How to Build the Perfect Fall Travel Capsule Wardrobe

Trim down your packing list with these versatile, reliable pieces.
A collage.

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We've all been there: You're staring at a closet full of clothes and yet somehow have nothing to wear. And while you may be tempted to buy a whole new wardrobe in preparation for upcoming trips and pumpkin-themed outings, investing in a few key pieces can help spare you the need to splurge each season.

The key to building the perfect fall travel capsule wardrobe? Finding versatile basics that can be worn with a variety of clothing pieces you already own. Investing in comfortable and timeless staples ensures you always have something to wear for every occasion, and can help trim down your packing list throughout the year (it's a more sustainable way of shopping, too). Instead of filling your carry-on with trendy items you might wear, start packing reliable essentials you are confident you'll put on again and again.

Below, we've rounded up the basic tees, packable jackets, and comfortable sneakers to help you build the ultimate capsule wardrobe for fall and beyond. Whether you're planning a New England getaway or a family glamping trip, these are the must-have pieces you'll keep reaching for.

Must-haves for a fall travel capsule wardrobe:

The perfect tee

Let's start with a non-negotiable in every travel capsule wardrobe, fall included: the perfect tee. A plain T-shirt goes with every pair of bottoms you own—jeans, trousers, skirts, leggings, you name it—and can be dressed up or down. Find one you love in classic colors like white and black that you can toss in your suitcase on every trip year-round. (And maybe snag it in a few fall shades like gray or burgundy, too.)

Skims Cotton Jersey t-shirt
Everlane The Organic Cotton Box Cut Tee
Hanes men's T-shirt pack

The long-sleeve

Another must-have on our list is a comfortable long-sleeve shirt. Layer your favorite sweaters, cardigans, and vests over a go-to long-sleeve for extra warmth. The best long sleeves can be worn as easily on a long-haul flight as they can to the office or out to dinner. We turn to Everlane, Buck Mason, Skims, and Aritzia for some of our favorite travel-friendly basics.

Tna Homestretch longsleeve
Skims Cotton Jersey longsleeve
Everlane The Premium-Weight longsleeve crew
Buck Mason Pima Curved Hem Henley

The straight-leg jean

Let's face it—you really only need one or two pair of jeans that you'll reach for weekly. A medium wash without any holes or rips is your best bet for a pair you can wear year-round and to just about any destination. A straight-leg jean is possibly the most versatile—this style can be worn with boots, sneakers, sandals, and even heels.

Madewell The '90s Straight jean
Abercrombie Ultra High Rise 90s Straight jean
Levi’s Men’s 505 regular fit jeans
Lucky Brand 410 Made In The USA Selvedge jean

The trouser

For something more polished than jeans yet equally reliable, a pair of neutral-colored trousers is simply a must. Whether you're commuting to the office, heading on a business trip, or touring a new museum, a trouser is always a safe bet. Pair them with comfortable white sneakers if your itinerary calls for casual or loafers for a more sleek and put-together look.

A&F Sloane tailored pant
Everlane The Way-High Drape pant
Everlane The Performance Chino
J.Crew 484 Slim-fit stretch chino pant

The trench coat

A light-colored, slightly oversized trench coat is possibly the most chic essential on our list. It's also one of the most classic—this water-resistant and lightweight coat isn't going out of style anytime soon. It offers an effortlessly put-together look and isn't too bulky to pack or too heavy to wear this season. It's that perfect in-between piece of outerwear for a day exploring New York City or London.

J.Crew trench coat
Madewell The Signature Trench Coat
H&M Wool-blend coat
Banana Republic Water-resistant trench coat

The packable jacket

As the temperature begins to drop this season, you'll need a warm yet packable jacket to throw on. Water-resistant jackets from Patagonia and Carhartt are ideal for rainy days, while puffers from Girlfriend Collective and Fjällräven provide extra insulation. These options aren't bulky or too heavy, making them smart choices worth the carry-on space.

