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30 Days to Packing a Better Bag – Day 10: Accessorize, Mix & Match – Making the Most of a Minimal Wardrobe

Day 10: How to make the most of a minimal wardrobe.

Welcome to Day 10 of 30 Days to Packing a Better Bag.

You’ve been doing a great job of getting your packing list down to something more manageable, but if you still aren’t convinced that this type of travel is possible, it’s time to look at all the possibilities that exist with a minimal wardrobe.

If you do it right, you’ll have dozens of different outfit choices.

Color Palettes

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is important to think about your color palettes when packing a minimalistic wardrobe. That way, every item can be used to its full advantage, being mixed and matched with other key pieces

We recommend choosing a neutral base for your clothing, whether you choose to go with a black and gray base, earth tones, or beiges and tans. Once you have your key pieces in these neutrals, bring some color and some life to the mix, whether that be from brightly colored tanks and tees or from accessories, such as scarves, belts and headbands. Patterned material is best avoided unless you have a unique sense of style and like to merge several in one outfit.

In yesterday’s example, we removed all items that had a pattern, wasn’t in our desired color palette, or we just deemed unnecessary. In the end, we kept our neutral black and gray color palette and some bright, solid color pieces.

The key is to make sure that every item in your wardrobe can be mixed and matched with more than 2 other things. This is the only way we can ensure you will get full use of said item.

If you can only wear that one piece with one other specific clothing item, then chances are it won’t be as useful to you in the long run. (This point is moot if you are packing for a special occasion, of course.) Say no to wasted luggage space and extra weight!

Day 10:  How to make the most of a minimal wardrobe.
The same purple camisole paired with just about everything else on our packing list.

Versatile Pieces

Another important point to think about when choosing your minimalist wardrobe is to go with versatile pieces that could potentially be dressed up or down. One might not expect a pair of black, quick-drying technical pants from North Face to be anything other than gear you’d wear outdoor and hiking, but as shown in a previous post, Brooke has discovered they have the ability to be dressed up or down in a pinch.

Shoot for items like this.

technical travel clothing comes in versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down
Get versatile technical pieces like these black travel pants from North Face. They can work for day tripping or dressing up.

Accessorize

The next step in how to make the most of a minimal wardrobe is to add pieces of flair. We’re talking about scarves, belts, necklaces, headbands, statement jewelry, and anything else that can take your outfit from normal to formal in seconds. A pair of jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt isn’t fancy by any means, but adding a chunky ring, a scarf, and a pair ballet flats can give it an entirely new look.

The Same Purple Cami

The following is a quick example of several outfits and looks that can be made using our purple camisole. When paired with different neutrals and accessories, this top is about as versatile as they come. It also helps that it is a technical piece of travel clothing, made of a blend of silk, merino wool and cotton. It’s the ultimate base layer for any trip style.

the same purple cami

Casual, dressy, sporty, you name it. The right wardrobe can serve you many different purposes.

Some further information about the items in images:

Black Skirt – The one in the photo is a simple stretchy black skirt, but technical black skirts do exist that can be used as in this situation. Check REI, for example.

Leggings – A pair is always good to have when you travel.

Purple Camisole – A Silkbody base layer, made from silk, merino wool and cotton.

Black Jacket Kathmandu’s Altica200, fleece lined.

Wool Cardigan – Get something similar from a merino wool product company, such as Icebreaker or Silkbody, for example.

Pashmina – Pashminas have so many purposes, from scarves and shawls to blankets and towels. This pashmina can class an outfit up in a pinch.

Colorful Scarf – This circle scarf is great for adding a pop of color into the most subdued outfits.

Capri Pants – These gray capri pants are both sporty and mildly classy (if done right). They are made of quick-drying material.

North Face Pants – These black pants are part of Brooke’s quick-drying travel ensemble. The material also possesses a UPF rating of 50. We love how they can go from day to night with the right accessories.

Blue Necklace – A little something picked up on your travels by chance. This necklace is from Thailand.

Take Action: Mix & Match Your Wardrobe
Challenge yourself. See how many different outfits you create from your minimalist wardrobe. Find ways to dress your outfits up or down with extra pieces of flair.

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm producing episodes of The UnPacking List or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Meghan says

    I love these posts! I am leaving at the end of the month for a four month research stint abroad and they have helped me organize my packing plan!
    I was wondering if we could get some info on the clothing that is featured in this post? I’d love to know about the skirt in particular.
    Thanks!

  2. Tiera says

    This is EXACTLY what I needed. I always know in my head that I need to pack pieces that mix & match, and I try my best to stick to a color scheme, but seeing the various outfits laid out like that really hit home. Thanks for this! Enjoying this series!

  3. Sandy says

    I have been trying pack lighter. Has anyone bought the Chick on the Go set of 5 pieces and 2 scarves that come in a packing organizer? I might try a DIY version and add jeans, some colored tops and knitted scarves.

  4. Rebecca Woods says

    If writing down your packing list doesnt work I recommend laying out the outfits, like in the example above, and taking photos of each outfit making an album on your phone. It’s a great reference to keep looking back if your stuck for outfit choices. It also works to prevent you from buying unnecessary things on the lead up to the trip using the excuse that you’ll take it with you.

    My capsule wardrobe for a 4 month trip consists of the following:
    2 pairs of pants (1 black & 1 patterned)
    1 light jacket (grey marle)
    1 merino l/s top (coloured)
    1 cream button up top
    1 black lbd
    4 basic tops/ tanks (black & white)
    3 coloured tops/ tanks
    2 pairs of shorts (denim & black)
    1 black skirt
    1 pair of black ballet flats
    1 pair of tan/ black sandals
    2x scarves for cooler temps (dbl as sarongs, shawls, pillows)

    Along with the necesities of underwear, a hat & shower/beach thongs i should be set for the 4 months travelling through S/E Asia, India & Western Europe.

    Any recommendations are warmly welcomed. 🙂

  5. DK says

    In my last trip I found that trying on the outfits before packing them helped make some quick decisions. Sure the colors work but the styles might not blend as well. Plus if you feel great wearing them at home you know you’ll like them when you’re away.

  6. Laura says

    I love taking things (especially tops) with patterns! What I do is take 4 or 5 patterned blouses, but make sure that each one coordinates with all of the bottoms (and cardigan/jacket) I take, therefore, I can still mix and match.

    I also like taking 1 or 2 pairs of wild leggings for lounging/sleeping/exercising, so I do the opposite and make sure that any t shirts/tank tops I pack match the leggings. It’s an easy way to have more fun in my travel wardrobe!

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