Ask Allie: Casual Capsule Wardrobe for a Woman over 40

Can you help a fashion impaired over-40 woman? Do you have any suggestions for a black and navy wardrobe in a very casual work place setting (think: jeans are the norm)? I also like to accent with chartreuse and maybe some plum items…I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to approach this.

casual capsule wardrobe over 40 jeans denim

When creating a capsule wardrobe, it’s important to start with basics, but basics with an edge. Good fit (that means size up if need be and go to a tailor or even your local dry cleaner for a nip, tuck, and hem), and the best quality you can find and afford. Also, don’t think that a wardrobe staple has to be ordinary – choose necklines that are flattering, interesting cuts, and luxe fabrics to show personality and help you not tire of them after a few wearings. Choose pieces that have a touch of your personality – feminine, rocker, boho, or country touches will look more chic than trying to be as basic as possible. With this capsule, I have a bit of a feminine classic feel.

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With a casual work wardrobe, even though you’re permitted to wear jeans it doesn’t mean you should go full-on loungewear. It’s possible to be relaxed and casual while having an air of professionalism and respect for your company and your personal style. While the core of this capsule is denim and cotton knits, choosing knits with refined silhouettes, shoes in a glossy leather, and classic shiny accessories of gold and silk keep the look polished.

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Three-quarter sleeves are quite flattering and especially in a climate-controlled office, work year-round.  While many women over 40 fear sleeveless blouses, they are usually more flattering than cap and short sleeves blouses and one with detail like a pleated neckline distract from the arms.  A pair of jeans in a dark wash with a straight leg won't go out of style; let your second pair of denim be a bit more trendy.  I chose a black skinny jean for its versatility and more classic look.  Cropped pants have become a classic from spring to fall; choose a crisp fabric and a very clean front to not add bulk or look dated after a season.  If you find a denim shirt that has the perfect color and fit but it's too stiff for comfort, soak overnight in a basin of eight cups of hot water and one cup white vinegar and then launder as usual.

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Though your office is denim-friendly, a simple knit dress is so useful for days where you need to get dressed in a hurry or have an event after work. Loose shift and tee-shirt styles in heavy jersey and ponte knits don’t wrinkle, are as comfy as sweats, and quite versatile with a switch of accessories. This dress could be worn with the chartreuse flats for the office or even a pair of Chucks or casual sandals come summer but can dress up easily with the statement necklace or scarf and the booties.

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Black combined with navy used to be a no-no but these days the pairing is seen as fresh and quite chic. It’s important to have the colors saturated; faded blacks and navy will look sloppy and not have the combination look purposeful. Choosing fabrics with a bit of silk or lycra will keep the colors rich.

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Since plum and chartreuse are accents in this collection, it would be very easy to switch them out for other colors.  Pink, green, red, mustard, orange, and even leopard print would be great alternatives.  It doesn't have to be limited to two colors either; the belt could be one color, the flats another, the cardigan another as long as all the colors played nice together.  Jewelry can be switched out for silver or styles that you prefer.  Accents and accessories are where you can infuse your personal style into a capsule wardrobe.  Belts are a place where you can scrimp, and right now delicate necklaces and statement pendants are in style so they are easy to find at every pricepoint.  But for the rest of the accessories try to buy the best quality you can afford; a cheap bag or pair of shoes can really take down an outfit.  If these are your signature colors, it makes sense to spend more, care for the piece, and make it a long-term accessory you regularly wear.

To winterize this look for now, replace the cropped pants with full length ones (ponte knit pants are comfortable and not too dressy for your office), a pair of thick black tights for the dress, and maybe replace the chartreuse flats with a black Mary Jane or wedge with a closed toe. The sleeveless blouse can be replaced with a long-sleeve blouse and the denim shirt replaced with a sweater coat in navy or black. But with the current capsule of 11 garments I was able to create 25 different outfits.

