Editors note: This is a guest post from Brittany Goldwyn.
I have a full-time cubicle job for which I wear very traditional office clothes: slacks, blouses, sheath dresses, button-up shirts, and patent heels. Before I adopted a capsule wardrobe, I made many excuses about why a capsule just wouldn’t work for me. I like to dress differently at work than I do after work, so I thought a capsule would be too restrictive to accommodate enough office-friendly and after-work options.
For many years I maintained two separate wardrobes to account for my office clothes, which I wore for only about 50 hours per week, and my after-work and weekend clothes, which were the items I actually wanted to wear. There was very little overlap between the two wardrobes. Maintaining two wardrobes meant a stuffed closet, but it also meant an empty wallet from shopping and dry cleaning, as well as extra laundry from wearing two outfits on many days.
So as I planned my first capsule, I sought out versatile items that I could easily dress up or down. Whether it was for going out with friends, running out for errands, attending a wedding, or attending a meeting at work, I wanted my wardrobe to be flexible enough that I could easily change the look of an outfit by swapping a piece or two.
Here are the three ways I ensure my capsule wardrobe remains versatile enough to dress up and dress down.
Focus on Tops
My tops are my most versatile pieces. Even if it’s a t-shirt, I can dress a top up or down by pairing it appropriately. The same can’t really be said for something like a pencil skirt—I love pencil skirts and have a few in my capsule, but no matter what I pair them with, they’ll never be something I wear casually. That’s not the case for most tops.
Above are examples showing two of my favorite, most versatile tops: a striped long-sleeved t-shirt and a checkered button-up shirt. I originally bought both tops for casual wear. However, one week I was running low on office-friendly tops due to an ill-timed dry cleaning drop off, so I decided to pair them with skirts to make them office appropriate.
Use Every Item Creatively
I have a long gray cardigan and a gray cotton blazer in my capsule. Given their neutral color, the cardigan and blazer can be easily paired with tops to make the tops more work appropriate. For example, I’ve started building outfits around tops that are actually shells. One is a purple seamless tank, and the other is a lined white tank. I usually wear these tops as undershirts, and given their material and fit, I’d never wear either alone to work.
Until recently, I didn’t think about these items as main wardrobe pieces; I thought about them as supporting pieces. But I’ve found that throwing the cardigan or blazer on top makes them both very viable office options.
Select Basic, Timeless Items
Many people thinking of trying a capsule worry about how they’ll manage curveball outfit requirements —a formal wedding, for example. That was a concern of mine, too. I didn’t plan to include a cocktail dress in my lineup, and I wondered how I’d dress up my fairly casual capsule if the need arose.
That’s where an item like a basic, timeless, sleeveless black dress will save the day. You can use accessories to very easily dress it up or down. I have a shoebox full of accessories including a scarf, tights, undershirts, and a few pieces of jewelry. I specifically chose items—opaque black tights, for example—that I knew would quickly and completely change an outfit.
The image above shows how I wear my basic black dress for work and for a more formal event. Both outfits have the same dress and shoes; the differences are the accessories and the choice of cover up.
I hope that my tips have illustrated how easy it is to style items for a variety of different situations. If you work in a formal office environment, don’t let the finite number of pieces in a capsule deter you. You can look good at and after work with a little mixing and matching and by remembering these three things:
- When selecting your capsule items, envision each top worn multiple ways. Envision it with jeans, and if you have an office job, envision it with slacks or a skirt. Then try on different combinations to see how they look and feel—you might be surprised with what works.
- Be creative with supporting items like shells. You might normally only wear them as undershirts, but paired with neutral-colored layers, these items can become appropriate for a variety of situations.
- Include basic, timeless items in your capsule. I have a sleeveless black dress that I can easily dress up or down using accessories. You don’t need much. I have my accessories in a shoebox, and even that small amount meets my needs.