Obviously this differs from industry to industry, role to role.
Someone in a creative job will not look like someone working in a bank.
Generally speaking, we are mostly business casual in many businesses, and even this covers a wide range of looks.
You have VERY business casual which is jeans and a sweater for many, up to the higher end of business casual where I usually dress, which is heels and a dress, or tailored trousers and a blouse.
I don’t wear sweaters and jeans to work, except on casual Fridays if the company happens to have those days.
My 18-piece Capsule Wardrobe for Business Casual with 3 pairs of footwear
Look, this is only if push came to shove. In fact, this is my bare minimum because I get bored with wearing the same things over and over again repetitively.
ALSO, this doesn’t cover CASUAL outfits for the weekend, like sundresses, or leather leggings that I would absolutely wear outside of work.
So here it is:
- 4 button-up shirts
- 2 long-sleeved tops
- 2 tank top blouses
- 2 toppers
- 3 dresses
- 2 trousers
- 2 skirts
BUT! You can also use all the pieces like cardigans or dresses in different ways, and I think you could come up with about 40, if not 50 outfits.
- 1 pair of stiletto heels
- 1 pair of more casual zip-up ankle booties
- 1 pair of pointed loafers
These 3 items cover a wide range of what I like to wear on various days, and gives my feet a break so I am not always in heels.
Actuals from my closet
4 button-up shirts
I chose this marble-printed button-up because the material is Tecel like thick silk, and whimsical. It’s a pretty print that goes with so many different colours.
This is a light blue/chambray-like shirt that is a light neutral (you know how much I love navy blue!). The material is soft like thick silk.
I wanted something different than a normal white, blue, grey neutral, so I picked a light shell pink to go with lots of the bottoms.
A striped shirt is always nice – this one is a dark charcoal stripe with white, rather than a blue and white (I’d have liked that too), but I wanted something without light blue because I already had the light blue button-up.
2 long-sleeved tops
This is a beautifully crafted pink wool top with beautiful draping that looks like an obi belt across the front.
I chose a dark charcoal turtleneck because it is a base layer that can be so versatile in a capsule wardrobe.
I could have also gone or added a light grey turtleneck as it would have also gone well with the wardrobe (in fact, I am not opposed to adding it to help make the wardrobe more versatile).
2 tank top blouses
I picked a beautiful graphic tank that has interesting colours and a pattern that isn’t so predictable (it’s a custom-made map of I think fake cities and places).
The following is actually a separate top and skirt, but it looks like a dress when worn together:
Would it all have to match?
I would say that trying to get everything to match perfectly in this capsule wardrobe is near impossible unless you choose the same colour/fabric in each category, and just wear the same white shirt over and over again with different bottoms.
Also, some cuts don’t go with other cuts – a blousy top that is full of volume would look very awkward with a very billowy bottom unless done perfectly, and then to make it try and do double-duty with EVERY bottom in your capsule? Nightmare.
Or how about prints? If you have prints or patterns, unless they’re neutral and classic, they won’t all go together.
I’ll give a real-life examples below.
Wait, how can cardigans change each outfit!? O_o
The most obvious is you can wear a cardigan over the 3 blouses = 3 outfits .. and mixed with 2 skirts & 2 pants?
The math is simple: 3 x 2 x 2 = 12 outfits
You can wear a cardigan alone by itself, buttoned up like this:
You can also take single blouses and layer two tops over each other – like a turtleneck with a topper to create a new look – I wrapped the sleeve over the topper cuff and it looks like a new top:
You can use accessories to change the look of a basic cardigan by..
- belting it
- using brooches to hold it closed
..lots of ideas in the following posts to come on how to make the most of what you’ve got.
Cheat with the separates concept of a ‘dress’ as well!
You can buy separates that when paired together, look like a single dress.
Obviously this works best on dresses that have draping or something so it doesn’t look too separate like this – this is actually a MM Lafleur Fey Top with their MM Lafleur Soho Skirt,.. so you get a dress AND a skirt or separate top.
Bee watch is from Olivia Burton, Purse is Nat & Nin (very old from Paris), and Booties are Club Monaco (very old and discontinued) but Rag & Bone makes the most comfy pair too called Margot that I own 3 pairs of.
What colour skirts or pants would work best?
I am a freak for navy. I think navy is the best neutral colour for me, truly.
I would definitely have at least grey & navy pants because I like my pants to be classic, not trendy.
Dresses – I’d pick a brighter neutral like magenta, or the jungle green above because prints can be a little much in a full dress unless the print is classic (but even then I could get bored of it).
The skirts, I would experiment more with colour and/or prints.
Obviously I’m a clotheshorse, so I LOVE variety, and if I had my way without any restrictions, I’d have (and do have) 48 skirts of various prints and styles. HAH!
But, pulling myself back, if I had to pick a few skirts, I would stick with a classic print or pattern, and/or an interesting twist in the skirt that would make it seem fresh each time I wore it.
(Also I’d cheat outrageously and have a “dress” be separates as mentioned above.)
What about the blouses?
Plain simple button up blouses in this case, won’t do it for me.
If they’re “plain” they better have interesting buttons on the cuff, or a tie at the neck, or SOMETHING that makes it look different and fresh each time I wear it but not so different that I get bored of it.
They also have to work with all the skirts and pants, meaning be able to be tucked in, not have strange details at the waist, be too long, too short, etc.
I think wrap dresses are the most classic and versatile for many body shapes.
Sheaths are harder to wear for instance, unless you buy the right cut, and even then, sheaths with cap sleeves work for some body types (not mine), or with long sleeves, etc.
Wrap dresses, seem to work on everyone, long sleeved or sleeveless (my preference).
Or stretchier dresses because I am someone who has gone up and down two sizes and honestly, the stretchier the dress, the easier it is to wear when you’re slim or you’re big and that is a great help to me.
I also want outfits that will make me feel beautiful even if I am a bigger size – with draping, etc.
I’d go big on accessories
Interesting necklaces, rings, watches.. no bracelets or cuffs because you’re likely typing at a desk. If you’re not, go for it, I am a fiend for cuffs!
Just look at what I have (I added more to this recently)…:
Next up: 16 outfits with the magenta MM Lafleur Lenox as the base piece
P.S. My capsule wardrobe posts are all here.