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When shopping for a capsule, don’t buy anything unless you know it will work with three other items in your closet. No matter the bargain price, if it’s not versatile it’s not worth your hard-earned money. The same goes for quality and fit – it’s better to own few piece in your closet than a stuffed wardrobe of pieces that don’t look quite right. Shop slow, shop thoughtfully, and you have a closet full of pieces that look great and work as hard as you do!

over 40 capsule 1

 

11 Comments

  1. FinallyHittingMyStride
    February 23, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    I have been following you for several years now. Love this capsule! It is so me!!! I love myself in black/grey/dark blue. I am 47, figuring out the new best haircut (and shampoo!), buying new glasses and trying contacts…Now I am ready to get my closet together AGAIN! I am so not a stylist, fashion for me is fun if it is somewhat controlled. Does that make sense?

  2. Sharon
    February 23, 2015 / 2:22 pm

    Great post, Allie! Just dropping you a quick FYI that I think some of the prices that hover over the items in the purses section are not accurate – the Boden bag is showing up as $38 but is actually $148 (wishful thinking!)

  3. Grace Mitchell
    February 23, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    Love this, Allie! I’ve recently transitioned to a capsule wardrobe in an effort to simplify my life pre-moving, and I am loving it so much I think I’m going to keep doing it. I need to work a bit on the pieces, and I need to add a color, because I am almost literally wearing all black and gray, but I LOVE the simplicity of it and I think I actually look better than I did when I had ten times as much to choose from.

  4. Aimee
    February 23, 2015 / 11:06 am

    Ugh, when will I finally learn not to buy something if I
    don’t have anything to wear with it? I thought I was beyond that but recently I have purchased a couple of things that go with nothing. This is a good reminder to be thoughtful before walking up to the register. Will it go with three things in my closet?
    Thanks for this. I’ve been striving for more of a capsule wardrobe and get frustrated when I start falling off that path.

  5. February 23, 2015 / 10:56 am

    Well, I’ve gotta say that I am covered for when I reach that age ! I’ve got these basics and then some 🙂

  6. February 23, 2015 / 9:11 am

    Perfect post. I was just googling capsule wardrobe because I need to renew my wardrobe for spring (I lost almost twenty-five kg (roughly 55 punds) and almost nothing fits any more. While I mostly work from home I also need a few more dressy items for business-meetings and such. I really like the concept of a capsule wardrobe because I’m on a budget and I prefer quality over quantity. Also, when I sorted through my closet I pulled out so many things I almost never wore because the fit wasn’t quiet right, the color wasn’t really mine, or I didn’t like the material.

    So, I’m now really thinking about what I buy and why I buy it and I have to 100% like it before I buy. I might not go the strict capsule route (I like scarves, hats, and jewelry way too much for that), but a basic capsule wardrobe to which I can then add some fun pieces to add interest and fit my mood sounds like a good concept to me. I also really like the idea of making sure that every item can work in multiple ways with other items in my wardrobe.

  7. Eliza
    February 23, 2015 / 8:24 am

    Great, as always, Allie!
    Although I’m far from my 40, this capsule gave me some fresh ideas about renovation of my wardrobe. Especially about it’s color! 🙂

  8. The Adored Life
    February 23, 2015 / 8:13 am

    I’m totally going to be honest that I don’t quite understand the capsule wardrobe thing. I love the concept of it though. I’ve had to be very, very frugal lately and I feel like in a way that has almost made me have a larger capsule wardrobe because I’ve really focused on what I have and reinvented it.
    http://www.theadoredlife.com

    • February 23, 2015 / 8:33 am

      Many find a capsule freeing, they know each piece’s role and how it works with other pieces. The closet isn’t full, which makes it far easier to get dressed in the morning, and it’s only pieces that work for your body and your lifestyle. I’ll admit I don’t have a capsule wardrobe closet – fashion is fun for me, creative, and I love playing with what I have to make new looks. But I get the appeal, and I do see that the more capsules I create the more thoughtful I am with what I add to my wardrobe, making sure it has multiple uses and works with what I already have in my wardrobe. I also think seeing it all laid out here helps people they likely have the basics of a capsule already in their closet, they just never imagined how versatile they were or how they could work with the other pieces they own. 🙂

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