Stay at Home Capsule Wardrobe for Fall and Winter

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capsule wardrobe SAHM

Staying at home with the kids, working from home 100% of the time, many of you have a very relaxed lifestyle where it just doesn’t make sense to wear high-maintenance fabrics, restrictive silhouettes, or even the lowest of heels. Such a lifestyle is conducive to a capsule wardrobe.  It makes sense to create a small yet mightly collection of clothing you can rely on while working at home.  Below I share a capsule wardrobe for the SAHM and it is also a great capsule wardrobe for teleworkers and retirees.

Capsule Wardrobe for the SAHM or Teleworker

This capsule wardrobe is for the stay at home woman who wishes to be comfortable, able to move around easily, but not look like a slob. Part weekend wear, part loungewear, this collection is easy pieces that can layer and with a quick addition of budget-friendly (and kid-friendly) accessories, can look cool enough for a coffee date at the corner café or a Target run.

Sometimes it feels as though the choices are sweats or tailored clothing. However, with the popularity of athleisure, the options have increased so one can be comfortable and maintain some style. Since many of you mentioned you were home with babies and small children, I focused more on machine washable looks that can have you comfortably on the floor, reaching across the entire bench seat in the back of an SUV, and hopefully some that are nursing friendly. For those without children, this capsule is very similar to the kind of clothing I wear when I work from home for my day job.

Wardrobe Oxygen: Stay at Home Mom Capsule Wardrobe for Fall and WinterShop Similar: stripe dress | wrap dress | plaid tunic | long cardigan | zipper cardigan | denim jacket | cocoon cardigan | nursing-friendly printed top | stripe tee | tank | printed tee | stretchy skinny jeans | faux leather-front knit pants | ponte leggings | water-resistant Chelsea boots | slip-on sneakers | shearling short boots | bandana | choker | sunglasses | beanie | dry shampoo | lipstick

A tee shirt dress is a wonderful piece for a casual wardrobe. I like stripes because they’re perennially chic and look as though you put forth effort. Also with such a style of dress, stripes will make it look less like a nightshirt. When it’s warmer out, style with bare legs and sandals or sneakers. Come fall and winter, style with leggings and flats or tights and flat ankle boots. Add warmth with a turtleneck underneath or a long cardigan or denim jacket over it. For those who are nursing, reader Roselyne highly recommends this dress from Boob Maternity; I had a dress from this brand and wore it to DEATH through pregnancy and the first year of nursing and pumping so I can attest that their dresses are fab.

A wrap dress is one of those items that looks fancy, but is essentially a well-designed tee shirt dress. In matte jersey (a stretchy poly blend that has a nubby crepe finish), it could be worn to a wedding, but also holds its shape and is machine washable perfection for working from home. When I was nursing and pumping, I lived in wrap dresses since they were easy to slide to the side, flattered my figure, and didn’t stretch out. They hold up so well, one of the dresses I bought back then is STILL in my wardrobe and worn on a regular basis! Like the tee shirt dress, style with leggings and flats or tights. Add warmth with a cami underneath, a scarf, or a cardigan or jacket on top.

Plaid shirtdresses in cotton or flannel are popular this year and able to be found in any pricepoint. Also available are tunic-length flannel shirts, which are more comfortable to wear with leggings and stretchy skinny jeans. Earlier this fall I received a plaid flannel tunic from JAG Jeans and it has become a weekend favorite because it’s comfortable, warm, machine washable, but on trend. I can throw it on over a tank and leggings, slip on my Adidas Superstar sneakers, throw on my biker jacket and look cool, not like reality which is that I’m frantic, short on time, and need a coffee and shower. If plaid isn’t your jam, this can be replaced with a button-front shirt in jersey or mixed media, denim or chambray, or a washed oxford. The key is to have a feminine silhouette – not too big and baggy but a length that keeps you comfortable and moving.

Layering is key as it makes looks more purposeful and also keeps you warm. Here I show my four favorite styles of layering pieces when working from home. A long cardigan is more on trend than one that hits right at the waist. It looks better with shift and tee shirt dresses, provides more coverage with skinny pants, and gives more of an effect of a jacket, which can add polish to a simple tee and jeans. It can be a classic “grandpa” cardigan with a v-neck, patch pockets and buttons; it can be a waterfall style that has a drapey front, it can be a style without buttons… it’s up to what appeals to you as any of them will be a versatility layering piece. This is a piece where you can incorporate a statement or signature color to add personality to your capsule and make basics look more fun. In place of a zipper or athletic hoodie, consider one out of a more polished fabric like sweater knit. Same comfort and ease but with more polish. A cocoon style cardigan or soft jacket is a favorite for me when I am working from home; the wide collar keeps my neck warm and the silhouette is cool yet comfortable. Some may find a denim jacket too restrictive for relaxed attire, but if you get one with stretch, it can be a great layering piece. I’ve worn my J. Crew Factory denim jacket on the blog a lot, and wear it even more at home. With washings and wear it has molded to my body and I throw it on over my casual clothes when I head out to the grocery or take my laptop out to work on the deck.

