Business Professional Capsule Wardrobe
Work often plays a huge part in our lives, after-all it takes up almost a third of our time! Yet, most of us don’t want our professional clothes taking over our closet. Which makes creating a business professional capsule wardrobe your absolute best option.
The goal: Create enough outfits for one month of work with no repeats.
This is no easy task! But, I’ve figured out a formula of the styles of clothing that will get you the farthest. I will warn that this more business formal than business casual, but you can easily substitute some of these pieces or get a more casual version (ex. a jersey blazer instead of a separates blazer).
Also, I don’t rely on shoes, jewelry, or handbags to make separate outfits, so I haven’t included any of those in this capsule. Honestly, it feels like cheating to say that a handbag makes people forget I wore this outfit yesterday.
But to address shoes, I would suggest having a bare minimum of 3 pairs of shoes for work, even if they are the same shoe. You want to rotate these so they don’t wear out and have time to breathe from always being on your foot. Nobody wants stank foot, ladies.
Let’s start with the breakdown of pieces
Optional 2 Cardigans
Blazers are an interesting, business-formal layer that has a lot of room to play. Most offices have the AC cranked too high to just wear a shirt with no additional layer, which is why having a few blazers is a must.
The style of blazer you choose can vary depending on your style or be three of the same in different colors. If you work in a more formal office, I would stay away from the trendy oversized blazers, because that can be seen as a bit sloppy.
Recommended Blazer Styles:
Traditional Single Breasted
One Button Blazer
Deep Lapel Blazer
Having dresses on hand is a must for the spring and summer. I suggest only buying sleeveless or short sleeve dresses for more versatility. In the winter you can just pop on a blazer or cardigan and some tights if it’s extra cold.
There isn’t quite as much leeway with dress styles for a business professional look, sadly. You’ll want to stay away from shirtdresses, swing dresses, skater dresses, bodycon dresses, bandage dresses,
Recommended Dress Styles:
If you really wanted to push it or just happen to loathe dresses and skirts, you could get away with only having 6 blouses and 6 trousers.
Why not 5 instead of 6? Welllll, we all know how the weekends go sometimes, and you don’t always have time to do laundry. The sixth is there for your Monday brain.
Shells and blouses aren’t very restricted as far as styles, but material is important. You don’t want sheer or clingy fabrics. Sheer blouses are not usually allowed, and even if you layer them with a cami, it still looks a bit unprofessional.
You can have a fitted blouse, but if it is so clingy I can clearly see the outline of your bra, then it’s not appropriate. Save that one for afterrrr work.
Recommended Blouse Styles:
Crew Knit Shell
High or Mock Neck Blouse
6 Trousers, just the same as the blouses. So utterly versatile! I have a little love affair for a good pair of trousers.
There are so many options for trousers, and you can’t go wrong with most of them. The fit/cut is up to you, and it is okay to have fitted pants, but follow the same clingy rule. I also recommend trying to find a high waist if you plan on tucking your blouses
In a business professional wardrobe I would largely avoid any sort of legging advertised as pants or ponte pants. These are almost always too tight and will show a panty line or barbie crotch.
Keep in your mind your local climate when you are purchasing trousers, because the fabric is important. If you have cold winters, try to get some wool or wool blend pants. For mild winters I would stick to cotton or poly blends.
Recommended Trouser Styles:
Flared (generally outdated)
Wide Leg (may be too trendy for some)
Love em or hate em, to round out your new professional wardrobe, you should have a few skirts in your arsenal. Separates will greatly increase the number of outfits you can wear!
You’ll want to be incredibly careful about length for your skirts, so test these sitting, standing, and bending over. Business Professional skirts are typically fitted pencil skirts, sometimes with a kick pleat in the back. Stay away from the ones with side slits, these are typically too risque.
Recommended Skirt Styles:
Circle Skirt Midi Length (business-casual)
Not all offices are cardigan appropriate, which is why this is optional. Even if you are allowed to wear cardigans (which are almost always but not always inherently more casual), you shouldn’t need them. So, if you’re on a budget, save this for later.
