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This fall capsule wardrobe for travel is inspired by my friend who was packing for a similar vacation. Her packing list was for a variety of activities and created this collection to pack carry-on only. I based it on the type of clothes she may wear and activities she may partake in.
A year later, I can report back that not only did my friend find this autumn capsule wardrobe perfect for her trip to New York City, but many of you readers of Wardrobe Oxygen also found it a very wearable capsule and easy to modify based on your own closet, personal style, and needs. I decided to update it for 2023 as I find the concept pretty timeless, but these key pieces I recommended last year are not necessarily available now.
While this fall travel capsule wardrobe may not be your personal style, I hope it shows you don't need to buy travel clothing to have versatility. Mixing and matching is more on trend now than it has been in a while; this is when you can mix cashmere with athletic leggings, distressed denim with washable silk, and chunky boots with a bias-cut skirt. The key is confidence (and a few spotlight-stealing accessories and cosmetics don't hurt!).
Fall Getaway Capsule Wardrobe
For this fall getaway capsule wardrobe, I stuck to a very simple color palette – black and dark green. Black is great for travel capsules because the pieces can dress up or down more easily than other colors. However, a lot of these pieces could be switched out with your favorite color/s.
Shop this Capsule Wardrobe:
vintage-inspired jeans with a hint of stretch (petite, standard, tall, and plus) | black ponte knit pants (sizes 00-40 with long) | black and white Breton striped long-sleeved tee (sizes 0-22) | black tissue-weight turtleneck (XXS-3X) | dark green crewneck sweater (XXS-XXL + petite) | black washable silk camisole (XS-XL) | black washable silk skirt (XS-XL) | black sports bra (XS-3XL) | black athletic leggings (XS-3X) | dark green cardigan in same fabric as the crewneck (XXS-XXL + petite) | black crescent crossbody bag | cream fleece jacket (XS-3X w/ petite) | black packable down jacket (standard, petite and tall; this link has it in plus sizes) | black sneakers | waterproof leather booties | lightweight flexible black ballet flats | cashmere beanie | black polarized sunglasses | gold statement earrings | gold lightweight dress bag
not pictured but below: copper lipstick | matte red lipstick
Why Did I Put These Things into my Fall Getaway Capsule Wardrobe?
I figure I should share the why with this capsule wardrobe. Why these items and not other items? Some of the things I was thinking as I put it together:
- Gold Bag: I own this bag in ivory, I've had it for a couple of years and always take it for travel because it packs completely flat, is flexible so it can tuck around other items, and it's so cheap that if it gets damaged or forgotten I won't be heartbroken (BTW mine still looks new).
- Camel Crewneck and Matching Cardigan: A matched set, but relaxed enough to be versatile. The camel is luxe, the fabric isn't luxe but looks luxe. The longer cardigan can double as a jacket for dressier situations or can even be thrown over your leggings and sports bra for a quick coffee run.
- Black Boots: You need to be comfortable and you need to protected on travel; this trumps being stylish but I think these boots do it all. These boots get good reviews on various sites (I linked to where they have the best return policy) and if you step into a puddle you won't have soggy feet. And yes, you can wear such boots with a bias-cut silk skirt. Remember, mixing high with low, casual with dressy is acceptable and fashionable!
- Ballet Flats: These are lightweight, flexible, washable, antimicrobial, and get great reviews for comfort even when spending a lot of time walking and standing.
- Black Sneakers: I know I talk a lot about white sneakers, but I like darker sneakers in fall and winter. It's also good for travel so you don't have to be so precious if you wear them on a hike or if they get wet. I chose these pairs of shoes so they can be “street style” sneakers but also work for the hotel gym. This is why I didn't share my pick for trendy black sneakers.
- Washable Silk Cami and Matching Skirt: I own a similar set and it's fabulous. You can spot-clean it in your hotel sink and use the steam setting on the iron to remove any wrinkles. The set I had last year from M.M.LaFleur is sold out in most sizes; this set from Quince is just as versatile and far cheaper.
- Black Activewear: If you choose a solid color like black, then if you go from hike or gym to a coffee shop or cafe, you can throw on the cardigan or the fleece or the jacket and not look like you just came from the hike or the gym. Also, if you end up feeling under the weather or bloated or whatever, you can throw them on instead of proper black pants and bra, put the sweater over it, and be comfy for the trip home.
- Tissue-weight Turtleneck: An easy way to add warmth to almost any look. Tissue-weight turtlenecks are on trend and super versatile. Wear under pieces, or wear with a black t-shirt bra or a cami like this one as they can be a bit sheer, which adds to dressiness for evening situations.
