one suitcase: spring business casual capsule wardrobe

Post 8/8 -
Between my job & my love of seeing new places around the world I spend a fair amount of time living out of a suitcase. From all the experience I have gained from hauling myself & my stuff all over the place I have learned just how valuable packing smart & packing light is to your sanity. And I think I have gotten pretty good at selecting just my few favorite pieces of clothing to bring and stretching their use though multiple outfits for multiple activities as I travel. So for this installment of the one suitcase feature I'm going to do a spring business casual capsule wardrobe. Above are the 16 pieces I will use to create 30 outfit options for this trip!!

The purpose of the "One Suitcase" feature is to try to show you how you can pare down your packing list when you travel without sacrificing the number or variety of outfits you have for the range of activities your trip may entail. I have learned through trial and error (and the pain of lugging wayyy too big a suitcase) that by packing a few favorite & versatile pieces of clothing I can mix and match the items into a surprising number of outfit options. You just have to do a little planning up front. Hopefully the posts this week will show you my method and help you find the potential of the clothes you already have in your closet!

In case you missed it:
The method:
  1. Basics - First I pick some basics pieces to lay the foundation for the trip. I try to pick my favorite go-to clothes. Clothes I know I wear over and over. The ones that go with almost everything. For me, this usually involves  laying out favorite pair of work pants and favorite pencil skirt.

    For the basics in this capsule wardrobe I have chosen navy & beige blazers, brown & denim pencil skirts, grey editor pants and white blouse.
  2. Navy blazer - H&M
    Beige blazer - Banana Republic
    Brown pencil skirt - Banana Republic
    Denim pencil skirt - Loft
    Grey 'editor' pant - Express
    White triple pleated blouse - Forever 21

  3. Interest - Second, I add a few interesting pieces to compliment the subtle basics. I look for pops of color or fun patterns or even texture that will make the basic pieces more exciting. I try to grab items that will compliment each other or at least be somewhat in the same color scheme. For me and work, I'll usually go for a favorite patterned dress and some bright cardigans.

    For this set of interest pieces I picked two patterned dresses, two patterned skirts, two bright cardigans and four blouses.
    Black & white geometric dress - Ann Taylor
    Green shirt dress - CAbi
    Beige pattern pencil skirt - Loft
    Striped a-line skirt - Corilynn
    Mint cardigan - Old Navy
    Navy tie neck blouse - H&M
    Pink sleeveless blouse - Loft
    Red cardigan - Old Navy
    Red floral camisole - CAbi
    Blue floral blouse - H&M
  4. Accessories & Shoes - Finally, I add some accessories to complete the outfits. Jewelry, belts and scarves take up very little room and can dramatically alter how an outfit looks. Unfortunately, shoes is the area I still struggle with. I always want to bring just one more pair. But I've learned to limit myself to only either blacks or browns (depending on my clothes) and then nude/beige shoes go with everything.

    For this capsule wardrobe I chose four necklaces, one gold watch and three belts.  For shoes I a pair of t-strap heels and a pair of mary janes.

    Brown t-strap heel - Charles David 
    Brown mary janes - TJ Maxx  

    Sunburst necklace - House of Harlow 
     Gold & pink bead necklace - JCrew Outlet 
    Gold, silver, pearl multi-strand necklace - Ann Taylor  
    Teal/Mint stone necklace - Loft 
     Gold link watch - Michael Kors  
    Gold belt - Target 
    Wide woven belt - TJMaxx  
     Skinny dark brown belt - TJMaxx
 Proof of concept - Here is everything all laid out and then put in my carry-on bag.

Hope you enjoyed!!

Here's a couple of FAQ's I've gotten over the course of the past few 'One Suitcase' posts:
  • Do you wear all 30 outfits when you pack a suitcase like this?
    • Not typically. I just like to have extra options when I travel. Most times I'll have 30 options for a two week business trip. Just nice to know they're there! :)
  • What about toiletries & undergarments & tech accessories - why aren't they listed?  
    • For me, the most difficult part of packing for a trip is trying pare down to a small set of clothing pieces to maximize the number of outfits that I can create. The easier part of the packing process is adding the necessary undergarments, tech accessories and toiletries once I've decided on clothing. So for me the focus of the one suitcase posts have been around harder concept of the clothes.
      But, don't worry - the amount of clothes I'm listing in these posts leaves enough room for that stuff! All I would do to complete this suitcase is to top it off with a small packing cube with undergarments and my small makeup bag by placing them both on top of the clothes. And then my liquids & tech items go in my purse for easy access in airport security. Here's an overview of traveling post I did that has a bit of that info. But the internet is full of much more comprehensive packing lists then I'm posting.

  • How come  the individual item pictures don't match your actual clothes?
    • I just try to find as close as possible images from googling to use for the example graphics. Many times I can't find the original items. So I just do my best.

  • How can you re-wear clothing pieces so many times without getting smelly?
    • Re-wearing clothing works better when the weather isn't too hot. So it's less effective in high temperatures or with any athletic activity. Luckily my job typically has offices with freezing A/Cs so it helps lessen the sweating likelihood.
      I also usually pack a travel sized fabric refresher - like Downey Wrinkle Releaser - for light refreshes.

      But, most often, for a really long trip, I just resign myself to the cost of sending out my laundry (or finding a laundry mat) for the benefit of having a light suitcase for the duration of the trip. I think it's totally worth that extra cost to not die every time you have to carry your bag... 
You can check out my other One Suitcase features:
  • Business Casual clothes here  
  • Summer Vacation clothes here 
  • Winter Vacation clothes here
  • Mini Getaway clothes here


  1. You're awesome... Just so that you know. Lol. My weekend backpack is about the same size as yours or bigger and I've only worn two outfits out of all the clothes I packed... Looking forward to learning more from you! :-)

  2. These are seriously the best, most useful posts of all time. Not just for people travelling, but for people looking to build a new wardrobe too. Thank you!!!!

  3. Great post! I've already picked up a few of the same pieces from H&M and other similar pieces. Good thing I don't live in Texas!

  4. Great series and recap! I need to challenge myself on this. When I traveled to Japan, I definitely overpacked, but had to really consolidate when I went on an overnight trip.


  5. Thanks!! Super glad you enjoyed & found it helpful! So nice of you to take the time to say so!! :)

  6. Hi - will you please post your suitcase/outfits from your recent vacation? I'd like to get ideas for my own upcoming vacation

  7. hello... greetings from Indonesia ♥
    I really love ur post, truly amazing, I'm so inspired being an overpacker my whole life. this is very helpful, thank you for sharing this for everyone to see =)
    Looking forward to more posts like this! ♡

    Elga :)

    1. I like the idea that all of your outfits don't match the ones in the line-up. It helps me visualize what substitutions might work. I just cleaned out my entire closet using your posts. First I took everything out of the closet, and put back in only the things that were similar to your lists. Next, I put back in my favorites. Then, I put anything I never wear into the donate pile. Everything else was put pack on the top shelf for further consideration. Seeing my wardrobe this way has helped me visualize other outfits unique to my closet, and taken me out of my rut. It makes me realize just how much work goes into your post. Thank you!

    2. Sounds like a great organizational activity! So hard/annoying to do - but feels so great when you're done! I hope that you find lots of fun & inspiration in your clothes now! Good luck!

  8. You have no idea how much your posts have helped me and so many others. I don't believe that you understand the impact of your blog. I have simplified my life just by reducing and organizing my wardrobe thanks to you. The capsule wardrobes and one suitcase series are truly awesome. I am an expat living now 10 years in Barcelona, Spain, originally from the Midwest, USA. European fashion can be fun but also quite challenging. Again, thanks so much and keep up the excellent work! Saludos desde EspaƱa!

    1. Wow. Thank you so much for writing to say such nice things! It makes me really happy to hear that you find the blog useful! :)

  9. I just noticed that this said there were 40 outfits. On a different note, I like how the images are REAL images and not like templates or "flat" ideas. It gives a better visual as to how they'd go together/look. [And don't forget #s 26, 27, and 28 need to be edited.] Thanks for this post/blog!

    1. Whoopsie. Used previous posts as a template and didn't update everything. Thanks for the heads up!

  10. thanks a trillion for your blog. you are the best

  11. Brilliant! I've been trying to pare down my clothing to basics that can mix to make many outfits, and this is exactly what I've been looking for! Thank you for sharing your expertise in this skill and for the inspirational examples with clear pictures.

    1. Thank you! Yay! Glad you found the post useful!

  12. Your business casual capsule series has been incredible in assisting me start a wardrobe as I transition careers - thank you so much for the visualization and inspiration! I want to make my own "reference cards" using what I own - how do you make yours? Photoshop, time, & patience?

  13. did you make the 'checklist' version for this set?


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