The Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe: Bleisure

From top to bottom (Column 1): Zara Tweed Dress with Layered Skirt (similar here); J. Crew Italian Wool-Blend Scarf in Leopard; Zara Batwing Sleeve Sweater; Hermes Reversible Logo Belt. (Column 2): Chanel Westminster Flap; Gap Striped Sweater (similar here); J.Crew Academy Loafers in LeatherJ. Crew Easy Pant in Lace. (Column 3): J. Crew Drapey Tie-Shoulder Jumpsuit (similar here); Prada Saffiano Lux Double-Zip ToteAnn Taylor Versatile Tie Blouse. (Column 4): J. Crew Fanfare Jacket in Felted Wool (similar here); Zara Draped BodysuitJ Crew Open-Front Sweater-BlazerCorso Como Delicious Quilted Pump.

Bleisure is one of those dreadful portmanteaus that I would never use in conversation, but for the purpose of this post, we are going to pretend it is not a word that invites eye rolls.

I feel fortunate that the business trips I take generally include ample downtime, allowing me to meet up with friends and to also explore the area. And as I normally book my own flights, whenever possible I try to stretch the trip to include a weekend to fully exploit the occasion (since travel time is a sunk cost).

Over many trips, I have learned to optimize my carry-on–because I dislike checking bags–to hold enough outfits for a week-long work trip and also accessories to adapt those outfits for casual wear.

When the primary purpose of my trip is work, I generally pack the following: a black or navy suit jacket, a drapey button down, a neutral shell, a pair of neutral pumps or flats, and a skirt, pant, or dress that coordinates with the jacket (essentially just a shrunken version of my “work capsule wardrobe“). Sure, these pieces are boring, but it’s normally best to err on the side of dressing more formally than not when traveling for work (I will never forget having to drop $100 at H&M one trip to buy an unremarkable polyester skirt suit that I never wore again after that trip).

Occasionally, though, I will pack more unorthodox pieces (like a jumpsuit in suiting material) for variety when I know precisely whom I will be seeing and in what environment I will be working. Thus, some “bleisure” favorites are born.

After you have selected a color palette, depending on the season or your mood, you can add a print or two to liven your outfits. Here, I selected a leopard print to go with a base palette of beige-red-and-black.

The outfits featured here are most suitable for moderate temperatures (and also well air-conditioned office spaces). They don’t translate well photographed against a white wall and in warm indoor lighting, but are all outfits I’ve worn and have felt appropriately-dressed in.

The centerpiece here is the black jumpsuit in a crepe material, which has a number of trendy details–notably bows on shoulder and wide pantlegs–that can be minimized easily or highlighted effortlessly. Wear any blousy sweater over the jumpsuit* and “shorten” the top with a belt–kind of like what I did to the dress below.

*While wearing a sweater over a jumpsuit isn’t a practical choice when one is in a rush to relieve oneself, it isn’t that much worse than trying to use the bathroom when wearing a jumpsuit.

Or wear a light layer underneath. It’s a foolproof piece.

The jumpsuit that I’ve featured here is from a past season, but here are a dozen or so options that span the spectrum from casual to dressy.

And here are fifteen outfits created using the fifteen pieces from above:

I won’t rehash the guidelines for travel-friendly clothing that I mentioned in this post, but do encourage those of you looking to pack for a leisure trip to refer to that post for ideas.

And if you are taking a longer bleisure trip, please check out the “30 Outfits in a Bag” series that I wrote some years ago. It’s a three-season travel wardrobe that I still consult from time to time.

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