January 13, 2023
She’s going to be really methodical about this…
And we are going to listen in to her brain, to see what we can learn…
First, she chooses her current favorite scarf as her inspiration, and then isolates what her accent colors will be:
Hmm… packing six garments and wearing 3 on the train/plane/bus means that she will have a total of 9 garments with her on her trip. She pictures it like this:
Her first outfit is straightforward – dark pants to avoid the mini-drama of spills. A warm cardigan that’s pretty bulky to pack, so she chooses to wear it. And a bright tee shirt to bring color and life to her face…
She will almost certainly wear her inspiration scarf too!
Next, she chooses the accessories that she will wear while traveling. She particularly likes to have a small handbag as well as her “weekender” bag. Shoes in which she can walk a LOT, a watch (sometimes, digging out your phone is annoying), and a pretty pair of earrings that echo the floral motif of her scarf:
This next step is arguably the hardest – the 2nd wave of garments!
Our heroine’s destination is a place that’s moderately warm, and often sunny, even in January. Her options for a 2nd “bottom” are seemingly endless:
- a navy skirt
- white pants
- bright blue pants
- hot pink pants
- navy and white gingham or other print skirt or pants
- a floral skirt that includes all or most of the colors in her palette
- a white skirt
- a bright blue skirt
- a hot pink skirt
- etc. etc. etc…
Options for the other 2 garments are equally wide!
Our heroine needs to decide if she wants to bring a skirt, or a pair of cropped pants maybe?
Print? Bright colors?
This heroine is pretty traditional – a navy skirt will suit her just fine!
So far, she has 8 possible 3-piece outfits (2 x 2 x 2).
Okay, maybe a dotted sweatshirt isn’t the most versatile garment she could choose, but at this point she knows that she’ll have enough options, and she LIKES her sweatshirt!
Here’s her wardrobe now!
Before she finishes off her accessories, she takes a quick look at how her outfit combinations look:
The most important accessories to remember are appropriate shoes to wear with each bottom. In this case, she will want to include something dressy-ish to wear with her skirt, and maybe some what flats to wear with her white jeans… A couple of pairs of earrings, and her original scarf, and she’s finished!
NOW, she goes BACK through her outfits, and makes absolutely certain that she has the necessary accessories:
This really only took her a few minutes…
She hangs her travel outfit and accessories someplace handy, and packs everything else. This is her travel capsule wardrobe:
I’m laboring over every detail of putting together a wardrobe like this, because it seemed to me this last 2 weeks that a LOT of people would have been well-served to have only packed carry-on bags.
You will have to ship gifts or bulky equipment (like ski boots) to your destination, but that’s a small price to pay for the flexibility and mobility of having ALL of your gear with you at all times!
p.s. Six years ago, we packed a beautiful Six-Pack travel capsule wardrobe based on the colors in a swatch of fabric I saw at the Art Institute of Chicago!
These colours would feel right at home in my closet.
Thank you for talking us through each step of the planning process – it really helps. I’m bookmarking this post for future reference.
Beth T says
Such pretty colours to remind us in the UK that summer is somewhere round the corner.
I was on holiday in November, and got caught out on the “only two pairs of trousers” front – as it happened, I was in a location with good shopping prospects and managed to get a replacement. The replacement is now one of my favourite pairs of trousers.
Yay, these are my colors! And I’ll be traveling to Miami in Feb. for a wedding, So this is perfect. In my case, though, I will have to bring a few more items: a swim suit, beach sandals, a formal gown and all accessories, a cocktail outfit and all accessories, and I’d probably add a tee shirt, shorts and my cyan Converse sneakers. I don’t think a carry-on is going to cut it for this trip! Good thing we’re driving.
I forgot to add that I have both cyan ankle pants and a navy and white print skirt, and I think either would be perfect in this wardrobe. I would love to find a flowey midi skirt with all these colors in it, though.
Gorgeous capsule! I’d wear it all.
Teresa Landers says
Yes, a gorgeous capsule for sure. Very flexible too in terms of both weather and formality. I absolutely agree with park light – you can manage your own things despite your balky back, not hauling a bunch of stuff that might not be useful, might go missing, and will be hard to store in that tight hotel room/cruise cabin etc. It can be done. I spent 3 weeks in the “5 Stans” with a 19” roll aboard and a small tote. BUT given the (lack of) carry on space on planes, the more people take this approach, the more likely it is that there won’t be enough space and you end up with all the issues of checking. Get an AirTag and put it on your bag. If you are able to keep it near, great, but if you can’t, you’ll have some idea where it is. And put everything “tempting”, treasured or desperately needed (meds? Contact lens?) in that tote.
Dee 2 says
Yes, among other issues.
Imagine a family packing! Not too hard as many families were recently stranded in airports without their luggage, and some without diapers! I’d 100% rather pack more than enough diapers in my carry-on than a cute dotted sweatshirt, no matter how great it matched my white pants.
