The Digital Nomad Woman’s Guide to a Fashionable Capsule Wardrobe

Laura Lopuch

Expand your horizons, in a fashionable clothing-oriented sense, by creating a capsule wardrobe and traveling with a duffle that packs like a trunk.

Let me explain.

When you travel with a duffle in addition to a travel backpack with your essentials, you can create two capsule wardrobes (or more) based on destinations, weather, or type of trip.

For example, if you’re traveling to a warm destination, create a capsule wardrobe full of cute dresses, skirts, shorts and tees.  If you’re headed to Europe in winter, create a capsule wardrobe of cozy layers that will adapt to any excursion. Keep the one you have in-use in your “essentials” backpack, and store the other in your duffle.

So, what should you pack in your, fashion forward, traveling capsule wardrobe? I’m glad you asked.

Capsule Wardrobe Overview

Before we get started, when you’re planning your capsule wardrobe, digital nomad style, make sure your clothes play well with each other. They should compliment each other in style, fabric, and color.

Don’t go mixing classic white and blue stripes with hot pink, y’all.

Instead, pick one color to act as your base color (or canvas) and add in one brighter color for accents. For example, black is your base color and rose pink as your accent color. Or go with navy as your base color and royal purple as your accent color.

Remember that traveling as a digital nomad is different than going on vacation or a short term trip. You’re living, for the long haul, on the road. You’ll probably want to pack a little more than a short term traveler would, and that’s okay! Flesh out your fashionable travel capsule wardrobe to cover all your basis for work, travel, and life. 

Capsule Wardrobe Basics

What your capsule wardrobe should include:

  • 5-7 pairs of underwear
  • 2 bras: one to wear and one to wash
  • 2 workout bras
  • 2 professional shirts or dresses
  • 2-4 less professional but still snazzy shirts
  • 1 black dress
  • 2 workout outfits
  • 2-3 everyday shirts for layering
  • 1 scarf
  • 2-3 pairs of pants
  • Optional: leggings or tights
  • 2 shorter bottom-half pieces (i.e. shorts, maxi skirt, knee-length skirt)
  • Accessories galore: TBD by your personal style

Okay, hang tight before you start writing out that list. We’re going to dive deep into what each of those bullets actually means for your capsule wardrobe.

I know — this list looks long. But that’s okay. You’re going to be traveling for many moons. And, once you start putting it together, you’ll see how all of the pieces fit.

 

Choosing a Bag

What you pack in is going to make a difference if you’re traveling longer term as a digital nomad.  Steal a play from the best digital nomads and make a base somewhere close to a route you frequently travel. This can serve as an urban cache for you to store a portion of your capsule wardrobe, based on location or seasonality.

Arrange to store a duffle of clothes at your home base, and travel with a second one, which will give you the luxury of expanding your wardrobe as you travel and not looking like a homeless college dropout nine months out of the year.

The Homebase Duffle Case

This ultralight, maximum sized carry on duffle is specifically designed for the way digital nomads live and travel.

Carry as much as possible without checking a bag. It opens from the top, like a trunk. This is the perfect bag for carrying a little extra, like your fashionable capsule wardrobe. No one wants to live with just three outfits forever.

Made of waterproof sailcloth and durable construction, it’s built to travel as far and as hard as you do.

Best Fabrics for Your Capsule Wardrobe

Before we break down the list, we need to talk about fabric.

To avoid breaking out the iron in every place you stay, opt for clothing that’s naturally wrinkle-free. At the very least, you should shake wrinkles out of your clothes. Or steam them out via a hot shower. Buying the right fabrics gives you a head start.

Here are the best fabrics to buy:

  • Merino wool (bonus: keeps you warm with minimal bulk)
  • Jersey
  • Cotton and polyester blend
  • Cotton and elastic/spandex blend

Professional or Client Calls

Look professional and charge higher rates with a fancy top… who cares if you’re rocking pj bottoms on your lower half.

For your Skype video calls with leads and clients, look like the rockstar you are. Think: corporate professional with a splash of flair.

Some items to add to your capsule wardrobe:

I like adding in an extra something special to up my confidence. For example, gorgeous dangly earrings, or a silk scarf. Find what makes you smile and incorporate that into your client calls.

Need some expert styling help? Check out Stitch Fix for a curated box of six items based on your specific needs. Their awesome suggestions have added some of my favorite professional shirts to my wardrobe.

