The 18-Piece Capsule Wardrobe a Travel Editor Wears on Vacation

Updated 05/09/19
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Call me an optimist, but I’m planning to travel to Sardinia, Italy, for one week with only items I can squeeze into my carry-on. It’s not as crazy as it might sound: Summer vacations call for clothes in light, breathable fabrics and small accessories like totes and sandals that take up minimal space in a hard-shell suitcase. If planned in advance, it’s possible to pack everything you need for a coastal summer escape in one 14-inch x 22-inch bag.

An eternal planner, I’ve already started mapping out exactly what to pack on vacation, using a capsule wardrobe guide from our sister site, Who What Wear. The packing guide is a thorough list of every on-trend item to consider for a seaside escape, edited down according to versatility and size. Each item can mix and match, is location-appropriate, and won’t get crushed into oblivion. Consider your summer vacation packing list sorted.

Italy Packing List
Fashion Me Now

Here’s a rundown of the packing list, plus the exact items I’m bringing along.

1. Light jacket
2. Cat-eye sunglasses
3. Slip skirt
4. White T-shirt
5. Dress
6. Smocked top
7. Net bag
8. Basket bag
9. Belt bag
10. Beach coverup
11. Bandana
12. Sneakers
13. Heeled sandals
14. Sandals
15. Denim shorts
16. Jeans
17. Bikini
18. One-piece swimsuit

Light Jacket

Contrasted seams denim jacket
Mango Contrasted Seams Denim Jacket $80 $60

I own a similar white denim jacket and always travel with it in summer. It’s great for the airport, offers a light layer when dining outdoors at night, and goes with every dress, skirt, or pair of shorts on my packing list.

Cat-Eye Sunglasses

Le Specs x Adam Selman The Last Lolita Black Sunglasses Black 1SIZE
Le Specs x Adam Selman The Last Lolita Black Sunglasses $118

These cat-eye sunglasses from Le Specs are one of the most-used items in my wardrobe. They make any outfit look a bit more fashion-forward and are surprisingly flattering.

Slip Skirt

The Naomi - Wild Things
Réalisation The Naomi Skirt $180

An easy item to dress up or down, this leopard skirt is a versatile addition.


AYR The Supercool Tee $65

AYR’s collection of white T-shirts are my go-to airport choice: They’re loose fitting, comfortable, and well-made.


Persimmon Dress
Reformation Persimmon Dress $198

This red floral dress is perfect for a day of sightseeing or an evening alfresco meal.

Smocked Top

Gala Top
Reformation Gala Top $148

Toss this smocked Reformation top on with shorts for a casual daytime or evening look. Bonus: The puff-sleeve design won’t show wrinkles.

Net Tote

Kate Net Tote Bag
Urban Outfitters Kate Net Tote Bag $14

This net bag is a no-brainer: It takes up next to no space in a suitcase, costs under $20, and is ideal for the beach.

Belt Bag

Anna Color-block Leather Belt Bag
Wandler Anna Color-block Leather Belt Bag $500

This once cringe-worthy tourist accessory is back in fashion—and it’s so practical for sightseeing.

Cotton Shirt

- Cotton Shirt - White - Women
H&M Cotton Shirt $20

I always pack a thin cotton or linen shirt to wear as a beach cover-up. Choose a breathable semi-sheer fabric that’s meant to be worn loose and crushed, so you don’t need to stress about ironing.

Basket Bag

Poolside Bags L'Petite Bag $55

I hear you: This is by no means a practical item to fit in my carry-on, but I’m willing to make allowances for this little bespoke basket bag. 


Songbird Printed Bandana by Free People
Free People Songbird Printed Bandana by Free People $28

This wasn’t part of the Who What Wear capsule, but I’ll be adding it to my suitcase. This thin bandana gives any outfit a slight Italian-girl touch and rolls up tight in a suitcase.


Women's Greats Royale Sneaker
Greats Royale Sneakers $169

These might be the most versatile item on the packing list: I’ll wear these on the plane, when we hire scooters to explore the island, and when we wander the cobbled streets of Rome (which can be a nightmare in sandals).

Heeled Sandals

Zadie Heeled Slide Sandals
Who What Wear Zadie Heeled Slide Sandals $35

Who What Wear’s Target collection has a ton of vacation-worthy sandals. This pastel-blue frilled buy offers a pop of color to an otherwise neutral wardrobe.


April II Slide
Sol Sana April II Slide $95

I bought these Sol Sana slides in black last summer, and they quickly became a wardrobe staple. This season, I’ll opt for this sand-colored alternative for a fresh update. 

Denim Shorts

Low cut-off denim shorts
Raey Low Cutoff Denim Shorts $98

White denim might not be practical, but I always wear these shorts to death and then bleach them at the end of the trip. The high-wasted cut is flattering with a bikini or smocked top.


Women's High Rise Crop Flare Levi's® Jeans
Re/Done High-Rise Crop-Flare Levi's® $320

These light-wash Levi’s are summer-appropriate and a good option when the temperature drops at night.


Mariposa Knot Top
For Love & Lemons Mariposa Knot Top $114 $75

The polka dot bikini looks like it was made for an Italian vacation. Pair it with a basket bag and hair scarf to complete the look.

One-Piece Swimsuit

Emanuelle Swimsuit
Eres Emanuelle Swimsuit $520

I’ve been searching for the perfect one-piece swimsuit and this deep V-neck option is the frontrunner. It’s perfect for exploring the Sardinian coast by boat.

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