Travel Style – The 16-Piece Minimalist Travel Wardrobe

A lot of woman (and some men) face the tough challenge of putting together a travel wardrobe. This can be tricky, especially when that wardrobe has to serve a variety of activities, locations, and climates. Add on to that the desire to be comfortable and blend into the local landscape and it can make your eyes cross; even more so when the trip lasts almost a month!

As a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist, I make it a habit to pack light. I don’t like to carry heavy things and, after having my luggage lost several times, I avoid checking it at all costs. This compounds the challenge of packing light so I thought I’d share my travel wardrobe from my second-longest trip (25 days).

First, let’s get some details out of the way:
1. This is what I like to wear and my personal style leans toward structured silhouettes with classic pieces and only a little bit of trend. Your preferences may differ but do pay attention to what works in the destination. For example, what you’d wear in Rio de Janeiro is different from what you’d wear in Paris. Also remember, it is possible to be comfortable, stylish AND smartly dressed all at the same time. In my opinion, flip flops and sweat pants/shorts have no place on your body, unless you are in the house, at the gym, or on the beach.
2. I wear all of these pieces in my regular life and do not buy items solely for travel (one exception – quick dry pants).
3. My color palette may be boring to some, but again, it is what I prefer. I’d like to think my language is colorful enough!
4. I use a blend of packing methods utilizing both the rolling technique and packing cubes. 5. These pieces worked for this destination and season (Australia and New Zealand in their autumn). Another place and season and the list may look a bit different, but maybe not since I dress like this at home.

This wardrobe was assembled for 25 days abroad and had to work in cosmopolitan settings, backwoods locales, and temperature swings from  40°F/4.5°C to  90°F/ 32°C. It also HAD to fit into my Lucas Under-The-Seat cabin bag (the only suitcase I considered taking). No small feat but do-able with some planning.

To maximize space, I used packing cubes for little items (underwear, socks, etc) and rolled everything else. The boots and flat sandals went first with packing cubes filling the gaps, then the day bag (The Sak, shown below) went in, laid flat. After that, rolled items went in (outwear, bottoms, tops) and finally, folded scarves. The Converse slipped into the exterior side pockets.

The Le Pliage tote bag held no clothes, except a Ziploc bag with 2 pairs of underwear and a fresh tank top (always nice after an 18-hour flight).

Okay, onto the clothes!
I always select basic pieces that can be layered and accessorized accordingly. Each piece, except one, can be machine washed and most of the pieces can be hand-washed in a hotel sink. This wardrobe is a total of 16 pieces, not including underwear, pyjamas, swim suit, scarves, hats, fingerless gloves, shoes or bags. NOTE: I have provided links to specific pieces that I recommend. All other pieces can be found at your favorite store or online retailer. Again, it is all about what works for you.

25-day Travel Wardrobe:


1. Black all-season tailored wool blazer
2. Grey boyfriend blazer
3. Anorak-style windbreaker/rain jacket

4. White button-front long-sleeved shirt All hail the Portofino!!
5. Black/white cotton peasant (boho) blouse
6. Black modal-blend tee shirt
7. Grey modal-blend tee shirt
8. Pink linen tee shirt
9. Black racerback tank top
10. White racerback tank top
11. Grey lightweight wool v-neck sweater
12. Black rayon-blend open-front cardigan

13. Dark wash skinny jeans
14. Black ponte skinny ankle pants
15. Black board shorts (cut is so good, they can be worn outside the water, too!)

16. Black jersey tank dress

– Black leather lace-up boots
– Black Converse trainers/sneakers
– Grey suede oxfords
– Black sandals

– Black 2-piece tank style swim suit
– Pink gauze scarf
– Leopard print
– Black/white floral oversized scarf (can be used as a pareo, too)
– Black belt (medium width to work as cinch or as belt)
– 2 pairs of socks (one fluffy, one thin, both knee high length)
– 6 pairs of underwear
– 2 bras (one black, one nude)
– Pyjamas (black tank, black capri length leggings, fluffy short socks)
– Black crush-able sun hat
– Grey knit watch cap
– Grey knit fingerless gloves
– Swatch double-wrap wristwatch
– Silver drop earrings with french hook
– Silver hoop earrings

– Lucas Under-the-Seat cabin bag (linked above)
Longchamps Le Pliage large (do yourself a favor and buy a rigid insert like this as it makes the bag SO much easier to carry and seems to maximize space)
– The Sak Ventura convertible leather bag (can be worn as a crossbody bag or backpack; used as day bag; packed in suitcase during transit)

That’s it! In hindsight, I wouldn’t change much, except maybe:
1. To have left the Converse at home. I wore them a few times but could have just as easily worn the sandals or the oxfords.
2. Skipped the tank dress. I could have easily left it behind. I only wore it twice and could have easily worn pants or shorts those two occasions.
I did sink laundry ever other day and hit up a laundromat twice during the trip.

A little planning (okay, who am I kidding? It was a lot of planning) and I was able to have a travel wardrobe to got me from fancy brunch in Melbourne to chasing the elusive cassowary in the Daintree rainforest. I even had enough room to pack the beach dress from Australia and the two alpaca wraps from New Zealand and still only had 2 small pieces of luggage. It kept me (us) nimble, quick, and organized.

NOTE: I was 3 kilos overweight for a Virgin Australia flight and had to pay baggage fees and check the bag, but 1 flight out of 6 was not a big deal (and I think it was the heavy Converse that pushed me over the edge!).

What tips do you swear by when packing for a trip? Are there any must-haves for packing light? Let me know with a comment!

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