Building a capsule wardrobe for business travel

August 30, 2018

A frequent mistake new business travelers make is packing too much. When you’re packing your suitcase the night before your flight it’s easy to start grabbing everything that catches your eye. Before you know it your suitcase is too heavy to lift! One solution to this common dilemma is a capsule wardrobe chosen specifically for business travel. We spoke to business travel expert Road Warriorette for tips on building a capsule wardrobe for business travel.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothes based around one or two colors that can be worn together interchangeably. Ten pieces is a good number to start with, as they can give upwards of forty outfits in different combinations. For those that like to have choices this is a great way to keep your options open without overpacking. It’s also helpful for those who prefer not to think too hard about what to wear in the morning. 

Is there a difference between business formal and business casual capsule wardrobes?

For women, a business formal capsule wardrobe would comprise of a full suit, including pants, a skirt, a dress, and a blazer, and four shirts. For men an ideal business formal capsule wardrobe would consist of two suits, five shirts, and three ties. 
Business casual capsule wardrobes are not quite so cut and dried, but more options also mean more potential wardrobe combinations. For men, it could mean four pairs of slacks, five shirts (either polo or button-down, depending on how formal your office is), and a blazer if needed. Women typically need 3 bottoms, either skirts or pants, one dress, four shirts, and two blazers or cardigans.

Where should I start?

When choosing specific clothing items, start with foundation pieces in your main color. Often this is a neutral such as gray, black, brown, taupe, or navy, but a neutral isn’t required. Examples of foundation pieces are slacks, skirt, blazer, or suit. Add shirts in coordinating colors, two pairs of shoes, and accessories as needed.
When shopping for your capsule wardrobe, there are a few characteristics to look for in all pieces of clothing:

Anti-wrinkle. The last thing you want to spend time doing after flying for eight hours is ironing. Buy clothing billed as “anti-wrinkle” or “wrinkle-resistant,” then hang it up as soon as you arrive in your hotel room. If anything looks rumpled hang it in the bathroom while you shower in the morning--this will typically steam any wrinkles out.

Fit. Everything you purchase for travel should fit you incredibly well. If a zipper digs or fits too tightly it will be much more apparent during a long travel day, and you won’t have many options to replace it.

Comfort. In addition to fitting perfectly, all items should be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. Look for fabrics with stretch, including suit separates.
The most important thing about building a business travel capsule wardrobe is to think of it as a cohesive whole. Don’t buy random items hoping they’ll fit somewhere; be strategic about what you purchase, making sure it coordinates with at least three other pieces. Your completed wardrobe should fit easily inside a carry-on suitcase, giving you plenty of outfit options for any work-related scenario without overpacking.