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As a professional woman, your head is probably already bursting at the seams trying to remember meetings, deadlines, and projects. And if you have a family, then add trying to remember what groceries you need to get, and oh yeah, the kids are supposed to wear green to school tomorrow. So now you have to dig their green shirt out of the dirty laundry hamper…
The point is- we women have a lot on our minds and anything we can do to make mornings and get dressed easier is worth it. That’s when a work capsule wardrobe comes in handy. But not just any work capsule wardrobe, a chic one! Here’s your guide to a chic and classic work capsule wardrobe including why you need one, what to put in it, and of course, endless outfit ideas.
What is a work capsule wardrobe?
The idea of a capsule wardrobe is nothing new. Essentially, a capsule wardrobe is a closet made up of a few essential items and classic pieces that can be supplemented with seasonal pieces and accents.
This idea was birthed from Susie Faux, a 1970s London-based boutique owner, who believed the fashion industry to be impractical and wasteful. It was her mission to help women spend less money on clothes that were of poor quality, didn’t fit well, and would most likely be out of fashion the next year. Instead, she wanted to create clothing so that women could buy high-quality clothes that were versatile, minimalistic, and could easily be worn in different ways.
These capsule wardrobe benefits still apply to your work wardrobe! Made with versatile and high-quality pieces, your work capsule wardrobe is meant to streamline your wardrobe, allow you to spend less time getting ready in the morning, and finally say goodbye to suffering from decision fatigue.
One small difference is that in your work capsule wardrobe, you’ll find more wardrobe staples that are meant for the office. Instead of 3 types of denim, you may have 3 types of dress pants instead.
Check out even more benefits of a capsule wardrobe in this post, “What is a Capsule Wardrobe?”
Once you have a versatile wardrobe full of workwear staples that can easily put together chic and classic outfits, you can focus on crushing your goals at work instead of worrying about what you’re going to wear!
Things to keep in mind when building your work capsule wardrobe:
Don’t buy something just because your co-workers always wear it (or because you feel like you need to)
Before purchasing, make sure each clothing item fits into your own personal style, body type, work environment, and lifestyle. Even in this guide, I want you to use it as inspiration and help to get you started, but every great capsule wardrobe is going to look a little different for each person!
The goal with a capsule wardrobe is to have fewer pieces and be more intentional with what you have, so keep that in mind before you go on a shopping spree! Otherwise, your closet will turn into a hot mess and you’ll feel stressed with too many options.
Before adding a new piece to your wardrobe, ask yourself if it matches what you already have. Try to envision yourself wearing it at different times and in different ways. And perhaps even outside of the office too, though not a requirement.
Your dress code
Your office dress code policy is an important thing to consider as this will guide your shopping list. For casual work environments, it may be okay to wear jeans on Friday but for other workplaces, it would be a big no-no.
With more relaxed dress codes, it may be fine to wear black jeans (even not on a Friday), but for a stricter environment, any type of denim may be a no-go.
Keep your personal situation in mind as you shop, though this post is aimed at business casual style.
Do you live in a place where you have more colder months than warm ones? Do you find that you need more jackets, layers, and ankle boots than you do heels?
Your personal style
Instead of having two separate wardrobes that don’t go with each other, I’m a big fan of having versatile items that can do both.
For example, a blazer can be worn with a work pant and a pair of flats for the office, and then sneakers and your favorite pair of jeans for the weekend. So instead of getting a stuffy gray blazer that you think looks office appropriate, get a blazer that you love and could see yourself wearing in both places and one that will work for a casual look as much as it will your professional ones.
As another example, a casual top can be layered with a tweed jacket for the office, and then look great tucked into jeans for your weekend outfit.
If you are using your everyday basics as part of your work wardrobe, keep in mind the material, as slub tees or a boxy cropped fit are generally not work appropriate.
It takes time
If you’re new to the professional workforce, then you’re probably just now starting to phase out of your Forever 21 clothes and replace them with high-quality pieces.
If you found yourself suddenly entering the workforce again after taking a break for 10 years, you may have some items already, but you realize you have a lot of gaps that need to be filled.
If you just got a promotion (congrats!) or switched careers completely, it may feel like you’re starting from the beginning to fit the new office environment.
