where that “extra” garment can come in handy – a dress! You might even find a dress that you could wear both out to dinner on Sunday, and then to work on Monday…
Lastly, you need to go to work on Monday! If the weather truly doesn’t suit a skirt, you can wear your pants from Friday over again…
NOW, your template looks great!
Here’s the complete wardrobe. Normally I would show you all kinds of possible outfits lurking in these 13 garments, but since we KNOW how we’re going to get dressed each day, that’s not necessary!
Does this help make the process clearer? I’m always eager for questions…
p.s. It wasn’t EXACTLY 3 years ago, but it’s a “Whatever’s Clean 13” wardrobe, and it’s pink and grey…
I was trying to think. On my recent five day trip I took 3 bottoms (one of which wasn’t worn), 1 dress, two toppers (one of which wasn’t worn) and 3 shirts. Nothing dressy. But that’s a VERY casual road trip with a lot of hours in the car. Having to include work wear and something dressy would have made quite the difference. I do really like this packing capsule. Seems like a lot for four days, but when you consider the different activities, then the number of items seems reasonable. Have a good weekend everyone!
Wonderful post and it’s a lovely wardrobe – right up my alley, especially in the colours. Navy and white are key in my wardrobe and you’ve inspired me to watch for some soft pink items.
That dress is terrific and doesn’t cost the moon.
This size of a travel wardrobe is just right for so many types of getaways. I must go back to your others and review them too. I love how you explain each step in the thought process and how you give alternative options for life’s variables. I also love the Tote bag Travel series and have read them several times.
I know everything that begins will naturally have an ending but I felt a little *ouch* at your sentence about the very last VF post. May it not be for a long while! (Only, of course, as long as you are happy to continue …. no pressure!! 💜)
Melissa Kelly says
I’ve been using your “Whatever’s Clean 13” idea for my trip to London and Rome this fall. I’ll start sewing in earnest in August. I’m still trying to decide what to pack for the the opera in London. I’ve got a nice black poly-lycra crepe in my stash. Do I make a dress, or a bias cut skirt and bias cut tank? I know the separates will give more outfit options, but I can’t decide.
I love the idea of matching separates that make a “dress.” The accessories you take to glam up your dress won’t take much room in the suitcase.
This past spring I had to travel for a funeral. A 36hour trip, quick turnaround. I brought the same outfit – black suit or suit-style, with an appropriate black and white blouse or shirt – in 3 different levels of formal or casual. I was petrified that I would dirty my blouse or suit in the morning before the funeral! But I traveled in dark jeans and a black cardigan, I called it my C level clothes. I brought my black slacks and level-up jacket/cardigan, knit but structured. And I even brought hangers for my suit and blouse. I wore sneakers to travel and brought work shoes to dress up the outfits. I felt very repetitive but very prepared! Thinking of the same outfit at just different formality levels was helpful to me.
I’d probably wear that dress, “casualed down” with white sneakers and a hat for a weekend day and sandals/ jewelry/wrap for evening—but I like wearing dresses. I also keep a Tide stain stick on hand for mishaps. On another note, I recently went out to dinner in a small city/in a rural area in a nice restaurant. The level of fanciness of attire spanned from jeans and sandals to heels and sparkle (used to be all sparkle). I appreciate that attire didn’t keep people from enjoying really delicious food, conversation and a beautiful setting.
Peggy Bugg says
What on earth do you mean, “the very last day of The Vivienne Files”?!?!?!?! Yes, PRESSURE!
I agree Peggy, that threw me for a loop too! We love you Janice! This was a great whatever’s clean 13. I did similar colors for camping recently, of course in much more casual fabrics, and it was perfect!
Well I AM 62 years old – I have to retire some day! But there’s nothing specific planned; I just like to ponder what my last post might be…
I’m thinking that I will collect images of all of the ugliest clothes and accessories that I can find, and share them with you. I won’t call out things that I dislike normally, because I think everyone is entitled to their own preferences and tastes. But there are some things that I see that are just TOO far out there to be worn by sane people.
We have years to discuss it!
I felt sad at the idea of the last Vivienne Files post.
Glad it’s not already a date in the diary.
Right now, it’s somewhere between dream and nightmare!
Haha! My kind of friend! PRESSURE!
First of all, we appreciate a full coloured capsule, but not the last Vivienne files: please don’t consider.
This way is great to plan. Do you have suggestions for a complete week, weekend, 4 days working, 1 day at home.
I am using stylebook app and combine this with your schedules
The May 16, 2018 format and color selections is the one that resonates with me within the opening group of four examples shown above . I am always a three piece wearer, so varying the toppers is important to me . I just returned yesterday from a week ‘s stay at a New Jersey beach location, so needed beach items were extra, but the basic format for the packed clothes was similar to your plan.
I am in complete agreement with Peggy Buggy’s post ! Wink, wink ! I cannot fathom an ending day of our deeply appreciated TVF ! Nooooooooooooo ! Said selfishly !
Oh and I failed to thank you for breaking down the thought process for your day to day selections, so here is a big “ thank you “ !
