A few years ago, I had to travel home for Thanksgiving for the first time in my life. Since I had lived within two hours of my parents’ house from the time I left the house as an eighteen-year-old until I turned 26, I never knew the horror of holiday traveling. And the exhausting experience (packed airports, missed connections, lost luggage, bad weather, grumpy people—the whole nine yards!) left me vowing never to do it again.
Of course, I quickly went back on this because family time is such a priority, especially at Thanksgiving. But there’s still a way to make the experience less stressful: don’t check a bag! This is often a necessity anyway when flying any kind of budget-option flight that only permits a personal item.
Here, a problem arises. I don’t know about you, but I always like to look and feel good when I go home to visit family and never more so than at the holidays. So how do you combine these two goals: to bring as little as possible and to bring enough that you feel dressed appropriately for the visit?
Enter the Thanksgiving capsule wardrobe! Below are the three primary items I’m building my Thanksgiving wardrobe around.
Cropped wide-leg pants
While this style might seem more summery, it seems to be everywhere this fall! Paired with the right pieces (keep reading!), you can wear your summer wide-legs through the fall, and you may even want to invest in a fun wool pair in a great plaid for the winter. These are great travel pieces because they’re incredibly comfortable, can masquerade as a skirt, and are easily dressed up or dressed down. Paired with a cozy sweater and coat, you’re ready for your flight. With a festive blouse or slim turtleneck, heels, and a red lip, you’re ready for Thanksgiving dinner. They’re also a great option if you’re spending the day with a friend or significant other’s family. If you don’t know whether they “dress up” for dinner (or what it means if they say they do or don’t!), these pants easily walk the line: ladylike but not as formal as a dress, fashion-forward but still timeless.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that booties are must-haves in any fall/winter wardrobe. But in the last year or so I’ve seen a rise in higher-shaft booties: booties that hit about three to four inches above the ankle. Sometimes these come as “sock booties,” which are often actually made of fabric; sometimes they’re your regular leather or suede. I love this look because it’s so flattering on the leg and at the same time so practical. Something that hits right at the ankle can widen the leg; to avoid this, the lower-cut booties that were trendy a few years back scooped down across the arch of the foot. But these are not good if you’re traveling anywhere with what I like to call “real” winter. The higher-shaft bootie draws the eye to the slimmest point of your calf, elongating the leg. It looks great with wide-leg pants, short skirts, and long skirts alike—and can of course be worn over a skinny jean or under a straight or wide leg jean. Plus, they’re utterly on-trend this year—so you get flattering, versatile, and chic, all at one go!
While a slim-fitting, delicate knit is great for work or for more formal winter occasions, a bulky sweater is more versatile as a travel piece. Wear it on the cold plane (so you don’t have to pack it!), and then dress it up or down easily with the right bottoms and accessories. Paired with your cropped wide-legs, great shoes, and fun earrings, you have a festive evening look. Paired with jeans and duck boots, you’re set for a day around the house or an outdoor fall activity.
To make these pieces actually stretch for the whole visit, you’ll want to add your favorite jeans, a T-shirt or blouse, and a slim-fitting turtleneck. If you wear your bulkiest pieces when you travel, this capsule should easily fit in a carry-on sized bag and help get you there and back again with (relative) ease!