Remember: First, second, and third impressions do count. Channel Claire Underwood without her frosty ambition.

Everyday Wear for Adventures

What fun is travel if you’re not getting out there and exploring? Your clothes need to hold up to your adventures.

Aim for quality and comfort when picking everyday wear. These are the clothes you’ll be wearing for most of your travels.

Pick Lucky Brand jeans for lightweight comfortable jeans that make your booty look good. Or go with Anatomie’s Skyler pant in “curve-hugging stretch” that doesn’t give you a saggy bum after sitting for hours on a bus.

Wear comfortable, casual shoes. There are tons of options outside of the workout shoe. In many European cities, most natives don’t wear workout shoes as their daily footwear, so if you go for a leather Mary Jane, you’ll blend in better.

For ideas, mine your current wardrobe — you know, the one you wear at home — for the items you reach for again and again.

Those are the ones that make you feel a) good and b) comfortable. Plus, they’re tried and tested in the realities of your life and you know how they’ll hold up on the road.

 

Workouts on the Road

You have two options for workout gear: 

1) Pick one athletic brand (i.e. Adidas, Nike) and buy 2 shirts and 2 lower-half wear (shorts or pants) from that brand, or

2) Decide on two colors for your workout wardrobe and only buy workout clothes in those colors. For example, black and blue are your colors. You buy black shorts from Under Armour and a blue top from lululemon. 

Pro tip: Depending on the weather at your destination, make two workout capsule wardrobes. One for cold weather and one for warm weather.

Store one at your home base and swap out when needed.

Coffee Shop or Coworking Space Clothes

Please, do yourself a favor and put on real clothes.

Ditch the yoga or workout pants (yes, I know they’re comfortable) and don some real pants. Maybe those are your jeans or favorite slacks.

Look at the semi-professional clothes already hanging in your closet to find the ones to include in your digital nomad capsule wardrobe. Weed out the clothes that you pick at and fiddle with while wearing.

Comfort is key. Choose the clothes that make you feel like the best version of you. You want to feel capable, confident, and comfortable.

For me, this means including a three-quarter sleeve length collared shirt. When I feel good, I do better work, more confidently.

Nightlife

Three words for you: little black dress.

Seriously. Oh the distances you can go with a little black dress.

Make her fancy with heels and a statement necklace or a jaw-droppingly gorgeous silk scarf. Slant her towards casual with a red belt and flats. Layer a cardigan over top for chillier and more casual nights. Slip Merino wool leggings under her for cold pub-hopping in Germany. 

The possibilities are endless… and only limited by your imagination. A little black dress is your blank canvas for anything from casual to elegant.

H&M makes a gorgeous one. Or White House, Black Market has this simply elegant black dress. Go for one made of jersey, so you’re not stuck ironing when you could be out playing.

Accessories

My friend, Megan, knows how to accessorize the right way. She wears a pendant necklace with a statement ring and suddenly her whole outfit looks new. Even though she wore that shirt two days ago and she hasn’t changed her shoes yet.

Accessories — like scarves, necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, even hats — are your magic awesome-sauce to kick up your fashionista capsule wardrobe.

Picking, and packing, this part of your wardrobe is the hardest part. It’s also the most difficult for me to give you direction on.

Why? Because accessories are very personal.

Some ladies love traveling with a hat. I prefer a baseball hat on the road. Others travel with an enviable jewelry collection, like my friend, Megan. Personally, I carry only a few earrings and two necklaces.

Whatever makes you feel gorgeous, sexy, and more you — bring it. Whatever adds certain je ne sais quois to your outfit and makes you feel like a million bucks — bring it. Whatever puts a smile on your face when you wear it — bring it.

That being said, don’t bring an item if it costs a million bucks. Or maybe more than twenty bucks. Guaranteed that item isn’t meant for the rigours of the road and it might get broken, lost or stolen.

TL;DR

Choose to look like a million bucks while you travel the globe, working and doing your thing. What’s the secret? Stashing an extra bag in an easily-accessible location as a backup wardrobe for your essential travel capsule wardrobe.

Make sure your clothes play well with each other in terms of color, fabric and ability to layer. Since this is a capsule wardrobe, spring for high-quality items because you’ll be wearing them a lot.