A wardrobe capsule is ANY collection of clothing, footwear and accessories that helps you to satisfy your dressing needs in one or more areas of your life. Seeing your wardrobe in terms of multiple capsules is effective because wardrobe items MUST relate well to each other. If they don’t, you’ll end up with a set of items that you love, but are hard to pull together into outfits. Furthermore, capsules break up your wardrobe into manageable chunks which makes shopping for items and creating outfits a lot easier.
A few points upfront:
- A mix and match capsule is built around a colour palette, a season and a dress code. I’ve chosen dark neutrals with light neutral, citron and teal accents. I used both black and ink because they work well together in one outfit. The season is Winter with a nod to the start of Spring, and the dress code is business casual which means no jeans except for Casual Fridays.
- This capsule serves as a TEMPLATE that consists of 4 bottoms, 6 tops, 3 inside toppers, 1 outside topper, 4 pairs of shoes, and 2 handbags. Use this template to build career wear capsules in other colours to create a functional working wardrobe.
- This capsule is not supposed to represent your entire career wear wardrobe, but it would provide a solid starting point for one. You can either flesh out this capsule, or create another capsule using a different colour palette.
- Career wear capsules that combine modern classics with trendy pieces are a winning formula. That way you’ll feel professional and fashionable at work.
- All of the tops work with all of the bottoms. All of the toppers work over all of the tops. All of the tops, in turn, can be worn with any of the bottoms if you’re prepared to pattern mix and sport some arty outfits with drama and drape. Some of the footwear options work with all four bottoms.
- The silhouette, texture and colour variety of the items in this capsule allows you to create many outfit combinations that are distinct from each other. From a simple column of dark neutrals right up to a maximal combination of sporting four patterns at once, and all the combinations in between.
Note: This capsule is not suited to a strict business formal work environment, which probably requires a matching suit. But even if this is your situation, you might find the capsule useful for your more casual workdays. I have also found that in recent years many work environments have transitioned to a more casual dress code.
On to the components of the capsule.
Choose an assortment of silhouettes and colours. Choose two dark and one light pair of trousers, and a patterned skirt. I chose a pair of classic bootcut trousers in ink, a trendy pair of ankle pants in light grey, a basic pair of black Ponte knit skinnies, and a classic pencil skirt in a fashion forward pattern. Keep all four bottoms solid if patterns aren’t your thing, or change the assortment to two pairs of pants and two pairs of skirts.
Choose an assortment of silhouettes, fabrics and colours across patterns and solids. Sticking to four neutrals and two colours is one way to go. Choose dark and light neutrals across classic and trendy styles. I chose a classic white blouse and citron pullover. I chose a trendy drape front blouse in grey, a fluid boat neck pullover in ink, a silk-front sweatshirt with a panel print in black, and an oversized avant-garde tunic in teal.
You can wear the oversized teal tunic semi-tucked at the side with the skirt. The patterned sweatshirt works with the patterned skirt and solid footwear, although throwing in the animal print flats is a fun addition. Wearing the plaid poncho over either of these ensembles will create an arty maximal outfit, which you might prefer to ground with solid black footwear and an ink bag.
You have the option of leaving off indoor toppers, but most end up wearing them at some point during the day in cooler offices, especially over a lightweight blouse.
Choose an assortment of silhouettes, fabrics and colours. I chose three toppers and none of them are blazers. I made the black leather jacket the modern classic, and opted for two knitted toppers for extra comfort. A sweater jacket or tunic cardigan, and a plaid poncho wrap for a trendy touch.
Note that you can wear your outfit with the coat on the way to work, and leave the poncho and sweater jacket in the office to wear once you’ve removed your coat. They are often warmer and more comfortable than fitted blazers, and can look just as pulled together and chic.
Choose a trendy or modern classic wool coat that fits over all the layers. Choose it in a neutral or colour. Of course, you can use the indoor toppers as outerwear if the weather is mild, but you’ll probably need a warm coat for the commute. In some cases you’ll be able to layer the leather jacket under a roomy coat, and use the poncho as a gigantic scarf.
I chose a trendy ink wool man coat because it’s softer than black, and can work as a black coat. If wool coats aren’t sufficiently warm, wear a long puffer coat.
Choose an assortment of silhouettes and colours. I chose a pair of high-vamped flats and pointy toe booties to amp up the trendy integrity of the capsule. The knee-high riding boots and pumps are modern classics. The black booties and pumps can be worn with all four bottoms, but the tall boots can only be worn with the skirt and Ponte pants. The flats can only be worn with three bottoms because the bootcut trousers have been hemmed for heels.
Black footwear is versatile for this capsule, but a little colour and pattern on a shoe helps to create more varied outfit options.
You can stick to one bag for this capsule, but might like the variety of two. I chose a citron tote to lift the dark palette, but complemented it with an ink clutch when you’re not in the mood for a bright bag. Carrying a clutch inside a large tote is a great option for when you nip away from your desk, leaving the heavy tote behind while you carry the clutch.
A scarf in a pattern or colour keeps you warm and provides outfit interest on days when you want to wear a little pattern next to your face. I chose a polka dot scarf because it’s a particularly easy pattern to mix. A belt is a must when partially tucking tops into pants because it finishes off the outfit. I chose a black studded belt so that the simplest outfit created from this capsule will have textural interest. Add jewellery, watch, eyewear and headgear as desired.
Add onto this capsule with a pair of jeans for casual Fridays, or a dress to wear under the indoor toppers. Feel free to add a few more tops, perhaps in a pattern. Another coat, pair of patterned pants and black pumps would also be welcome.
Few people are able to purchase a capsule of this size at once. The point is that you use the capsule as a template for creating capsules from your own wardrobe, identifying and filling in the gaps so that you can create more outfits with existing wardrobe items.
It’s not easy or fast planning your wardrobe this way, but purchasing your career wear wardrobe in capsules is one way to ensure that you have an assortment of mix and match outfit possibilities on hand. Having several mix and match capsules in your closet allows you to pick and choose your outfits daily from different capsules, thereby ensuring ongoing variety.