Or maybe you were working from home all last year and you’re finally entering the office again. A year (plus) of wearing home clothes has you feeling blah, and your wardrobe is due for a refresher. As well as your mood!
Whether that perfectly describes you or not, just remember, a little bit at a time! I know it can be tempting to think you need to have the perfect wardrobe overnight, but that idea can stress you out and it’s not that realistic.
Getting excited about the wardrobe discovery, shopping, and outfit building will make this a lot more enjoyable!
How many clothing items to have in your capsule wardrobe
I think a lot of people are turned off by the idea of a capsule wardrobe because they think it means “minimalist” and when people think of “minimalist” they picture someone sitting on their floor because they have no couch wearing 1 of the 3 shirts they own.
(And yes, this is a true story. I read a lot of books on minimalism.)
A capsule wardrobe is different for each person, but don’t think this means you can only have 2 pairs of pants and 5 shirts that you have to wear over and over again.
Some people like (and need) the restraint, so set these strict “rules” for yourself if you want, but if you want to have a little extra room for rotating- go with 5-10 tops. Less than 5 and you may feel a bit bored. More than 10 and you may start to lose the streamlined benefits of a capsule wardrobe!
When it comes to pants, you really don’t need as many black dress pants as you think, as they can tend to look the same after a while. Plus, it’s the shirts and accessories that people really remember. You probably need 5 or fewer bottoms.
If you’re thinking about buying for your work capsule wardrobe, you may be wondering what to do with your other clothes. Your “everyday” wardrobe. Does this mean that you have to have two completely different wardrobes? One for work and one for play?
I don’t think so! I’m all about maximizing what you have and if you have a capsule wardrobe (or something like it) for your everyday life, a lot of these items can be used for both work and casual outfits. that’s the beauty of versatile and multi-functional clothes after all!
Work capsule wardrobe breakdown
Using the idea of 15 pieces total (not including shoes, coats, or accessories), here are some ideas of what to have for the key pieces for your capsule work wardrobe.
- Basics- short sleeve basic tees, bodysuits, long sleeve tees
- Tops- blouse, cardigan, sweater, silk cami
- Jackets- blazer, cropped jacket, tweed blazer, denim jacket
- Pants- dress pants, culottes, paper bag pants, slacks, denim, wide-leg pants
- Skirts & dresses- midi skirt, pencil skirts, maxi skirt, sheath dress, a-line dress
- Shoes- knee-high boots, ankle boots, heels, loafers, flats
- Jewelry- gold hoops, pearl necklace, gold pendant necklace, statement earrings, leather or gold watch, dimaond studs
- Purses- leather tote bag, laptop bag
To break it down even further, your work capsule wardrobe could look something like this:
15 clothing items
- basic tee x2 (white, gray)
- white button down
- feminine blouse
- long sleeve basic shirt or sweater
- black dress pants
- plaid pants
- wide-leg pants
- paperbag waist trousers
- blazer (black, brown)
- tweed jacket
- slip skirt or pencil skirt
- sheath dress, a-line dress, or fit and flare dress
- ballet flats or pointed toe flats
- ankle boots
- knee-high boots
- gold hoops
- brown leather watch
- pendant necklace
- leather tote bag
- pearl earrings
Keep in mind that you may need to make some small edits for the different seasons.
Once you have these pieces, you may be wondering how to pair them together. One easy way to get started is to just start putting together outfits and see what you come up with. Some of the best things come from experimenting. But, I’ve got 48 looks to get you started. To see what a 15 piece wardrobe looks like in action, check out these photos below!
Gray Plaid Pants
Taupe Ankle-Length Pants
Paperbag Pants (similar)
White Button Down (similar)
Long Sleeve Sweater
Striped Blouse (similar)
Skirts & Dresses
Tulip Sleeve Dress
Tweed Jacket (similar)
Black Blazer (similar)
Light Brown Blazer
Ankle Boots (similar)
Knee-high boots (similar)
Pearl Earrings (similar)
Leopard Print Belt
Brown Leather Belt
Leather Watch (similar)
Before you starting shopping for your work capsule wardrobe
What if your work style is different than your personal style?
