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In Praise of the Summer Holiday Capsule Wardrobe

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Who has known the panic buying of cheap summer clothes before a holiday? The race around the high-street suddenly 'needing' to urgently buy more STUFF days before flying? Well probably all of us at some stage, but this is not what this blog is about. Apart from the fact it usually ends up costing the price of a full family's Easy Jet flights, it's frankly crazy to splurge without thought on pieces that get worn for a week then ditched. No, what I've been unconsciously building for a while and am now a mass advocate of is the 'Summer Holiday Capsule Wardrobe'- ie packing almost the same set of pieces each hot holiday: Because even if you are lucky to go away multiple times a year, these high summer pieces are most likely only worn for around 5% of the year. So of course it makes sense not to create a whole new wardrobe each time.

Summer holiday capsule considering circa 1984. Headwear has always been a theme

Still not convinced? If you have the mindset that our holiday wardrobe should evolve over years not months: an extra sunhat here- a special sundress there, it means you put more thought into getting those purchases right. Plus if you add to it with pieces from your hols- you start to create an amazing set of loveliness curated from around the world. (In fact taking out my 'holiday wardrobe' becomes a nostalgia trip of past holidays) And practically there's much less panic involved if you look back to previous holiday pics for a kind of packing checklist. Surely way better than an eleventh hour high street haul. The following is what I do and how I grow my holiday wardrobe. (Yes for me accessories feature heavily.) PS There is a broad colour theme going on ( leopard, spots, stripes, B&W, yellow, green, neutrals) which can only help with mixing and matching.

THE CASE. Some of us travel with a rucksack and others need extra weight allowance. Whatever floats your boat. What me and my family opt for is a carry on case each. My own case makes me feel a little like I'm on a solo mini break rather than having to wade through snorkles and colouring books, plus its amazing how much you can squeeze in when you have limits. I like a hard shell pull along but i've been tempted by a large holdall after my recent blog post on weekenders. NB. This way of travelling also means no hanging around at the luggage belt when you arrive.

FOR EVENING My 'method' is if an outfit for every evening for a week can fit in my carry on then i'm still officially travelling light. And in terms of what: I tend towards around 5 dresses- that look a little more 'extra' than what i might wear at home. (Key: ignore the opinions of your kids, because if you cant go a little White Lotus on holiday when can you?) I'll also take a couple of pairs of wide leg trousers as a dress alternative. Only rule: wear everything you take. ( Otherwise what's the point)

FOR DAY For day I mix up denim shorts with swimwear, oversized beach shirts and coords with dresses and separates that make me feel either like a. Miami Vice b.Marianne from Normal People or c. Someone who lives in Ibiza. I try as much as possible to use pieces that started off as 'evening' but have slowly moved down to day for beach wear.

SWIMWEAR We have probably all fallen into the trap of a cheap bikini that sags after one summer of saltwater and/or chlorine. Up-leveling doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune. My favourites are the Net-a-Porter/Matches sales or Outnet bought off season and saved for summer. I have an Etro swimsuit ( gifted- they are eyewateringly spenny but amazing) I have worn for 8 years and it is still going strong. A new favourite is Davy J's. The point is take as many good ones as you can fit but add to your collection slowly.

A GOOD BEACH 'TOWEL' Call me unhinged but a statement turkish towel/fouta means the difference between enjoying a holiday to the full and feeling like a beach failure. I have gathered a few over the years. (I keep an eye out for ones the whole family can sit on) Yes the anticipation I am enjoying of using my new Inoui Editions leopard fouta this summer is probably a cause for concern. On a practical note cotton is much easier to pack, and building up a selection means the whole family can enjoy an uplevelled beach towel experience.

HATS A straw trilby is not up for discussion on a summer holiday- it covers all post beach hair- and I officially classify it appropriate for evening. This is an area I never go high end for, as i find i inevitably leave in in a taxi at some point, plus there are always brilliant ones to be picked up on travels. I also like to mix it up with something big floppy and fabric that can pack flat (excellent for squashable sun lounger reading and feeling a little San Tropez about life) and an all rounder cap. I also include several headscarves- you can never have too much headgear.

SHOES A point of contention i'm sure but I genuinely think its possible to get away with one pair of flats for evening (two max) - I love a rope sandal for it's inappropriateness for city life- and one pair of beach sliders that can get wet. NB. I am generally travelling with three kids and so by 'evening' i mean dinner not clubs. More sensible shoes for the flight will cover any potential active inclinations. (No comment about my lack of active inclinations on a summer holiday)

ACCESSORIES. Gold jewellery is an easy go to mixed with souvenir additions (when are marant-esque shell necklaces and beaded friendship bracelets not a good thing I ask (I take a travel jewellery case and if the jewellery fits in i consider myself to be ticking the 'travelling light' box). Also : Sunglasses. Another area that been known to cause damage to my holiday happiness if I forget a couple of statement pairs. I never said I wasn't fickle. Finally an outfit enhancing fan is not strictly necessary but very satisfying in a European heatwave.

BAGS I genuinely feel that there is little in life that cant be solved by appropriate bags. I have enjoyed my massive Everything bag for the last few year's summer holidays, and I always take a big waterproof one for kids beach paraphernalia Then for evening i'll take a few soft clutches and smaller bags that double as case storage. Again my mantra is if it fits in a carry on it's not too much. PS Love a straw bag but it only works if you take it as hand luggage.

STORAGE Tell me it's not just me who moves into a strange mode of organisation on holiday- unpacking everything even if just for a few days (no idea what is behind this madness). I love having packages for everything- from a travel jewellery box to zip up clothes bags in my case- and I use posh clothing dust bags for swimwear, lingerie, kids beach gear etc. See The Folding Lady for excellent packing tips. PS. This is NOT how I live life usually.

THE FLIGHT I'm not about to push the virtue of cashmere coord (How many of us actually do this) and anyway you dont want to take pieces that aren't potentially useful when away. I wear a jacket and sweatshirt that can double as evening cover ups and combats and a tee that can be worn on aforementioned active pursuits ( They only ever get worn on the flight home)

So that's how I do it. (It really does all fit in a carry on) We all have different must haves, but the point is not really what you take - but that you treat your holiday wardrobe as a long term plan ( I won't say investment as you DON'T have to spend £500 on a beach kaftan for it to be long term) and curate a collection of pieces that you love bringing out year after year. Happy holidaying!

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love this! Bring on the sunshine ☀️

Annabel Kerman
Annabel Kerman
Jul 23, 2023
Replying to

Thank You! I had fun writing it- it makes packing SO easy

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