Search Results for: label/capsule wardrobe

Ask Allie: Casual Capsule Wardrobe for Post-college Orientation

I’m starting an internship and I’m really excited about it! But first, I have a 10 day orientation in North Carolina. The internship directors told us to dress “casual” but to me (as a very recent college grad) that’s whatever t-shirt is clean and shorts that have seen better days. I want to pack everything in my carry-on and I’m assuming I’ll need clothes to wear for nights out! I really need help figuring out what to pack!

For such an event, if they say casual, then you can stick to casual. Some clean-front chino shorts, denim in good condition, and casual knit dresses with sandals or even sneakers will be fine. However, I know you will need nicer clothes also for your internship so why not buy pieces that do double duty – work casual now and more polished once you’re at the office? This capsule wardrobe is for a warm climate, a casual environment but with a touch of polish. I usually stick to brights or black-based collections so I switched this one up with navy as a base and accents of soft neutrals and pastels.  Add casual tee shirts to the mix to keep from looking too dressy for your orientation.

casual capsule wardrobe warm weather after college or casual workplace

Shop The Look: short | skirt | bag | sandals | sneakers | bracelet | necklace | ankle pants | boyfriend jeans | striped knit top | sleeveless top | drapey top | drapey tee | wrap dress | tee shirt dress | cardigan

Shoes really set the tone for an outfit. The dresses seen here are both made out of jersey knit; pair them with heels and they could work for the office or a summer outdoor wedding. But paired with flat sandals in a neutral color or even a pair of sneakers (TOMS, slip-on canvas shoes, or any type of tennis shoe that is on trend right now) it’s perfect for a casual orientation or weekend out with friends. The same holds true for cotton ankle pants, a denim skirt, or tops in dressier fabrics.

Denim is expected for a casual setting, but don’t get too casual with a bunch of rips and tears. I chose boyfriend jeans which are more comfortable than fitted jeans and give a casual vibe. They’d work great with a simple tee, but can be polished up when you half-tuck a silky or drapey top with them, or style with a crisp Breton tee. A denim skirt is great because you can dress up with a cardigan and the sandals, or pair with sneakers and even a logoed or band tee for casual cool.  Considering your workplace once your internship starts, you may be able to wear the denim skirt with pumps, tall boots, blouses and blazers.

Solid cotton chino pieces with clean lines are a great way to look casual and polished. A pair of shorts with a bit longer of a hem (these are 7”) are still stylish but more appropriate for an environment where you will be interacting with supervisors. Ankle or cropped pants are more casual than long pants and look adorable with sandals or low-profile sneakers, but once you’re in the office can be dressed up with a pair of pumps or pointed toe flats. Don’t be afraid to embrace color for these pieces; color can often be more versatile than khaki or black and will dress up simple knit tees and tanks you can buy cheap at big box retailers.

When it comes to tops, it’s okay to wear simple solid or striped tees, but consider buying pieces with an interesting detail that can dress up for a night out, or transition into your career wardrobe. A sleeveless top in a silky fabric will look great untucked with the shorts or half-tucked into boyfriend jeans, but come the fall you can style tucked in to trousers or a pencil skirt. A blouse with built-in drape adds interest without being too revealing for your situation. Pair with any bottom in this capsule wardrobe and come fall style with ankle pants and pumps or work trousers and low heels.  A lightweight cardigan is a great piece; it can get cold in air conditioned places and is small enough to tuck into a bag. Once you’re working in an office, this will become a wardrobe staple you’ll pair with pants, skirts, and dresses.

Keep jewelry to a minimum, the more shine the more dressy an outfit can look. However, if you buy accessories consider buying fewer pieces but ones that are a bit better quality. I have a necklace from Kendra Scott and a bracelet from Gorjana; both brands offer costume (not real metal) jewelry, but it’s better quality that will hold up nicely and bring your outfits up a level. A long necklace can make a knit tee look polished and adds weight to loose tops and dresses to show your figure without being revealing. A simple bracelet in silver or gold is often all the shine a look needs; I have this bracelet and it has survived several months of being stuck in doll houses, junk drawers, and purse pockets. A watch is a great alternative and has function as well as style. Even though they’re costume jewelry, treat them well (don’t get them wet, store in a jewelry box or even a Ziploc bag) so they can provide you with many seasons of stylish wear.

Shop the Capsule Wardrobe:

Ask Allie: An Active Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman Over 60

I am about to retire and would love to have advice about a capsule wardrobe to fit my new situation. I am a young 62 and pear shaped. I’m planning to focus on travel, enjoying grandchildren, blues festivals, yoga and walking. I like classic styles and love blues and greens.

Congratulations! That sounds like an amazing way to spend this new point in your life. And I love that you’re considering a capsule wardrobe so you can focus on life instead of what to wear each day. Purchasing carefully, slowly, and while considering all you currently own can get you to the point of having a small quality wardrobe of hard-working pieces that have you ready for whatever comes your way.

capsule wardrobe casual active over 60

For this casual capsule wardrobe I didn’t focus on yoga and walking as I figure you have gear for those activities; however I did try to create a collection that will move with you, be comfortable for long spans of time outdoors taking the grandchildren sightseeing or to the park, or sitting on a blanket in the grass enjoying live music.

As a pear-shaped woman, it can be hard to find bottoms that fit and flatter. For skirts, those with an a-line, a flare from the waist, or that are softly gathered will flatter your figure. A skirt at or below the knee not only balances your frame but provides modesty when chasing after little ones or sitting on the ground. While many women avoid shorts, they’re so practical and so many lengths and styles are now available making it so any woman can find a cut that she likes. For a pear shape, a straight short that hits right at the top of the knee is best. Here I offered a stretchy denim style with a cuff, and a stretch twill Bermuda that can dress up or down nicely. A “boyfriend” jean is great for pear shapes because they’re more relaxed in the hip and thigh area and the cuff makes them have just the right amount of taper and color contrast to not shorten the leg like traditional cropped pants. Many women choose dark bottoms to minimize their hips and rear, but a pair of opaque white jeans can be quite chic and flattering (and it also makes primary and jewel tones look so luxe). It’s not ridiculous to pay to have jeans tailored (if you purchase them from Nordstrom they will tailor them on-site); go up a size for a comfortable fit in the hips and thighs and have the waist and hem adjusted for a custom fit. A straight jean is on trend yet will still be stylish next year; such a cut also balances hips nicely.

For tops, I kept things simple but incorporated elements to balance your curves. Boatnecks, cap sleeves, and gathered necklines add interest and also balance the bottom half of your figure. Choosing tops that highlight the slimmest part of your torso are also great; look for empire waists, built-in belts (or add one at the waist or at the ribs over an untucked top), and details like ruching and knots that define. Notice I kept prints to a minimum and those prints quite classic – prints can look dated very quickly. Sticking to solids and classic simple prints will keep your wardrobe from looking passé or frumpy. Breton stripes are a classic and look chic on women of all ages; while florals can be seen as mumsy this simple white and blue print in a stretch silk or synthetic will look quite modern, especially when paired unexpectedly with boyfriend jeans or shorts.  A graphic print in your favorite color can easily be switched out for the floral.

With dresses, I incorporated the same concepts from the skirts and tops.  Fit and flare styles, cap sleeves, details to emphasize the waist, and skirts that hit at the knee or lower.  Do know that models are often taller than average; a dress that looks thigh-high on a website may be knee-length on you.  Consider the measurements offered as well as the photo (and customer reviews, if available) before judging a dress or skirt.

While a shoe with a bit of a heel will balance a pear figure, I believe in function over fashion and a flat shoe will do you better with your new lifestyle. Choosing shoes that match your bottoms or are low contrast to your legs will be the best choice; a metallic flat is a great way to dress up casual pieces but they’re also a great way to get away without wearing heels to a wedding or other social event.


Accessories are what take a capsule wardrobe from ordinary to extraordinary. Statement necklaces are a great way to draw attention to your face, add personality and also a youthful touch to your outfit. A silk scarf can look matronly, but in a bold print it adds personality and class to simple knits.

As for bags, choosing a crossbody means you have your hands free to hold on to your grandchildren, take a photo, or grab a pair of drinks for you and another at that next blues festival.  I can’t stress the importance of accessories enough, especially with a pared-down wardrobe of staples.  Accessories show your personality, show that you are young at heart, and that you are aware of current trends and care about style.  Don’t be afraid of a sparkly necklace, a metallic slip-on sneaker, or a statement watch or bag from a popular brand.

A pair of black plastic sunglasses are a classic; I recommend purchasing a classic yet popular brand and a style that is pretty classic to show you are aware of the trends but wearing them in the way that is best for you.  While I featured the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarer in the collage, other styles are equally chic; I chose a few that caught my eye and have them in the widget above.  With sunglasses and bags, I recommend buying the best quality and brand you can afford.  These are accessories you likely will wear every day; quality will last and also elevate your basic wardrobe staples.

What Every MAN Needs in HIS Wardrobe

Reader Valerie asked me to discuss what every MAN needs in his wardrobe. Like women, men are bombarded with tons of overly trendy, unflattering and plain bad options in fashion. Men get stuck in ruts too, and don’t find the time or importance for worrying about what they wear.

My husband is 6’5”, has a 36” inseam, but is slim (34” waist). For years he has stuck to one or two pairs of Levi’s jeans (he liked the baggy style from his high school days because he believed it covered up his slim build and “no-butt” shape), cargo shorts even in Summer, and plenty of tee shirts with band and surfing logos on them. When he dressed up he had a navy blazer bought at a Today’s Man Going Out of Business Sale and one pair of tan dress pants. He’d wear the same tie to weddings that he wore to his high school graduation over a decade earlier.

A few months ago he was promoted to a manager position in his company. This required him to wear collared shirts, ties, jackets and nice shoes on an almost daily basis (the off days he could downgrade to a polo and khakis). He finally realized that he was a 30-something professional dressing as a teenage skater boy. He needed a new wardrobe, but didn’t want to break the bank. What’s the point of a raise if it’s all spent on a new wardrobe?

We did our homework – men’s magazines, looking at websites of classically stylish men’s clothing websites, observing what subtly stylish celebrities wore.

1. Crisp white cotton shirt They do sell shirts that are not see-through; invest in one. This is crisp cotton, not an oxford. Take this shirt to the cleaners to keep it’s fresh look unless you want to spend forever sprinkling, ironing and starching. To have it the most versatile style, forego any detail on pockets, a button-down collar or any other trimmings. Unless he is a cufflink-type of guy, go with traditional buttoning of the cuffs. Where to wear: with suits for interviews and more dressy of events (weddings, theater, etc.), with khakis for a more casual affair, with jeans and a blazer for parties and social occasions.

2. Comfortable bootcut jeans in a semi-dark color – Confused? So were we when looking for new jeans for my husband. What works with a tucked in shirt or a casual sweatshirt? What looks modern without being overly trendy? The best color is darker than stonewashed. A traditional bootcut ends up being too tight on thicker men, and look awkward on tall slim men. Gap carries a style called “standard fit” that I have seen look great on tall men, short men, stocky men and slight men. It has the stylish cut, but the room in the thighs and rear so that they don’t look too cowboy or too hipster.

3. A black merino v-neck sweater A lightweight black merino sweater can look refined, elegant and even dressy. With a collared shirt and suiting trousers a man is ready for a party or dinner out. With a white tee and jeans or khakis, one is ready for a trip to mall or a business-casual office. The lightweight merino dresses up nicely and doesn’t get lumpy over collared shirts.

4. Flat front tropical weight wool trousers in gray – Black can be too severe, tan will look dated and cheap if not the right quality, brown and navy aren’t terribly versatile. Gray works all four seasons and compliments most other colors in a wardrobe. With a collared shirt, a blazer, a matching suit jacket, a sweater or even a polo, these pants will get much wear. Pleated pants may seem like a safe bet, but they add bulk to heavier men and look odd on slender figures. Pleats are passé, your best bet is to choose a flat front or no more than one or two pleats.

Your pants should make a bit of a bend where the ankle meets the foot. Many men wear their pants either too long or too short. If pants are too long, it doesn’t cost too much to get them hemmed at the local dry cleaner’s. As for cuffs, they are optional for all but the very short – short men should stay away from cuffs because they cut the leg and make one look even shorter.

5. A black suiting blazer Paired with matching trousers, a black suiting blazer creates an elegant ensemble for a formal event. With the gray wool trousers it’s perfect for a business meeting. With jeans and a collared shirt, it’s hip at a club or party. Keep it simple – no fancy fabrics, colorful or glitzy buttons, trendy details. The more subtle, the more stylish and the more versatile.

A three-button single-breasted jacket is a classic and flattering style for all shapes. A rule of thumb with buttons I saw once on What Not to Wear – Sometimes, Always, Never. Sometimes you can have the top button buttoned when standing, always button the middle button (your choice), and the bottom button should never be buttoned, no matter what.

6. A gray suit – Now you can cheat and have a blazer in the same fabric as the tropical weight wool trousers, or have a separate suit. Like the black blazer, keep it very simple and subtle. This suit should be able to be worn to a wedding or an interview. If there is a pattern, pinstripes or detail it will be memorable, and it won’t be timeless. Again, the jacket should be single breasted with two or three buttons.

7. Three solid colored polo shirts – Little boys and college kids wear striped polos. Adults wear solid colors. Look around you at the men who wear stripes, and those who wear solids. Who look to be in better shape and better dressed? You’ll see the more elegant and trim looking men are in solids.

As for colors, that is up to you. However I recommend one in gray, navy or black. This is a simple neutral that is flattering and classic and a bit dressier than other colors. As for the others, pick colors you enjoy. My husband has a sage green that looks great with khaki, navy and gray, and a dark plum that is an unexpected neutral that looks great with olive, khaki, gray and black. Wear with khakis or tropical weight wool trousers for business casual jobs, with cargo shorts for a summer cookout, with jeans on the weekend.

8. Flat front chinos in a khaki color (AKA khakis) – Please stop buying pleated khakis. They do not look good on anyone, and they make men look unfashionable. As for the khaki color – this is the most versatile and flattering. Lighter colors (often called stone) are not as popular and do not look appropriate past Labor Day. Darker and more yellow colors (British tan, taupe, sand) are memorable and often look more casual. As with the gray trousers, have them to the length where they make a bend (or “break”) where the ankle hits the foot.

Khakis look great with everything. Pair with a black blazer and white shirt for dinner, with a polo for work or a day on the links, with a collared shirt or sweaters for casual affairs. These pants will be so versatile, I recommend you buying two pairs. They are so neutral, no one will realize they are two of the same pants. You do not want these too stiff, or too tight. J.Crew offers a style called “relaxed fit” that is very flattering on many shapes and sizes of men. The chino fabric is lightweight enough that it doesn’t crease or bunch, but is refined enough for work, dates and social occasions.

9. A pair of sandals – I do not mean Birkenstocks and I do not mean those woven hurrache-style shoes. A simple sandal or thong in brown leather will be worn almost daily come summer. With shorts and tees, with jeans and a polo. There is nothing more attractive than a man in a crisp white shirt, well-fitting khaki chinos and a stylish pair of leather sandals in the summertime. Sandals will replace your Tevas and flops for casual affairs, sneakers with your shorts and jeans in the warmer months.

10. Longer shorts in olive or khaki – Get rid of the pleated shorts that are 4” above your knee, the faded navy and black chino shorts that you have owned since college, the beat up and threadbare stone-colored cutoffs. These shorts are a clean line without being too stiff, longer without looking sloppy. The ones shown have a 9″ inseam. The shorts should land close to or at the knee, but not below.

11. A casual sweater with a crew neckline – Keep it simple. No stripes, argyles, or overt details. A cableknit in navy, a Shetland in charcoal, a ribbed commando-style (featured) in a dark green. It should cover the wrists even when arms are extended, cover the waistband of pants even when stretching, and be a trim fit – not slim, but not overly baggy. Think refined, classic, simple. The color should be one you enjoy and you find flattering, without being too strong. Navy instead of royal, olive or forest instead of bright green, russet instead of red. This will be the most versatile with all your bottoms. These colors go with khaki, with gray, with denim. A crew neckline will look nice with a collared shirt or on it’s own.

12. Black leather slip-on dress loafers – The best buy I have ever made for my husband. Being a slip-on style, they can transition from dress to casual with ease; a laced-up oxford can often seem too prim. These shoes look great with an oxford shirt and khakis for Thanksgiving dinner at the grandparent’s house. With his suit for work, or for a wedding. With the merino v-neck and trousers for a party at a friend’s house. These shoes go with every pant in my husband’s wardrobe except jeans, and fit every occasion where pants other than jeans are appropriate. On top of that, they are comfortable!

13. A pair of Euro sneakers or rugged leather oxford shoes – These are what you wear when you can’t wear the black loafers. Euro sneakers are leather, subtle in color and sleek in design. They are a dressier version of traditional tennies. If Euro sneakers are not your thing, consider a pair of sturdy oxfords – my husband has a pair of brown lace-ups from Merrell that have contrast stitching, sturdy laces and a chunky sole. My good friend has stayed tried and true to his black Dr. Martens for the past two decades. Like Euro sneakers, these shoes can fill in where the black loafer cannot – with jeans and to dress down khakis.

14. A wool winter coat – The parka is great for cold days, and the fleece is an easy layer for weekends. However for work, for evening, and for special occasions you need something not made of Gortex. A wool coat in black, charcoal or dark navy will get years of wear. Consider a traditional peacoat style – it works well with jeans and tee shirts or with suits. A single breasted style will make a thicker man look leaner and a shorter man look taller. As with the rest of these wardrobe basics, keep it simple. Buttons should be the same tone as the coat, collars and shoulders should not have adornments. A simple lining is good for moderate climates, consider a Thinsulate lining for those residing in the more northern of states.

15. Black leather dress belt – you need something to keep up those khakis and tropical weight wool trousers. A dress best is not like your casual belts – the leather is stiff and glossy. The buckle is polished and minimal. The whole style is slim, sleek and refined. The rugged brown leather belts with the hammered steel buckle is fine for the weekends, but should never be paired with suits or nice trousers. Your belt should always match the color of your shoes – as that I have only recommended black dress shoes, you will only need a black dress belt.

Additional Items You May Need:

  1. A bathing suit in a simple pattern or solid that hits near the knees, without going below the knee
  2. A French blue dress button-down shirt
  3. Ties – stripes for work, solids for formal affairs, patterns for festive occasions. You should own at least two.
  4. Casual button down shirts – for work with khakis, for play with jeans. Look for wrinkle-resistant styles so they can be easily washed and dried. Subtle stripes, solids in colors you enjoy and fit your personality, muted plaids. These shirts should be tucked in, one button unbuttoned without an undershirt, two buttons unbuttoned with a tee shirt underneath.

What to Remove from Your Wardrobe:

  1. Any jeans with bleached out areas, sandblasted, or stonewashed
  2. Any classic fit, overly baggy or tapered jeans
  3. Short sleeved dress shirts – these look goofy on everyone. If you’re hot, roll your sleeves
  4. Plaid flannel shirts as work shirts – just because you tuck it in does not mean it is work or socially appropriate. Flannels are for casual affairs: camping, cold nights and weekends in the yard (my husband asked me to include Pearl Jam concerts)
  5. Tee shirts with witty logos/cartoon characters/lewd jokes – these are corny, crass and tacky. Silly shirts are for college kids, not adult professionals.
  6. White socks unless you are performing an athletic activity.
  7. Sports jerseys unless you are attending a sporting event, participating in a sporting event, or going to a sport-themed party. Rappers can carry off a sports jersey for a red carpet event; until you have the bankroll of a rapper, you cannot dress like one. You will look childish or goofy.
  8. Sweatpants with elastic at the ankle. Any sweatpants or athletic bottoms should be reserved to the gym and your home when you don’t have guests. However, traditional elastic sweatpants are horribly unflattering and tacky.
  9. That brown leather bomber jacket you have had since college. It was hip in the 90’s, it is NOT hip today.
  10. Athletic sneakers with shorts. Invest in some leather or athletic-inspired sandals. Sneakers with shorts look ridiculous and immature. Traditional sneakers are only for athletic events.
  11. Denim shorts. NO buts about it, there is NEVER a good time to wear denim shorts.
  12. Cliff Huxtable sweaters. Get rid of the jewel tones, the funky patterns and textures. Solids are safe and flattering. The crazy patterned sweaters look dated.
  13. Mock turtlenecks. Whoever invented these should be shot. The only version of turtleneck you should be wearing would be on the ski slopes or part of a chunky sweater. There is never an appropriate place for knit mock turtlenecks

What Every Man Needs in His Wardrobe – Updated for 2010

A few years ago, I wrote the post, “What Every MAN Needs in his Wardrobe.” Since then, I seem to get comments and emails about it every month, and it has been mentioned in many articles on sites all over the Web.

What Every Man Needs in his Wardrobe

Men’s fashion is so difficult because it is so simple. A man can’t feign style with trendy colors, bold accessories, or an It Bag. A man has a harder time making a Tarjay purchase cut it in the corporate world. Men’s retailers don’t help the situation – with women’s retailers we can tell that Mom Jeans are passé because they can only be found at cheaper Big Box retailers; men can find all sorts of Fashion Don’ts at the nicest brands and shops.

However just as with women, if a man has a very simple base wardrobe of staples, he can get away with adding some trendy or fun pieces to the mix without looking like a fashion victim. Purchasing quality, classic pieces means one’s wardrobe can stand the test of time and be far more versatile.

Re-reading my list of wardrobe staples for men from back in 2006, very little has changed. The good thing about men’s fashion is that it isn’t as quickly changing as that for women. Jeans you buy in 2007 will most likely be stylish in 2011, and silhouettes don’t change as drastically as those for women. However some trends have happened that aren’t TOO trendy, and can adjust the staples for any man. So let’s revisit that list.

Here’s a recap of the original list from 2006:
1. White dress shirt
2. Bootcut jeans
3. Black merino v-neck sweater
4. Flat front gray trousers
5. Black blazer
6. Gray suit
7. Solid-colored polo shirts
8. Flat front chinos/khakis
9. Sandals
10. Longer chino shorts
11. Casual crew neck sweater
12. Black slip on loafers
13. Euro sneakers
14. Wool coat
15. Black dress belt

1. Crisp White Cotton Shirt. This is a given. Every man needs at least one of these, as that they are so versatile and look best when very white, very crisp. Over the past couple of years, trimmer cuts have taken center stage. If you are a lean gentleman, do not let your white shirt balloon around you – this look will completely kill any style. European brands like French Connection offer narrower cuts, American retail favorites like Banana Republic and Gap also offer dress and casual shirts in fitted silhouettes.

If you are tall, look for brands that cater to tall men. My husband is a big fan of the Banana Republic line for Big & Tall men – the quality is good, and the cuts really do fit far better than standard brands. If you are shorter, you will always be better off heading straight to a shop like Brooks Brothers or a department store to get the right length of arms along with right size of neck.

Image courtesy gap.com

2. Comfortable Bootcut Jeans in a Semi-dark Color. This is one of the items that has changed the most drastically since the original post. Jeans are a wardrobe staple for most any person on this planet and retailers know this. Styles in denim change faster than with any other type of garment.

The mentioned relaxed bootcut jean is still a decent choice – it’s not too trendy, yet not dated. However since then other cuts and washes have become classics.

A very dark crisp jean, often called “rinse” in color or described as “rigid”, “selvedge”, or “raw” denim has become a classic for men as well as women. This is not a dark wash, but a deep, even dark indigo where the denim looks untouched. Often the inside seams are stitched in red, and the denim is far heavier-weight and stiff than most jeans in the store. In a slim, straight or slight boot cut, this look can be a great staple for most men. Adding the slight bootcut or a more relaxed cut is a good choice for very tall and lean men, as well as for shorter or heavier men. You want to balance out your shape, so you don’t look top heavy. A great classic choice for this type of jean is the Levi’s 501.

The vintage jean is a jean that is supposed to look as though it has been weathered through use. This jean doesn’t have the pronounced whiskering I mentioned in the original post, but all-over wear. We’re not talking shredded jeans a la the Glam Rock days, but something that looks as though a farmhand took a pair of raw denim and wore them for an entire season out in the fields. This look can be a bit looser and more relaxed than the dark denim, but it is still not baggy or loose. Again, a straight or slight boot cut will be your best choice.

Jeans now can be cuffed, but you are treading into trendy territory with this choice. If you don’t feel confident in knowing how to cuff your jeans in a fashionable manner and only plan to cuff to achieve the proper length, I encourage you to instead buy the right length or head to a tailor to have them properly hemmed (ask them to keep the original hem or at least hem style so it doesn’t look as though Mommy did it for you). If you know your length, many online retailers offer extended lengths and waist sizes online so you can get the right fit from the get-go.

3. A Black Merino V-neck Sweater. Yeppers, this is still stylish. Just be sure it fits you, and isn’t overly baggy. The only thing that has changed in the past few years is that cuts are now more trim. If you have some meat on your bones, don’t try to hide it with an oversized sweater, but don’t go too skinny. A straight fit in your regular size will actually make you look more slim than something that is baggy.

In the original post, someone commented that cashmere is a better choice. Cashmere is always in style, but it requires a bit more upkeep. If your budget and lifestyle can handle cashmere, by all means choose it. However most men I know are better off with a sweater that can handle being thrown in a hamper or sent to the cleaners to be cared for. Cashmere is best cared for with hand washing and being laid flat to dry. If you don’t have the life for that sort of care, it’s okay. Merino wool is a wonderful alternative and holds its shape great, wear after wear.

Image courtesy jcrew.com

4. Flat Front Tropical Weight Wool Trousers in Gray. Another classic. My only suggestion is that if you are deciding between cuffs and no cuffs, go without the cuffs. Cuffs are being seen less and less and are becoming something that is trendy – let those pants be stylish for many years to come and choose to go without cuffs, or any other trendy embellishment.

The narrow pant has become very stylish in the past couple of years. If you are reading this for clothing advice, I recommend you do NOT go for the narrow pant. The narrow pant is a hard look to pull off and can only be worn with certain shoes, certain tops, and on certain shapes of men. Keep it simple, keep it classic, stick to a flat front, standard leg, standard length.

Image courtesy nordstrom.com

5. A Black Suiting Blazer with Three Buttons. Classic. Simple. Just keep with current trends and keep it well-fitted. Get it properly tailored to fit your body – it will make you look more muscular, more fit, more trim if you have a well-fitting jacket.  As for figuring out fit, I love these tips from a Suitable Wardrobe and this link for sizing from SuitUPP – every man should bookmark them, print them out and take with you to the tailor when you get your jackets fitted (for no jacket fits properly off the rack – sorry to tell you guys, but it’s worth it to get them tailored.

When I originally wrote this, I chose black over navy for the same reason I choose black as the base color for my list of women’s wardrobe staples – it’s easier. You can’t get the wrong shade of black, and with black you always know what color shoes to wear. Navy is a wonderful choice for a blazer – it is classic and elegant, but the problem is navy can look more like blue if the wrong shade, navy will show the fabric better so if you don’t have high quality fibers it will be obvious, and often people pair navy with colors that don’t compliment well (hello black trousers). If you can find a dark navy of quality fibers, it is a worthy replacement of black. But if you’re unsure, stick with black for it’s safe and in this day and age, considered as versatile as navy.

6. A Gray Suit. Yep, this is still a classic. Far more versatile than any other color available, and more likely to look elegant in five years. Make sure it is tailored to fit you properly, and it should work for most any event that life throws in your direction.

 Image courtesy bananarepublic.com

7. Three Solid-colored Polo Shirts. There are more hip, more trendy, more fashionable choices than polo shirts, but nothing that is as timeless, budget-friendly, and versatile. My only update is again about fit – keep it trim (not tight) and be sure the length is correct. I constantly see men who have polo shirts that barely cover their belts, and other men who wear ones that hang to their knees. The current look is no longer baggy, so even if you are short and stocky, you should be able to find a polo shirt that doesn’t look like a dress. Tall men, almost every online retailer offers long lengths – you can easily get a few polos on sale at J. Crew or Gap and replace your belly-baring tops.

Keep your polo shirts looking better for longer and don’t wash them with your jeans, towels, or any athletic wear with grommets or Velcro. My husband washes his with other knits and they don’t fade or stretch out as quickly.

8. Flat-front Chinos in a Khaki Color. Still a classic. If you wear khakis for work, keep one pair that is only for social events. Often I see men at weddings and happy hours with stained or snagged chinos, and it’s obvious they are the same ones they wear on the job.

Again I have to mention length. It’s better to get them too long and have them hemmed than go too short. Any drycleaner can hem your pants and get them back to you in a couple of days. J. Crew and Lands End are two of many retailers that sell unusual lengths online. J. Crew even offers a raw hem so you can have them hemmed by your own tailor for the perfect length.

9. A Pair of Sandals. Magazines and Web sites will talk about all sorts of other summer shoes, but if you are a Fashion Freshman, I don’t suggest many other trendy alternatives that are out there.  I recommend checking out Zappos, a site with a HUGE selection of shoes. When I recently searched for men’s leather sandals, they had 545 options. It is possible to find a pair of thong or slide sandals that look manly, will be comfortable, and be a great choice with shorts or jeans.

10. Longer Shorts in Olive or Khaki. I am not saying your shorts should hang past your knee. You’re looking for that happy medium that is between the thigh and the knee. The baggy look is out guys, so pass on the pleats, the millions of cargo pockets and any pair that can’t stay on your hips without a belt. A heavier-weight chino will keep a crisp, sophisticated look.

I mentioned cargo shorts as a good alternative, but since that original post cargo shorts have started going out of style. I really think every man need a clean, crisp pair (or three) of cargo-free chino shorts. It’s far more modern, flattering, and stylish.

11. A Casual Sweater with a Crew Neckline. There are a lot of thin cotton sweaters out there that end up clinging to your tee shirt, stretching out in the wash, blousing out weird at the hem. It’s better to have fewer sweaters in your closet and know that the ones you have fit well, launder well, and will keep their shape and color. If you buy quality, this sweater can still be one you love to wear a decade from now.

If you have this crew sweater, you can definitely branch out with necklines. More v-necks, a shawl collar, etc. Start with crew, a crew is a wardrobe staple and a good first choice to build your proper wardrobe.

12. Black Leather Slip-on Dress Loafers. These are so versatile, you may even want a second pair. Seriously.

And with the new dark, crisp looks in denim, these loafers can now be worn with that type of denim and look stylish.

13. A Pair of Euro Sneakers or Rugged Leather Oxford Shoes. This is probably the only item on this list that has really changed over the years and isn’t still considered a perfect wardrobe choice. Really, that’s to be expected – a shoe like this is more of a novelty piece and will change with the times and trends. You’re looking for a casual shoe – something more socially acceptable than an athletic sneaker, but not as dressy as the black loafer. .

A popular choice for this type of shoe is the Converse All Stars “Chucks” sneakers. In black, with a low rise, these are a wonderful choice to add to your wardrobe. My husband’s friend has a pair of loafers, but they are a dark brown with a more rugged sole that look great with his chinos and jeans. I love the look of engineer boots or chukkas – a great choice with this season’s trim dark jeans.

Pick a style that works with your personal style. Into the music scene? Consider some Doc Martens. A bit preppy? How about some Sperry Topsiders? Like sports? Instead of a pair of old Nikes, consider some Adidas “Shell Tops” (just be sure they stay in immaculate condition). Desert boots are a good choice if you have more of a beachy or boho sense of style.

Image courtesy omiru.com

14. A Wool Winter Coat. Still a classic, and still a wardrobe essential.

15. Black Leather Dress Belt. If you own #12, you need #15.

Additional Items You Should Have in your Wardrobe:
1. Oxfords shirts in blue and white. These shirts are different from the dress shirt. They are more casual, have a heavier textured weave, button-down collars, and aren’t meant to be worn with a suit. Go for a trim cut, and you can wear them tucked in with jeans and pants, or even untucked with chinos or shorts. If you have a sense of flair, feel free to stray from the basic blue and white – real men DO wear pink, and other hues are hot and surprisingly versatile. This sort of shirt also looks great under a sweater come winter. For summer, here’s a great link that tells you how to roll up your cuffs.

2. Other casual button-down shirts. Right now, the button-down shirt is hot, as long as it’s the right fabric and fit. Shirts shouldn’t be blousy, and they shouldn’t have texture or shine. The vintage look is hot for casual wear. Plaids have come back in style, and we’re talking cotton, and not grunge-era flannel. Stripes are great too.

Before I stated that short-sleeved dress shirts are goofy. I still believe that. However, since the original post, fashion has made great strides with the short-sleeved casual shirt. For lean men, the semi-fitted button down in plaid is a nice look; for stocky men the more casual beachy short-sleeved shirt in chambray or a lightweight cotton looks great untucked with shorts or chinos.

3. A light blue or French blue dress shirt. Same rules apply as for the white dress shirt.

4. Ties. Just as stated before, solid for more formal events, stripes for work, patterns and more casual fabrics for festive occasions. Please get your ties cleaned occasionally, and especially after any event that includes cigars and/or large consumption of alcohol. Nothing worse than a stained or rumpled tie. And for some wonderful tutorials, here is a fabulous site that shows you with diagrams as well as videos on how to tie a tie with the four most popular knots (I recommend four in hand for pretty much any affair, Half Windsor for the more formal affairs).

5. Dress socks. Your black SmartWool socks are NOT a choice when wearing a suit. You should own at least two pairs of socks that are meant to be worn with suits. As a rule, have your socks match your pant, not your shoe.

6. A leather wallet. Get rid of your Velcro-closure one from Billabong, and get rid of the one you have had since you high school graduation. A man’s wallet is like a woman’s purse – it should be well cared for, not overstuffed, and match your sense of style. Regularly remove receipts, business cards and other things that will make it be the size of a Dagwood sandwich.

7. Bathing trunks. Keep it simple – simple print or a solid. Trim but not tight, length similar to the abovementioned shorts.

8. An umbrella. This is not some swag you got from your last work conference. Get a travel one that will fit in your laptop bag, and can withstand fierce winds. My husband and I have a couple from Lands End that are classic, sturdy, reliable. Black is a safe bet, or you can add some color to your look with a muted plaid or solid color.  Any woman will tell you that she would find it terribly gallant for a man to pull out an umbrella to protect her during an unexpected rainshower…

9. Sunglasses. It’s time to retire the Oakleys (or keep them for sporting events and the most casual of situations). Variations of the classic Aviator or the Wayfarer are popular now, but I recommend you visit a high-end department store or sunglass boutique in the mall to try various styles to find what fits your face as well as your lifestyle.

10. White tee shirts. You should own a couple crisp, well-made white tee shirts to wear under things. Those Hanes ads with Michael Jordan are right – the cheap tees that buckle at the neck look terrible. Be sure to wash your white tees with other whites, use some oxygen cleaner or line dry to keep them white.

11.  Casual belt.  If your casual shoes are black, look for a more casual black belt.  If they are brown, look for brown.  My husband always has luck finding casual belts on clearance at Banana Republic that are well-made, timeless, and budget-friendly.

Since the original post about what every man needs in his wardrobe, I have added several Web sites and blogs to my Blogroll that specialize in Men’s Style.  Unlike me, their expertise is in men’s fashion, and I trust them for advice and input on new trends.  Do check them out.

Capsule Wardrobe: Feminine Menswear

I’m 62. I’m slim and small of bust. I run, bike, and do yoga and still work full-time. I like clothing, but I never seem to buy the right thing. I shop and shop, I’m ashamed to admit I have more than one closet in my home filled to the brim yet I never seem to have anything to wear. I found your site through Pinterest and the ‘Old but Not Dead’ capsule, but I’d never wear most of the things in it. I don’t like black or color, I don’t wear dresses, my daily accessories are my wedding set and necklace from my husband, and I won’t wear heels. I admire Diane Keaton and Ellen DeGeneres but when I try to shop their look it feels too masculine. Would you consider another capsule wardrobe for women over 50 with lighter colors and no dresses?

I love your email, and I bet you aren’t the only one who would rather emulate Diane Keaton than Diane von Furstenberg. Many women don’t feel black is flattering as they get older, and prefer to wear softer colors near their face. And you are not alone in desiring a wardrobe free of skirts and dresses. This capsule wardrobe is a basic core collection of pieces to transition between seasons, but to get your sartorial juices flowing to see how simple separates can work together to create a cohesive and sophisticated look.

Capsule Wardrobe: Feminine Menswear. Think Diane Keaton meets Ellen DeGeneres. Business Casual and perfect for an active creative women over 40 or over 50

Shop Similar: girlfriend jeans | high-waist jeans | wide-leg pants | ankle pants | silk shirt | white shirt | silk shell | stripe tee | cashmere tee | turtleneck sweater | jacket | loafers | low heels | silver belt | leopard belt | sunglasses | bag

To get that “Ellen meets Diane” look, I chose pieces with clean lines and made with luxe fabrics that have good drape. With great fabrics and tailoring, you don’t need a lot of accessories. Flat or low-heeled shoes that bring interest to the look, a couple belts to complete an outfit while drawing attention to your slim waist, and on-trend accessories that prove that you’re “not dead” and add a modern edge to classic separates. While I kept this look to pale neutrals, you could easily incorporate a signature color or two or darken the look by switching out gray for navy.

When it comes to bottoms, I gave you two casual and two dressier options. First, a “girlfriend” jean (slimmer than the boyfriend from previous seasons, but still ankle length), and then a high waist bootcut or subtle flare jean in dark saturated stretch denim. Both looks are on trend, but not so trendy they’ll be dated in a year or make you look like a fashion victim. For the pants, I went with an ankle-length with clean lines in wool, and a wide leg with great drape. The slim ankle pant is more Ellen, the looser pant more Diane, but both will mix and match great with all the tops and jackets featured, and both will work with a lower shoe.

For the tops, I went with a feminine take on menswear. A crisp white shirt, but with stretch incorporated so it skims the figure (and resists wrinkles). A silk shirt, but with classic styling and a looser fit to get a bit of a menswear vibe. The sleeveless blouse is also silk, a subtle jacquard pattern, and with buttons down the front to continue the menswear feel. For the knits, I kept them very simple and with clean lines; you’ll want to shop for quality – cashmere, merino wool, and heavyweight soft jersey. When you simplify your wardrobe, palette, and accessories you need to focus more on fabric and fit.

Blazers are a great layering piece, especially if you’re emulating Diane Keaton and Ellen DeGeneres, but you want to watch out for too structured or masculine of fits. Especially when you have a lean figure and embrace menswear details, classic blazers can feel too masculine. This blazer is in a soft color, and balances the structured shoulders with a soft closure and angled edge. Look for shawl collars, peplum details, belts, and soft fabrics like crepe, silk, and ponte to keep blazers from feeling too masculine.

Accessories complete a look, but there’s no need to switch out your favorite pieces for big statement-making baubles. This capsule wardrobe is free of jewelry and proves such is not needed to complete a look. However, if you go that route you do need to pay more attention to detail. As I mentioned above, you need to focus more on fabric and fit, but also ways to pulls separates together into an ensemble.

Shop Low-Heeled and Flat Metallic and Grey Shoes:

Shoes are a great way to do this; these days there’s so many fabulous styles of flat and low-heeled shoes out there you can really show your personality, soften a menswear feel, or even incorporate a color or texture with what is on your feet. For this capsule wardrobe, I chose a traditional loafer, but in a streamlined fit and in a metallic. I also went with A classic low-heeled round-toe pump, but in a luxe fabric with embellishment. Neither shoe is especially flashy, but the interesting fabric and details incorporate current trends and make simple separates purposeful and chic.

Belts are a great way to complete a look. Whether you wear it over a fitted knit like the camel turtleneck, or slip through beltlooks with a tucked-in top, it draws an entire look together, and provides an opportunity to add color, texture, pattern, or shine. I chose a soft metallic in a mesh that won’t clash with the loafers, and a subtle animal print in calfhair, which works with leather or suede shoes.

Finally, I find it smart to invest in a quality bag and sunglasses, especially as you get older. These are finishing touches that show style and elegance. Steer clear of visible logos, but consider popular brands to show you have your finger on the pulse of current trends. Ray-Ban aviators have been stylish for many years and likely will for many more. There’s a lot of different colored lenses available; I chose a soft rose which complements your wardrobe and likely will be flattering to your skin and hair. The bag is Rebecca Minkoff, a popular brand that makes quality bags that are functional, stylish, but have a bit of edge. The soft shade doesn’t match anything in the capsule, but complements it all; if you have a signature color a bag is a great place to showcase it. It’s actually more stylish to have your bag match nothing and just coordinate with your wardrobe, so don’t be afraid to incorporate a random yet favorite hue.

Capsule Wardrobe: Feminine Menswear. Think Diane Keaton meets Ellen DeGeneres. Business Casual and perfect for an active creative women over 40 or over 50

Shop the Look:

When simplifying your wardrobe, it’s all about quality instead of quantity. You already have plenty of clothes, but it sounds as though you don’t buy considering what you already have and need/use/love. Hopefully this capsule wardrobe can show you how you can have a lot to wear with fewer pieces. And maybe, you have such pieces already residing in your wardrobe!

Some possible outfits from this capsule wardrobe:

  1. Girlfriend jeans, camel turtleneck, metallic belt and loafers
  2. Girlfriend jeans, silk shell, jacket, silver loafers
  3. Girlfriend jeans, grey cashmere tee half-tucked, grey loafers, leopard belt
  4. Girlfriend jeans, white shirt untucked with sleeves rolled, grey suede pumps
  5. Girlfriend jeans, silk shirt half tucked, leopard belt, silver loafers
  6. Girlfriend jeans, striped tee, metallic belt and loafers, add a cardigan or leather jacket
  7. High waist jeans, striped tee, metallic belt, suede pumps
  8. High waist jeans, white shirt tucked in or tied at waist, metallic loafers
  9. High waist jeans, white shirt untucked with cahsmere tee over it, suede pumps
  10. High waist jeans, silk shirt tucked in, leopard belt, suede pumps
  11. High waist jeans, striped tee, jacket, metallic loafers
  12. High waist jeans, silk shell untucked, silver loafers
  13. Wide-leg pants, silk shirt tucked in, metallic belt and loafers
  14. Wide-leg pants, white shirt tucked in, metallic belt and loafers
  15. Wide-leg pants, silk shell tucked in, suede pumps
  16. Wide-leg pants, striped shirt, metallic loafers (could add a denim jacket or cardigan)
  17. Wide-leg pants, cashmere tee, leopard belt, suede pumps
  18. Wide-leg pants, camel turtleneck, leopard belt (could add a denim or leather jacket)
  19. Grey ankle pants, grey cashmere tee, grey pumps, metallic belt
  20. Grey ankle pants, striped tee, metallic loafers (add a denim or leather jacket)
  21. Grey ankle pants, white shirt untucked with cashmere tee over it, metallic loafers
  22. Grey ankle pants, camel turtleneck untucked, leopard belt over it, grey pumps
  23. Grey ankle pants, silk shell, jacket, grey pumps
  24. Grey ankle pants, silk shirt untucked, grey pumps
  25. Grey ankle pants, a black tank or tee in your wardrobe, jacket, metallic loafers

The Capsule Wardrobe Crutch

the problem with capsule wardrobes

Last year when I was feeling a bit lost, a reader suggested I check out Brené Brown and now I suggest the same for everyone else I meet who is going through a similar experience. While I have read (and listened to) many of her pieces and left with so many a-ha moments and have frantically typed so many quotes into my iPhone Notes, this is one I keep coming back to (don’t have the book right now so going by memory, notes, and what I found via Google):

We all get so many emails in our inbox on “how to…” However “how to” does not work – if it did, none of us would be struggling- we would not be the most obese, in debt, addicted society in human history. We frequently look for “quick fixes,”, “instant solutions” and helpful tips in the areas we struggle most in our attempt to “fix” the areas that cause us pain. If “how to” worked, none of us would struggle with feelings we’re “enough.” We live in a culture where if we are not doing huge, extraordinary things, we are “not enough”. All of the social media are based on the shame-based fear of being ordinary. We are hyper-aware of lack. The first thing we do in the morning is to say to ourselves, “I didn’t sleep enough” and the last thing before bed is “I didn’t get enough done.”

The most popular topic here at Wardrobe Oxygen is capsule wardrobes. They get pinned the most on Pinterest, receive the most comments, I gain the most Facebook followers after I share a new one on the blog, and I receive more “Ask Allie” requests for capsule wardrobes than any other fashion advice. The thing is, I don’t believe in living your entire life from a capsule, and I never have.  A capsule wardrobe is not a quick fix, or instant solution for what is wrong in your wardrobe or your life.

A couple summers ago I tried Project 333, a program I find to be one of the originators of the capsule wardrobe. I respect Courtney Carver; she believes in this program, cares about her readers, and walks the talk of Project 333. And ever since I learned about her project, I recommend it to those interested in paring down their wardrobe (and those who show me one of the newer shiny blogs out there who took her idea and made it “Pinteresting” with fancy photography and affiliate links). But learning about and trying Project 333 made me realize it is not for me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that life is better with a smaller closet. I have had points in my life where my closet was gorgeous – tons of color and prints, full of covetable pieces. And those points in life were those where I had the hardest time getting dressed every morning, had the worst personal style, and was often lost or disorganized in other aspects of my life. But when I’ve done a serious analysis of my closet and only kept what I love and loves me in return; when I have shopped with care, considering what I currently own and only buying what I need to complete my current wardrobe; that is when style emerges.

My capsule wardrobes are not a how to get dressed for a season, they are a guide to help you see how style and versatility can be achieved with fewer pieces. Be it trying to fit two weeks into a suitcase or imagining how a handful of budget-friendly separates can provide a month’s worth of work outfits, my capsules aren’t gospel but a reminder to choose quality over quantity.

A capsule wardrobe won’t fix your closet, and it surely won’t fix your life. But the process of paring down your wardrobe may bring up a lot of emotions and other issues in your life and help you realize and understand those issues. And a shrunken closet of simple pieces may give you the space to address other aspects in your life, or that space to actually experience your life. Clothing – be it over-shopping, trying to emulate the style of another, buying the must-have three or five or ten items, or trying to gain control or calm with a capsule is a quick fix, isn’t addressing the true issue. You deserve to live your life, and dress for it, on your terms in a manner that is right for you. It may be painful, it may take time, but you’re worth it.

Capsule Wardrobes and How to Take Control of your Tablet

Tips on Taking Control of your Closet:

  • Go slow. Don’t expect to do a whole wardrobe assessment in one weekend. Go on your own timeline. Even I recommend an afternoon but there’s a lot of history and emotions in your closet; if it takes longer that’s okay. Go at your own pace, but don’t quit.
  • Shop with intention.  Shopping should not be a pastime.  Download a game on your phone, try out gardening or knitting, but don’t shop to fill time or a void in your life.  It only makes more of a mess of your closet… and your finances.
  • Create a uniform.  A uniform doesn’t have to LOOK like a uniform, but if you whittle down to a few select silhouettes and colors it makes things easier.  You can go online or in a store and head straight to the bootcut jeans, the a-line skirts, the fit and flare dresses.  No one will notice if every pair of pants you own is the same brand, cut, and even fabric (says the woman who only owns LOFT pants in one cut).  We’re pressured by the media and blogosphere to buy new things to achieve style and success.  It’s a lie; we need to feel confident and have our clothes fit our figures and lifestyles to be stylish.  The most stylish women rewear items over and over and have a signature look AKA a uniform.  Seriously, Google Image your favorite fashionista and you’ll see more often than not she’s wearing the same silhouette, the same designer, the same colors.
  • One thing in, one thing out.  If you found the Best Thing In The World that’s awesome… what will you remove from your closet to make room for it?  When you start thinking “one thing in, one thing out” you’re more careful with your purchases and you often realize you’re buying or holding on to items that don’t deserve it.
  • Shop your current life.  I mentioned this in last week’s post.  Don’t buy for the past, don’t buy for a possible future.  Don’t buy an entire new wardrobe for a week-long vacation, don’t think a capsule will help your love life, give you a promotion, make you look younger or thinner or happier.  Buy with care, buy slow, and buy what you honestly need for the current life you own.

Capsule Wardrobe for the Weekend Warrior

The older I get, the less complicated I want my wardrobe. I remember a time when I bought things less to wear than to have hanging like art in my closet. Now, serenity comes from a smaller closet, fewer choices, but more pieces that make me happy each time I reach for them.

capsule wardrobe casual weekend winter fall

This winter I really created a great capsule of casual clothing. In the past I spent so much time focusing on work clothes and cute outfits for nights out that I ended up spending weekends in weird hybrids of work blouses with ill-fitting jeans or schlubby sweats. I decided to make a casual fall and winter capsule based upon the one I have created and share why it works for me.


When it comes to a casual capsule wardrobe, it’s best to stick to similar silhouettes. The more pant widths and blouse lengths you add, the more you need to adjust, and the less chance things will pair nicely together. Choosing all straight or slim leg pants keeps things simple. This winter you’ll find me in heavyweight ponte leggings from NYDJ, black twill skinny jeans from NYDJ, and a few different straight or skinny jeans in different washes and finishes (my favorite this year is the Real Straight from Gap, which can fit into a pair of tall boots or look great with regular shoes). I wear skirts a lot on weekends; with a pair of fleece tights a flippy ponte skirt can be as easy as leggings but be more figure flattering and fun. I baby all the pieces as much as my work clothes, washing them on gentle and line drying to keep their color and shape.

Sweaters have been big this season, making it easy to find classic styles in most any color that you’ll love now and years from now. I purchased a cream cable-knit sweater which makes an appearance most every weekend. I’ll pair with the skirt and tights for dinner with friends, or slip on with jeans and tall boots to run errands. A thicker “grandpa” cardigan slips more easily over thicker knit base layers, keeps your hips and rear warm, and gives a slouchy cool vibe. I’ll pair it with black skinny jeans, a band tee, and chunky silver jewelry to give a bit of a rock and roll feel, but it can get classic with a striped tee and brown boots or the black skirt. This has been my year for ponchos – I have this one from BP. that I love pairing with a striped tee and tall boots. Cinching the poncho with a wide leather belt gives a completely different effect and can dress it up quite nicely for dinner out.

My three main base layers have been a plaid flannel shirt, striped tees, and band tees. I usually wear the flannel peeking out of the cream cableknit or under my puffer vest, but often use it as an accent, tying it around my waist to add interest to a dress or outfit. Striped tees are my signature and I have many of them, but find a blue-black or dark gray slim stripe on a light ground to be the most versatile and flattering. Band tees are another signature piece for me, I cut the hems off the sleeves, cut off the collar and stretch out the neck for a more feminine fit. I love how they fray and stretch more with wear and washing, becoming more and more a custom piece. Nothing better than an old weathered band tee under a crisp blazer!

Sweater and sweatshirt dresses have been popular this year and that’s great for us weekend warriors. I have this navy sweatshirt dress from last year and this year purchased this sweater dress. While I can wear them to work, I usually wear them on weekends with fleece tights for a pulled-together look that’s as comfy as sweats. I’m loving the mix of gray, black, and brown leather and think this gray sweater dress would look fantastic with black tights and black Chelsea boots, or even with the tall brown boots. Add a belt to change the look completely.

As for accessories, I’ve been wearing more brown leather and gold accessories than in the past and find it easiest to have a bag that’s neither black nor brown and with subtle hardware. This way, I don’t have to keep changing my bag, and my bag becomes an accent piece. I’ve been loving my distressed brown leather tall boots, they add a touch of class to oversized knits and band tees; short black ankle boots work with jeans of all leg width and also look cute with leggings and skirts. Choosing quality brands and comfortable fit, I don’t miss my sneakers. I used to match my sunglasses to my jewelry, but now just always wear my gold and green Ray-Ban oversized aviators; they’re a classic and go with everything. An oblong scarf in cotton or lightweight wool adds warmth as well as interest to an outfit; in the past I’ve always chosen a signature solid colored scarf but lately like mixing patterns and have been gravitating towards the printed scarves in my collection. A brown leather belt is such a great accessory to have; if it’s a tone similar to the boots it can pull a look together, and it looks great cinching knits, dresses, and replacing the cheesy belts that come with many dresses. Finally, I can’t recommend Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic enough. It is a sheer cherry red that makes you look like Snow White. It hydrates, adds a natural bit of shine, can be applied without looking in a mirror and fades away slowly and evenly. I carry it with me everywhere; my weekend face is brows, mascara, and Romantic.

There’s nothing wrong with having a uniform. There’s nothing wrong with wearing the same pair of jeans two (or three!) days in a row. And there’s nothing wrong with people seeing you in the same outfit twice. If something works for you, stick with it. Life is busy enough, save the time trying to make outfits and use it for living the life in those outfits!

My Real-life Capsule Wardrobe

capsule wardrobe everyday life business casual weekendsI’ve been noticing lately that while I have a closet full of clothes, I’m only wearing a few pieces on a regular basis. Without even realizing it, I have started dressing in a capsule manner. While I don’t stick to only these pieces, 80% of the time you will find me in these clothes and if I had the desire to pare down completely, I think this mix would have me dressed for most situations that come my way. I work in a business casual environment that is okay with me being creative or relaxed in my style. Weekends I’m usually in Mom Mode, running errands and playing chauffeur. My social life is the occasional party or blogger event but usually a casual get-together at a restaurant, café, or friend’s house where anything goes. This is for winter; as the temps rise I know the look will change drastically.

Wardrobe Oxygen - Capsule Wardrobe Winter Everyday Business Casual and WeekendLeather-front ponte pants – Ann Taylor (years old; similar) | Black ankle pants – Banana Republic | Grey jeans – Gap | Dark denim straight jeans, usually worn cuffed – Gap | Black ponte leggings – Hue | Black cashmere sweater dress – Nordstrom Collection (old; similar) | Cream chunky knit sweater dress – Glamorous (sold out; similar) | Black knit off the shoulder maxi dress – Tart Collection (years old; similar concept) | Black and white striped tee – J. Crew Factory | Denim shirt – Gap (old; this year’s version) | Black v-neck tee – J. Crew | Grey v-neck tee – Old Navy (years old; similar) | Band tee – had forever (similar) | Black cashmere and leather waterfall cardigan/jacket – Nordstrom Collection (old; similar) | Denim jacket – J. Crew Factory | Teal slouchy sweater – LOFT| Cream cable-knit sweater – Lands’ End (old; similar) | Black fringe-detail sweater – Trouve | Black pumps – Nine West | Black ankle booties – VANELi | Silver slip-on sneakers – Superga (sold out; similar) | Silver oxfords – Bass (old; similar) | Black ankle harness boots – L.L. Bean (sold out; similar) | Black tall boots – Ros Hommerson | Silver leather clutch – Topshop | Black leather hobo bag – Rough & Tumble | Black aviators – Ray-Ban | Leopard calfhair belt – Ann Taylor (years old; similar) | Red bandanna – had forever (similar) | Skull bandana – Saint Laurent (budget-friendly alternative) | Gold and stone pendant – Stella & Dot (years old; similar) | Gold bracelet – Rebecca Minkoff (old; similar) | Silver cuff – had forever (similar) | Silver hoops – Amazon | Stud earrings – Ann Taylor | Statement ring – Amazon | Silver initial necklace – Etsy
(images are examples, exact items are linked whenever possible)

Capsule Wardrobe for Work

Since my work is relatively relaxed and they’re used to me wearing some odd things, I can get away with leather-front pants and scarves with skulls on them. To balance more quirky of pieces I wear my makeup more subtle (no red lips or smoky eye on those days).

Leather-front Pants: These are slim, but with the back being made of heavyweight ponte and having pockets and the front having a proper fly, they aren’t too tight or trendy for my office. I pair with the pumps or the ankle booties Monday through Thursday and on Fridays I sometimes style them with the silver oxfords or even the silver slip-on sneakers. On top, I’ve worn every single piece, keeping the denim shirt (untucked) for Fridays and then paired with the oxfords and silver jewelry so it’s not too schlubby looking.

Ankle Pants: I usually wear these with the black pumps, though I have occasionally also paired with the oxfords. With the denim shirt, striped tee, and teal sweater I’ll tuck in the front (half-tuck) and often add the leopard calfhair belt to make the look more finished. I don’t wear the longer pieces (waterfall cardigan, fringe sweater) with them because it looks unbalanced on my short curvy frame.

Jeans: I wear both pairs with my silver oxfords or else my black ankle booties (I uncuff the dark jeans when wearing the booties). I usually keep the longer pieces with the grey jeans because they give a longer, slimmer line to balance the weight. With the cuffed jeans, I have half-tucked pieces as I have with the ankle pants, sometimes adding the belt. I have also slipped the grey jeans into the tall boots and paired with one of the longer sweaters.

Dresses: I never wear the maxi dress to work. It’s off the shoulder, and I just don’t think maxi dresses give off a professional vibe. The other two dresses, I wear to work with opaque black tights and either the tall boots or the ankle booties. The cream one is more oversized so I balance it with a heavy pendant and a more polished face and hair.

Tops and Toppers: The only top I don’t wear to work is the band tee. I’m quirky, but as a manager and being over 40, I find the band tees look too try-hard and casual. If I worked in a more creative field, I may wear them with a blazer. With the other tees, I only wear the ones in the best condition; the grey tee is hardly ever worn because it is heathered grey and a vintage look and the black tee I wash on gentle and line dry to keep its rich color.

Accessories: I don’t usually wear the red bandana to the office because I think it’s a bit too casual (and those not familiar with fashion trends may find it strange or costumey), and I never wear the skull scarf if corporate will be in the office or I’ll be working with clients. My day purse for work is the hobo since it can fit my lunch; when I need my laptop I add to the capsule with my Dagne Dover blue tote.

Capsule Wardrobe for the Weekend

Leather-front Pants: By switching out my shoes to the slip-on sneakers, these pants are weekend appropriate.

Ankle Pants: I don’t normally wear these on weekends because I like to keep them fresh for work.

Jeans: I wear them with the oxfords, the sneakers, and slide the grey jeans into the harness boots (one could wear cuffed jeans with such boots but it doesn’t look right on my legs).

Leggings: These are a heavyweight ponte legging with a tummy-slimming front. I only wear the leggings on weekends, and with the longer sweaters or the dresses. I usually slide them into the knee-high boots or the harness boots to have some weight to balance the skinny legs and longer sweater. I have been known to wear the cream or teal sweater, leggings, harness boots, and tie the denim shirt around my waist to cover my bum and not look so naked in leggings.

Dresses: I wear these dresses often on weekends; I’ll pair with leggings and the sneakers, or tights and the harness boots. I sometimes wear the denim jacket over the black sweater dress. If I’m going out, I’ll dress these up with the knee-high boots. I wear the maxi dress quite often on weekends, especially when hanging out with friends. At home, I wear it barefoot, going out I usually pair with my silver jewelry and the silver sneakers so it’s not too fancy feeling.

Tops and Toppers: I don’t wear the fringe sweater very often on weekends unless it’s a social occasion since it’s more delicate, but everything else goes. Sometimes my red plaid shirt makes an appearance for a pop of color; sometimes I wear buttoned up, sometimes open over a band tee, often tied around the waist with leggings. I didn’t add it to the capsule because I realize I can get away without it.

Glamming it Up: The quickest way for me to make a look appropriate for a night out is adding the silver clutch and a stronger eye or lip. The silver clutch is soft metallic leather and has a rolled top like a lunchbag. It’s trendy but big enough to hold anything I could need and tucks well under my arm. With my shorter hair, earrings have more impact and I find a smoky eye, silver hoops and cuff, a sparkly statement ring (this one comes larger than an 8!), silver clutch and my pumps will make almost anything in this collection pop. I do often veer from the capsule when there’s a social event and incorporate silver heeled shoes or one of my printed maxi dresses.

Laundering the Capsule Wardrobe

The two sweater dresses, fringe sweater, and waterfall cardigan are dry clean only. I usually spot clean and wear layers underneath to spread out cleanings as long as possible.

Everything else is machine washable. To keep it looking nice, I wash all of it on the gentle cycle and hang dry. Saturday mornings, Karl teaches yoga. While he’s gone I do my load or two of delicates and hang them all in the bathroom from the shower curtain bar. The maxi dress, I will hang on three hangers – one as usual, and then the skirt draped over two others so it doesn’t stretch out. The denim shirt and band tees will sometimes go in the dryer because I don’t mind them looking worn. The cream sweater will often go into a load of whites that has oxygen bleach to brighten it, then is line dried.

Dream Additions to the Capsule Wardrobe

I don’t love the teal sweater, but it works for now. I do love the slouchiness, how it’s not too heavy, and the color that works so well with everything. If I could replace it in cashmere or merino and have a richer color (this one has a heathered/vintage finish) it would be better.

I wish the denim shirt was a hair longer. I love the color, I love the Western-inspired style, but when worn untucked it hits at not the most perfect length. I’ve tried the men’s version of the shirt but it is too long and straight. This works for now.

I would love a sweater in vermilion or orange. I’m torn between wanting something soft and cozy and off the shoulder, or a more versatile merino or washable fabric in a crew or v-neck.  I’m really digging off one shoulder these days, I think it’s a great way to look casual, sexy, and on-trend without showing too much skin and since I have a relatively comfortable strapless bra, it’s doable.  But it’s not something I can wear to the office so if I want to stick with a capsule, I’d likely go with a v-neck.

I have this black ponte dress and this leopard ponte dress and love them both but for this capsule neither are quite right. The leopard one is a hair long to wear with any of the shoes in this capsule, and the black one is starting to show wear and is a bit too fitted for versatility. I’m not in the market for another ponte dress as I have these, but if I was going to do a true capsule I’d likely find a ponte shift above the knee with bracelet-length sleeves that was in something like indigo or dark teal which could dress up with black pumps, look stylish with tights and boots, or be casual with leggings and sneakers.

I bought my leggings in an XL fearing a L would be too tight on my legs but now I wish I got an L. They’re too big. However, I can’t justify buying another pair this season as leggings aren’t a big part of my wardrobe and these get the job done. Since I usually wear them under layers, I’ve been wearing my leggings with my Beltaway and think I may just sew the waist smaller since no one will see it.

I wouldn’t mind replacing the black v-neck with one that is metallic. I had my silver one and I wore it so often (still looking for a replacement) and I have a navy one that’s nice (though would prefer one without a pocket), but I haven’t found a black one that I like. A metallic tee, especially one with linen that’s drapey, is surprisingly versatile and looks more polished than regular cotton.

I’m still looking for a replacement pair of tall boots, though the ones I have right now get the job done.

I have two leopard calfhair belts; one has a gold buckle and one has a silver and gold one. The silver and gold buckle is a bit goofy looking; I prefer the look of the gold one but wish it had a silver buckle since that’s the metal I wear the most often. But really, the buckle is so minor I just ignore it when styling an outfit.

I wouldn’t mind a black tux-inspired blazer. Not satin, but dressier than my Vince Camuto blazer and a bit longer in length. I have this one, but it’s a 12 and too tight. I don’t need one and I haven’t seen one that really calls out to me so I have held off. But if I found one, I think it could be a very useful addition.

***

While I have a closet full of clothes, I do find certain things get more wear. By acknowledging that, I have been able to be more careful with my purchases, working off that core collection to create a hard working capsule wardrobe. I don’t think a true capsule wardrobe would work for me – I’m a fashion blogger for crying out loud, clothing is my hobby, my creative outlet, and my part-time profession. But examining my wardrobe and striving to have more style with fewer pieces has really helped me see that living within a capsule wardrobe is possible and not at all boring!

using pieces in the capsule wardrobePrevious outfits: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

These previous outfit posts do feature some of the pieces mentioned in this capsule; while I have worn this capsule a lot in everyday life I realize I haven’t featured the outfits on the blog.  While I’ll continue to have a bigger variety of looks on the blog, I will try each week to have one look from this capsule to show how the pieces work together and how the collection can be versatile for work, weekend, and beyond!

How to Create a Formalwear Capsule Wardrobe

Wardrobe Oxygen: Creating a Formalwear Capsule Wardrobe. Buy less and have more style with these tips of creating a collection of pieces to be ready for any formal event.In my dressy fashion emergency kit post, Lisa mentioned in the comments that the post needed an image of a capsule wardrobe. It’s funny, I write about capsule wardrobes all the time, but didn’t even think of this emergency kit being a capsule wardrobe! I decided to elaborate a bit in a separate post as I think this is a brilliant way to be ready for formal and dressy occasions without spending a lot or increasing the size of your closet.

Trends are constantly changing, but they seem to go at a slower pace when it comes to formalwear. This is to your advantage because you can build a formalwear capsule wardrobe slowly, with care, and while perusing sale racks, consignment shops, and thrift stores. I have many pieces in my formalwear capsule wardrobe that date back to my college days or were passed down to me by my mom; there’s something to be said for old Hollywood glamour – it never goes out of fashion!

When it comes to a formalwear capsule wardrobe, the clothing is actually the smallest part. With a good wardrobe of accessories, you can dress for most dressy occasions with a simple not-so little black dress. Sleeveless is the easiest to transition seasons and look dressy, but the dress can any type of sleeve that makes you comfortable. I also mention it’s a not-so little black dress. While the “LBD” is a popular term, few people actually look good in a little black dress. A simple sheath, a fit and flare, a bias-cut column, a long-sleeved shift… all of these are not only figure flattering but more versatile than a little slip of a frock. The importance is fabric; you want a fabric that can dress up nicely without being too memorable or too season-specific. Silk, taffeta, crepe, gabardine, matte jersey, silk jersey, lace overlay… these are all fabrics that can dress up or down with ease. They will catch the light without overwhelming and make for a great canvas for your complete formal work of art.

For those who don’t like dresses, separates can work. A formal pantsuit or female tuxedo, often called Le Smoking, is a chic alternative. I also included a formal skirt, which can really be quite versatile (pair with a crisp white shirt, a cashmere tee, a sequined or beaded shell, a tailored velvet blazer, a silk blouse in a festive color). The point is having a base that is appropriate and versatile. Such a skirt is most versatile at midi length as it can be day or night appropriate. With both the pantsuit and the skirt, you want to err on the side of dressy fabric that is still seasonless. Silk and variations like shantung, moire, and Dupioni, taffeta, and synthetics that give an elegant finish and have a bit of a sheen that picks up the light and looks formal.

Wardrobe Oxygen: How to Create a Formalwear Capsule Wardrobe

Shop the Look: Sheath Dress | Skirt | Silver Necklace | Pink Necklace | Barrettes | Belt | Black Bag | Pink Bag | Nude Bag | Mascara | Lipstick | Rollers | Faux Fur | Pashmina | Black Shoes | Glitter Shoes | Nude Shoes

Once you have your base, you’ll see how your choice of accessories can completely transform your look, giving you outfits for dozens of events all months of the year. In this capsule wardrobe, I show how a collection of accessories can give you a variety of dressy looks with varying levels of festiveness and formalness.

The easiest way to dress up a look is to add some sparkle. A statement necklace is an easy way, and an item that can be found at a multitude of retailers for a variety of pricepoints. This is also a way to add some color if the event is centered around a holiday or theme. Other ways to add sparkle is by adding a skinny belt (I just bought this glitter belt from Talbots to add to my formalwear capsule wardrobe) or hair accessories.

A change in your bag is a quick way to go from desk to drinks with a not-so little black dress. Again, this is a great opportunity to add some sparkle. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your bag; this is a great way to infuse your personal style in a formal look. This is also a great way to add an accent or signature color; for this capsule wardrobe I used pink as the signature color but any hue would work! I suggest having more than one bag; such bags are often found at thrift stores and you can find adorable ones that look elegant at teen accessory stores, especially around prom time. As you see from this capsule, I chose a nude, a black, and a color to have the most versatility in regard to seriousness as well as time of year.

Shop this Capsule Wardrobe:

As I mentioned in my previous post, your choice of outerwear can make or break your formal look. If you own a longer wool coat, that can work just fine (consider purchasing a sparkly brooch and wear it on the lapel). A faux fur is a budget-friendly way to add glam to your ensemble; I have found fabulous faux and vintage furs at thrift stores for very little. In my personal formalwear capsule wardrobe, I have a black hooded faux fur from a thrift store, a Persian lamb I inherited from my semi-grandmother, and a fur stole that has been in my mom’s family for a long while. For warmer weather, a pashmina or stole is a great choice and a wonderful way to add color (or even more sparkle!) to your look. Stoles, wraps, and pashminas are pieces that really don’t go out of style; I have a black crepe wrap with long silk fringe trim and embroidery of peacocks on it that I bought on clearance at Express in the late ‘90s; I still wear it and every time I get compliments and people wondering where I got it and if it is vintage.

Shoes are a way to finish a look, and your shoe is especially important when making a more basic dress look formal. For this capsule, I included the three most popular styles of evening shoes – a D’Orsay heel, classic pump, and a delicate strappy heel. While a heel gives a more formal feel, do not sacrifice health or comfort for fashion. Keep the shoe as delicate as possible (straps, open sides, etc.) and choose a shiny fabric (glitter, silk, satin, rhinestones, even patent leather gives a dressier feel).

Though one doesn’t usually include beauty products in a capsule, such items can provide as much or more impact than a garment. In my original post I discussed the merits of a red lip; for those who are more comfortable with cosmetics may also wish to up the glamour with dramatic lashes. I don’t have the skill or patience to apply false lashes but love DiorShow for a lush look. I’ve also had great success layering mascaras – a coat of lengthening, then a coat of a volumizing formula, then lengthening again. And as mentioned in my original post, a pack of cheapy Velcro rollers from the neighborhood drugstore can give body and soft waves for anything from bobs to waist-length tresses.

Wardrobe Oxygen: How to Create a Formalwear Capsule WardrobeTo show how such accessories can truly create a variety of looks, I took the formal skirt (the one I own I found on Poshmark for only $35, you can see me wearing it in this post) and created four different looks with the same accessories in the formalwear capsule and a variety of different tops. The lighter colored accessories help a black skirt look appropriate in warmer weather, the darker ones add sophistication and a serious tone for more conservative events, and glitter is perfect for a party or happy event.

Creating a formalwear capsule wardrobe will help you be ready for any events that pop up on your calendar, but also save money and achieve more style with less clothing. Shop slow, shop with care. Spend money on quality and tailoring instead of trends when it comes to the base (dress, pantsuit, skirt) and be more fun and trendy when it comes to the accessories since they get less wear. Soon you will have a hardworking and versatile capsule wardrobe for any formal or dressy occasion that comes your way!

Ask Allie: Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

Allie, I love your capsules but I don’t wear color like you and your series. My signature style is shades of cream, black, gray, tan, and ivory. Could you do a capsule of neutrals?

I am in love with the idea of capsule wardrobes. However I’m terrible at choosing pieces that mix and match in interesting ways. Do you have any tips on choosing versatile pieces and building a small wardrobe that does a lot? And/or do you have any capsule wardrobes WITHOUT skirts?

I work in an office where it’s smart business casual, blouses and jackets and cardigans with pants and skirts and ‘nice’ denim allowed on Fridays. I feel my closet is a big mess of super casual, super dressy, and nothing in between and my coworkers are a stylish bunch. Any advice on how to get my work wardrobe on track?

I don’t wear skirts, but I have a feminine personal style. Any suggestions on a capsule wardrobe that will embrace both my inner Emma Pillsbury and my inner Ellen DeGeneres?

The past couple of months I have been gravitating towards more monochromatic ensembles, focusing more on shape and texture. So when I saw these questions in my comment box, I got excited to have reason to make a more neutral capsule!

For this capsule, I was thinking of a woman who works in an office that doesn’t necessarily expect suits every day, but to be more polished than chinos and a knit top. Embracing the “Emma Pillsbury meets Ellen DeGeneres” vibe, I mixed clean lines and classic separates with pussy bows, peplums, and other feminine touches.

Over 30 Possible Combinations

When many think neutrals, they feel they MUST have certain colors of trousers – black, gray, and camel. Thing is, these are great neutrals, but they aren’t always the most versatile. Over the years, I have seen the value of a pair of ivory or French vanilla trousers. They are amazingly versatile and don’t make you look any larger than gray or camel. Paired with black, it’s crisp and modern, but ivory looks great with colors as well as other neutrals like white, gray, tan, and olive.

A tweed or glen plaid trouser is also extremely versatile and adds a bit of interest to an ensemble made of neutrals. Mixing a more traditional menswear fabric with a pleated silk blouse or feminine leopard sweater always looks polished and chic.

You can keep a wardrobe neutral without making it boring by choosing accessories with polish and a bit of interest. While many fashion magazines will encourage pops of color (and you all know how much I love a pop of color), you can also accessorize neutrals with more neutral. A scarf with a soft print, a snakeskin shoe, a leopard haircalf skinny belt, a unique looking wedge boot – such pieces will take neutral separates and pull them into a cohesive and chic capsule.

The best part of neutrals is that quality separates can be found at most any pricepoint. I have a great black gabardine sheath I found at Target for $30, my favorite ivory trousers were found on the Ann Taylor clearance rack for less than $40. Neutrals are regularly on sale, and can better hide cheaper manufacturing. However, neutrals need to have great fit to keep them from looking dowdy – there’s nothing wrong with taking a $5 clearance rack or thrift store find to the tailor and spend an extra $20 to make it look like a million bucks.

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Capsule Wardrobe: Business Casual for a Teacher

I love your capsule wardrobes- I am trying to construct one for myself right now and I find it challenging. I work in a school with a ‘business casual’-type dress expectation, but I teach special education preschoolers. I like to look put-together for work, yet need clothing that will stand up to climbing up slides, being stepped on, avoiding dragging in paint and glue, sitting on the floor and chasing a running child! I am 35, short and curvy. (right, also need tops that aren’t too high in the neck, but don’t show my whole bra when I bend down!) Any ideas you might have would be so appreciated!

capsule wardrobe business casual stretch washable


Shop Similar: Wrap Dress | Shift Dress | Fit and Flare Dress | Leopard Flats | Chelsea Boot | Denim Jacket | Cardigan | Boyfriend Blazer | Red Necklace | Gold Pendant | Black and White Scarf | Gold Bracelet | Dotted Popover | V-neck Blouse | Stripe Tee | Camisole | Plaid Pants | Black Pants | Skirt | Tights | Leggings

For this business casual capsule wardrobe, the focus was on machine washable clothes with stretch and give that can take a beating.  Many think of durable business casual clothing as being tee shirt knits and chinos, but fabrics like matte jersey, poly blends that look like silk, and ponte knit can handle multiple washings and many can take a tumble in the dryer without any shrinkage or fading.  This capsule wardrobe is all machine washable items that can mix and match to have a business casual look that has color and interest to appeal to your younger audience.

Shop Machine Washable Dresses:

Often people consider dresses too formal for jobs like yours.  But as I showed in this outfit post, a ponte knit dress can be a great piece to wear for more casual situations.  Pair with super opaque tights (I love these) and Chelsea boots and be able to get down on the floor with the kids or scramble up a playground slide.  In this capsule I shared the three most versatile and flattering styles of dresses available at most any pricepoint: the wrap dress, the tailored shift, and the fit and flare.  If you choose a fabric that doesn’t cling and has some body, it will move with you and last the day.  Ponte knit, matte jersey, and most synthetics do great in the washing machine; you’ll elongate the life of your garment by letting these dresses line dry.  No need to get super fancy; I hang mine on plastic hangers on my shower curtain bar and find the synthetic knits are usually dry buy the next day.

Shop Machine Washable Cardigans and Jackets:

Layering pieces can take separates and make them cohesive.  Have a variety that goes past the standard hip-length v-neck cardigan so it looks as though your wardrobe is larger.  A denim jacket is on trend and gets better with washings and wear.  Use in place of a cardigan and blazer in business casual settings.  For additional comfort, consider one with a bit of Lycra to move and stretch with you.  Cardigans are a given in most women’s wardrobes, but we’re usually buying “versatile” versions in black or a neutral.  However, you can see in this capsule wardrobe the versatility of a graphic print.  While it clearly can work with the solid colored dresses and top, don’t be afraid of pattern mixing.  Especially in your field, some whimsy and creativity with your wardrobe will be welcomed.  I stuck with black and white prints throughout so they can easily mix with one another – the popover is black with white dots, the stripes in the tee are black, and the silk scarf is also this color combination.  Having two prints in the same color story is an easy way to delve into pattern mixing.  The final topper is a washable boyfriend blazer.  With a relaxed fit, roll up the sleeves and treat it like a cardigan but with a different silhouette and effect.  I was imagining a washable crepe blazer I own, but a ponte boyfriend blazer would also work and create a suit with black ponte pants and skirts.

Shop Machine Washable Tops and Blouses:

The tops are extremely varied in silhouette, but all equally versatile.  The popover is tunic length, working great over leggings and skinny pants (and under the boyfriend blazer or denim jacket), but can be tucked in to the ankle pants, trousers, or skirt.  Even consider adding a hip belt or opening all the buttons and letting a contrast color tank show for two more looks.  The green top is silky, but easy-care polyester (with tops like these if they say hand wash I machine wash on gentle in a lingerie bag and line dry).  The gathers and v-neck flatter the bust without exposing too much, and like the popover this top can be worn untucked (consider a pendant to weigh down the floaty fabric and show your shape) or tucked in (a half tuck is a modern way to wear such tops – tuck in the front but leave the back hanging low).  The tee is a refined knit, a scoop neck to flatter your figure, and a feminine sleeve length.  Finally, the synthetic camisole, which is a must in all busty women’s wardrobes.  In fact, I have a synthetic tank AND a slip and I wear one or the other with v-necks, wrap dresses, under sheer tops, and most anything else to provide modesty without bulk.  I like adjustable straps, so I can control the amount of coverage.

Shop Machine Washable Pants and Skirts:

For bottoms, again I chose very different types and silhouettes to have your wardrobe appear large though it’s small and encapsulated.  An ankle pant is on trend and easy to find at any pricepoint; while black would be a given in this situation, I decided to add another print, this one more subtle, to add variety and depth to the capsule.  And yes, these are machine washable!  A muted charcoal and blue plaid can work as a neutral; don’t be afraid to pair it with other colors.  By adding a topper like the denim jacket, you can even mix any of the printed tops in the capsule with these pants without looking as though you dressed in the dark.  If the idea of plaid pants is too crazy for you, still consider breaking away from black and trying a rich color like eggplant, indigo, olive, or camel.  The black pant is made of ponte knit so you can look refined but feel as though you’re wearing yoga pants.  Choose a traditional pant silhouette (straight, full, boot cut) to look professional while you’re comfy cozy.  The skirt too is of ponte knit, moving and stretching with you like the dresses.  Finally, a pair of super opaque tights and thick leggings to add warmth and modesty to the capsule wardrobe.

Shop Fun and Funky Flat Shoes:

As for shoes and accessories, you’ll want comfort and durability, but also personality.  Teaching preschoolers gives you an opportunity to wear brighter baubles and funky footwear and look completely appropriate.  Not only are the flats leopard print, but they have cat faces on the front (and if you’re wondering why I included a warm-based print, leopard is a neutral and this mix keeps your capsule from being too matchy-matchy).  There’s nothing wrong in your profession to have fun comfortable shoes; don’t worry if they match the look, if they’re whimsical they can be a statement piece.  Such shoes do not have to be just flats; brogues, smoking slippers, and ankle boots can also be comfortable and have a lot of personality.  In contrast, the black leather Chelsea boots are a classic neutral shoe that works with skirts and pants and gives you extra support when chasing after a student.  These are the kind of shoes that can handle insoles for extra support (my mom was a teacher, I know the profession is hard on your feet) and can be polished up, reheeled and resoled to be worn year after year.

Shop Scarves and Necklaces with Personality:

I have two lengths of necklaces – a short statement piece and a long pendant.  The short piece can be as whimsical as your shoes; I chose a red enamel version but this is an opportunity to show personality with pieces from your favorite brand, in your favorite color, bought on vacation, Etsy, or a local craft bazaar.  As I mentioned above, a longer pendant can weigh down floaty fabrics to show your figure, and also lengthen the body when wearing solid-colored dresses.  I chose a simple gold one for versatility, but this could also be funky and whimsical, or made of a more durable material in case you worry about it being tugged by the students.  Finally, square silk scarves are back en vogue and they’re a great addition to a capsule wardrobe.  They’re also far easier to wear than pashminas or infinity scarves if you have a large bust.  There’s so many ways to tie a scarf, and a scarf doesn’t just have to be at your throat – depending on the size it can be tied at the waist, on the wrist, in your hair, or even on the handle of your handbag.  This is a great video that shows ten ways to tie a larger square scarf; and this video has a few creative ways to wear a smaller square scarf or handkerchief.

 capsule wardrobe for a teacher or business casual setting with a focus on machine washable fashion for fall or winter by Wardrobe Oxygen

Ask Allie: SAHM Capsule Wardrobe

Dear Allie, any suggestions for a stay at home mom’s capsule wardrobe? I left the workforce two years ago when my second child was born and I have a terrible wardrobe of cocktail dresses and stained sweatpants and never seem to have the right thing to wear anywhere. While most days are spent in comfortable knits playing with the kids or working around the house, I’d like a wardrobe that could get me back out of the house and not look a mess. Clothes for volunteering at the school and church, wearing to book club or an unexpected night out with my husband or the girls or just basic clothes that won’t make me look like a mess when running errands. Clothes have to be comfortable, be washable, and be versatile since I don’t have an income any more. Any suggestions?

This sample capsule wardrobe will have you ready for everything from your husband’s work party to book club to the market to the playground. Stretch denim, ponte black knit separates, and colorful knits keep you looking polished even when you’re spending the day on the floor with your little ones. Choosing solids makes the pieces less memorable and more versatile; fabrics like ponte and merino wool look luxe but are machine washable on the gentle cycle and hold their shape through washings and wears.

Twenty Possible Ensembles (though you can make many many more):

  1. Black leggings, striped tee, cardigan, boots
  2. Black leggings, black turtleneck, boots
  3. Black leggings, chambray shirt, boots
  4. Black leggings, gray tee, pashmina, boots
  5. Jeans, striped tee, pashmina, boots
  6. Jeans, turtleneck, flats
  7. Jeans, gray tee, pink cardigan, statement necklace, flats
  8. Jeans, purple sweater, boots
  9. Jeans, chambray shirt, statement necklace, boots
  10. Black pants, black turtleneck, pumps
  11. Black pants, purple sweater, flats
  12. Black pants, gray tee, statement necklace, pumps
  13. Dress, boots
  14. Dress, leggings, flats
  15. Dress, pumps
  16. Skirt, scoop tee, flats
  17. Skirt, striped tee, cardigan, pumps
  18. Skirt, purple sweater, boots
  19. Skirt, turtleneck, flats
  20. Skirt, chambray shirt, flats

Black ponte leggings are thicker than jersey knit, making them look more polished, are more opaque and better hide any lumps and bumps. With a boyfriend cardigan and tall boots, comfy leggings and a tee can look downright chic. The same holds true for dark narrow jeans with stretch – the added Lycra keeps the jeans in shape when you’re active and keeps them comfortable. A dark wash will look more sophisticated and stay stylish longer than a trendy wash. A pair of trousers in black ponte dress up easily but have the stretch and machine washability that makes them practical; pair with everything from a tee shirt to a silk blouse for a put-together look. For ponte, even if it says dry clean only, it can be washed on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

A black ponte dress in a simple silhouette can be worn with leggings and flats for a weekday casual look, with tall boots for Date Night, or with pumps for a social engagement. Dress up with a statement necklace, dress down with a pashmina. A gathered or pleated skirt in cotton blend (100% cotton may need ironing, a bit of poly will keep the wrinkles at bay) or a heavy knit like ponte gives you the fabric you need to be able to get on your knees to retrieve your child’s toy from under the table but still looks polished. A skirt can make simple flats and an old v-neck tee shirt look chic and purposeful and a lightweight sweater sophisticated.

A mix of different necklines keeps your wardrobe from looking like a uniform and makes layering a breeze. A black turtleneck sweater is insta-chic when paired with everything from trousers to jeans to a fuller skirt.  Merino wool is a great alternative to blends or cashmere as it doesn’t pill and can be washed on the gentle cycle of your machine.  A striped knit is an unexpected neutral which looks great on its own or with a sweater or shirt layered over it. Stripes also do a great job of hiding spots that are visible even on dark colored solid knits.  Chambray is also an unexpected neutral which can add interest under the dress, alone with jeans, or tucked into a skirt.  Unlike a white shirt, chambray looks okay a bit wrinkled, gets better with time and wear, and easily hides stains.

A big slouchy leather bag in a statement color can hold everything from your Kindle and bottle of water to a bag of Goldfish crackers and change of clothes for your child.  No need to be matchy-matchy with your bag, choose one that you like the color and shape and it can become an accent to the rest of the hues in your wardrobe.  Steer clear of metallics, suede, crinkle glazes or patent – all show wear and stains much faster than regular leather or a microfiber. Owning a sleek purse and pair of comfortable pumps in classic black leather will make dressing up your staples simple and they’re easy to polish up for special events. No need for a ton of different shoes – tall boots are surprisingly versatile and quickly add polish to simple knits and jeans. A pair of flats in a print like leopard are often times more versatile than a solid. Simple black pumps are there when you need to dress up.  If you’d like another pair of shoes, some ankle boots with a low heel or slight wedge would look great with all the pants and if they have a Western or engineer look, can also work with casual skirts and dresses.

Update: I created some sample capsule wardrobes for the summer months, you can check it out here!

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Capsule Wardrobe: Skinny Jeans for Winter

Allie you shared something on Facebook about skinny jeans aren’t stylish any more. I just bought three pairs of skinny jeans in brown, jean color, and a tan cord. How can I make them look okay this winter? What tops are best with them, what shoes? I live in Michigan so I need to be warm.

The conversation on that article went deeper into what jeans are coming back en vogue, and how even though they say skinnies are dead they aren’t going anywhere. Like boot cut jeans, peasant tops, a-line shift dresses, and tall boots; there’s some trends that won’t go away even though fashion “experts” say they are dead. They don’t ever die because we real women with real bodies find these trends flattering and extremely wearable. It’s funny how five years ago many of us refused to adopt the skinny jean trend and now we refuse to let the trend go. But just because one news article says skinnies are passé doesn’t mean you need to find a whole new wardrobe. I’m still rocking my skinnies because though I was a late adopter, I now LOVE THEM.  And what matters most when it comes to style is wearing what is true to you, wear what you love!

capsule wardrobe casual winter skinny jeans cold weather

I’ve found the best way to incorporate a trend, whether hot off the runway or something the New York Times deems dated, is to wear it with similar colors. Create a color story with your wardrobe, mixing varying shades of similar hues or going monochromatic. For this capsule collection based off your skinnies wardrobe, I stuck to a warm palette of neutrals that will look luxe and show the skinnies are a purposeful addition to your closet.

When wearing skinny pants, it’s important to balance the figure or you can quickly look like a lollipop. Luckily, this is easy to do when it’s cold and you want lots of weight and layers. The first row of tops are the type that can just be thrown on with skinnies and look chic: tunics, slouchy sweaters, ponchos, and chunky knits that balance the frame. The second row is all about the layers; a knit blazer adds polish without sacrificing comfort or warmth, and waterfall cardigans and sweater coats are cozy and on trend while balancing the frame.

Shop the Look:

Speaking of base layers, this year has really embraced layering, and practical layering at that. Turtlenecks are easy to find at all pricepoints, henleys are back in style, and there’s nothing wrong with even putting another layer under these pieces. Because I’m Allie, I added a striped knit which adds interest to an outfit of solids, and I also find to be the easiest pattern to mix with other patterns.

As for shoes, I also believe balance is important and I also believe in the importance of function over fashion. I chose three different shoes that will balance the skinny jeans while keeping you warm and dry through the winter. A pair of tall boots are a perfect pairing over skinny jeans. A pair of ankle boots are also a great pairing and this season chunky marled socks have come back in fashion and look great filling the space between cuffed skinny and boot (or over tucked-in skinny for extra cold weather protection). Use a waterproofing spray on your leather shoes and put rolled magazines in them to improve ventilation and help them keep their shape. Finally, if you’re in an area that has snow and slush, by all means wear boots appropriate for the weather! A traditional lace-up style of duck boot is back on trend and looks great laced up over skinnies.

Accessories are what pull a look together. Pashminas and infinity scarves are stylish while adding warmth and color to an outfit. A wide leather belt can cinch those sweaters to create a completely different look. Having a quality bag can add a luxe look even to discount mart knits and make the wearing of snow boots quite chic. Choosing one in a color similar to your leather shoes ties an entire ensemble together.

Sample SAHM Capsule Wardrobe for Summer

Some of you have requested it, and some of you have asked for it on forums (I see you BabyCenter peeps and welcome you to my blog!). I created a SAHM capsule wardrobe previously, but here’s an update for the warmer months of the year.

I don’t like a lot of prints most of the time – they are too memorable to wear often, and they look dated more quickly. However, my opinion changes for summer and for a few reasons:

  • They hide sweat and stains nicely
  • They are distracting during a season when so many silhouettes are fitted and shrunken

A solid blue tank can look cheap and dumpy if you have curves or if it gets washed too much, a printed tank creates an optical illusion, and also looks more expensive. A pair of solid capris can be a bit too harsh in summer and the thin fabric may show more than you like; a printed pair camouflages curves, adds a bit of light and if you choose wisely, a print can actually fade nicely with regular washings (I’m partial to light-background retro florals, Ikat prints, and dots). A print can also dress up and down nicely with a quick change of accessories.

I have a lot of dresses in this capsule, and it’s because I find them to be more wearable, more simple, and more comfortable in summer than skirts and separates. While you can find jersey dresses anywhere, they can cling with sweat and humidity if too thin. I’m partial to cotton, chambray, linen and silk (and blends with these two fabrics). Such fabrics dry quickly, catch the slightest breeze, float away from the body and don’t cling. If you choose a style with a bit fuller of a skirt (even a-line) that comes to knee or lower, you can still chase after your toddler and crawl under a table to capture a lost sippy cup. My secret for summer dresses? Bike shorts. Get a pair of moisture-wicking bike shorts in a solid color, and they will prevent chafing as well as provide modesty.

Social events in the summer are never as dressy as those in the colder months; you can get away with a night out with the girls in a pair of white jeans and an interesting top; leather sandals with some metal detail will be a dressy enough shoe and is just as comfortable as cheap flip flops. For summer weddings, a dress in a silk or linen blend paired with wedge or heeled sandals and an interesting necklace will be lovely, and such pieces can be incorporated into your daily wardrobe.

Switching out black accessories for tan makes most everything look more summery. This is a great way to make winter staples (chambray shirts, darker colored knits) look seasonably appropriate. Not only that, a tan bag doesn’t have to be stowed away come September. I always prefer leather bags over fabric because they can be cleaned and conditioned, and look good with a bit of wear. Fabric bags can be very hard to clean, and a stained tote can really ruin your overall look. A bag with a shoulder strap as well as a crossbody strap means you can sling it over your body when your hands are full, or carry it on your shoulder or the crook of your elbow if in a rush or have a little one on your back.

Shorts are terrifying for most women, but these days there’s more than 2” inseams and skintight cutoffs. Last summer I lived in two pairs of shorts – weathered denim and a pair of white chinos. With my curves, I find it best to size up with shorts – this way you get less creasing with sitting, less VPL, they’re more comfortable, and aren’t fitted on the thighs. I also like to cuff them once to get a better length on me – petites are too petite, regulars are too long; in denim and chino a single cuff isn’t a bad thing. When it comes to denim, I encourage a more distressed look so you have a modern and hip look to your outfits. Summer is the time for prints, and for a more distressed or boho feel to your wardrobe. Very dark denim shorts and longer denim shorts with a very severe cuff can look dated and dowdy. Last summer I bought a pair of denim shorts at Target and self-distressed them. Check out this post that has many tips on how to DIY denim. But once you get over your shorts fear, you’ll find they can be as flattering as skirts. If need be, take them to a tailor – a great fitting pair of shorts is worth the trouble. White is a great summer neutral and in denim or heavy chino they are relatively opaque. If you fear white, consider olive (military inspiration is all over this season’s fashion), or a signature color (I have a pair of faded orange chino shorts I love and pair with everything from hot pink to Breton stripes to a simple white v-neck).

It may seem too hot for jeans, but often you are spending time inside instead of out. Loose boyfriend jeans that cuff above the ankle bone are lighter weight denim, have some ventilation with distressing, and are a trendy way to update simple tee shirts and tanks. White jeans are a great way to dress up knit tops for the evening or even for a daytime event like brunch or a casual shower.

Come summer, I prefer beaded necklaces to metal. Costume jewelry doesn’t play nice with sweat – it will tarnish, peel, and often irritate your skin. Not only that, it gets hot when the sun beats down on it. You can find beaded necklaces for cheap, be it at craft shows, Etsy, big box discount shops, or the teeny-bopper jewelry kiosk in your mall.

Stick to a single color story and aesthetic for the season so pieces mix and match more easily. As you can see with the first collection, it’s black, white, and rusty orange shades. The second one, it’s black and ivory with aqua and yellow.  For some, it may be shades of blue, for others it may be tans and browns. I recommend at least one pop of color for variety, and consider summer accessories to switch things up.

Speaking of accessories, I am all for signature sunglasses. A pair that is well-made, comfortable for long periods of time, and on trend will improve all outfits. I’m glad oversized Ray-Bans are back in style, I have a gold pair and a black pair; my sister is more the type to wear oversized plastic frames and my mom has been rocking the same black plastic Fendi frames for a few years and they still look quite chic.

For shoes, it’s tempting to spend all summer in $2 Old Navy flip flops, but I highly recommend investing in at least one pair of leather sandals – they’re just as or more comfortable and add a level of sophistication and style to your casual outfits. Sandals in a skin color with a wedge or slight heel can be worn with pants, dresses, skirts, and even shorts of all lengths and add a bit of a dressy vibe. A pair of canvas shoes, be they Keds, Chucks, or TOMS are perfect for mulch playgrounds, walking to the farmer’s market, or running errands around town while keeping you cool.

Sunglasses and shoes are two accessories you can find mega cheap come summer (hello Old Navy flip flops) but the quickest way to ruin your style. Buy the cheap v-neck tee shirt (hello Old Navy Vintage V-necks) but buy the best quality your budget can afford for sandals and shades and you will look more polished, trend aware, and sophisticated.

Finally, a comment to all – do not sacrifice comfort because you have an issue with your limbs.  Your arms, your legs, we all find them to not be toned enough, too veiny, too soft, too pale, to lumpy, too something.  No one is analyzing your arms and legs as much as you are.  While there are lovely cropped pants, below-knee skirts, and floaty sleeved tops out there, sometimes you just need to wear some shorts or a sleeveless top.  You will look more conspicuous sweating in an elbow-sleeve top and cropped pants than having fun and living life with exposed arms and legs.  Live your life, enjoy yourself, and dress the part!

Other posts you may find helpful:

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Walking the Talk: My Real Life Capsule Wardrobe

my real life capsule wardrobeWell it’s perfectly lovely for me to make a collage and tell you how about my real-life capsule wardrobe… but isn’t it better to actually see the clothes being worn, mixed and matched? If you’re not following me on Instagram now is a good time as I am showing my outfits almost every day, mentioning which pieces from the capsule I am wearing, what accents I added for the situation, and where I wore them.  What I shared from the past week since I posted about my real-life capsule wardrobe:

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What I wore to work Monday: The cream cableknit sweater from Lands’ End (similar), black ankle pants from Banana Republic, black Nine West pumps, with my silver cuff (similar) and brilliant studs from Ann Taylor.

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The same pants worn last week with the v-neck sweater from LOFT, my leopard calfhair belt (similar), black Nine West pumps, and I added my gold Rebecca Minkoff cuff (similar) and a gold necklace from Stella & Dot.

12677721_534753193365781_1183742779_nAnother look from last week was the cream oversized sweater dress from Glamorous (sold out – similar) with black tights from Spanx and my black ankle booties (similar).  I styled with the silver hoops, silver cuff (similar), silver initial necklace and a silver chain with various charms on it.


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This is the black cashmere sweater dress from Nordstrom Collection (similar) with another pair of black Spanx tights, my black knee-high heeled boots and my Stella & Dot pendant (similar).  This is a time where makeup is a great accessory; I added a deep wine lipstick from The Elixery to complete the look.


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Mega real life here, this is 9am at Target this past weekend.  The black and white striped tee from J. Crew Factory, denim jacket from the same retailer, my Gap Real Straight jeans cuffed, silver Supergas (similar) and an orange satchel from Botkier to add a pop of color.  My Ray-Bans to finish the look.


And finally, I went to brunch with a few fellow bloggers and this is what I wore.  The black fringe sweater from Trouve (sold out online, similar), grey jeans from Gap, the silver Topshop clutch, my silver hoops, cuff (similar), necklace, and statement ring and I added my BCBG Max Azria silver booties from outside the capsule to make the look more fun and trendy.  Ray-Bans to complete it.


Work, weekend, and even a social occasion all with the few pieces in my real-life capsule.  While I hope to capture some outfit shots with Karl and his nice camera, in the mean time follow me on Instagram where I share my looks real day and am cataloging all of them with the hashtag #WO2wintercapsule.  And yep that means that come Spring I’ll be doing a new one and documenting it!

Capsule Wardrobe Tips: Merging Work and Weekend Style

Hi Alison, I love your capsule collection posts but I find myself struggling with the idea in my own closet. I work in a fairly conservative office and though I don’t have to wear suits every day, I feel like I have 2 wardrobes – work and weekend. Do you have any advice for those of us that cannot mix workday and weekend wardrobes?

creating a capsule wardrobe - how to merge work and weekend styleAt a previous job, I worked in a far more conservative office and had to dress up more. Not necessarily suits every day, but dress pants, nice sweaters and blouses, lots of skirts and dresses. These were pieces that often required dry cleaning and I wanted to keep looking crisp and fresh for a workplace where a professional image mattered. I also traveled on business, and knew these clients would only see me a handful of times in a year so I didn’t have multiple opportunities to prove myself and my style.

Back then, I had two wardrobes; one for work and one for play. I didn’t even trot out my work blazers with jeans or pair black work pants with a silky top and heels for a night out. These clothes cost a lot, took more effort to keep looking nice, and I didn’t want to have to replace each season so they were carefully protected outside the 9-5.

Sure, magazines and blogs will tell you that you can live with 30 or 50 or 75 pieces and mix and match for day, night, weekend, and beyond. But when you’re trying to buy less, buy quality, and make things last, it’s not always realistic. Unless you feel as though your two wardrobes aren’t properly representing you, I find nothing wrong, in fact I find it smart to have two separate wardrobes.

How to Have a Cohesive Personal Style for Work and Play

Instead of focusing on mix and match items, focus on a consistent personal style or personality to your wardrobe. If your work wardrobe is primarily black with jewel tones, keep that going in your casual attire. Black pumps for Monday through Friday and black Chelsea boots or ballet flats for Saturday and Sunday. Look for accessories that can work across both wardrobes – a silk scarf that looks great tied at the throat with your silk blouse and trousers on Monday, and worn cowboy style with a Breton tee and jeans on Saturday. A belt in a signature color or print like leopard or snakeskin can pair with your suit and also jazz up a knit dress or pair of jeans and a sweater.

weekend capsule wardrobe - wardrobe oxygen

shop similar: jeans | black jeans | stripe top | grey tee | black tee | gold sneakers | black boots | cardigan | denim jacket | waterfall jacket | long-sleeve sweater | short-sleeve sweater | gold necklace | watch | scarf | belt

sample corporate capsule wardrobe - wardrobe oxygen

shop similar: black pants | camel pants | black skirt | grey skirt | black pumps | camel pumps | scarf | black blazer | cream jacket | belted sweater | v-neck sweater | short sleeve sweater | short-sleeve blouse | long-sleeve blouse | white shirt | pearl necklace | gold necklace | gold bracelet | watch | belt

These sample capsule wardrobes show cohesiveness in personal style but are separate pieces. Both have camel and black as their base neutrals, with jewel tones focusing on purples and pinks.  In both wardrobes, the printed silk scarf works, the leopard belt works, the jewelry works.  It would be easy to transition a few pieces for certain situations – pull in the pencil skirt to wear with the denim jacket for brunch, wear the purple cardigan to the office, slip on the pumps with jeans for happy hour.  But most conservative corporate fashion is made of higher quality fabrics and often costs more; it makes sense to elongate its life with fewer wears.  Even if this means more pieces in your closet, in the long run it simplifies fashion and you will spend less.

Focus on Function, Not a Number

The goal of a capsule wardrobe is to have the most style without excess in your wardrobe. Not everyone will have the same number of things to dress themselves for everyday because not every person has the same everyday. Whether it’s a conservative formal office environment, active social life, passion for gardening, or volunteering for the boys and girls club, you’re going to have pieces in your wardrobe that can’t transition to every aspect of life and just won’t fit into a tidy little capsule. And that’s okay, in fact that’s a good thing because you’re aware of your life, your style, and what is appropriate for each aspect of it.

We women are snowflakes, whether it’s our figure, our personal style, or our lifestyle. Wanting to pare down and make more mindful purchases is always a good thing, but don’t get so caught up in the capsule mindset that you end up making your wardrobe less functional. Shop considering need and how it will work with other pieces for that aspect of your life and you will end up with a functional, hardworking closet for your specific self!

Ask Allie: Feminine Capsule Wardrobe of Neutrals

I love the idea of capsule wardrobes and minimalism but I can’t seem to make it work. I buy basics but they don’t work with each other so I end up buying more and more. I like neutrals (camel, cream, grey with jeans and brown shoes) and I like a polished and professional but feminine look but I’m buying and looking like a forest ranger instead of Katharine Hepburn. Help me get on the right track!

Oh those must-have closet essentials, they get us every time! The thing is, what is considered a classic or essential to one woman can be useless or terribly unflattering to the other. The best way to figure out your personal closet staples or wardrobe must-haves is to look at what you already wear and love the most. Guessing by your forest ranger comment I’m betting you’re purchasing a lot of structured pieces like crisp button-front shirts, trenches, straight trousers and that may be the problem. I made a capsule wardrobe of very classic pieces, but with a softer, more feminine touch to steer clear of any park ranger vibes.

A good way to make neutrals look luxe instead of uniform is focusing on texture. Leather, denim with strategic fading or distressing, lace and crocheted fabric, silk, cashmere, wool, ruffles and draping, cable knits. Almost every piece in this capsule has some sort of texture to make it stand out. Instead of a crisp button-front, choose a silk blouse or a weathered denim shirt. Instead of a blazer or twill jacket consider toppers in tweed, boucle, denim, and leather. Strategic pleating and ruffles make a simple camel dress or silk shell showstoppers without affecting their versatility.

The best way to make pieces in your wardrobe work with one another is to imagine or write down potential outfits before you shop and as you consider every new purchase. If it can’t be incorporated into at least three outfits with what you already own, it doesn’t deserve space in your capsule wardrobe. The point of a capsule is to have everything work in harmony, and adding items that aren’t versatile can quickly cause your capsule to collapse and have you spend far more than you want. To help, make an album on your phone or jot down in a small notebook the current pieces in your wardrobe that work so you can stay focused when you shop. I also recommend wearing pieces from your wardrobe and the shoes you’ll likely wear with the future garment when shopping so you get a realistic feel for its versatility and appropriateness.

And finally, go slow. It’s not as though your closet is bare, it’s just not what you like. So shop with care, adding slowly so the pieces are ones you love now and will still enjoy a year from now. If you shop slowly and purchase fewer items, you can wait for great sales and invest in higher quality items that will last more than a season. The point of a capsule wardrobe is to have more with less, more style with fewer garments, more options while spending less money, more outfits with less stress of figuring out how to put them together each morning. It’s worth the wait for the right pieces that make you feel and look great and work nicely with one another.

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Ask Allie: Starch-Free Corporate Capsule Wardrobe

Hi Alison – I love your blog and visit daily! Your capsule wardrobes are what really drew me in. The ability to mix-and-match separates to create versatile outfits is such a plus, and something I’d like to ask about. You see, I’m considering starting my own business, and will need professional attire. But, I hate suits and suiting material. Starchy button down shirts make me squirm. My wardrobe is built around denim and jersey knits, and I can do business casual with these pieces. But I feel like I need to break down and buy a pantsuit to do “official business,” go to interviews and be taken seriously. Any advice? Thanks for your consideration!

I hear you on this. While I don’t mind a well-fitting blazer, I go gaga for career wear that has stretch and flexibility. Good thing suiting and professional attire has come a long way and there’s a great variety of textiles that offer give, stretch, and comfort.

capsule wardrobe professional wear to work

shop this capsule: black pants | gray pants | pink blazer | black blazer | bow blouse | silk tee | printed tee | gray dress | black skirt | black pumps | gray pumps | necklace | watch

This is a spring capsule wardrobe for a professional environment that doesn’t have a single starched or stiff garment. I chose a simple palette of black, gray, and pink but this could easily be replicated with jewel tones, neutrals, or any other color mix. Black is a popular suiting color, but it can be seen as too severe, especially if you are starting your own business. Gray is a great color alternative that also tones down black without losing the professional edge. Pale pink softens the look for spring, adds a feminine touch, isn’t too memorable, and isn’t too bubble gum or girly.

The black pants, black blazer, and black skirt are all made of ponte knit. Ponte de Roma knit is a very tightly woven heavyweight knit that is as stretchy as yoga pants but gives a professional look. The pink blazer is also in ponte knit. Many companies now offer suiting in this fabric, both lined and unlined, to create a suiting collection with comfort.

The gray pants and dress are both made of a suiting fabric with Lycra, which moves with you while still looking professional. Not only that, the percentage of Lycra helps resist wrinkles. Such material is available year-round from retailers of all pricepoints and is a fabric that is office-appropriate all four seasons.

Work blouses don’t have to be starched cotton to look professional, yet when you’re choosing softer fabrics like ponte for your suiting it’s important to be thoughtful with your top’s fabric. Silk and silk knits are a great choice because their luxe feel and subtle lustre add elegance and formality to any ensemble. Many silk blouses are made with a hint of Lycra, providing a better fit, more opacity, and more comfort. Choosing one with a detail like a bow neckline, pleats, or ruffles adds interest to a suit without losing professionalism. Silk and silk jersey tees are a great alternative to button-front blouses and shirts and look great under jackets. For less formal business meetings, they can be worn on their own tucked into a pencil skirt or pair of trousers. No need to stick to just solids; a print, especially in silk can look elegant, professional, and add a touch of personality to your workwear.

If you’re not wearing such attire every day, there’s no need to buy a ton of accessories to coordinate. I have two different shoes featured but honestly you could get away with this entire capsule wardrobe with a single pair of black pumps. A necklace finishes a look; I chose one that incorporates the colors but isn’t too trendy so it can be a signature piece, worn on a daily basis. A watch is a great way to mix fashion with function; it adds a bit of shine and it looks far nicer to check the time in this manner than whipping out your SmartPhone.

Summer Capsule Work Wardrobe – Business Casual with Color

Living in the hot and humid DC area, I understand the difficulty of appearing polished and professional when the temperatures rise. Though it’s tempting to throw your hair in a quick ponytail and wear the skimpiest and lightest weight clothing in our closet, it’s important to dress appropriately for the workplace, no matter the weather. Many of you have emailed lately asking how to dress for the weather, some of you work in creative fields, some in business casual environments, and many of you are teachers. Below is a sample summer capsule wardrobe for the workplace that is high on color and personality.

Summer capsule wardrobe - Business casual with color and personality, perfect for teachers! By Wardrobe OxygenShop the Capsule Wardrobe:

Fabric choice matters when it comes to creating a summer capsule wardrobe. Plenty of retailers will have synthetic and jersey knits filling the sales floor, but such fabrics are not comfortable on a hot or humid day. They’re also more likely to cling, and quicker to look cheap or too casual for the workplace. Seek out cotton, linen blends, silk and silk blends, and tencel for fabrics that breathe and don’t cling when the temps rise.

Shop Pants and Skirts:

Ankle and slightly cropped pants give a bit more airflow than traditional trousers and are available in cotton, twill, and other summery fabrics. While it’s tempting to stick to neutrals, bright colors and prints are surprisingly versatile. A pair of orange or red pants will go great with basic black or white, be a great contrast to denim and neutrals like khaki and olive, and are gorgeous when paired with other colors like turquoise, coral, and violet. Treat a pattern as a neutral; the green printed pants featured would work well with the chambray shirt or black silk shell, but also would complement the melon-colored wrap top or the aqua silk tee. Stripes are brilliant for pattern-mixing and would also go with these pants; to tone it down consider adding a black or white blazer or cardigan. Culottes of all widths and lengths are back in style and really great for hot days; treat them like a midi skirt and pair with flats or pointed toe low heels for a feminine vibe. Fuller skirts of fabrics with body (cotton, sateen, twill, ponte) will stand away from the body giving you air flow and comfort on hot days; a hem ending at the top of the knee to mid-calf will provide modesty while still keeping you cool. Again, a print can often be more versatile than a neutral solid; this orange print skirt would look great with the striped top, a simple tank of any color and the dotted cardigan, the chambray shirt, the aqua silk tee, and even tucking in the melon-colored top for a monoblocking effect.

Shop Dresses:

Dresses are brilliant in the summer for both ease and comfort. Again, choose fabrics that have some body so they don’t cling to the body and provide a breeze. Dresses that provide focus at the waist automatically look more polished than shift or tee-shirt style dresses; if you choose cotton or breathable fabrics it won’t be much hotter. A dress with a subtle fit and flare shape looks equally great on the weekend with a pair of flat sandals as it does to a day wedding with heels; a fun print distracts from red faces and dripping necks. A shirtdress is a classic style that will be flattering for summers to come; a bright color keeps it from looking like a uniform. Switch up belts (or tie a scarf at the waist) to change the look. While matte jersey is a synthetic knit, it doesn’t cling like traditional jersey and doesn’t wrinkle making it a good choice for summer. A simple dress in a graphic print provides impact with simple one-piece dressing; switch out the self-belt for a different one in your closet to give a frock a new look.  Be sure dresses have necklines and backs appropriate for the workplace; if you need a special bra it’s likely exposing too much.

Shop Tops:

With tops, look for ones that can have two lives. All of these tops can look great untucked or tucked in, adding variety. Tuck the denim shirt into the skirt, tie it at the waist of the culottes, or wear untucked over the ankle pants. Tops are where solids are often more versatile and can dress up more easily; the turquoise silk tee with the printed pants is perfect for a basic day at the office but if you add a black blazer the outfit is suddenly appropriate for a client meeting.

Shop Cardigans and Blazers:

No matter the temperature, it’s good to have at least one layering piece in your wardrobe for too-strong air conditioning, transition weather, and when you need a bit more coverage. For this capsule wardrobe I added a black and white polka-dot cardigan, but this could be switched out for a simpler cardigan in a neutral or signature color, or a blazer. It’s not a bad idea to keep such an item at your workplace to slip on when unexpected situations arise.

Shop Accessories:

Summer is a great time to get more creative with your accessories. One or two statement necklaces in the focal colors of your wardrobe can truly pull the entire capsule together. To minimize the number of accessories you need, consider sticking to one color metal to keep things cohesive and styling simpler. Instead of a bag to match your shoes, consider a bold signature color that will coordinate with everything in your closet. With shoes, you don’t need a lot. For this capsule I chose a gold flat sandal and a black patent kitten heel; both work with all the skirts and dresses and give completely different effects. A skinny black patent belt can offer a layer of polish, whether it’s through the beltloops of ankle pants with a tucked in blouse, or worn at the waistband of the skirt. Finally, consider a sunglasses upgrade this season; a pair of designer frames in a classic silhouette shows you’re aware of trends yet appreciate quality. If treated well, such sunglasses will provide you with many years of sun protection with style.

Plus Size Capsule Wardrobe – Business Casual with Color

I’ve been a SAHM for seven years to three great kids while hopping across the globe as a military wife, but I’m ready to head back to work and will hopefully go back to teaching high school English this fall. My wardrobe is VERY bare bones and consists of cheap, well-worn clothes. I really don’t like all the dark clothes that so often plague plus size work attire and I would love a wardrobe of bright, fun clothes that are appropriate for work. At 36, I’m finally giving myself permission to buy a real wardrobe and a capsule wardrobe would be ideal for me. Do you have any ideas on where I can start?

I have no idea why so many plus size retailers feel that their customers want dark dreary clothing. It seems they either go the black and bland route, or the other direction with garish polyester prints or sexy silhouettes inappropriate for the workplace. Luckily, there’s a lot of new plus size retailers on the scene who get that women of every size and shape want fun and flattering fashion in cheerful colors. Below is a sample capsule wardrobe for a plus size professional in a business casual setting and some tips on where to shop for colorful and chic plus size fashion.

plus size capsule wardrobe business casual work fashion with colorWhen dressing for the workplace, especially in an educational setting, color is great. However, it’s good to have a couple neutrals mixed in to balance the brights and keep you from looking like a cartoon. For this capsule wardrobe, I chose black and black and white prints to temper the bold colors. Black could be traded out for khaki, gray, navy, or olive though black (and you already know from the limited color selection you’ve encountered) is the easiest to find in plus sizes and works year-round. Having a few staples in a neutral – a cardigan, a pair of well-fitting trousers, a skirt that hits at least the knee and is easy to move in, a shell or blouse… these can really extend your colorful wardrobe.

Shop Jackets and Cardigans:

When looking to have a varied wardrobe with fewer pieces, toppers are tops. While blazers may feel too stuffy for the classroom, when paired with cropped pants or slipped over a dress it can be chic and give you a different silhouette. The blazer featured has a single closure and shorter length making it work nicely over fit and flare dresses or fuller skirts while also looking great with trousers, pencil skirts, and even a pair of jeans on Casual Friday. Cardigans are a great way to transform the look of tops and dresses and useful when you work in an overly-air conditioned environment. A solid color that complements your capsule wardrobe is a great choice, but I also encourage you to consider a print. Again, a black and white print is a great complement to bold colors and when you choose a classic print like animal, polka dots, or stripes it is a print that mixes nicely with other patterns like florals, plaids, and watercolors.

Shop Dresses:

Dresses are easy one-piece dressing, but you need to consider professionalism along with personal style and figure flattery. When collecting dresses for this post I was floored by how many dresses are deemed “work appropriate” by plus size retailers yet were far more appropriate for a third date to a nightclub. No matter your figure or place of work, it’s never appropriate to have large cutouts, any stomach or lower back displayed, skirts so tight you can see where your legs join your body, the indentation of your belly button, or the separate cheeks of your rear; a neckline that shows more than a small portion of cleavage, or any garment that displays your underpinnings. If in doubt, size up and take to a tailor to nip and tuck for a great fit. Wrap dresses are a great choice; consider a demi-cami for modesty in the workplace. Fit and flare dresses are flattering and look great topped with a jacket or cardigan. Lined or double-layer dresses smooth the figure and usually look more expensive. Especially when working with students and being active, look for skirts that hit at the knee or lower.

Shop Skirts and Pants:

When it comes to skirts and pants, balance is important. It’s tempting to wear loose clothes when you’re larger but all that does is make you look sloppy. A straight, a-line, or pencil skirt can be quite flattering with a tucked-in blouse or fit and flare top. If a tucked-in top makes you feel awkward, top with a cardigan for a bit of coverage. Ankle pants that are straight or slightly fitted are a great addition to a capsule wardrobe; they make blazers look trendy, make tunics and floaty tops look hip, and are quite flattering when paired with pointed-toe heels or even flats. A pair of basic trousers are a must; pair with a printed top for those days where you aren’t up to creating a creative look or wear with a blazer for that assembly or conference. Also consider a ponte or scuba knit skirt that is a bit flippy or full and hits below the knee; paired with a knit top and cardigan this is a great look for the classroom and comfortable to boot.

Shop Tops and Blouses:

When it comes to shells and tops, this is where you can really show your personality. Fun prints, bold stripes, interesting necklines, ruffles and pleats and bows oh my! Again, don’t be afraid to consider tops that fit for they will actually be more flattering than dressing in blousy and oversized pieces. As with the dresses, consider appropriateness for the office. Watch necklines, steer clear of too much sparkle or bedazzlement, cut-outs, and “cold shoulder” tops. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a bit more for these tops to get higher quality materials that drape better, prints that are more elegant, and better fit. In a business casual setting, you can get away with jersey and synthetic knit tops, but it still is important for these more casual pieces to fit well and be in great condition.  I love a printed

As for retailers, there’s far more color online than in stores. As a previous retail merchandiser, selection in brick and mortar stores is chosen by the mall or shop estimated demographic. When I worked in Annapolis, my store received more dresses, pastel colors, and neutrals than when I worked in Wheaton, Maryland where I received every color under the rainbow and more “going out” tops and dresses. Online, shops cater to all demographics and you can find better selection. There’s also a lot of great online-only plus size retailers who embrace color. Check out ELOQUII – their Kady Pant collection alone will thrill you with the rainbow of work-friendly options. Hey Gorgeous! sells a ton of fantastic plus size brands like Carmakoma, MYNT 1792, and ABS by Allen Schwartz that have color and work-friendly silhouettes. Karen Kane is a great choice for color, print, and comfort with style. The JONES Studio collection at Dress Barn is great for plus size work fashion with color. Nordstrom has a really fantastic plus size department and carries many of the previously mentioned brands plus many more.