Now we get to the nitty gritty, the basics. Tops and bottoms. This is where your look can go one way or the other pretty quickly. Not every tee shirt is equal, nor is every pair of stretchy pants. But as I state at the beginning of this post, the options have increased and you have comfortable, easy care choices. Some suggestions:

  • Check out crepe and woven tops in place of knits. This slight difference can drastically change the look of your outfit. A tunic tee that isn’t clingy and stretchy looks polished and is more figure flattering. A woven tank won’t stick to your grandpa cardigan or a layering cami; it will drape nicely and provide a better effect. Such a top can still half tuck or full tuck, and if you choose a print or darker color and a synthetic blend, you don’t need to worry about wrinkles.
  • Stripes are chic. I know, I am stripes obsessed and already raved about them in this very post. But it’s an easy, budget-friendly way to add style. Go classic – black, navy, or red stripes on a white or ivory ground. This way, it’s a piece you can wear now or a decade from now and it can work with most any other color, texture, and pattern in your closet.
  • Spend on printed tee shirts. If you buy great shirts with great designs, great fit, great fabric you won’t need as many. When crafting this capsule wardrobe I thought about my Make Art Not War shirt. A friend had a similar shirt and I googled it. I couldn’t find hers, but I found my version. I had to pay a pretty penny for shipping but that shirt… well it’s almost the same age as Emerson, it’s still worn weekly and survives the washer and dryer like a champ. With the pattern, it gets worn more than my plain v-neck tees (and a pattern is better at hiding stains and your figure). Sure, you can find great tees at Target, and sometimes the best shirt in your drawer cost the least, but don’t be afraid to spend on a casual piece if it’s pretty perfect. In the long run you’ll likely save by needing to spend less.
  • Go a bit longer. When I’m wearing jeans, skirts, and cute little outfits I want tops that end just after the waistband so they look nice tucked or untucked and hit at a flattering length. But when I’m at home on my laptop or when I used to be on the floor with a younger Emerson, a bit of length makes more sense. Luckily the trend is for slouchy longer, almost-tunic tees and knit tops so it’s easy to find a variety of longer pieces that work better with leggings and being active.
  • Steer clear from true athletic gear. Sure it’s comfy and it comes in great colors, but it’s not street clothing. It’s one step from just wearing your pajamas all day, and we know that’s not good for the soul. Sure, buy the cute activewear for the gym, the yoga studio, and the jog down the street but keep it, just like your sleepwear, separate from your day clothes.
  • Thick and solid. This should be your mantra for your pants, leggings, jeggings, and jeans when building a casual capsule wardrobe. I know there’s a very popular company out there filling up your Facebook feed with leggings in all sorts of wacky prints. They’re fun, they’re soft, they’re comfy, they’re NOT fashionable. Go ahead and wear them to bed or as true loungewear, but don’t think they’re a valid replacement for real clothing. I’m ready for you to come back and tell me I’m wrong and provide an example. If you feel that strongly, rock them. If you’re coming here for fashion advice, it’s not going to include wacky printed leggings no matter how soft and comfy they may be. Instead, look for heavier fabrics. Ponte is awesome because it’s a tight weave, thicker, and looks more refined than jersey or activewear. There’s nothing wrong with a pair of stretchy jeggings or skinny jeans. If you’re like me and they are great everywhere but the waist, consider a Beltaway which won’t bind but will keep your jeans from sliding down. If you want interest, check out the faux-leather and suede detail, front or full leggings that are currently available at most any retailer. Not only do they add interest and style, they also add thickness and warmth.
  • Go easy on the dryer. Especially with the pants and jeans, consider washing them inside out and hanging them up in the bathtub to dry. No need for a drying rack or anything fancy, just some clip hangers and your shower curtain bar. Not only will it extend the life of your clothing, it will reduce your utilities bill and add moisture to your home in the dry winter months!

And finally, the finishing touches. The footwear, accessories, and beauty products I included are all about ease, speed, and comfort with style. Details as to what I chose and why:

  • Shoes need to be easy to slip on and off, have good grip when you’re heading to your car or mailbox with arms full of children or packages, and keep you warm. A pair of Chelsea or engineer boots are great because they’re leather so they look more polished but don’t look too fancy for leggings and plaid flannel. These are rugged and water resistant so you can wear them out in the yard with the dog or into the garden.  A slip-on sneaker in leather or an on-trend finish is as comfortable as trainers but with more style. And yes, you aren’t seeing things, I am featuring a pair of UGGs! This doesn’t mean I want everyone running around town in them, but low boots like this are perfect for the stay at home woman who wants to stay warm, but wants a step up from her slippers. Keep your shoes in neutrals that match the rest of your wardrobe so they don’t break up the leg line and give a more polished effect.
  • When you’re spending the day at home, jewelry can seem ridiculous. Add kids and chores to the game, and they can be downright annoying. A couple simple pieces like a leather cord choker and a bandana or square scarf are easy things to throw on to make your separates look like an outfit. These are accessories that are low in cost, on-trend for the season, and can be put on without even futzing in front of a mirror. Even keep them in your bag to throw on as you’re walking to the car or bus.
  • A cool pair of sunglasses and a cashmere beanie can hide a multitude of sins. Ray-Ban Wayfarers are eternally chic, but there’s some budget-friendly brands out there that are popular and cool looking. Quay Australia has a lot of on-trend sunglasses; I love these flat black frames with a subtle cat eye. I recently got these sunglasses from Le Specs and am in love. They look cool, fit well, are lightweight and polarized. Throw them on to protect your eyes, and also cover dark circles and sleepless nights. A cashmere beanie is lightweight, won’t give you hathead, doesn’t look like a condom on the top of your head, will keep you warm, and is a trendy way to hide greasy or grown-out roots. Don’t be surprised to see me heading to the grocery store on a Saturday morning in a beanie and sunglasses; now you know I’m not cool I’m just hiding a mess!
  • Beauty is a personal choice. For some, they feel fabulous with a fresh face. For others, they find power in mascara and concealer. For me, I find a bold pout can make an otherwise bare face look purposeful and chic. My go-to red is Lancome’s Le Carmin, which immediately makes me feel like a stylish French woman, not a frazzled woman trying to do 50 things at once with someone yanking on the hem of my sweater and my phone blowing up in my bra (because there’s no point in putting it in my purse, that’s too far away). I recently wrote about the amazingness of Living Proof’s dry shampoo; I swear by it in making next-day hair look fabulous. Think about what one or two things can make you feel fresher and perfect them so they can be done in a jiffy, and possibly without a mirror. Even keep them downstairs near the door so it’s as easy as putting on a coat to throw on before heading out.

This is a base capsule for the stay at home woman. Based on your lifestyle, personal style, and personal needs you can adjust it, build on it, and customize to make it your own. The goal is to have functional, comfortable clothing that still maintains some of your personal style so you look great but also feel great, no matter what comes your way.

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. Thanks Allie, a helpful reminder to put a bit of effort in to feel better when working from home. I have a bad tendency to get into gym clothes and stay in them which makes me feel schlumpy. Currently wearing jeans, a cashmere cowl neck jumper (sweater), make up and earrings ‘cos I was going to have a Skype conference call. It didn’t end up happening, but I feel more able to leave the house without half an hour of faffing first. Should go for a walk while it’s not raining!

  2. This piece came just when I needed it!! I was working abroad (in a tropical climate) for a good chunk of last winter and now that the weather’s turning cool again I’m realising that I don’t actually like a lot of my more autumnal clothes! I’m going to have a good clear out and make a strict list of what I need (oops, I’m one of those people that will spend an entire Saturday in sports kit) – this post has given me a lot of great inspiration!

  3. Thanks! This is perfect for my life! I love the pieces you have chosen but also appreciate the guidelines to make it my own and add my own style.

  4. OMG thank you for this. Highly appreciated, and I’m 100% basing my maternity leave wardobe on this. I already have pieces that fit most of the niches in this, but this illustrates super well why I feel like there are holes in my wardrobe – yay for quick and easy fixes! 🙂

  5. Yes! I refuse to wear yoga pants or sweats out of my house. Even if I’m in a band t and Chacos with no makeup, I put on real clothes. I won’t even drive my 14 year old to school (at 6:30 in the dark) without a bra and jeans on. Some days even putting on jeans is a struggle with my illness, but I still do it. One other thing I keep in my closet is a few thick, solid color maxi skirts for days when pants are not an option. It’s often too warm here for tights and a maxi offers plenty of coverage when chasing dogs and schlepping costumes/teenagers/groceries.

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