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winter travel capsule wardrobe suitcase

How to Pack: Winter Travel Capsule Wardrobe Edition

Just last Friday, I flew back home to Tokyo after paying a two-month visit to see my family in Boston. In addition to being happily reunited with my fiancé, I’m also elated for the warmer weather here in the Kanto region of Japan. Boston was so cold! Packing for chilly destinations can seem daunting, so I thought it’d be nice to review what I brought on my recent trip to the American northeast. Here’s my winter travel capsule wardrobe.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

Let’s first clarify what a capsule wardrobe is. While minimalists may know this concept very well, capsule wardrobes have gained a lot of mainstream interest only recently. Simply put, a capsule wardrobe is a curated (read: small) collection of coordinating pieces. For some, this means 10 pieces, and for others, the number could be 50. The number is arbitrary. Many methods and challenges on how to create one are available online, from project 333 to the 10-item wardrobe. Do whatever works for you.

My 8-Piece Winter Travel Capsule Wardrobe

fleurdelilah winter travel capsule wardrobe cashmere sweater

Layering pieces are essential to a winter travel capsule wardrobe

I moved to Japan nearly five years ago, so aside from a small box of things, I do not have any belongings stored at my family’s place in the US. In other words, I had to bring whatever I needed for my two-month visit. Since Boston can get frigid in winter, this meant long layering pieces. I already had a winter coat in Boston, so I didn’t need to bring one. And on the handful of days where that was too warm, I borrowed my dad’s leather jacket. So altogether, I ended up bringing:

  • 3 organic cotton long sleeve turtleneck shirts
  • 2 pairs of resin-wash skinny jeans
  • 1 pair of wool pants
  • 1 cashmere turtleneck sweater
  • 1 pair of walking shoes

All of the pieces are in neutral tones (grey, black, white, beige) and are classic silhouettes, so I never need to worry about what goes with what. They all look good with everything else and are dressy enough for most occasions. In addition to these, I brought some pajamas and a fleece pullover to wear on the plane and around the house. Also not included in this number are the rings I wear daily.

My Thoughts and What I Would Change

Over the last years, I have gone from packing two bags for a two-month trip to fitting everything in a carryon *with space*.  And I love it. I don’t have to worry about dragging anything around, I just check in my carryon and leisurely make my way to the boarding gate. No need to worry about if the plane has enough overhead storage, either. And if I want to bring things back home to Tokyo (food), I can put my carryon in an empty suitcase so I only have to hold onto one bag.

In the future, I would make some adjustments for a similar trip. I brought a pair of winter boots and, despite multiple snowy days, I only wore them once because they gave me blisters. Heels are worth blisters (in my book anyway), winter boots are not. Moving forward, I will just bring my Timberlands. On a related note, I also could have invested in some thick wool socks, especially since I wasn’t wearing boots. I ended up doubling up on socks to keep my toes from falling off in my shoes. I’ll definitely consider this next time. Also, something possessed me to not pack my beanie. My sad little icicle ears paid for that poor decision. Always bring a hat. Lastly, I felt very bored with my outfit some days. Looking ahead, I’ll bring a few accessories.

Do you pack light? What are your winter travel capsule wardrobe essentials?

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WRITTEN BY:

Tokyo-based expat and freelance writer, blogger, and artist. Wife to a Parisien. Let’s chat luxury, food, and travel. Can speak 日本語(ish) and français(beginner) Twitter: @fleurdelilah Instagram: @fleurdelilah

  • I didn’t even know the term or know about this til this blog, thank you!

    March 29, 2017
  • Thank you for an amazing blog and the advice !

    March 29, 2017
  • I am guilty of packing way too much on trips away. I just week away for a weekend and I had about 10 outfits lol. Love the idea of a capsule wardrobe

    March 29, 2017
  • What an amazing post. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    March 29, 2017
  • Capsule wardrobes are so important for travelling! I feel like winter is easier than summer because of the simple shades and all the mix and match/layering! Great post 🙂

    March 29, 2017
  • Ahh great post, i’m the worst over packer! I’m obsessed with turtlenecks for winter trips though.

    March 29, 2017
  • I need to have clothes first lol I spend all my money on plane tickets! Great tips.

    March 29, 2017
  • Helen
    REPLY

    Great tips. For winter trips i usually take a denim or cord skirt and then wear thermal leggings underneath, or fleecy tights with leggings over the top if it’s really cold.

    March 30, 2017
  • I need to work on cutting down what I pack. It is even more difficult during the winter!

    March 30, 2017
  • I find it super challenging to pack for the winter trips! It’s interesting to see how you do it 🙂

    March 30, 2017
  • I need to improve on my “travel packing” skills. I must confess that I still end up over packing and carrying big luggage at the airport. The travel capsule sounds perfect for summer trips, though. Not sure if it would during winter for me.

    March 31, 2017
  • Dani
    REPLY

    I love this idea – I’d never heard of a capsule wardrobe. This is super helpful. I’d like to think I’m a light packer but I definitely could use some work. Love that you have found a way to not only pack light but pack with space left over.

    March 31, 2017
  • sophie
    REPLY

    guess what I needed to read something like this, because I do too much packing and I badly need to get read of it. I hope this will help me do that. Cheers

    April 1, 2017
  • Steph
    REPLY

    I hadn’t heard of a capsule wardrobe, however this concept rings so true to me! My wardrobe is much larger but I definitely pack minimalistic and can relate to how you said you went from packing heavy to light over the years. I love packing light now and often even have room or items I still don’t use. Totally need the beanie though 🙂

    April 3, 2017
  • Very helpful tips! The first time I travelled, I remember that I had two bags SO full that I couldnt barely carry them!! I regret it sooo much!! So from then on I have been packing each time less and less things, and it is so much better, afterall, depending on where you are traveling to, you can always buy something there if you really feel the need to.

    April 4, 2017

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