I love the thought process/breakdown. Thanks Janice, as always. I tend to pack pretty similarly (but probably because I’ve been reading your blog for YEARS now). Only thing for me – 5 pairs of shoes for a 4-day trip? Can’t do it, unless there is a wedding involved. I’d pare it down to the loafers (work needed), sneakers (casual), and one of the flats or heels (maybe the gold flats to straddle that dressy but can go either way?) Wear one, pack 2.
In the real world, our heroine would probably whittle down her shoe choices – I just like to show all of the possibilities!
Challenge accepted! (Not that it was actually made!) I’m one of THOSE people who carries my color swatches everywhere checking to ensure what I buy will play nicely with what’s already in my closet. The assurance from color companies is that EVERYTHING in your palette will work together. This will require planning, cunning and loads of patience…and years. 🤔😀
Sally in St Paul says
Building out the capsule by outfit for such a short trip makes a ton of sense to me!
Since my size has changed in the last couple of years and is now on the way back to normal, a small in-between wardrobe makes perfect sense. This run through is quite helpful to make sure what is likely to be needed is present. Thank you!
Ooh! I just added that dress to my “six scarves” Hydrangea wardrobe. It is difficult to find appropriate prints to add into it, and this will mesh beautifully. A big thank you for the one-stop shopping from retailers, I also ordered the white hoodie from M&S.
This is another inspiring travel wardrobe. I find that mine don’t really work out, partly because my wardrobe doesn’t have the right pieces and partly because I don’t judge what I will really wear very well.
I will be attending a hybrid grad school starting this fall, spending 1 week on campus at a time, but the majority of the time at home working online. The school is in Chicago, so I will need winter clothes for some of that time. I have no idea how to pack and I don’t own winter clothes, I would love help figuring it out. Of course, it can all be fairly casual, but not too casual.
Wait ’til you get here and buy winter clothes used. There’s tons of things you’ll need and there’s always a pile of it available used…
You’re in for a shock!
Hi Janice! I recently had need of a “whatever’s clean” wardrobe in a hurry as I have been away helping to look after my mum after she broke her leg. Since I’ve “Vivienne-ised” my wardrobe it made the whole thing less stressful to be able to grab a bunch of clothes and chuck them in a suitcase knowing the items will all go with eachother. I’ve been working remotely and still had to be camera ready for work calls etc! I’ve applied it to holiday packing a few times already but it really shows how putting a little more thought into how my whole wardrobe is constructed makes day to day outfit decisions so much easier.
Visiting my mother used to be my biggest packing event – I would go to Florida ever couple of months. Now she lives with us, so I don’t travel NEARLY as much… sigh…
Janice, I just got to this post, but am already certain that it will change my packing from chaos to calm. The breakdown analysis is great. Thank you so very much.
That template WORKS! It’s almost exactly what I took on my recent cruise in Alaska but I’ve been following Janice for years. The templates are part of how I shop, pack and think. Big thank you Janice!
I took 14 items- an extra puffer parka was the 14th but it was dressy casual and it was 4 pants, 2 cardigans. A navy windbreaker and 6 tops plus the puffer jacket.
I was gone from home 10 days and didn’t need it all. I loved how it was easy to put away in the small ship cabin closet and fast to repack for home. Sure feels good to travel again in spite of 2 flights being canceled and airport hiccups.
Jennifer Hisrich says
I finally did it. 5 day trip/4 nights. did a whatever’s clean for me and for my daughter. 2 pairs shorts, 1 pair jeans, skirt dress, 4 tees, 1 long sleeve top, 1 cardigan, 1 rain jacket, 1 hoodie. could have used another tee and never wore long sleeve, hoodie, or rain jacket. Just sad I didn’t spot Janice. I was in Bloomingdales on Michigan Ave. on Wednesday.
Jenny from the north says
I’ve been travelling carry-on only for 20+ years, but for my first “post-covid” trip I’m attempting to pack even lighter using this method to aim for 13 pieces (plus a coat and bathing suit). I’ll be gone for a month (5 days in Barcelona, a 24 day cruise to Barbados plus the travel days). This is a very casual cruise (no formal nights) so I’m dropping the heels and anything remotely fancy from the usual mix. I think I’ll be fine with 3 pants, 1 maxi skirt, 1 dress, 1 cardigan, and 7 tops (2 tanks, 4 short sleeve, 1 long). I’ll also throw in a water proof windbreaker, bathing suit, and sneakers, sandals, and ballet flats. All the bottoms are black and/or white and none of the tops have a pattern so everything goes with everything. I’ll also bring 3-4 scarves to create different looks. I’ll travel in the sneakers, heaviest pants and top, plus the windbreaker. I haven’t tested it yet but I think everything else will fit in a large shoulder bag rather than the roller bag. I’ve also invested in travel fabric underwear (4) and no-show socks (2) for the sneakers. Everything I pack can be washed in a sink and air dried, but this cruise includes free laundry, so it’s the perfect opportunity to try travelling with even less than normal. If I’ve packed a bit too light for the month, at least someone else will be keeping the laundry done up.
My last trip before Covid was 50 days and used my regular carryon bag, and took 14 tops/layers, 7 bottoms, 4 shoes, 2 jackets. That gave me 100+ combinations which was ridiculous, even allowing for dressing up for dinner each night. Even after all these years there is clearly room for improvement. Thanks for the reminder to pare down even more. If I can travel for a month with essentially an oversized purse, I’ll consider that a personal victory.