I realize I’m slightly huffy at this. I wasn’t stuck at the airport but I don’t believe the “do better by changing this” should be directed at the customers!! It should be directed at the chief technology officers, perhaps, what are they wearing?!
I’m juts thinking about making life easier for those who would love to get OUT of the airport – even if they’re not at their destination! The problem is a lot more complicated than this, I know, but at least one or 2 of us can escape the madness and make room for those who aren’t able to leave!
Of course the airlines should fix it, but I’m not holding my breath. So best thing is to be prepared like a Scout! Know that you have what you need with you and don’t have to rely totally on something you can’t control anyway.
People really do overpack now. It’s not necessary for the most part. And it contributes to the cost of tickets, use of fuel, etc.
With the travel problems getting worse another couple of looks at the six pack wardrobe would be great. I’m travelling to help my son., move but I may need a suitcase coming back as I live in the Caribbean and shopping isn’t great. Knowing I can cope with what I have in my hot sticky little hands when I arrive and have everything back at home anyway if the suitcase is delayed would ease stress levels considerably.
oh Thank Goodness, colors that do not reside in my closet! Have had such a hard time resisting the temptation to buy lately! Last three trips I’ve taken I’ve managed to pack light. The first trip I got bored with what I’d taken – the colors were limited. I do better with more variety like this collection. Trips two and three had more variety and thus felt more successful because I didn’t get tired of wearing the same thing. Thank you for the lessons! We are traveling again this summer, so I’ll definitely be looking for some warm weather packing ideas. Happy Friday the 13th! 😁
This is beautiful and I already have similar items in these colours. I am sailing to and from the U.K. on a cruise to Norway in May and with plenty of cabin space and no travel weight restrictions on board I can add evening dresses, shoes and accessories without any problems. Thank you Janice for making my packing list a lot easier.
Sally in St Paul says
I love this color palette…and that pink blouse…wow, what a dramatic garment! That’s the kind of unusual silhouette that I would find fun styling with my whole closet to hand, but man, you’d really have to test drive to how it fits in with the bottoms and top layers you’re bringing…which we should be doing anyway, right?
I do wonder about the rationale for including both a J. Crew Sail Blue LS T and pullover sweater as they seem redundant to some extent. They aren’t shown layered, but is the idea that you *could* layer them? (I’m not actually sure how the cropped sweater would work with the longer T. Do you tuck in the T??) Or are they more like one piece in two weights that can be worn with the same other pieces to get a warmer vs. cooler version of the same outfit?
Renee D says
I wondered this, too. And that the last 2 tops (sweatshirt and vneck sweater) couldn’t really be layered together. Also, if she’s going somewhere warmish, why only 1 top with shorter sleeves? Finally, I would cut it to 2 pair of shoes, ditching the white loafers and making those ballet flats an accent color that would go with both the skirt and the white pants. And then if I really wanted to pack a third pair, make them either sneakers or sandals. Perhaps I think about these things too much…
Mama Kinder says
Sure a heroine traveling by herself for a weekend might be able to get by with only a carry-on.
But heroines come in all shapes and sizes. Many are mothers or caretakers and pack for their sweethearts and children and plan several days of trips when they’re at their hometown for the holidays, to see all their family, and not impose too much on any one. Maybe they also pack for skiing or hiking or a sub-trip to a beach with lots of gear.
Those poor Southwest customers had enough problems. I’m sure they would pack only a carry-on if they could.
This is very true – which is why those of us who can manage without bringing a ton of things with us should at least try, and leave space and airline attention for those who truly need it!
I once took a trip that involved three business days in NYC (I’m on the west coast), a long weekend in Paris, and a conference in Miami. I did it all in a carry on roller and tote.
At the airport in Miami I happened to run into one of my west coast colleagues who had just flown in. I waited with him at the luggage carousel for 45 minutes for his checked bag so we could share an Uber to the hotel together. We had been chatting about my trip while we waited for his bag. After he got it, he said “where’s your bag?” and I said “right here” pointing at my roller. He was gobsmacked.
It really is doable with some planning and a bit of sink laundry.
I really like this combination. And I have absolutely stopped overpacking and no longer check bags. It makes things so much better — including repacking at the end of the trip.
I’m not sure how long of a trip this is — with all these outfits it seems like a week!
Couple of observations from my lifestyle: I can’t use flat without good insoles anymore, unless I really am just going to dinner and not walking. So I would have to wear sneakers or something to travel. I’d love to see more ideas for GOOD walking shoes. These flats don’t do it when you are older.
I don’t have jewelry that is this expensive and if I did I would probably not pack them. I’d take relatively cheaper earrings that I didn’t mind ‘losing’ if that happened.
I think I’d try to get by with just 2 total pairs of shoes and one less bulky sweater.
Thanks for all the ideas. This is great!
I was just thinking of the adjustments required for packing as age creeps up. I have some rather bulky meds (non-pill form), I like to switch shoes to stay comfy, etc. Hubby and I travelled from Canada to the southern US for seventeen days over the Christmas holidays.
