The capsule wardrobe, a small collection of clothing and accessories that can be mixed and matched into looks that fit your style, is a concept widely believed to have been coined by London shop owner Susie Faux in the 1970s and took off in 1985, when American fashion designer Donna Karan launched a seven-piece collection that, according to Vogue, could "take a woman from day to night, office to party."
When it comes to traveling, using the capsule method ahead of time eliminates packing stress, because you already know what you like and what looks good. "I have so many clients who say that they have an easier time getting dressed on vacation because they are limited to what they have packed and therefore have more focus and feel more empowered to experiment instead of feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of options," Allison Bornstein, a wardrobe stylist who has worked with actress Katie Holmes, wrote in an email.
It's also a smart proposition, given how chaotic travel has been lately, with numerous travelers experiencing delays, canceled flights and lost baggage.
Here's how to create a useful, personal and stylish capsule that will work for any trip.
— Make a mood board. Bornstein encourages clients to create a mood board or pull reference images of looks they'd like to emulate, then "shop" their closet to see which pieces they already own to create looks for trips. Pay special attention to the fits, fabrics, shapes and constructions of the pieces you like, then emulate those.
— Pick a color story to build the capsule around. "Typically, I'll do white and navy, and everything I put in my suitcase can be worn together and be part of that color scheme," said Sky Pollard, head of product at Nuuly, a subscription clothing rental service that includes brands from Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People. One of her must-have vacation items is a white shirt, which can be dressed up or down.
— Bring "regulars" and remix them. Think about which outfits you like wearing at home, and come up with ways to make them suitable for your destination. For example, someone who likes wearing a blazer, jeans and T-shirt could try donning a tank, denim shorts and button-down for warm weather, Bornstein suggests.
— Bring clothes that fit the trip. Pack reliable shoes that will work in different contexts and will support walking on various terrains.
— And don't forget items for comfort to make dealing with potential travel hiccups easier.
— Take cultural requirements and customs into consideration, and bring items to make your existing wardrobe work.
— Renting items is an option, too.
— Make (and follow) your own rules.
— Decide which items are your own hero pieces.
— Pick items that travel well. Choose pieces that you'll wear and that can handle being folded, tossed and jammed into a suitcase without sustaining damage. Bring low-maintenance pieces that aren't too delicate and that don't require special laundering or dry cleaning.