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Colorful Size Inclusive Work Capsule Wardrobe

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work capsule wardrobe with color 

A reader reached out to me asking about how to incorporate color into a capsule wardrobe for work, and to find work fashion that is modern and vibrant in a size 16. 

“Hi Allie, I hope you can help me. I recently got a new job and I'm switching from a super casual office to a business casual dress code with the occasional nicer look for client visits. I don't want to buy a lot of new clothes, and I don't want to have to resort to boring colors. I love color, I love print, and I love having fun with fashion. I'm struggling to find anything in a size 16 that isn't juvenile or really boring. I'm sometimes a 14W, sometimes in pants I take an 18 but usually 16 works for tops, dresses and knits.  Where should I shop?”

Minimalism and capsule wardrobes don't have to equal neutral colors and boring silhouettes.  In fact, I find when a closet is full of happy colors and fun silhouettes, it's more enjoyable to wear the pieces over and over and play with mixing and matching.  I made a colorful size-inclusive work capsule wardrobe; everything in this capsule wardrobe is available at least up to a size 20 and nothing in it is boring yet it's appropriate for a grown-ass woman.  There is a mix of more casual looks for office days and pieces to dress more formally for client visits.  This capsule will also work with items that likely are already residing in your closet to extend the potential outfits for now into late spring.

A Work Capsule Wardrobe Chock Full of Color

I stuck to size-inclusive clothing brands that offer at a minimum up to a size 20.  Several of the pieces are available in tall and petite as well.  When looking for work fashion up to a size 20, my favorite retailers are Talbots, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Boden, Universal Standard, and the Halogen in-house brand at Nordstrom. Everything in this work capsule wardrobe except for the accessories is from these brands because I shop them, I know them, and I trust their quality to pricepoint.  

work capsule wardrobe colorful women

Shop the Capsule Wardrobe:

printed silk button-front shirt (available in other prints and solid colors) | striped tee (available in solid colors too) | pink sleeveless blouse  (also available in blue) | pink sweater  (available in other colors) | denim jacket | white jacket (available in other colors) | navy blazer (available in two other colors) | navy cuffed trousers (also available in black) | pink chinos (plus-size option) | navy plaid cropped pants | red pencil skirt (available in other colors)  | yellow sweater dress (available in other colors) | printed scarf | leopard-print belt (plus sizes of same belt) | pearl and gold necklace | gold pendant locket | camel suede pumps (available in several other colors) | white loafers (available in several other colors, textures, and prints)


Related: Where to Shop for Suiting in Size 18/20

Sample Outfits from the Capsule Wardrobe

I was able to take this capsule wardrobe of 12 pieces of clothing and some accessories and create 25 different outfits. Below is a gallery of all 25 looks. Click on any thumbnail graphic in the gallery to see the full-size images and descriptions. Hover over the images to find arrows to advance and go back within the gallery. Click the X at the top right of an enlarged image to close the gallery and return to this blog post.

If your office is more casual, consider adding a pair of trendy white sneakers and maybe a graphic tee.  If your office is more formal, switch out the chinos for a pair of wide-leg trousers in camel, blush, or gray and the striped knit tee for a silky one in a solid color like orchid or cerulean blue. The leopard belt could be replaced with a solid color in patent leather (mixes best with other leathers and suedes) or a snakeskin.  The camel suede pumps also come in blush, beige (suede and patent), snakeskin, and even a pale spring green that can be a fun colorful neutral.  If white loafers aren't your thing, they can easily be replaced with a pointed-toe flat, low-heel pump, or a slingback in any neutral or accent color (or a leopard or snake print). If the navy joggers-inspired suit pants are too trendy for your taste, a classic navy suit (I like this jacket and these pants (here's the plus sizes link) from Talbots) can be switched out easily. 

