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.

16 Comments

  1. Britt Mangold
    May 1, 2015 / 4:20 pm

    Oh my gosh – I love this. Such great advice! Thank you Allie. So nice to have options for the workplace that are a little “out-of-the-box” but still perfectly acceptable. Your new logo is great, BTW. 🙂

  2. Anastasia
    May 1, 2015 / 1:29 am

    Such a beautiful and comfortable capsule! And black doesn’t look gloomy as usual. And Michael Kors Flex Midheel Pump is heaven! I’ve recently got one after seeing it featured quite often here on the blog and I’m so happy with the purchase!

  3. Marlene Rizzo
    April 30, 2015 / 10:07 pm

    I recently started following a few fashion blogs and I found yours to be particularly helpful. I would really like to start my own blog and don’t know where to start. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. –Marlene

  4. crtfly
    April 30, 2015 / 7:30 pm

    Allie,

    Regarding the Sejour Curvy Fit Pants, these are the pants I’ve been looking for but the inseam is only 32″. Do you know anything about this label? Is there enough of a hem on the pants to get at least another inch in length?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  5. Ginger
    April 30, 2015 / 11:58 am

    Love that silk tee.

  6. April 30, 2015 / 11:10 am

    Marvellous capsule — you can build wonders with these pieces. Great choices .

  7. Lilliasrose
    April 30, 2015 / 10:58 am

    I’m not a capsule girl, but I do love the ballerina palette on this one.

    • April 30, 2015 / 10:28 am

      That’s a gorgeous blouse! I recently ordered a blazer in a similar color, I think it’s a great color to update the wardrobe for spring!

  8. Ros
    April 30, 2015 / 9:43 am

    I love this. Versatile, and low-maintenance. Bliss. 🙂

    Would you be able to post the source for some of those items? Specifically the pink blazer, grey dress, and maybe the black suiting? 🙂

    • April 30, 2015 / 10:02 am

      Goodness, no idea where my carousel widget went! I have updated with links below the photo of the same or similar pieces. 🙂

      • Ros
        April 30, 2015 / 10:16 am

        Woohoo! Thanks!

      • May 3, 2015 / 10:03 pm

        That doesn’t look like the same grey dress… It has none of that excellent detailing at the neckline that drew me to it!

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