I’m a Fashion Editor—This Is the Carry-On Capsule Wardrobe That Never Fails Me


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Source: Béis
Source: Béis

As a fashion editor, an obvious fact about me is that I love clothes—and that I have a lot them. The positive side of that is getting to foster my interest in the name of my job; the negative is that it’s led me to being a chronic over-packer when traveling. I’ve always succumbed to shelling out the extra cash to check a bag I had to sit on to zip closed and its 49.9 weight—God knows I always needed to take advantage of every possible ounce—around my destination. Finally, I decided my packing ways needed to evolve. It was time to climb my Everest: packing for a trip with only a carry-on. 

The first step to changing my over-packing ways was developing a strategy to packing a carry-on that didn’t make me feel like I was sacrificing style, but was also far more minimal than what I was used to. This meant those hot pink pants that I was only going to get one use of on the trip had to be exchanged for a pair that I could wear multiple times and, ideally, in multiple different ways. It finally occurred to me that what I needed was simple: a mini capsule wardrobe formula that I could use every time I travelled.

You already know why we love capsule wardrobes: They’re concise, curated sets of clothes that can be combined in countless different ways for looks that can take you anywhere you might need to go. And when do you need that more than when you travel? I rest my case.

This is the formula that has officially gotten me to a point where I can say that my checked bags have been replaced with just a carry-on. And trust me: If I can do it, anyone can.

The formula

When I pack my carry-on, I follow this formula to a T. The result is a mini capsule wardrobe that I can make work for everything my trip will bring me.

The key to making this formula work is ensuring that everything you pack can be mixed and matched together seamlessly. Don’t pick out one outfit and then decide the shirt maybe could work with another pair of pants too. Really consider what pieces you could include that have the versatility to work with the other things you’ve packed. Before I choose what goes into this, I deeply consider every single thing I’ll be doing on my trip (and what the temperatures will be), then choose pieces based on what my days will hold.

  • 3 shirts (including a button-up that can be used for layering)
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 dress
  • 2 bags (a large and small—I use the large bag as my personal item on the plane)
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 3 pairs of shoes (a walkable one, fancy one, and casual one)
  • 2 versatile accessories

The capsule

For a day exploring a city

Floral Flats | Shoulder Bag (Budget) | Tie-Vest Top (Plus) | Denim Shorts (Plus)

No matter if you’re traveling to a big city or a small town, a day of exploring the place you’re visiting is a must. A linen vest, denim shorts, and stunning floral flats will be comfortable enough to explore in, but chic enough to keep on when you inevitably find a restaurant to pop into mid-wander.

For a day of sightseeing

Sandals | Button-Up (Plus) | Tank (Plus) | Belt | Trousers (Plus)

Vacations inevitably involve a day where you head out at the crack of dawn and don’t get back to your hotel until late at night. For a full day spent sightseeing and wandering around the city you’re visiting, linen pants, a tank top, and walkable sandals are your best bet. Complete it with a button-up that you can take on and off as temps fluctuate throughout the day.

For an al fresco dinner

Oval Sunglasses | Maxi Skirt (Plus) | Tank (Plus) | Shoulder Bag (Budget) | Sandals

One of the greatest joys in life is an al fresco dinner—especially in a city you don’t live in. Pair a tank top with a breezy but beautiful floral maxi skirt and sandals for a look you’ll be happy to get a vacation picture in.

To visit a museum

Sneakers | Tank (Plus) | Belt | Jeans (Curve) | Earrings

Heading to visit a museum or a walking tour? Jeans and sneakers are in order. Pair the combo with a flattering tank, belt, and earrings for a no-fuss outfit that’ll keep you comfortable, regardless of what your day brings.

For drinks on a patio

Maxi Dress (Plus) | Shoulder Bag (Budget) | Earrings | Sandals

For an afternoon or evening sipping cocktails on a patio, a beautiful sundress is in order. Pair this ultra-flattering smocked maxi dress with a pair of sandals and a shoulder bag that’ll hold anything you might need throughout the night.