Skip to Content

Packing a 4 x 4 Capsule Wardrobe

Packing a 4 x 4 Capsule Wardrobe

So you want to know how to pack a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe? In this guide we will tell you how to pack a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe for travel with examples that can be used no matter where and when you are traveling.

As long time readers of this blog will tell you I am a HUGE fan of capsule wardrobes and packing light generally. In fact it is the whole reason this blog was set up and I love exploring and explaining the different ways you can approach packing a capsule wardrobe. Today we will look at the 4 x 4 packing method.

What is the 4 x 4 Packing Method?

So what exactly is the 4 x 4 Packing Method? Originally the 4 x 4 method was created by the Vivienne Files and used to create a Capsule Wardrobe at home. However in this guide we have translated this into a packing method for travel.

Benefits of packing a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe

The benefits of using the 4 x 4 packing technique are: 

  • you limit the amount of clothes you pack and prevent overpacking
  • You think about how your items work together to create a capsule wardrobe as all items can and will be worn in multiple outfits.
  • But also allows for more variety and an added splash of color in comparison to our sudoku packing method. And
  • depending on how time of year you are traveling, you may be able to use this packing technique to condense your clothes to be Carry On Only (or as it is call in some circle COO).

How to Use the 4×4 Packing Method

The key to using the four by four packing method is to consider everything you pack as part of a capsule wardrobe. The whole capsule wardrobe philosophy is “pack less wear more”. The 4 x 4 method limits you to 16 items (i.e. 4×4), is a great way of doing this

Whenever we start to create a capsule wardrobe we find it useful to put the clothes out in a grid on our bed. This way you can easily visually see how they can be mixed and matched to create travel outfits.

Below is the 4 x 4 grid diagram that shows how each item of should be laid out.

Diagram showing how to layout a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe
Packing a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe for travel

Whereas in the sudoku capsule wardrobe you need to be very mindful of color palettes and use a lot of neutral colors the 4 x 4 method actually allows for the use of bold colors and patterns, although restricted in numbers.

For instance, whereas in the sudoku method you use 3 tops, 3 layers and 3 bottoms, in the 4 x 4 method you are still restricted in terms of items but they are laid out in and sorted by color types rather than clothing items.

4 x 4 Capsule Wardrobe Explained

The rows in a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe are:

Core 4

This is usually 2 tops and 2 bottoms but the most important thing about them is they are neutral in color i.e. your base color to build your wardrobe on.

This for me usually starts with my black items i.e. a black travel pant, a black tee or black merino wool sweater and a black blazer.

Second core 4

Again this should be in a base color that complements the above. Usually for me this will include a pair of denim jeans or denim jacket. Or on other occasions things in camel color such as my favorite camel cardigan or camel linen trousers.

The Poppin 4

Traditionally this has been called the mileage 4 as this line is 4 tops that go with all of the above. However I like to think of this as my poppin 4 as this is where I inject lots of color and pattern into my capsule wardrobe which help make stunning travel photographs.

Also this 4 is usually made up of tops, though you can alter this if required. But the reason for this is because tops are the item which will change the way you look in photographs most. And no one wants to go on a 2 week vacation and look like they wore the same outfit everyday.

And, let’s face it if you are going somewhere hot such as Dubai or a tropical beach you are likely to sweat and need to change your top more than any other item!

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I love to add a pop of neon, or bright orange into my travel capsule wardrobes as it really makes an impact.

The Seasonal 4

This was originally this was called the expansion 4 as the idea was to expand the above 4 outfits and fill in any holes in the wardrobe. However whenever I have used this method to pack a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe for travel I have found that all the items I pick are usually related to the season of travel. Though sometimes in a more rare circumstance a dress code can influence this section. Therefore for travel purposes I call this my seasonal 4 or weather 4.

For instance I find myself adding more shorts, maxi dresses, swimsuits for summer. And more layers and waterproofs depending for Winter travel.

Note: some people also include shoes and jewelry as part of this section. However I personally usually pack shoes separately. I try to limit myself to only 2-3 pairs include the shoes that I am using as part of my airplane outfit.

And there you have it, that is how I pack a 4 x 4 capsule wardrobe for travel. do you have any questions about this method? Then feel free to drop them in the comments section below and I will do my best to answer them.

And if you are interested in other capsule wardrobes or minimalist ways of packing be sure to check out our related posts: