While it’s been several years since I’ve had to curate my own office wardrobe, I DO remember how much it felt like a chore. One of my most requested topics on the blog is workwear outfit inspo–so if you’ve been struggling with office-wear, today’s post is for you!
No matter what your personal style, figuring out how to adapt your look for work is a challenge. Not only do you have to “look the part,” but throw dress codes and specific work demands in there (for example, I remember getting blisters on my feet from running back and forth to the creative department so many times per day!) and it’s enough to want to give up altogether.
This is why I think work capsule wardrobes are the PERFECT solution to translate your style to the office, on your Zoom call, or wherever you work!
How to Create a Work Capsule Wardrobe for All Seasons
What do I mean by “capsule wardrobe”? A capsule collection or work wardrobe is a collection of 10-30 high quality pieces that you can infinitely mix and match to create hundreds of stylish outfits. They should all exist in the same color palette, but vary in texture and shape, so you have tons of style opportunities. Most of the time, I find it easiest to keep the palette neutral-colored with a few accents. (And, you can go bold or muted with those accents. You do you!)
When you have a capsule wardrobe, styling becomes second nature, and you never have to ask yourself, “is this workplace appropriate?” because every piece is workwear appropriate. You get a stylish look in minutes without taking up half your morning—and you’re not wearing the same thing every day either! A good collection will keep things fresh, fashionable, and totally functional. Another plus? Many of these pieces can work for all seasons.
Below, I’ve mapped out exactly what you need for a work capsule collection–the essentials laid out for you and a few example outfits to inspire your next workday ensemble. I hope this can help you fill holes in your wardrobe, or just help you shop your own closet more effectively!
When should you build a work capsule wardrobe?
First, do you NEED a work capsule wardrobe? Of course not–you don’t NEED anything–but will it be helpful? A lot of times, absolutely!
A work capsule wardrobe should be made anytime you find getting dressed in the morning difficult or just uninspired! f you get approximately zero motivation from grabbing the same slacks and blouse day after day, maybeee it’s time to shake things up a little bit. An uninspired outfit does nothing for your mood or productivity during the day!
It shouldn’t have to be hard to style your clothes for work. If you’re finding it tricky, try searching for some new pieces that’ll let you style precisely to your job’s dress code (whether that be business casual, professional, or some work from home variant.) Hint: this could just involve shopping your OWN closet, too!
If space allows, it may be helpful to section off a portion of your dresser or closet area for all your capsule pieces to hang together–this will further take the guesswork out of getting dressed. Once you have a full collection of garments you love, mixing and matching every morning will be something you look forward to, rather than something you dread. Remember, though, keep it small and intentional. The whole point is to streamline!
How to adapt your work capsule wardrobe to any season:
Obviously depending on where you live, you may have to cycle different footwear in and out per every season, but pretty much everything I’ve chosen here will work from winter to summer (as all footwear is closed toed!) If you need to, feel free to swap cotton for cashmere in the colder months, for example, or cycle in a bootie or a tall boot for chillier weather, or, if your office dress code allows, feel free to mix in a pair of sandals for summer, for example. It’s really up to you!
Now, let’s get to my work capsule wardrobe essentials to give you an idea of where you start from. Of course, you should make this your own based on your own style and workwear needs!
Work Capsule Wardrobe Tops:
Camel striped Sezane Mariniere:
These tops come in multiple colors and I adore them because they’re more substantial/thicker than a regular tee, and they have a super cute button detail on one shoulder. They can go with jeans, trousers, a skirt–whatever! Making the the perfect work staple. (Come in several colors!) I like the camel stripe because it’s a nice mix-up from a black or navy stripe. (Sizing: It will shrink in the wash, so size up!)
Black and white striped long-sleeve tee:
Speaking of stripes, you’ll notice I have two in this capsule with varying colors, size of stripe, and type of top. This is a true long-sleeve tee but I would call it a “polished” tee. Still very easy to dress up with slacks to make it business casual. This one is AYR, which I don’t think is worth the $70+ price tag, but I bought two and got a discount. That being said, it’s now one of my favorite wardrobe staples and I know I’ll wear it year round–so from a cost per wear standpoint, perhaps it is worth the price, but the tee itself doesn’t FEEL any different than any other tee. 😂 Principle, I guess! Do with that information what you will! (But any striped tee will do here!)
Silk white tee:
Any white tee works here, but if you’re looking for a dressier version that can still look cute with jeans, so many people rave about the Quince silk tees. I don’t own one myself, but I have lots of other Quince items I’m obsessed with, so I’m sure they’re good! I thought a silk tee was a nice touch I haven’t seen elsewhere, and perfect for looking casual but very polished and professional.
