Packing for a summer vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. If you know exactly what you need in order to be well dressed in warm weather, it should be quick, slick and pain free. This is where having a summer vacation capsule wardrobe can help.
A capsule wardrobe is a stripped-back selection of all the pieces you need to cover all bases. It means you’ll always have something to wear and you won’t have to give it too much thought. Approaching your summer vacation style this way means you’ll be equipped for every eventuality.
To help you prepare, we’ve rounded up every piece you need in order to see your summer vacation through in style. We’ve also thrown in a few styling tips to help ensure you look your best for your break.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is A Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a tightly curated selection of simple, versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched to create outfits.
The idea is to be able to do more with less, which in the context of a summer vacation means that you can spend less time packing, worry less about the weight of your suitcase and spend more time enjoying the sun.
Summer Vacation Styling Tips
Choose Fabrics Carefully
Fabric choice is always important, but in the summer it’s the difference between being comfortable and looking like a sweaty wreck. To stave off the sweat patches, opt for light and airy materials like linen, silk, tencel, seersucker and chambray.
When it comes to summer T-shirts, cotton-polyester blends are great as they don’t crease, they dry quicker and they don’t cling onto sweaty aromas as willingly as 100 per cent cotton styles.
Colour is equally important when it comes to staying cool. Dressing like Robert Smith in the scorching August sun isn’t going to keep your temperature down. Instead, choose light colours that will help to reflect the heat rather than absorb it.
White is obviously great for this, but powdery pastel shades can work too, and they offer a little more scope for creative flair. Don’t forget to work some bolder statement colours into the mix too.
Use Prints and Patterns Sparingly
There’s arguably no better occasion than a summer vacation for playing around with prints and patterns, but don’t get too carried away. Clashing patterns can look awkward, confused and garish, so treat jazzy fabrics with caution and use them sparingly.
As a rule of thumb, stick to one bold pattern per outfit, and keep everything else reasonably stripped back. This way, the patterned garment isn’t fighting with anything else for attention and the eye is free to focus.
Textured fabrics aren’t just for winter. There may be slightly fewer of them, but there are plenty of textured materials that can be included in a summer wardrobe too.
As long as they’re relatively lightweight and breathable, they will work. Think linen, seersucker, pique cotton and even lightweight knits.
The Complete Summer Vacation Capsule Wardrobe
A selection of plain tees is the backbone of any good summer wardrobe. Find one that fits you well and buy it in multiple colours, especially white.
It’s something you can use as a foundation for all sorts of outfits and you’ll want to pack a few for any vacation.
An Oxford shirt is one of the most versatile casual pieces there is and it’s great for quickly smartening up beachy looks on vacation.
Simply throw one on over a T-shirt and swim shorts, and you’re instantly smart enough to hit a bar or do a spot of al fresco dining at a restaurant.
Opt for an understated, versatile colour like pale blue to get the most wear out of it.
A linen shirt achieves a similar goal to an Oxford shirt, but it’s better suited to hot weather thanks to the fabric’s cooling properties.
Use it when you need to be dressed up in the daytime when the sun is at its hottest and it will help to keep you comfortable.
A short-sleeve shirt is smarter and more stylish than a T-shirt, but it leaves the arms free to breathe. Choose one with a camp collar for more of a laid-back aesthetic.
This is a great garment for adding some colour and pattern to your outfits. Use it to jazz up simple looks and create a focal point. If you’re stuck for inspiration, vertical stripes are always a good option.
Pick simple swim shorts that can be worn beyond the beach or pool. This way you can get away with packing less.
We’d suggest going for a pair that are cut about midway up the thigh (a five-inch inseam is a solid choice) and stick to muted block colours over anything too bright or intricately patterned.
Swim shorts can deal with the majority of tasks on a summer vacation, but you might want another option you can call on in the evenings.
Chino shorts are always a solid option for this as they’re extremely versatile and pretty timeless too.
Go for a regular cut over a slim fit and aim for a hem that sits a couple of inches above the knee.
An unstructured linen blazer is your friend when it comes to dressing up on vacation. It’s still relaxed and informal, but it can give your outfit a touch of class that’s useful if you’re heading out for a fancy meal or spending the evening at a swanky cocktail bar.
A pair of breathable linen pants will go great with your linen blazer, but that’s not where their versatility ends.
You can team them up with a short-sleeve shirt, a T-shirt or an Oxford for a smart-casual evening look, which means it’s well worth popping a pair into your suitcase.
Canvas sneakers are breathable, easy to pack and can be worn with just about anything. Opt for a low-top pair in a light colour and team them up with everything from swim shorts to Oxford shirts.
You’ll need a slightly smarter option too, which is where a pair of loafers can help. They’re more laid back and summery than a Derby shoe, but much dressier than your canvas sneakers, and you can wear them with shorts too.
We’d suggest going for something brown in suede for maximum versatility.
Sliders are absolutely essential for the beach and pool. They keep your feet off the hot sand and they can be slipped on in an instant. Rubber or EVA foam is best as it doesn’t matter if it gets wet.
Birkenstock makes an EVA version of its classic Arizona sandal which is a firm favourite of ours as it looks a little more stylish and intentional than a basic pool slide.
While pool slides are practical, they do look a little sloppy, which is why it could be a good idea to arm yourself with a pair of leather sandals too.
You can wear these when venturing away from the beach to restaurants and bars and they’ll look a bit smarter.
One of the least stylish accessories you can have on a summer vacation is a sunburnt scalp, but this can be prevented by taking one of the most stylish: a simple dad cap.
For bonus points, choose one in a lightweight, quick drying fabric to control the sweat and regulate your temperature.
You don’t need to take more than one pair of sunglasses. Just find a pair that work with your face shape and stick with them.
As a rule of thumb, go for softer, rounder shapes if you have a square head and vice versa.
The final flourish to sign off any good summer outfit is the fragrance. Think light, citrusy and fresh as opposed to rich, leathery and woody.