Shop Possible Capsule Additions:

Related: How to Create Capsule Wardrobes

While this capsule wardrobe may not fit with your personal style aesthetic, I hope it inspires you to think in the idea of capsules.  Note how each piece of clothing was styled at least three times in completely different ways.  Think about items in your current closet and how they may be styled in different manners, or that one item you could add to your closet to make everything else work better together.  And remember that being a minimalist or sticking to a capsule wardrobe doesn't mean clothing has to be boring.  Play with color, print, and silhouette.  You may find it makes the work of paring down your closet that much more enjoyable!

Shop the Colorful Work Capsule Wardrobe:

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. I’m really enjoying browsing all your capsule wardrobe posts! My closet is getting a bit overstuffed and I’m having trouble organizing my thoughts on paring it down, so I’m hoping getting into the capsule wardrobe mindset will help. I’d love to see a warm-weather workwear capsule wardrobe. I’m a librarian in coastal Georgia so pants, blazers, and non-natural fibers don’t work so well for a large part of the year.

  2. I really like this capsule, and all the colours are really inspiring. I have been looking at the combinations now for a couple of weeks, and I realise that I would have liked to see your suggestions for the red skirt! Any chance that you could update your post with this?

    1. And now I realize a bunch of the looks got deleted that had the skirt! Ack!
      – Red skirt, pink sweater tucked in with the leopard belt
      – Red skirt, print blouse, white blazer
      – Red skirt, pink sleeveless shell, white blazer
      – Red skirt, pink sleeveless shell, navy blazer, scarf at throat
      – Red skirt, striped tee, white blazer, leopard belt


  3. For your information: I purchased the J. Crew mustard sweater dress in XXL. I’m typically a 16, sometimes 14 in sizing, and I’m 5’3″. It fits incredibly well, not too tight, not too long. The sleeves are a bit long for my shorter arms but not ridiculous. I generally fold/scrunch my sleeves anyway. It isn’t the softest cashmere, not the thinnest either. I would recommend this dress!

  4. I’ve been reading for years but never commented. Just had to say that this collection is so beautiful and inspiring. It makes me feel like not hiding in my black cardigans all the time. Thank you!

  5. Hi Alison, have you ever heard of Karina dresses. It is a local company based in Kingston, NY with dresses sized from XXS to 4XL. Made in the USA. The fabric is amazing, no wrinkles and is perfect for any occasion including traveling.

    1. I have! I know a lot of other influencers have worked with them. I think the dresses are fantastic and do recommend them, but I don’t think they’re the best fit for my personal style. But yes three cheers for Karina dresses!

  6. I agree about the joggers. That’s casual outside the bounds of my casual office. In a new job I would go for looking nicer than expected, at least for a awhile. I think the smart shoes and belt and the shaped jackets -including the jeans jacket- are good for projecting polish, and easy to work in with what you already own.
    I’d be thinking of adding another dress. They’re easy to put on and go. Boden is great for structured knit dresses.

    1. I think it’s location-specific. I have friends in Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, and here in Maryland and DC that could wear joggers even to a government job and no one would blink at them.

  7. I have a question about joggers, Alison. Do you think they are a trend or are the around for the long term? I have a few pair that I wear as jogging pants with a t shirt or a sweat shirt. I’ve never considered them as work wear.

    1. This is a great question. I recently pulled out a dark red pantsuit thinking it would fit again. I kept it because it was so classic in cut, color, and fabric. I put it on, it fits great, the fabric and color is still great… but the things I felt transcended trends were actually trendy. the width of the lapels, the way the pants flared out, even the pant rise and style of pockets. I personally think this look will work for a couple of years and all depends on how you style it with shoes and what’s on top. I think it’s more stylish to take something like joggers that you enjoy and have them tailored to perfection and wear them even if joggers are no longer in every store, than to buy a basic straight leg pant that feels classic but constantly has to be changed with footwear trends and needs and doesn’t make you happy.

  8. Perfection! I am trying very, very hard to shop for the life I have, not the life I used to have or wish I had or think I might eventually have. But it I worked in an office, this entire capsule would be exactly me. Love it!

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