Capsule wardrobe for San Francisco in October: nary a neutral in sight

My capsule wardrobes reflect my needs and values. I’m less about fashion for its own sake, and more about function that avoids exacerbating my chronic health condition.

That said, I like to express myself with my wardrobe. I feel better when surrounded by beautiful things, including the clothes I wear.

SF wardrobe in closet - 1

I’m particularly fond of today’s capsule wardrobe because it involves almost no neutral colors. Instead, it’s built around coordinating shades of rich gold, acid green, and deep purple. This is my favorite autumnal palette.

I love wearing these vibrant colors, and I even enjoyed the way they looked hanging together in the closet at the hotel. No neutral-based travel wardrobe would offer me that side benefit!

Compact capsule wardrobe saves precious vacation time

Packing an effective combination of pieces in a capsule wardrobe means I can dress for any occasion that arises during my trip without wondering whether I will be:

  1.  suitably attired, and
  2. sufficiently comfortable.

I care about both of these points, even more so when I’m joining my high profile* husband on a work-related trip. I had no role to play at the event DH was attending, but other participants were staying in the same hotel. It wasn’t out of the question to bump into someone who knows me by sight.

Dressing appropriately while maintaining health & function

My autoimmune condition involves widespread joint pain. I suffer particularly from foot problems. My wardrobe is constrained by the limiting factors of shoes that accommodate bulky, rigid orthotic inserts and clothes that don’t squeeze or pinch even when inflamed joints swell.

My symptoms flare when I’m tired. Travel, no matter how wonderful, comes with physical and sometimes mental stress. Traveling light is one way to reduce symptoms of my condition: I’m less likely to wear myself out, physically, with a lighter weight bag.

And yet! I’m a colorful person who enjoys attractive clothes. I don’t obsess over fashion, but I accessorize daily. When time is ample, I willingly spend some of it on my appearance. I express myself sartorially.

Wardrobe considerations—climate and events

San Francisco has a mild coastal climate. While it is often cool and foggy, the forecast for my stay called for very warm temperatures and almost no chance of rain.

Knowing that I had no required events or activities to attend, I opted to pack for the most optimistic interpretation of the forecast.

This decision was made easier by our hotel’s location right in the heart of SF’s prime shopping district. Picking up something I needed would count as sightseeing and represent no burden at all.

Packing lists — never forget a vital item

My clothing packing list is adapted from this one at

I use a list so I never forget vital items. I also lay out my wardrobe across the big bed before I pack.

The visual tells me if I have any discordant notes in my color scheme, and laying hands on each piece reminds me to check for stains, but also prods me to notice if a garment’s texture feels offensive to my sometimes more delicate than others sensibilities.


Throwing caution to the wind, I went to San Francisco in October without a coat. There was only one day on which even a chance of rain was forecast, and the same meteorological prediction called for unseasonably high temperatures. I brought a soft, hooded wool poncho I’d picked up as a souvenir on my previous trip to Oregon.

The Pendleton poncho also doubled as my blanket on the plane, and the cabin was chilly in both directions.

If SF’s notorious fog and damp rolled in, I would stay in (remember, no agenda for me on this trip!), buy what I needed, or layer my wool wrap over cotton/rayon wrap over cotton/rayon dress over cotton/silk underlayers… I think you get the idea.

I lucked out; I never added an extra layer for warmth on this trip, let alone resorted to layers two or three. The temperature climbed above 90° F, and I was more often hot than cold.

My outerwear:

  • Poncho in autumnal plaid wool by Pendleton
  • Sunday Afternoons woven straw cloche hat with peacock feather embellishment
  • Rayon blend Angelrox scarf (Corset in Espresso) and gloves (Opera Sleeves in Espresso)
  • Upcycled cashmere wrist warmers in deep red
  • Peridot green mesh Ahnu sneakers
  • Grey Propet Women’s Travelactiv Mary Jane
Ahnu shoes sneakers

Ahnu Sugarpine shoe rainbow! Podiatrist approved, and colorful enough for me. Front row: airier mesh; Back row: waterproof styles.

I built my wardrobe to work with my comfortable, supportive Ahnu Sugarpine sneakers in my favorite color: acid green.

Bottoms? No, dresses!

Dressing for warm to hot weather when I have total freedom from chores means more dresses and fewer pants. I feel more competent to “accomplish stuff” in pants; lazing about at my leisure is cooler with bare legs.

  • AngelroxGoddess dress in discontinued color Teal
  • Angelrox Glow Gown in Mahogany
  • NYDJ lightweight pull on ankle jeans in a dark wash

Tops? Lightweight toppers prevailed

Though I packed both a fine gauge cotton turtleneck (LL Bean) and a sleeveless cashmere shell (Lands’ End) in gold, neither was called for due to a heat wave and San Francisco’s almost universal lack of air conditioning. You can see these warmer pieces in the full wardrobe photo.

SF wardrobe complete

The entire capsule wardrobe for SF in October

I did wear everything else that I brought, including two shirts worn next to the skin with the jeans and three toppers worn over the dresses as modesty layers or for sun protection.