- A Fleece AND a Jacket: This is a weird time of year, temperature-wise. Outer layers are key, and a parka or a trench coat may be too much, or it may not be enough. It may be drizzling, it may be windy, and you may end up doing things that are active but you'll feel gross in a full-out parka. The fleece is lightweight, the parka is packable and lightweight, and combined you should be good whether it's 60 degrees and balmy or 40 degrees and windy.
- Cashmere Beanie: This is great if it's cold, it's also great if you have a bad hair day. It's small and can be tucked into your suitcase or jacket pocket, and it's low profile and low contrast so you don't have to remove it when you head into a store, museum, or coffee shop. Menino wool beanies are also great alternatives!
- Breton Striped Top: Hi, my name is Alison and I love stripes. Stripes can look polished or look casual. Stripes add interest to a capsule wardrobe. Stripes transcend trends. You'll likely find a striped top like this in most of my capsule wardrobes!
- Funky Gold Earrings: I own these exact earrings and can tell you they're budget-friendly, super lightweight, comfortable, and will be the earring trend of the season. A super easy way to look “in the know” while adding shine and pizzazz to your looks.
- Black Ponte Pants: Ponte rocks. It's comfortable, it's warmer than a jersey, and it looks polished and refined enough for nice situations. Black can dress up well and shows stains less than other colors. These are a slim straight style that won't look frumpy with the longer cardigan or an untucked sweater or turtleneck.
- Lighter Wash Jeans: You could do a dark wash, you could do a gray wash, you could even do a color. But a lighter wash gives a relaxed, casual vibe which works well with the more elevated tops. The concept of jeans for a night out is still a thing, but usually with denim trousers or a cool silhouette. These jeans are for daytime and the vintage-inspired vibe states that.
- Crescent Crossbody: This doesn't have to be your exact bag, but I chose it because the crescent shape and gold hardware are daytime appropriate, but can also dress up. The black also looks elevated and the crescent bag style is on trend without being trendy. The strap is thick so it won't break under pressure or dig into your shoulder. When choosing a bag for travel, consider this kind of versatility along with how big it is and how many pockets it has.
- Black Polarized Sunglasses: Polarized sunglasses provide a crisp and clear view, which is a must when sightseeing. The style is trendy but not an exact duplicate of a designer's style. This brand makes high-quality sunglasses but the price is low enough that if they break or get lost you won't be devastated.
12 Sample Outfits from this Fall Getaway Capsule Wardrobe
I made 12 different fall travel outfits from this capsule to get you thinking about how to mix and match. I tried to think of some things one may do for a fall getaway – from going to the theater to helping a cousin move into their new apartment. To see any of these looks larger, simply click on any of the images. There will be arrows on the left and right of the images to scroll through. To return to this page, click the “X” at the top of the screen.
Employ the French tuck, and just tuck the front few inches of the sweater into the skirt, pants, or jeans. The cami can be a full tuck, a French tuck, or left out over pants. If you have room in your bag, consider a wrap belt to cover the waist of the skirt or even cinch the cardigan. Styling your pieces elevate your ensembles.
Know the power of makeup, if it's something you are comfortable wearing. A bold lip, a smoky eye, a shimmery cheekbone can take simple pieces and elevate them for evening or festive occasions. When it comes to hair, I recommend always traveling with a bit of gel or pomade so if your hair is not behaving, you can slick it back into a ponytail for an elegant evening look. Use a hair-colored elastic or if your hair is long enough, wrap a bit of it around the elastic and secure with a Bobby pin underneath.
Packing for a Fall Getaway
When it comes to packing for a perfect fall getaway, it's smart to list all the expected and possible activities you may do. Not what you would love to do, but looking at the time available, the items already on the agenda, and being realistic. This helps you narrow down what you need versus what you dream of needing.
Expect the unexpected. You spill coffee on the blouse you planned to wear multiple times as you wait for your flight to your destination. You get a stomach bug and the idea of structured clothes in your condition is torture. It rains, though the forecast said it would be sunny all weekend.
Don't try to be a different person on vacation. It's easy to think you'll suddenly be this chic minimalist when you're more of a quirky creative, or that you'll be so elegant in that metropolitan city no one will know you're a tourist (they will, and they don't care). Wear dark sunglasses so you can People Watch and gawk without being obvious.
Care for your feet, wear a crossbody to protect your essentials while having your hands free, and stay hydrated. If you feel good you will automatically look better. Have fun on your getaway!