The currently popular sweater blazers are a great option, since they are more structured. Although, you may prefer what I like to call the “librarian” style sweater, which is the classic style that hits at your waist and has small buttons.
Avoid drapey or overly voluminous cardigans, business professional clothing is sleek and sadly void of cozy sweaters to wrap up in.
Recommended Cardigan Styles:
Now that you know what you need and why you need it, let’s talk color and statement pieces. You can use color as your statement pieces to bring a little fun into this wardrobe, or stick to neutrals if that’s your thing (raises hand!).
Business Professional Color
If you love neutrals, then just stick to that. Your clothes will practically go with anything you pair in your capsule wardrobe.
If you want a little color, I recommend choosing only one statement color. Don’t feel restricted, since this is such a small part of your capsule wardrobe, you can always change it later. By choosing only one bright color and having the rest of your capsule be neutral, you are guaranteeing maximum versatility.
Depending on your colors, you could have everything match with everything, or have very few outfits that don’t go.
My recommendation if you want a pop of color (all the designers roll their eyes), is to take one of each of the six item types and make it colorful. Have the remaining number be neutral. So, 5 neutral blouses and one colorful one, for example.
Alternatively, if you are super bold and can get away with it in your office, make one entire item type colorful instead of neutral. So, a purple blouse, green blouse, red blouse, yellow blouse, blue blouse, orange blouse, and pink blouse. If all of your other pieces are neutral, like black, gray, and khaki pants, you’ll still have a very versatile capsule wardrobe. I’ll show both of these types of examples below.
And don’t feel like you can only get solid color items. Tiny colorful prints like polka dots are always appropriate, larger prints are something you should play by ear if it is a large print and also colorful.
For my neutral lovers who want to experiment, try out small doses of color in your jewelry and shoes. A small colorful pendant or some bright new heels can break you out of that black and white rut.
Texture is also a fun but subtle way to add some interest to your capsule wardrobe. Something in tweed, or with a tie, a wool trouser, silk blouse, the options are endless!
Need a Capsule for another part of life?
Example Capsule Wardrobe
This is the example I’ve created with 21 pieces. Notice I chose to use a neutral color palette with one item of color in each item type (green dress, green blazer, green blouse, etc). Also, for maximum versatility, I tried to vary the neutrals in each item type.
So, I didn’t use three gray blouses, instead I chose a white blouse, gray blouse, black blouse, green blouse, etc. This also increases versatility and keeps your outfits from looking the same or too much monochrome. If you choose three gray blouses and a pair of gray trousers and one gray skirt, you’ve effectively cut out about 10 different outfits, unless you want to wear 10 all gray outfits. Neutrals are great, but vary them.
Those 21 pieces created over 100 outfits!
Honestly, I was astounded when I created this. Long graphic incoming showing every single outfit you can create with these pieces. You could get half this amount, 10-11 pieces, and have enough clothes for about three months. If you use the whole capsule, you’ll have enough outfits for six months. I’m pretty sure no one will remember what you wore six months ago!
If you are on a budget and decide to get less than the 21 pieces, prioritize separates (skirts, blouses, trousers) over the dresses.
Longggg graphic incoming showing you every.single.outfit you can make with this capsule.
Um, wow. That’s a lot of freaking outfits
That isn’t a vanity number either. I don’t believe in just combining every piece to reach an ultra high number, because most of the capsule wardrobes like that have some outfits that could go together but don’t go together. I eliminated outfits that paired the navy blouse with the navy blazer or the green blouse with the green skirt.
I left a couple of monochrome outfits in there like the green blouse and green pants, because they actually did go together. The gray turtleneck also looks great with gray trousers or the gray skirt. But some of the all black outfits were too similar, so I did not include them. If all black is your jam, go for it!
If you click on the outfit image, you can download it and zoom in on all the outfits at your leisure, since this is a high resolution picture.
I hope this helps you create a work capsule wardrobe that is just your style, just your budget, and just a portion of your closet!