Shop Women’s Versatile Workwear on Nordstrom.com.

Last week’s work wear capsule for Spring was well received because of the advantages of effective mixing and matching. You’ll maximize the wearability of the items, reduce the cost per wear, and have “go to” outfit combinations at your fingertips. Furthermore, as one commenter pointed out, you can pack a wardrobe capsule into a carry-on for a business trip and be good to go. 

The only downside of a wardrobe capsule is the time and expense involved in putting it together. So I’ve put together an alternative, a more compact capsule, made of fewer items with maximum versatility. In my example, I’m imagining someone who works in a business casual work environment. 

As with all capsule building, sometimes you’ll fill in the gaps of an existing capsule, and sometimes you will start from scratch. Below is a fairly flexible structure that provides a solid starting point to mix-and-match separates.

Establish two things upfront:

  • Colour Palette: Choosing a colour spectrum ensures the easy mixing and matching of items. I’ve chosen a mid-tone pink, black, charcoal, denim and light neutrals. 
  • Fashionability: Decide which trends you’d like to incorporate into the mix. For Spring, I’ve chosen, pattern mixing, florals, volume, patterned blazers and loafers. 

Onto the components of the capsule. The items are quite specific in order to create the desired layered effect. Without the specific components, you can’t create the layers. Without the layers you will battle to maximize outfit options.

Three Tops

These three tops are the starting point for the capsule:

  1. Fitted Knitted Top: I’ve chosen a pink V-neck mock wrap with elbow sleeves. Wear it on it’s own, or layer a button down shirt underneath for a different look. 
  2. Knitted Sleeveless Top: Choose a top that double duties as a vest. That way, you can wear it on it’s own, or under a jacket or cardigan, AND you can wear it over a basic button down shirt and knitted top for more outfit options. I’ve chosen a sleeveless top in an animal print so that I can mix patterns. 
  3. Basic White Button Down Shirt: Not everyone is a fan of this item, but it does make an excellent layering piece. So choose one that fits reasonably well and use it as an accessory instead of a statement piece. As I suggested above, wear it under knitted tops, as well as under the jacket and cardigan. Wear it on it’s own if it fits like a dream. I’ve chosen a crisp white shirt, but a soft cream, silky blouse is a good substitute.

Two Bottoms

Choose two bottoms that work with all the combinations that were created with the tops. I’ve chosen a classic pair of charcoal bootcut trousers with belt loops so that you can tuck in tops and add an interesting belt to further embellish your outfit options. I’ve also added a stretchy indigo “denim-rich” pencil skirt. It’s dressier than normal denim, but not quite as formal as a wool blend. It’s perfect for casual fridays if you can’t wear denim-rich items during the week. I’ve deliberately NOT chosen black bottoms because this is a Spring capsule.

Two Toppers

Choose at least one structured jacket to create a more polished and tailored look. I’ve chosen a floral blazer that can be worn over all three tops, if you are prepared to mix patterns. Wear the blazer over the layered top options if you’re comfortable doing so. 

Choose a cardigan if a relaxed vibe is desired. If not, add a blazer in a solid colour. I’ve chosen a black boyfriend cardigan because the length and volume looks super over classic trousers and a pencil skirt, and V-necks make excellent layering items. Wearing it open like a jacket creates a flattering vertical line down the front of the body. As with the blazer, wear it over all the tops, and over the vest and white shirt layered combination. 

Remember that toppers can be removed when you’re at your desk, so choosing tops that you are prepared to wear on their own is vitally important.

Two Pairs of Shoes

Choose two pairs of shoes that work with the bottoms. I’ve chosen a pair of light coloured trendy heeled loafers because it’s Spring! I’ve supplemented with pair of classic all-season black pumps because they work especially well with the trousers. I’ve chosen patent for a dressier touch and textural interest. 

One Handbag

Choose a structured handbag that works across the colour spectrum and is the best that you can afford. I’ve chosen an all-season snakeskin bag that can be carried both by a handle and a shoulder strap. The pattern and texture adds interest to your outfits and lightens up dark neutrals.

The Extras

I’ve laid the foundation of a compact mix-and-match capsule. Feel free to add in a solid sheath dress to wear under the toppers and over the pink knit top and white button down shirt for further outfit combinations. Incorporate jewelry, scarves, watches, eyewear and belts as desired to change up the looks even further. Throw in a new shade of lipstick to bring out the colours in the patterns.

Do It Yourself

The capsule serves as a template that you can manipulate to reflect your style and colour preferences. For example, choose two skirts instead of trousers and a skirt. Choose two jackets instead of a cardigan and a jacket. Choose a soft blouse instead of a stiff white shirt. Choose sandals instead of pumps. Choose flats instead of heels. Choose ink blue instead of black. Choose a solid handbag instead of a patterned style. The variations are endless. 

Carefully add onto to the capsule, or keep it compact. Choose another colour spectrum and start the capsule building process all over again. In some cases you’ll find that some of the items of one capsule work just as well in another capsule. That’s even more cost effective. Those items become wardrobe workhorses. If certain items are creating dressing bottlenecks because they are in the laundry basket too often, duplicate those items. 

Compact work wear capsules are ideal for part time jobs and tight budgets. In this case, you’ll wear your items more often so start out by purchasing items that will go the distance. If possible, purchase better end quality fabrications AND take extra care in the laundry process. Doing this will end up saving you money in the long run.