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Worldwide Travel Capsule Wardrobe

How NOT to fill your case with all the wrong stuff

By Lizi Woolgar

We would all love our own Undetectable Extension Charm, courtesy of Hermione Granger (or should I say, J.K. Rowling). Or a real-life Mary Poppins bag, courtesy of P.L. Travers. There’s just never enough room for what you need, is there? Especially when it comes to travelling. From my experience of travel over the years, I have learnt that I am truly awful at packing. I’m talking festivals, weekend city breaks or international travelling. I always ram my case full of all the wrong stuff.


So let’s imagine for a second that one of your nearest and dearest has (presumably after winning the lottery or robbing a bank) brought you a round-the-world ticket for Christmas. You have no idea where you will end up visiting. Yet you are faced with the dilemma of packing for all weather, activities and cultures.

I set myself the challenge of pulling together a capsule wardrobe by grabbing items in 5 minutes, considering warmth, style, comfort and how well they would work together. I thiiiink (although of course highly dependent on personal opinion) I’ve pulled together some staple items that can be worn interchangeably and cover all manner of occasions. Take a look at my basics and how to build outfits from these few items. Don’t forget that the plain vest dresses can also be doubles up as tops; tuck them into a high-waisted skirt to pull yet another look out of your (sadly not) Mary Poppins bag!

Staple clothing:

  • 2 x T-shirts
  • Black high-waisted skirt (smartens up a plain vest top)
  • Dungarees or dungaree dress
  • 2 x vest tops
  • Shorts
  • Baggy T-shirt dress
  • Slightly nicer (and tighter) plain black dress
  • Smart blouse (in the unlikely event you need to look presentable)
  • Black/grey hoodie
  • Thick-knit jumper
  • Khaki jacket














  • Shoulder bag (for nights out)
  • Small backpack or bumbag (daytime visits)
  • Snapback (for sun protection and hair disasters)
  • Hair scarf (also for bad hair days)
  • Sunglasses
  • Trainers
  • Plain flip-flops
  • Bikini, underwear, pyjamas, tights, leggings etc. as needed


  • Maxi dress (for cultures that require more modest dressing. Of course, if it’s Asia, I’m sure you’ll just buy ten pairs of Harem pants along the way so won’t need to bother packing any more)
  • Warmer coat (if space permits, this is a great option!)




I’ve picked up a few useful tips on packing over the years. Firstly, don’t take as many ‘little clothes’ as you think you will need. I’m talking crop tops, skirts and shorts. If you’re travelling, you’re going to find quirky little tees left right and centre to buy. I made the mistake of absolutely ramming my bag full so I couldn’t even buy anything new at the amazing New York flea market. Leave extra room for presents, clothes and weird souvenirs you might find.

Secondly, always make room for warm essentials like jumpers and jackets. Guaranteed, you will wear them and they are far too expensive to just be buying willy nilly along the way!


Finally, don’t forget … you can actually wash your clothes. “Oh my god my pants are never going to last me for 3 months!” Well, no, you’re probably right there. You don’t need to take tonnes of the same thing for fear of running out. The majority of hostels will have washing machine facilities – sometimes even for free – so just vow to make use of them whenever you can.

So there, follow these packing guidelines and you can fool everyone into thinking you have the biggest bag in all the land.

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.

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