February 13, 2013

Ask Allie: Denim-based Office Capsule Wardrobe

I really like the capsule wardrobe posts that you have been doing. Would you consider doing one for a jeans work environment? Our company recently switched policies to allow casual dress everyday, as long as the jeans are dressier.

My last three places of employment have allowed jeans as long as they were dressed up. This post I wrote about work-appropriate denim is a great start in figuring out which jeans are considered business casual, and which are best left for weekends and evenings. For a denim-based capsule wardrobe, I recommend at least three different silhouettes and washes. For this capsule, I chose a dark wash of a traditional cut (straight, bootcut, etc.), a denim trouser which is a bit more refined and usually has a wider leg, and then a novelty piece. Depending on your personal style, it could be a subtle brocade print, corduroy, velour, or even a dark color like oxblood, black, or olive green. With all your work jeans, narrow and slim is acceptable with longer tops but skin tight is never appropriate.


Twenty Possible Combinations:

The best way to make jeans versatile is to have a variety of footwear. Narrow jeans look drastically different with flats than they do tucked into tall boots. Since you wrote in your email that you recently had a baby, I chose shoes that are more comfortable – a low-heeled boot, flat with arch support (I actually own these very flats from Ecco and find them extremely comfortable and cute), a wedge which is easier to wear than a standard heel.

Accessories can really transform an outfit – a tunic sweater is slouchy cool alone, streamlined when cinched with a wide belt. Thinking of my own wardrobe, I added a patterned skinny belt and a statement-making wide belt because I find these two types of belts to be the most versatile and best at transforming wardrobe staples. Scarves give denim a chic vibe – a patterned silk scarf with anything from a tank and cardigan to a striped tee makes a look instantly sophisticated, a lightweight pashmina adds interest and is a makeshift shawl in drafty offices.

Also since you said you recently had a baby, I chose fabrics and silhouettes that have stretch, are comfortable, and can look polished without being super fitted and structured. These pieces will also work if you lose any weight in the next couple of months – you can tuck in, belt, and adjust as your body changes. I stuck with solid colors because they are more versatile and less memorable. I used a lot of neutrals with pops of extreme brights, which always look so great next to denim.

When wearing jeans, it’s more important to think about what is on top. While one could carry off a simple knit top with pants or a skirt, with jeans such a top could easily veer into cleaning-out-the-garage territory. Soft-structured jackets, sweater coats, and cardigans help make jeans look polished as well as making more narrow silhouettes office-appropriate. All of these pieces would easily work with pants and skirts as well if there are days where you need to dress up for a visit from corporate or clients.

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