Oversized button down:
Oversized button-downs are one of my most-worn wardrobe staples. (And I don’t even work in an office!) I wear them every season for everything–dress them up for work, dress them down with jean shorts during summer and throw over a bathing suit for the perfect chic cover up on vacation. My favorites are from Summersalt and AYR. (I love ABLE’s Harris button down too but it’s now out of stock! 😭)
Quince’s cardigan’s are absolute perfection. I reviewed their cashmere boyfriend cardigan over in this post, but they also make a cotton cardigan which would also be perfect for a capsule as we’re going into summer and a cotton cardigan is more summer friendly. This is the perfect thing to keep over your office chair to keep you warm in the blasting summer AC or the cold depths of January.
Structured tweed jacket:
I love this tweed jacket from One Third. (My friend Anna’s company!) Major Chanel vibes and a nice change-up from a traditional blazer, although a blazer would absolutely work instead, or in addition to this jacket! I wear this jacket a lot with jeans and heels to go out for dinner, but it’s just as versatile for the office! (See the top photo? I was actually dressed to go to dinner, but the same outfit would totally work for a casual office environment! You likely own many things that will work for both scenarios already, you just have to assess them through a different lens!)
Work Capsule Wardrobe Bottoms:
Black straight leg pants:
No matter what kind of black pants you choose, I think a pair of black pants is essential in any work capsule wardrobe! This pair is from Quince and feels just like sweatpants but they look like polished slacks! They would especially be great it you often travel for work, because they’re comfy enough to even travel in! Another alternative I would recommend would be AYR’s High Hopes pants–which are more of a straight leg, drapey fit. (Both are great, it’s just your preference!) One more option–American Giant’s “No BS” kick flair pants. (Reviewed over here!)
Floral midi skirt:
Depending on your office environment, I always think its nice to throw a patterned skirt into the mix. I love a darker floral because it’s perfect not just for spring, but the darker color palette makes it ideal for fall and winter, too! I also love a floral paired with a stripe. (Two patterns that always go together IMO!) Sezane always has really pretty midi skirts, but if you need one without pattern (maybe more for a formal environment) Quince makes a very pretty washable silk midi.
I have two pairs I’d recommend: Abercrombie’s and Everlane’s! Both are great and I especially love styling them with sneakers for a dressy casual look that would be great for casual Friday or just a more casual office environment in general.
White wide leg crop jeans:
I got these jeans last year and always rave about them to anyone who will listen! They’re SO comfortable and soft, very flattering (not TOO wide) and they are very polished-looking, making them easy to dress up for work! They are super chic and go with everything. I ordered my regular size for a more relaxed fit. But I’d go with your smaller size if in-between! I personally love white all year round, but if you prefer black in the colder months, I also love Everlane’s wide leg or straight leg pants. (I find them TTS). They can be dressed up or down easily for work and weekend wear.
Medium to dark wash slim jeans:
When you’re looking for a pair of jeans for the office, it’s always best to stay away from rips, distressing, and ideally you want something that is a mid to dark wash. (Mid-wash is very in right now though!) I would recommend two pairs: Everlane’s original cheeky jeans and Sezane’s Brut Sexy jean. Both are so cute, flattering, and you’ll wear them ALL the time, not just to work! I took my regular size in both.
Silk t-shirt dress:
I feel like I’m a broken record here but Quince has SO MANY good basics at such great prices, I had to include their shirt dress in here too. Whether it’s a t-shirt dress or a traditional long-sleeve shirt dress, or a linen shirt dress–they make several great ones all with five-star reviews. All would be great to dress up for the office!
Work Capsule Wardrobe Accessories:
I think a tote with a zipper top is about the most versatile work bag you can invest in. This one fits so much stuff and has been a mainstay in my wardrobe for many years now!
Loafers are another seasonless staple you’ll want as part of your work wardrobe no matter what the weather. Comfy, polished, they can dress up jeans or dress down a skirt. Plus, they never go out of style!
Speaking of never going out of style and things that will be a staple in your wardrobe for years–I can think of few outfits that aren’t elevated with a cap-toe heel. Chanel vibes at a much lower price–they look so cute with everything from distressed jeans to a little black dress. In my opinion, the only heels you will ever need for work.
For casual office days, a clean, classic white sneaker that goes with everything is key! They go with everything from your skirt, to your shirt dress, to your trousers.
Sezane has the BEST belts that make even the most basic outfit look intentional and chic. I love the Artemis belt in black and it’s the belt I reach for 99% of the time. It’s an ideal staple to dress up for work!
