Packing for Europe: A Review of “Capsule Wardrobes” 

Written by Lillian

November 7th, 2022

A week before my plane departed to Paris, I was faced with the question all GTE students are asked: what on Earth do I pack? My plane ticket to Paris included one personal item, a carry-on bag, and one checked bag. With my clothes, personal items, toiletries, and space for all the souvenirs I plan on bringing back from Europe, my allotted space was very limited. 

After some thoughtful research online, I found information on a “Capsule Wardrobe”: a limited collection of interchangeable clothing pieces. A capsule wardrobe is made by constraining your wardrobe to a set number of different articles. These pieces you choose should be able to mix and match with any other piece in your wardrobe to create a large number of different and unique outfits. I thought that this type of wardrobe would be perfect for a semester abroad in Europe: it takes up less room in my suitcases since my number of clothing items are constrained, its far less stressful since I don’t have to worry about what to wear, and more economical as the utility from each article of clothing is increased. 

My capsule wardrobe consisted of: 

  • 5 Shirts 
  • 2 Sweaters 
  • 3 T-Shirts 
  • 2 Pairs of Jeans 
  • 1 Pair of Pants 
  • 1 Pair of Leggings 
  • 3 Pairs of Shorts 
  • 1 Belt 
  • 2 Dresses 
  • 1 Crewneck Sweatshirt 
  • 1 Puffy Jacket 
  • 1 Large Winter Coat 
  • 1 Rain Jacket 
  • 2 Pairs of Athletic Shorts 
  • 3 Athletic Shirts  
  • 1 Athletic Jacket 
  • 1 Bathing Suit 
  • 1 Pair of Boots 
  • 1 Pair of Tennis Shoes 
  • 1 Pair of Sandals 
  • 1 Pair of Canvas Shoes  
  • A million socks 

I was able to loosely pack everything into a single checked bag, along with all other non-clothing items I brought. I didn’t even bring a carry-on! Hopefully, this gives me a ton of packing space for when I go back into the States; I even brought an extra backpack to use as a carry-on if I needed it. 

Because every item is hand selected, I can ensure that all of my tops can match all of my bottoms and vice versa. For example, these pink shorts can be worn with almost all of my tops. 

So far, my capsule wardrobe has been able to stand up to many of the different travel plans that I have had. When traveling to Iceland, I was able to withstand the freezing cold by layering a couple of my heavier pieces. When traveling to an aerospace conference, I could pick and choose more professional looking pieces. Since each weekend is only three days, it’s very easy to find enough clothes for any occasion. Also, because my closet is so small, I don’t have to feel guilty about purchasing new items while abroad. Since I have been here, I have thrifted a few additional pieces in Belgium and France in order to supplement gaps in my wardrobe. The one downside of a capsule wardrobe has to be the laundry required. Since I don’t own a lot of clothes, I have to do my laundry at least once a week to have enough clean clothes to wear. But, the machines in Lafayette can only fit a weeks worth of clothes anyway, so I would probably have to use more machines if I washed more infrequently.  

Overall, by limiting my wardrobe to a set number of pieces, it has helped me pack less, initially and save space in my luggage. I also find myself wearing every piece of clothing I brought with me instead of letting any of them gather dust in my closet; every piece that I brought is important. I recommend anyone coming to GT Europe to try out this type of constrained wardrobe; you can copy the number of items I brought or find other lists online. I would also recommend fine tuning the clothing pieces to match your travel style, personal style, and destination weather (i.e. number of coats, athletic wear, etc.) but still keep the overall number of items constrained.