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When the coronavirus hit, the world as we knew it came to a staggering halt. This time last year, we couldn’t even leave our houses, let alone jet-set off to a tropical resort. Now, in the midst of #shotgirlsummer, scoring a hotel room near the water feels like winning the lottery. But, if you thought planning that long-awaited trip was a challenge, you clearly haven’t started packing your vacation outfits yet.
While quarantining may have taught us a lot about the fashion choices we make on a daily basis (i.e. that bras are actually optional and wearing tight pants that look good but feel restricting is actually outrageous), it taught us virtually nothing about packing for vacation fashion. However, if we’ve learned anything from refusing to pay for excess luggage, it’s that you don’t need to overpack in order to have a ton of options. What you need are a few key pieces that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits.
Below, we’ve rounded up a list of must-have vacation fashion items recommended by renowned stylists. Together, their picks create the ultimate vacation capsule wardrobe that allows you to save room in your suitcase and have a ton of day-to-day options to choose from, no matter how long your stay.
1. A Cropped or Traditional White Tee
When packing for vacation, celebrity stylist Tara Swennen tells InStyle you want to choose neutral colors for the base of your looks, and a cropped or traditional white tee is a perfect example. “These pieces can be layered as much as possible go with just about anything – knit pencil skirts, drawstring linen pants, overalls, high-waisted jeans… the list goes on and on,” Swennen says. “They are truly the most versatile and lightweight piece to bring!”
Shop now: x karla The Crop Tee; $48
2. Cropped Trousers
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Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to pack bottoms of every shape and color when going on vacation. To keep things simple, Swennen says she likes to stick with three pairs of pants in three basic colors, so that she can mix and match them with other neutral or fun pattern tops throughout her stay.
“A black, white and neutral pair will carry to just about anything and can be styled day to night by simply swapping a thing to a heel,” she tells us. “I like linens, crepes, or a stretchy fabric that don’t wrinkle easily and therefore can carry you through a few occasions!”
Shop now: Theory Wide Leg Crop Pants; $325
3. A Bucket Hat
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You can expect your summer 2021 wardrobe to be inspired by the ’90s, starting with the bucket hat — aka, the perfect accessory to block out the sun or to add a bit of panache to your polo shirt and trousers, according to fashion stylist Mickey Freeman.
“Bucket hats are giving men and women of all ages and walks of life shade while keeping them ‘cool,'” he tells InStyle. “It’s once again getting its time to shine — while blocking it of course!”
Shop now: Adidas Originals Washed Bucket Hat; $30
4. A Multi-faceted Mini Skirt
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever worn a mini skirt as a shirt. If not, celebrity stylist, Britt Theodora, highly recommends giving this (brilliant) hack a try.
“I love two-in-one pieces especially if you are packing a carry-on,” Theodora says. “I would style [a skirt] with linen high-waisted pants if I were wearing it as a shirt. If wearing it as a skirt, I would style it with a tie-at-the-tummy button-up shirt!”
Shop now: Hunza G Mini Skirt; $118
5. A Pair Of Blue Jeans
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Blue jeans and white tees go together like pool bars and bay breezes, but Swennen assures InStyle that a pair will get much more than one use on your vacation.
“Blue jeans are extremely versatile. Wear them with a loose-fitting blouse, a T-shirt, a duster for an early evening stroll, or with a sexy, tight, knit top for a night on the town,” she says.
Shop now: Citizens of Humanity Charlotte High-Rise Straight Jeans; $220
6. Cutoff Shorts
While we’re on the subject of denim, cutoff shorts are another great example of a piece that can easily be dressed up or down. To do this, Freeman suggests using cool accessories like stacked bracelets or necklaces to your advantage.
Shop now: Good American ’90s Bermuda; $99 (Originally $129)
7. A Sundress
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By simply swapping flip-flops for a pair of sexy strappy heels or even a boot, Swennen says that sundresses can be your perfect done-in-one day-to-night piece for a summer vacation.
“Pair with a belted blazer, layer with a fun sweater or wrap for evening or silly keep it casual wedges and a fun tote! It’s a summer must!”
Shop now: Christy Dawn The Colette Dress; $238
8. A Linen Button Down
Button-downs make for great tops, but they also make for great accessories as well. Theodora says she loves throwing an oversized men’s fit “over bathing suits, with jean shorts or unbuttoned over a dress for when it gets cooler at night.”
Shop now: Everlane The Linen Standard Fit Shirt; $60
9. A Statement Accessory
While you may not need to stuff five pairs of shoes into your suitcase, according to Swennen, a statement accessory that demands attention is non-negotiable.
“This could be as simple as a vintage chain Chanel belt or an amazing collar necklace,” she tells us. “This will be the one thing that helps elevate your daytime look to a fun evening occasion.”
Shop it: Baublebar Kew’ Crystal Collar Necklace; $68
10. Rope Sandals
Speaking of footwear, as far as Theodora is concerned, rope sandals should be a staple in your vacation wardrobe.
“These Isabel Marant shoes have been a staple for me this summer. They are incredibly comfortable and can elevate your go-to jean shorts and tank tops this season,” Theodora tells InStyle. “I love styling pops of colors with my outfits and these shoes are great for mixing it up!”
Shop now: Nomadic State Of Mind Nomadic State Boardwalk Sandals; $68
11. A Swim Coverup
“Designed to take you to the beach and beyond, the right coverup is perfect to throw over a swimsuit during the day or can be dressed up for a night out by adding a touch of jewelry or embellished headband.”
Shop now: Aerie V Cover Up; $40
12. A Wicker Tote
Straw totes were all the rage in 2020, and in 2021 you’ll have more opportunities to rock them outside the homestead, especially if you’re going on vacation. According to celebrity stylist, Tyler Minor, wicker totes are the “it” vacation back because they’re so versatile.
“These handbags are great to hold your towel and SPF at the beach or throw a fun scarf around the handle and take it to a fabulous lunch.”
Shop it: Pigeon & Poodle Elko Tote; $230
13. Birkenstocks Sandals
Love them or hate them, Birkenstocks are making a comeback for summer 2021, and Freeman is vouching for them as a vacation must-have.
“Now available in new and fun monochromatic colorways, this lightweight and comfortable sandal is a perfect way to balance out a sexy swimsuit with a semi-sheer cover-up to achieve comfortable sexiness,” he says.
Shop it: Birkenstock Arizona Essentials Slide Sandal; $45
14. Your Favorite Sunglasses
Don’t forget your sunnies! While any pair and style will do (whatever makes you feel the best), Freeman tells InStyle he gravitates towards Aviators “because they provide maximum coverage, which protects you against those unrelenting sun rays, and can also bring a hint of masculinity to the colorful looks people tend to gravitate towards while on vacation.”
Shop now: Quay Australia High Key 62mm Oversize Aviator Sunglasses; $65
15. A Kimono-Like Jacket, Dress, or Robe
As far as this writer is concerned, Kimono-like styles aren’t talked about nearly enough in the fashion realm, and clearly Minor concurs.
“Kimonos are great for summer vacations,” he tells InStyle. “They can be worn at the pool or you can pair them with a bralette and some cut-off denim shorts for a day of exploring.”
Shop now: Free People Rising Sun Maxi Kimono; $98; freepeople.com