How to pack light for a long weekend trip

**Update: I've added links to those items available for purchase (see bottom of post). Thanks for the suggestions!!

This weekend I'm going to Chicago with Ellie to visit Michelle for three nights and four days (I. can't. wait!!!). I see many a boozy brunch and long dinner in our future, as well as city exploring, casual lounging, and just generally chatting for hours on end. 

Again, I can't wait.

Normally it would be a recipe for stressful packing for several reasons, not the least of which is the touchy weather that's typical of this summer-to-fall transition time. One day is predicting thunder storms, and the temperatures will range from about 60 to 80 degrees during the awake hours, according to forecasts. And then there's the necessity of comfort—because realistically, no matter how many looks you have planned in your mind's eye, you will really only want to wear what is comfortable and easy.

Well, one of the best parts of living from a capsule wardrobe is how much easier getting dressed is each day. And in my Capsule Workshop at West Elm, I mentioned the (huge) added benefit of easier packing for travel, too!

It ensures that you will have set outfit choices for each day, because you had to think about them beforehand, and even more importantly, that you will love each of those options you have. 

Packing light and versatile is crucial. So, after getting a lot of feedback from readers and friends who would love to see more capsule outfit examples, I thought I'd share exactly what items I'm bringing to Chicago, and a bunch of different ways I plan to wear them (these pictures are not an exhaustive list—even reviewing them here gave me a thousand more ideas).

As you'll see, I've allowed a lot of flexibility for weather and activity, which I think is key in having a truly versatile suitcase. Things to think about are:

  1. What type of purse or bag works best for different activities (hence my inclusion of a cross-body, a larger bag that I'll also carry on the plane, and a clutch)
  2. What type of footwear is smartest for what you'll be doing (I went with one pair of neutral sandals, comfortable black leather loafers, and walkable block-heeled black sandals)
  3. Plenty of options for long sleeves v. short sleeves and shorts v. pants (outfits that work with both a tank top or sweater, and a skirt or jeans, as well as options for layering)
  4. Any necessary accessories (hats or scarves)

Links for Purchase:

Y.A.S. Long drapey cardigan
Zara Thin crewneck sweater
J. Crew Factory Dark skinny jeans
GAP Denim jacket
Zara Pointed leather loafers
Madewell Block-heeled slingbacks (only limited sizing left)
Old Navy Cross-body saddle bag

Although the pictures are merely to depict clothing combinations (ignore my overall appearance please :), it is really important to note that I plan to use changes in makeup, hair, and little accessories to add flare to each look, as well, even though those things are not reflected here. In that light, a few things in addition to the main items seen in the outfit pictures that pack a huge punch are:

  1. Statement jewelry that goes with a lot of things, such as gold drop earrings or a thick bronze necklace
  2. Punchy lipstick (or two!)
  3. Sunglasses (or two!)

My best advice overall is to think about complete outfits beforehand (taking pictures is especially helpful) and how different circumstances might impact those outfits, and then adjust or add accordingly. Trust me, you will be so glad you did it ahead of time.

PS: I may throw in a black tank top or a striped T for another casual top, and an easy light dress, but otherwise what you see here will really be it! Is this not a convincing case for STARTING A CAPSULE WARDROBE?! With about 1/3 of my capsule and the smallest suitcase I've ever packed in, I am able to create so many different looks!

Just to be clear, this list certainly doesn't include pajamas, underwear, and toiletries—all things I always travel with but are not the typical stressors of packing :) Even with those things thrown in, this is still the tiniest suitcase I've ever packed, and yet I feel more confident than ever knowing what I can wear each day.

Question: Does seeing these outfit iterations help you in thinking about your closet in a more versatile, capsule-oriented way? I'd love to know your thoughts below because if it is helpful I'll try to do it more regularly.