Packing for Scotland: My Capsule Wardrobe for Abroad

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Let the study abroad content begin! I finished packing last night and managed to squeeze five months-worth of clothing into just a carry-on suitcase and my backpack. For those of you who don’t know, I will be studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland for the upcoming semester, from January to May. My long-time followers know what a saga it has been to get to this point… I originally started the study abroad process in 2019 and was supposed to go to Scotland in the fall of 2020. Obviously, Covid had different plans. A few re-applications and a whole lotta disappointment later, it looks like this dream will finally come true! I, of course, won’t fully believe it until I’m kissing the Scottish ground, but I otherwise have my plane tickets booked, housing contract signed, and bags packed. Glasgow, here I come!

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With me being the anal and fashionable person I am, it has also been quite an ordeal packing for abroad. Of course I have to look cute for all my photos in front of landmarks and other tourist attractions! But I also can’t be so impractical to bring a bunch of items I won’t wear. I kid you not when I say it took weeks of contemplation and clothes all over my bedroom floor to decide on the final lineup for Scotland.

Here are the steps I took to curate what will (hopefully) be the perfect capsule wardrobe:

  1. Pick a color scheme. This should include one main color, an accent color, and a few neutrals. I’ve found that my outfits are usually divided by black or brown tones, so I suggest picking either a black/grey scale or a brown scale for your neutrals (this makes it easier to decide on shoes and other items later on). For my main color, I chose maroon because I have a lot of items in that shade and wear it often. My accent color is a blush pink, to pair easily with the maroon, and I chose black and grey for my neutrals.
  2. Pull out all the items you own in your chosen colors. Once you decide on a color scheme, you should pull out everything you own in those colors and lay them on the floor by category (tops next to each other, bottoms next to each other). This will help you start to visualize different outfits and combinations that can be made.
  3. Start to narrow. If you’re like me and have a lot of clothes in your chosen color scheme, you are going to have to narrow down what you want to take. Some things to think about during this process include laundry, climate of your location, versatility, etc. If an item has to be washed separately or a special way, you should probably leave it at home. If a piece is something you don’t wear that often or can’t style in multiple ways, you should probably leave it at home. I went through several narrowing stages. With all of the contenders scattered across the floor, I would take an item and mix and match it as many times with other pieces (and because I’m me, I even took photos of the combos). If a single item couldn’t be worn in three or more outfits, I generally nixed it.

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For me, the hardest part of packing for my study abroad experience was trying to prepare for all occasions. While Scotland is supposed to be cold and wet the whole five months I’m there (so I packed lots of sweaters and layers), I also wanted to have proper attire for any side trips if, say, my newfound friends and I decide to go to Portugal one weekend. I know it’s a ridiculous thing to be stressed about, but I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that I will not always have the outfit I want for a particular event while abroad. I hateeee having such beautiful clothes and not being able to wear them! But, that’s just how it’s going to be when I’m in Scotland, so I had to think carefully about one or two pieces I really wanted for a special night out. I decided on this geometric dress for any warmer destinations I visit because it feels so springy, and I can totally imagine myself wandering the cobblestone streets of Europe on a warm evening in this piece.

I also had a hard time with the seasons. I have had this color scheme chosen since the first time I was supposed to study abroad two years ago, which would’ve been in the fall… and therefore the maroon color scheme made a lot of sense. But halfway through packing, I realized I will be in Scotland in the spring now—does that make my capsule wardrobe too dark then?! I went back and forth on this for a long time, but I ultimately decided to keep the same color palette. Since I have the most clothing items in these colors, it still allows me to make the greatest number of outfits, plus Scotland will be cold and rainy the whole time anyway—so it will feel like fall, even if it’s not. Of course there are some fun spring pieces in my wardrobe that I would’ve loved to bring to Europe, but I just didn’t have the space.

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So, with all that said, here is the list of items I ended up packing:

  • 4 sweaters
  • 10 tops (three sleeveless tops, two tees, four long sleeves, one ‘going out’ top)
  • 2 cute jackets
  • 1 vest
  • 4 dresses (two winter dresses, two spring dresses)
  • 4 pairs of pants (three jeans and the coolest pants ever)
  • 4 skirts
  • 2 winter hats
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • 2 pairs of tights
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 2 sets of pajamas
  • 2 bras
  • 1 sports bra
  • 9 pairs of socks
  • 3 athletic tops (one short sleeve, two long sleeve)
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 fleece layer
  • 1 coat (not in my color scheme, as you can tell from these pics—but isn’t the blue so pretty?)
  • 2 pairs of athletic shorts
  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 1 pair of running tights
  • 1 pair of flip flops (for the shower/pool)
  • 2 pairs of boots (rain boots and knee boots)
  • 1 pair of athletic shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals

Are you impressed I fit almost all of that into my carry-on suitcase?! Because I am quite pleased with myself (although in addition to the sweater and pants in today’s outfit, I will also be wearing a puffy vest on the plane—it’s gonna be a hot ride). With all of those pieces, I can make at least 122 outfits for the roughly 135 days I will be abroad. Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice a pair of booties at the last minute because I just didn’t have enough space. I wanted to bring my short black boots, my tall black boots, and my leopard rain boots. Since I couldn’t sacrifice the rain boots, I axed the short black boots instead. Boo. But I know it will all be okay… I am being so overdramatic about clothes. As my mother put it, “This would be so much easier if you didn’t care.”

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But alas, I made it work! And I am super interested to see how my capsule wardrobe fares abroad—will I wish I had packed different items? Will I end up purchasing a bunch of new stuff to fill the gaps? Will I regret my decisions entirely? Stay tuned in the coming months to find out!

I hope this post was helpful to anyone else planning to study abroad or create a capsule wardrobe for any reason. If you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed the challenge.

 

Miles of smiles,
Grace

16 comments on “Packing for Scotland: My Capsule Wardrobe for Abroad”

  1. I am very impressed that you managed to fit almost all of that into your carry-on suitcase, Grace! I couldn’t be more excited for you and your upcoming trip to Scotland. Have a safe flight and I very much look forward to all your Scottish adventures! Don’t forget to explore Edinburgh, too! Aiva xx

    1. Thank you Aiva!! And yes, I have heard so many great things about Edinburgh – I will definitely be spending lots of time there as well.

  2. This all sounds so exciting! And I’m impressed you managed to fit everything in a carry on suitcase! Enjoy your upcoming trip! 🙂 I couldn’t do it! I always overpack and I like to have room in case I buy things when I’m travelling!

    Hope that you had a lovely Christmas last week 🙂 We enjoyed spending a lot of time with family 🙂

    1. Thank you Mica! Hope you had a great Christmas too. And yes, I will probably want to buy lots of souvenirs while there… but getting them home is an issue for future me to solve, haha! I might end up buying another suitcase to check.

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