A few years ago in my Facebook Group, just for laughs, I created a funny meme with a list of 30 different ways you could tell you were a member. The list included things like having at least one dressing room photo stored in your phone, curiosity about the half-tuck, ownership of Birkenstock Gizehs, and that you have taken a river cruise or will be taking one at some point in the future.   It baffled my mind how almost daily someone asked for tips on what to pack on this type of vacation considering the group had less than a thousand members at the time.  I knew at some point the day would come when I would actually be asked to pack someone for a river cruise.  Two weeks ago, that day finally arrived.  

Up until those river cruise group posts, I had no idea that people even took cruises on rivers.  Since taking a cruise to Bermuda in the 7th grade, I haven’t taken one since.  I’m not much of a cruise-y person mainly because it always seems like somebody comes home in a body bag.  Honestly, cruises seem lovely.  I just haven’t looked into them as a choice for vacationing.  When my client, Mrs. Starling, reached out to me about packing for one, I had to get up to speed.  

I met my client, Mrs. Starling, many years ago and I can’t for the life of me remember how or when.  She just appeared in my universe one day and has been there since.  She isn’t a consistent client in my life and more pops in and out when she needs me, most often for bigger things like events and trips.  I named her Starling, which is a breed of bird because she has a slight appearance, much like a delicate bird that at first comes across as tender, almost fragile.  She’s petite, slim, incredibly trusting, and gentle.  I have always had this sense that I want to protect or guard her.  But then, much like a bird, I think about them out in the elements when the weather is bad and I am tucked away and sheltered in my warm home and I realize that birds aren’t as delicate as they appear, they’re incredibly resilient and strong.  Just like a bird, Mrs. Starling may appear gentle, slight, and soft, but underneath all that, she’s a strong woman who knows how to survive whatever comes her way.

I hadn’t spoken to Mrs. Starling in a while so I needed to get up to speed on this trip, her needs, and what she envisioned, while getting the guidelines she was hoping I would fill.  Clients always help with direction.  My job is to facilitate that.  While they don’t tell me what to shop for, it is my job to help bring their vision, no matter how blurry it is to start, into reality.  

First, Mrs. Starling explained the trip would be ten days with some additional days at the end spent visiting a friend in Amsterdam.  She explained that there would be a lot of stops and walking.  Unlike seafaring cruises that offer a lot more relaxation, river cruises usually stop daily.  The thing that disappointed Mrs. Starling was it seemed the dress code wasn’t as up to snuff as she was anticipating it would be.  She said that people seemed to dress more casually than she wanted to dress.  It’s been a while since she has taken a vacation (which she has been in dire need of) and was envisioning herself really putting in the effort with what she wore.   So I stopped her and said, “Well, just because other people are dressing down, who says you have to?”  You can still dress casually and look fabulous!”  We finished the conversation with Mrs. Starling telling me about her love of all blues, like navy and cobalt and she agreed to send me some inspirational photos later that evening.

I received some texts as promised and it was Mrs. Starling who inspired the red that was added to her capsule when she sent me pieces from Carolina Herrera, Helmut Lang, and a few other designers who designed these clean, modern pieces that were uncomplicated and fresh.  Without knowing it, she created her own color direction, I just needed to fill in the blanks.  While Mrs. Starling was prepared to spend a decent amount of money, I would be shopping The RealReal to find many of the upscale pieces and capture the luxe look she was after to create something truly top of the line.

Mrs. Starling’s European River Cruise Capsule

River Cruise

Shop Mrs. Starling’s River Cruise Capsule

1 Jolie Top 2 Satin Pintuck Top 3 Short Sleeve Crop Sweater 4 Keene Striped Top 5 Jodene Pleated Wrap Midi Dress 6 Chaise Leather Crossbody 7 Lapis Necklace 8 Carnelian Bead Necklace 9 Blue Lapis Lazuli Necklace 10 Merritt Cardigan 11 Anna Jacket 12 Drop Bottom Weekender 13 Sutton Leather Crossbody 14 Hockney Jean 15 Frankie Pants 16 Frankie Pants 17 Le High Skinny Jean 18 Eileen Top 19 Short Sleeve Pullover Sweater 20 Platinum Elite Hardside Spinner (22″ x 14 x 9″ | 27.25″ x 18″ x 13″ |30″ x 18″ x 13.5″) 21 Elsa Loafers 22 Danza Flats 23 Felize Driving Loafers 24 Danza Flats 25 Cericho Slip-On Sneakers

This is the river cruise packing capsule I presented to Mrs. Starling.  It should be noted that this is slightly modified from the original with a few tweaks after she already received a few pieces that didn’t fit.  We will continue to modify it until it’s settled.  A few more points to note:

  • Mrs. Starling loves jackets.  It was something she mentioned strongly during our conversation.  So where women would normally choose cardigans or softer pieces, I chose jackets for her.
  • Brands not available to shop came from The RealReal and these pieces are by Carolina Herrera, Escada, Stella McCartney, and Akris Punto.
  • With this amount of pieces, Mrs. Starling could take a river cruise for double the amount of time.  I presented this many options to give her variety so she could pick what she liked and leave the rest while still maintaining the mix-and-matchability of the capsule.
  • The capsule was designed so that Mrs. Starling could easily dress the pieces up or down without packing a lot by just mixing the pieces differently. You will see how I did that below.
  • Like Mrs. Boundless’s capsule, I went back to M.M. Lafleur for a few pieces due to how easy they pack for travel.  
  • Mrs. Starling has foot problems and a broken foot that never healed right.  I needed to choose shoes with large toe boxes and shoes that are walkable.  I chose all M.Gemi shoes and in lieu of her clunky shoes, which I often refer to as her Herman Munster shoes, I selected M.Gemi’s Elsa loafer with hopes she could at least wear a clunky style that wasn’t offensive to look at.  Their Danza flats have a very small concealed 20mm heel and my hope is that a small heel and roomy toe box will provide comfort.  The flats aren’t intended for long sightseeing walks but to be used as ship-wear and with her dresses.
  • Mrs. Starling needed new luggage and wasn’t sure if she would be checking so I went back to my newfound favorite luggage brand, Travelpro, and offered her luggage options in all sizes, plus a tote option so she could decide.  In addition to its own site, TravelPro is carried at Macy’s and is the brand most trusted by flight crews because it was started by a former pilot and the man who invented the first suitcase with wheels.

Looks Created From Mrs. Starling’s Capsule

river cruise
river cruise
river cruise

Packing for Your Own River Cruise?

Once the color direction was set, this capsule fell together incredibly easily.  When establishing a capsule, establishing color first is the best way to edit and move quickly.  You will find that shopping is quicker, pieces work together more swiftly, and filling in additional pieces is much simpler.  River cruises are very popular vacation destinations so I hope this capsule plan helps with your packing if you take one in the future.  My special thanks to Mrs. Starling for allowing me to share how I packed her for her upcoming trip.  Bon, voyage!