Girlfriend Collective Packable Puffer
Carhartt men’s Rain Defender jacket

The denim jacket

A denim jacket is a great transitional option that'll take you from summer to fall. Lightweight, versatile, and always in style, a jean jacket is a welcome addition to every traveler's packing list. Durable options from Madewell and J.Crew will last for years, making them well-worth the price tag.

Madewell The Jean Jacket
J.Crew Classic denim jacket
Gap Icon denim jacket with washwell
Zara denim jacket

The cozy cardigan

What do you wear while reading a good book and sipping hot chocolate this season? A cozy cardigan is the only answer. There are a variety of styles, lengths, and materials to choose from—but the best cardigans all keep you warm and can be worn on a chilly plane, at home, or to dress up an otherwise simple outfit.

Everlane The Organic Cotton Relaxed Cardigan
Quince Organic Cotton Oversized Cardigan

The oversized sweater

An oversized sweater is practically synonymous with fall clothing. It's one of the easiest (and warmest) essentials you can wear once the temperature drops—throw one over a pair of leggings, jeans, or a long skirt. I never travel with at least one in my suitcase come fall, and it always ends up being one of my most-worn pieces.

Sunday Best Peggy v-neck sweater
J.Crew Cable crewneck sweater
Buck Mason Dyed Cotton Traveler sweater
Wellen Recycled Cotton Headlands Rollneck sweater

The white button-down

One versatile staple our editors agree we never travel without: a white button-down. This year-round essential deserves a spot in our suitcases no matter we're headed—it looks as great with a pair of jeans and loafers to the office as it does over a swimsuit on a beach vacation.

Buck Mason Mainstay cotton shirt
Buck Mason Men’s Perfect Oxford one pocket shirt

The versatile dress

Some occasions call for a slightly more elevated outfit. Comfort meets fashion with these versatile dresses—they're not restrictive or difficult to style and transition well through different seasons. For occasions that call for a slightly more elevated outfit, we gravitate toward simple yet flattering dresses like these from Everlane, H&M, and more.

Skims Soft Lounge longsleeve dress
Gap CashSoft turtleneck sweater dress
H&M knit mock turtleneck dress
Everlane The Ribbed Midi Dress

The loafer

Chilly weather means it's time to retire your sandals and flip-flops and pull out a pair of loafers. They don't have much of a heel so they're easy to walk in, yet still look elevated with a pair of trousers. Plus, these lightweight shoes won't take up much suitcase space and can fit well in the shoe compartment of your weekender bag, too. We've got our eyes on Rothy's new lug loafer: an ultra-chic and lightweight slip-on with a chunky sole that is machine washable and is available in ivory (pictured), black, and teak herringbone (brown). (Browse more of our favorite loafers from Everlane, Franco Sarto, and Steve Madden.)

Everlane Modern Loafer
Rothy's The Lug Loafer
Franco Sarto Calista Kiltie loafer
Steve Madden Cassady Loafer mule
Vostey men's slip-on loafers
Cole Haan American Classics Pinch penny loafer

The comfortable sneaker

No packing list is complete without a comfortable walking shoe. Whether you're heading on a long flight or a city walking tour, every traveler needs a trusted pair of sneakers. Among our go-to kicks for long days on our feet are these neutral-colored options from Adidas, Veja, and New Balance. Wear them with quite literally everything—jeans, trousers, dresses, and more—to cut down your packing list and save your feet.

Adidas Samba OG sneakers

The black boot

A classic black boot is an easy way to dress up any fall outfit: It's more comfortable than a pump or other heel, but still looks sleek and elevated even with a simple pair of jeans. If you only have room to pack one extra shoe, I'd opt for a black boot that transitions well from day to night.

Franco Sarto Gracelyn Zip boot
Tony Bianco Brazen bootie

The wear-everywhere handbag

Rounding out our list of essentials to build the perfect fall travel capsule wardrobe is a durable and stylish handbag you can wear anywhere with anything. We recommend a crossbody bag with an adjustable strap that can be worn multiple ways and in a shade that will match every outfit you're packing—brown or black is a smart choice.

Madewell The Sydney Crossbody Bag
Coach Polished Pebble leather crossbody