If you’re reading this post, then I’m going to assume that you love chic and classic style all the time, whether you’re at work or play, but if you found this post by accident and lean towards a style that isn’t so “classic”, then this is worth addressing!
“What do I do if my work style is different from my personal style?”
I was asked this question by a woman who is more bohemian and eclectic and would rather shop at Free People and Anthropologie than BlazersRUs.
(No, that place doesn’t exist. But um, can it please? I’d shop there!)
She said that her work wardrobe isn’t really what she’d wear in her day-to-day life and she didn’t know how to make her day-to-day wardrobe work for the office.
At the end of the day, you want all your clothes to feel like you. They should make you smile and spark joy, if you will. If you find yourself in a similar situation, using the example of a “Free People” style, as that’s the most different than a professional style, here are some ways you can combine the two to maximize your wardrobe, use what you have, and still feel like yourself.
- Pair a flowy maxi dress with a structured blazer and heels
- Add a statement piece of jewelry to a suit
- Wear a floral blouse with dress pants
- Buy items that incorporate both styles (professional and boho) in one piece, such as a floral blazer
Think balance. Bring the touches of boho in through small doses and/or balance it out with workwear appropriate pieces.
Even if it’s not a color or a print, you can always incorporate the essence of bohemian into your looks with flowy skirts, palazzo pants, and maxi dresses.
Evaluate your current wardrobe
Before you start buying, evaluate what you already have first. What do you currently have in your closet that could work for both play and the office? Do you already have a white blouse? Then you probably don’t need multiples!
Shop for neutral colors first
Just like your day-to-day classic wardrobe, you want your work wardrobe to be based on a neutral color palette as well.
Not only can it come across as more classic, but it provides more longevity too. Bright colors and statement pieces are best to bring in through small doses, such as a blouse balanced out with other neutrals or accessories.
You might find that some neutrals work better than others. Aim for a good balance of neutral colors (darker and lighter) so your wardrobe works for a variety of seasons. Only dark colors and it always looks like winter, only light colors and your wardrobe only looks good in spring and summer. If you choose only one set of colors, like an earthy color palette with oranges, browns, and rust, then it may look too much like fall.
If you are worried you’ll feel bored with all neutrals, try incorporating a statement color. Then, you can have a pop of color to spruce up your looks. But make sure it still matches the rest of your wardrobe!
If you love the color camel, then red would be a great pop of color option for you. If your wardrobe is mostly navy blue, then consider adding a pop of orange or yellow. A bright emerald green would look great with navy as well. Yellow and grey are a classic combo too.
Here are some color palette ideas to get you started!
For even more ideas, pick your favorite color or the one that’s dominantly in your wardrobe and google “color palette”. You’ll find tons of ideas to get you started. Just make sure to include a lighter & darker neutral and an accent, if that’s what you prefer.
Where to shop
The budget may dictate where you shop, but it doesn’t dictate how you look! Meaning, there are plenty of ways you can look chic and classic, and truthfully, you don’t need a big budget to accomplish that.
Where to Buy High-Quality Clothes (That Aren’t Crazy Expensive)
8 Clothing Brands That Look Expensive (But Aren’t)
5 Combos That Will Always Look Like Expensive Outfits
How to Look Expensive On A Budget
Though generally a capsule wardrobe is made up of high-quality pieces, a chic and classic style can be found anywhere and for anyone. It’s just about knowing where to shop and what pieces to get, no matter your budget. Here are some ideas.
Low Budget ($50 or less per item)- Second hand, H&M, Uniqlo, J.ing, Banana Republic Factory, J.Crew Factory
Mid-range Budget ($50-$150 per item)- Everlane, Madewell, Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic, Mango
High Budget ($150+ per item)- Eileen Fisher, J.Crew, Jenni Kayne
You may find that you already have the clothing items you need, but you just need some inspiration on how to wear them. Or you may find that you just need a few more versatile pieces and then your work capsule wardrobe is complete!
For even more tips on upgrading your work wardrobe, check out the posts below!
3 Versatile and Stylish Work Outfits
Best Comfortable Work Shoes For Women
8 Stylish Extra Large Tote Bags for Work