I have lots of neck scarves in various colors and patterns–it’s the easiest way to add some pop to your outfit! I also love to tie one in my hair if I can’t be bothered to wash it. (Again. 😬)
Work Capsule Wardrobe Outfits
1. Tweed Jacket + Washable Silk Tee + Beige Trousers + Black Leather Loafers + Gold Earrings
As I mentioned, a work wardrobe often has a lot of neutral pieces. It’s just easiest to pair things that way! I love a good tan, black and white outfit, which also happens to be great for any time of year as well.
This look starts with a silk tee and flowy beige trousers. This base is super comfortable and provides a lot of coverage. Overtop, I added a tweed jacket from One/Third I LOVE so much. To finish it up, you just need black loafers and gold earrings. Doesn’t get easier than that!
2. Striped Top + Black Pants + Tweed Jacket + Loafers + Red Lip
This next one still goes with the tonal theme (black on black, but with a pop of pattern for visual interest!) The jacket is optional, but I love the added texture it provides to the outfit! To add a little something special, a red lip goes a long way! Depending on the season and your office dress code, you could totally wear flat sandals (like the model is wearing here) or for a more classic/polished look, some comfy loafers. (I love my Gucci loafers but Sam Edelman makes an amazing dupe that is just as comfy!)
3. Cable Knit Cardigan + White Pants + Striped Top + Cap Toe Heels
I love all of these pieces here because they can all be quite casual summer pieces, or they could be dressed up with a pair of cap toe pumps and voila–you have a super polished white on white tonal look for the office. As you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of stripes–and one of my favorite combinations is wearing say, all white or all black (or all tan, etc–you get the gist) and then breaking up those solid neutrals with a stripe of the same color palette. It makes your outfit so much more interesting! The best part about this look is that you can swap your heels for a pair of, say, Birkenstocks, and it’s the perfect easy Sunday outfit.
4. Black T-Shirt Dress + Waist Belt + Tweed Jacket + Kitten Heels + Neck Scarf + Leather Tote
This t-shirt dress is perfect for a work capsule collection because it can transition into so many things. That means, if you’ve got something going on after work, you can easily take this dress from workwear to date night to casual. (You can find more transitional workwear HERE.)
To make this dress business casual, first, add a waist belt. It’s subtle but refines the whole silhouette. Then, add the modern tweed jacket—trust me, you’ll be grabbing this coat A LOT whether you’re getting dressed for work OR a night out (I love it over a slinky camisole for date night!)
Next, you need your trusty cap-toe heels, a classic work tote (if you’re looking for a zip-top, the Madewell Transport Tote can’t be beat. I’ve owned it for so many years!) and a neck scarf. The scarf will add some color, and it’s a perfect example of how I add my personal style into every workwear ensemble.
5. Straight Leg Black Pants + Striped Long Sleeve + Ivory Cardigan + Neck Scarf + White Sneakers + Gold Earrings
A great casual look for a more relaxed office environment, a day of travel (you can easily swap your sneakers for classic pumps later in the day if, say, you’re heading to a conference!)
6. Long Sleeve Stripped Top + Medium Wash Straight Jeans + Black Tweed Jacket + Kitten Heels + Leather Tote
Here’s another one for a more casual work environment. The base is made up of a tonal organic cotton top with a round neckline and straight jeans in a medium wash. The high rise jeans with the loose fitting tee is the perfect flattering combo, especially when you add the Artemis belt in a fun color. You could keep it neutral if you want, but the cassis, lilac, or khaki color would give the ensemble a little pop of color.
Layer over the tee the cream tweed jacket for a modern and visually interesting addition. I love the frayed edging and ribbed detailing. It looks super deluxe and has just the right amount of structure for a business casual look. It’s exactly what you need to dress up the jeans! Complete the outfit with the retro Baton heels and gold earrings.
7. White Button-Up + Floral Skirt + Tweed Jacket + Waist Belt + Kitten Heels
A feminine, yet smart business-casual vibe! Why this works: the juxtaposition rule again! The shirt is masculine, the skirt ultra feminine. The tweed jacket thrown over your shoulders adds interest and texture. The belt defines the waist and adds a little bling from the buckle, and the chic cap-toe pumps pull it all together. *Chefs kiss* the perfect outfit. (In the winter you could totally add boots, or to make it more casual, add your oversized cardigan instead of the structured jacket!) Want to dress it down? Swap your pumps for sneakers. The options are endless.
Make dressing for work fun and easy with a capsule wardrobe.
If you want more style inspo, head over here to my style section!
You may also like: How to build a carry-on travel capsule wardrobe, my Quince sweater review, and my favorite white sneakers.