I honestly don’t think we could have done it using only carry-on bags. He took a suit which just won’t fit in a carry-on. He even bought a rolling men’s “traveller” case that is designed for suits but it doesn’t meet the carry-on size requirements so it doesn’t make sense to fly with it – but it is great for road trips.
There are just so many variables with travel. My head nearly exploded while I was packing for the trip, determining which item should go into the checked or carry-on bags while staying under the weight restrictions, etc. Working out my wardrobe is much easier since I’ve been reading this blog but it’s all of the other elements that can addle my brain. 🤪
Agree that there is also a lot of stuff to get into bag along with clothes. I’ve never taken a suit anywhere. Most of my travel is pretty casual, and even if I think I’ll want a lot of ‘dressy’ items, I end up wearing the most comfortable stuff.
When my husband needs a suit on our trip, he wears it on the airplane and does not try to pack it. I would never wear my dressy stuff on an airplane, so I am often quite casual next to him!
Another great post Janice! I especially enjoy how in the most recent post you’ve been highlighting how important it is to stay true to one’s self, either in choosing colors, combinations or dotted sweatshirts!
I feel so reflected in those thoughts. I finally attended to the wedding in a floral midi dress and flat ankle boots with a sole as comfortable as a pair of sneakers! I had a blast, was able to run after my girl and was simply so glad I didn’t surrender to social conventions.
Cheers to all!!
I have always enjoyed your 9 piece “ slot machine” posts ! Thanks so much ! For how long of a trip would this amount of clothes suffice ? A week ?
My daughter was home from college over break for a whole month and managed to pack a carry on suitcase and a backpack (and this included the textbook she had to skim over break). She then collected Christmas presents and only had one checked bag full of them to add on the way home. It worked out really well. She planned very carefully and did lots of laundry! We usually pack in carry on bags for travel with something very similar to the 9 pack for trips unless it’s a crazy trip (China, for three weeks with four little kids and three climate changes – I’m looking at you!) and we have always just had our kids to roll their own bag… even for driving trips. When my now college student was two years old my mom took her and I to California for a weekend and she got her a Winnie the Pooh tiny rolling carry on… my daughter loved it and I cracked up watching her roll it every where!!
I’ve seen young families going through airports – each with their own rolling carry-on – and I have been so impressed by how well even preschoolers do with rolling their luggage along with their older siblings and parents. Those travelling families often remind me of ducklings following their mother across a road.
True!!! There can be more efficient and relaxing ways to travel, but this is the cutest :)
Liz, (sorry, there was no “reply” option so that I could respond directly to your comment about your husband wearing a suit when flying to save the hassle of packing it)
I asked my hubby if he would at least wear his suit jacket on the plane but he was not up for that. 🤷♀️. Ah well, our checked bag made it through with us, both going and returning, so I count it as a success. Also, I learned from a YT packing video on how to pack a suit – very helpful when we flew to Europe in 2021 – and it arrived in great shape.
We took a three week trip with our 4 sons, three in high school and one younger at the time, in 2004. We flew from Ky. into SanFrancisco. The trip encompassed much of California and the Grand Canyon. It involved everything from going to the beach, site seeing cruises, attending a MLB game, riding mules in the Grand Canyon and everything in between. Each son packed a duffel bag and wore a backpack. None of us checked any bags. One of these sons went to Europe after college for a month with only a backpack. Everyone is different and has different needs, but I think if you can manage to pack light while your kids are young, it will be of value to them in the future.
Janice, I love these posts! They have been a tremendous resource for me. I travelled to Shetland in September for 9 days with only a carry-on. . .including 3 weights of long underwear bottoms as the weather was unknown! I updated my packing spreadsheet upon returning home, because there were tops I did not wear at all, such that I will not include them the next time. Going to NYC next week for five days and will be packing according to this method, but using the Man in a Cafe “Start with Art” version 2 as my jumping off point. Thank you for being so methodical and creative!
Gail F says
I use this method on almost all my (few) trips. It’s so useful! Thank you for teaching me.
Years ago when I first went back to work in an office I made two of these “slot machines” to make a work wardrobe, that was just what I needed then too.
Madonna K Ziegler says
Would love to see a capsule wardrobe with no pants just long skirts and long dresses with modest tops. My neutral colors are grey to black, accent colors are turquoise/teal, pink/red. I need to add a second neutral was thinking maybe shades of light to dark brown. Mostly casual with a few dressy pieces.
I love the thought that you put into this. I do the same when I travel and it makes such a difference to be able to just walk straight out of the airport even when there are no issues. Love the colours and the choices.
2 comments. I wear a lot of belts and they so quickly change an outfit’s silhouette. Would love to see more of them in your wardrobes. I would add a lightweight white T under the sweater in the travel outfit. This additional piece not only offers lots of versatility but if the weather does end up being warmer a 2nd short sleeve would be an advantage… and if it is colder, it adds another thin layer.
Thank you for all of the great ideas and encouragement!