How Minimalist Fashion Makes Being Abroad Easier!

You’re sitting in your room surrounded by enough clothing to make it look like your closet suffered a nuclear blast attempting to decide what clothes to bring with you on your semester abroad.  This is a familiar experience for me and anyone else who’s ever spent more than a month abroad; how the heck can I stay fashionable without going over baggage limits?

My closet when I try to pack for...well...anything.
My closet when I try to pack for…well…anything.

The answer may seem daunting, but I promise it’s easy. Minimize!

For my current semester abroad I minimized my wardrobe concerns by limiting myself to only four colors.  My suitcase for Scotland consisted of red, black, white, and grey pieces (for these purposes I consider denim a neutral and necessary evil) and I must say it has actually been quite liberating to explore this fashion route.

“Accessories are great, but doesn’t the lack of color options become repetitive and dull?” the fashion forward hold-outs murmur.

Actually, no.  It’s kind of a nice challenge in the morning to wake up and come up with a new way to wear the same colors.  Will I forego any red today and throw on a nice scarf or a bold lip to keep things interesting?  Who knows, there are so many different options even with only four colors.

The best way to minimize your wardrobe is to choose a neutral base.

  • I started with black because it’s sleek and slimming (bonus points for alliteration). I packed black jeans, leggings, skirt, dress, sweater, tank top and blazer.  Black is a good base because it’s versatile, and black on black on black is never a bad thing.  I also went with black footwear (leather boots and a pair of Converse High Tops) because black shoes go with everything.

I recommend choosing a second neutral so you have another color to build on.

  • I added white, another neutral, adds variety to my wardrobe without over-complicating it. Classic white sweaters, tank top, striped t-shirt and button down.  The black and the white are sharp on their own and can be easily dressed up for an important event or night out.

Your third color is really up to you, try to pick one of your favorite colors that catch the eye and work well with your neutral picks.

  • I chose red because it’s striking and grabs attention without being over the top. In my wardrobe is a red tank top, striped henley, and two flannels because whoever says you don’t need flannels is wrong.  The red pieces really brought the white and black to life by adding a pop of color and keeping the energy of the outfit up.

For the last color go with whatever you want, but I recommend one that compliments the third eye-catching color or is a different material.

  • I went with a mixture of the two – grey. Grey is bit more limited and another neutral (because lawd knows I love neutrals), but it keeps the other three colors from being overpowering to the eye. I packed a grey overcoat, purse, scarf, and boots. The purse and boots were a grey leather so there which added variety in materials my.

Some other combinations that I’ve seen go very well together are:

  • Denim, Nude, White, and Navy
  • Khaki, Tan, Coral, and Olive
  • Forest Green, Navy, White, and Grey

But really the options are unlimited!  Use your imagination, look at what colors are in your closet already and see if you have any color majorities. I know that in my own closet while red, white, black, and grey are plentiful I also wear a lot of olive and navy so I could have mixed up my choices really easily.

“That’s so limiting, how could such a thing possibly be liberating!” the fashion forward amongst us cry!

It is very possible. I have foregone the flashy single-use clothing items that seem to end up in my closet in favor of simple, multi-use layering pieces, yet I don’t feel limited in my fashion sense. What I lack in statement clothing pieces (lets say that faux-fur vest that you wear once in a blue moon or that dress you might need for going out) I make up for in accessories.

I can’t express my love for accessories enough! They add that extra ‘umph’ to an otherwise bland outfit, they’re small and easily packable, while also making lovely souvenirs and mementos of your time abroad.

Getting all those souvenirs into you luggage for the return trip.
Getting all those souvenirs into your luggage.

Minimizing has worked splendors for me and while isn’t a one and done fashion guide, it’s a suggestion of a way to maybe make preparing for your trip abroad and choosing what to wear each day easier. Establishing more of a “uniform” leaves you more time to focus on the things that are important like see in the sights and trying all the food!

Because really, food is the best part of travel!
Because really, food is the best part of travel!

What are your fashion staples that you MUST bring abroad with you?

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Tia Graham

Hey I'm Tia! I'm a thoroughbred American currently studying in Inverness, Scotland. I'm working on finishing my degree with focus in History and International Studies and I aspire to work as a diplomatic liaison for the United States. Working on becoming a citizen of the world through travel and experience.


  1. Great suggestions you listed here. I got a bunch of clothes sitting in my closet and all I wear everyday is just the same few.
    Would love to see some outfit examples next time 🙂

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