  • Coolibar sun protective, rayon blend, long sleeve t-shirt in acid green
  • Duluth Trading cotton/lycra tank top in grey


  • Floral sheer silk poncho
  • Coolibar sun protective, rayon blend, tasseled cardigan in acid green
  • Angelrox Trench short knit jacket in discontinued color Amber

I generally covered my shoulders while outdoors, mostly to protect my skin from the sun. With smaller establishments lacking air conditioning, I often removed my wraps indoors and let my Angelrox dresses shine on their own.


Overheated conditions often encourage me to ditch my accessories. I didn’t wear any scarves, and, though I carried a pair of sleeveless gloves everywhere, I hardly ever put them on. The stretchy fabric of my Opera Sleeves offers some support to my arthritic wrists, plus even the chill of a/c can trigger pain in these delicate joints.

angelrox sleeves in espresso - 1

Opera Sleeves (espresso)

Even bracelets and necklaces can annoy me when I’m too warm. I think I wore all of the jewelry that I packed at least once, but usually removed pieces I’d put on in the morning when I came back to the hotel to rest at midday.

SF wardrobe jewelry

  • Angelrox Opera Sleeves (in Teal and Mahogany)
  • Angelrox The Band (in Amber)
  • Hermès Twilly
  • Earrings (gold hoops) from Sundance Catalog
  • Leather loop bracelet with one dark pearl from Sundance Catalog
  • Earrings (colorful stone dangles by Shayla Lynn Jewelry)
  • Earrings (Labradorite and moonstone stone dangles on gold wire) with coordinating necklace (moonstone on brass chain, both by Shayla Lynn Jewelry)
  • Coach leather Double Zip Wallet (wristlet) in teal

The Coach wristlet is too minimal to work as my bag for sightseeing, or even dinner out, but it does offer just enough storage for wandering around a hotel, cruise ship, or a small resort when my clothes don’t have pockets. It will hold a room key, small cell phone, lip balm, and a folded linen handkerchief.


Here I am mentioning the unmentionable again, but I’ll specify a few details for completeness.

  • White rayon caftan/robe for lounging
  • 2 White rayon tank/tunics for sleeping (candouble as a top if needed)
  • undergarments (I refuse to advise anyone else on what’s necessary here; ask your mother if you aren’t sure what’s suitable)
  • 8 pair socks (4 thin wool, 2 thin cotton, 2 synthetic Tilley Travel socks TA800 & TA803)
  • Slippers in cozy sheepskin, hand made by elves at Oregon’s Soft Star

Everything else

For this trip, I also packed one bag to check, and I included a fair amount of “stuff” that I thought I might, perhaps, enjoy using in the hotel. My symptoms had flared off and on throughout late summer and early fall, and I wanted to enjoy any downtime in the room if I didn’t feel well enough for sightseeing.

My thoughts on travel with chronic health conditions can be plumbed to greater depths here.

I was in no hurry upon arrival; in fact, my husband was coming from another, prior business trip, so I expected to land at SFO at least six hours before he was due at our hotel.


Sherpani rolling checked bag (discontinued style)

My lightly packed, expandable rolling suitcase, once claimed from the baggage carousel, had room to accommodate my Western Flyer carry on inside, complete with all its contents. It took less effort to roll this one medium-sized package than it would have to carry anything on my back through an airport and modern commuter rail network.

With my usual daily carry Cafe Bag over my shoulder, I had little trouble negotiating the BART train from SFO to Powell station downtown. I did have to navigate about six steps up to the street with the heavy, unwieldy rolling bag at the station—possibly due to my own ignorant choice between multiple exits—but that was more than compensated for as I rolled instead of carried my wardrobe up San Francisco’s notoriously hilly streets.

I arrived at the hotel reasonably fresh and comfortable in spite of the effort and the warm day. There’s a time and a place for wheeled bags. This was one of mine.

Putting it all together

I had everything I needed to enjoy a casual trip to a sophisticated city. Its colorful nature makes this my favorite capsule wardrobe yet! I was even a little disappointed that the weather didn’t turn so I could wear the warmer pieces.

Don’t worry. I’ve got another trip planned. Perhaps the brisk autumn weather will cooperate then.

*In his field. He’s not a Kardashian or anything. Thank God!

4 thoughts on “Capsule wardrobe for San Francisco in October: nary a neutral in sight

  1. Jealous of your skills! I just did a two and a half week trip to the UK. I took loads of clothes… wore about a quarter of them 😦 Very poor planning on my part.

    • I’m not sure it is good manners to “Like” a comment about a lack of skill… 🙂

      I hope you had a good trip! You might make a list of what you actually wore this time around (perhaps what is in the laundry bag?) and then start packing next time from that list…

      Or, like my husband, never make a list, then spend three times as long as I do packing a suitcase! 😀

      • 🙂 I never make list… throw everything that’s clean and ry in the bag… then wear almost none of it.

        You’re right. there may be a theme developing here… it’s the L Word.

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