The Suitcase Wardrobe: Easy Packing for Stylish Women

Next month, a few of my friends are heading across the pond to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Needless to say I'm feeling envious! In the midst of nostalgia for my journeys abroad, I got to thinking about packing. About how I spent nearly six months abroad living out of a suitcase -- without one major shopping trip in between!

Maybe I'm a closeted* minimalist, or maybe I just rose to the challenge under the comfort I'd eventually have a full wardrobe again. Whatever the case, this clotheshorse landed in the UK with just a suitcase and a backpack, survived through three separate climates in five cities in five months, and never once felt at a loss for what to wear.

The minimal wardrobe is a concept I've been studying a lot lately, and something I'll likely return to in the upcoming months. I'm particularly fascinated by what Caroline at Un-Fancy has to say about discovering personal style through the "less is more" approach. Each season, she builds a "capsule wardrobe" with 37 durable items, then mixes and matches them for a variety of looks. According to Caroline, her passion for clothes and her individuality have not been sacrificed in the minimization process at all -- in fact, her style persona has only become more clear to her.

Imagine how excited I was to find that my packing list from the UK adventure practically mirrored Un-Fancy's concept. Building from a neutral palette, I carefully chose basics that would layer well, wash easy, and withstand lots of wear and tear. I did include one or two more delicate items, like a silk dress, patent leather heels, and a sheer blouse (There is some fun to be had in London, after all...), but my focus overall was on functionality.

To give you a clearer idea of what a suitcase wardrobe looks like, I used my original packing list to create the collages below. The items you see here aren't what I packed exactly, but they're comparable in style and color. Hopefully you'll find it a useful reference when packing for your next very-long adventure!


Dresses & Hoisery: Dresses are super versatile, and can be layered with tights or leggings for colder seasons.
They also take up less suitcase space than pants & sweaters!

Tops: A variety of shirts will keep your wardrobe fresh (in the visual and olfactory sense!) Be sure to include lots of layers here --
Camisoles, for instance, can be worn on their own during summer or under a winter sweater for extra warmth.

Bottoms & Shoes: It's easy to think you need more in this category, but as long as the bottoms & shoes are neutral, 
they'll allow for endless mixing options. Pack a comfortable walking flat for day wear and a simple heel for nights out on the town.

Outerwear: These items will obviously depend on where you're venturing. In the same trip, I experienced 80 degree weather in Spain
and windy London afternoons in the upper 30s. I got by with wool socks & gloves, thermal shirts & leggings, and layers layers layers!

The Other Stuff: Obviously the underwear is representative here. 
Under no circumstances should you try to go months on one pair of skivvies. ;)

Happy (Stylish) Travels!


  1. I'm about to leave to enjoy a European vacation in a week and this blog couldn't have come at a better time!
    I have a white tie performance one night, and a few nights later should be walking cobblestone streets and through the halls of major museums.

    I have absolutely no good flats for walking. Your post made me want to go out and buy some Docs! What flats would you recommend that are both stylish and not necessarily trendy and go with EVERYTHING?

    I totally agree with the dresses/leggings/tights combo - although Germany/Austria/Netherlands in August probably won't have me wearing the tights.

    I loved your "* = PUNS!" lol

    1. Hi, Kristin! Docs are definitely a great sturdy shoe, though sometimes I find them to be heavy for travel & walking. For my trip, I ordered a gently used oxford-style Dansko on Ebay. Since the shoes were pre-worn, I didn't have to worry about breaking them in beforehand! They wore perfectly for the full five months.

      Here's the one, I think: http://www.polyvore.com/dansko_melodie_oxford_shoes_for/thing?id=38690003

      If Dansko isn't your style (I know some folks aren't nuts about cloggish shoes), I'd recommend looking into Ecco or Born. The Ecco Chase is a nice sneaker option and Born has some simple ballet flats with good arch support for walking. If you're headed somewhere warm, you might be better off with a comfortable sandal. Born & Dansko also have some excellent options in that category. And I'm happy to announce Berks are (surprisingly) huge in the fashion world right now!


      Hope that helps!