Building A Professional Capsule Wardrobe

July 22, 2015 , In: Professional, Style , With: No Comments

When I found out I would be moving to one of the most expensive places in the world for the summer, I budgeted accordingly – no way was I going to waste my hard earned salary on work clothes when there was all of San Francisco’s coffee to be tasted. At the same time, I knew that I couldn’t work in a design field for a design company and get away with dressing like a schlub every day.

I’m the kind of gal who prefers minimalism, both in design and in life. I believe that less is more, simple is best, and claiming to be a “minimalist” is a lot easier than admitting you’re just too lazy to put in a lot of effort. So when I went on the hunt for a work wardrobe before my summer started, I knew that I wanted to keep it hassle-free.

Which is why I decided to only bring 30 work pieces with me to California.

This is my take on the Capsule Wardrobe, a clever clothing concept popularized by Donna Karan in the 1980s and still saving the asses of broke working girls like me to this day. A capsule wardrobe is your style down to its bare-bones: a sampling of a couple of timeless pieces that you love to wear and can easily mix-and-match.

And while I’ve seen a lot of material out there on building casual, every day capsule wardrobes, I couldn’t find a comprehensive guide on building a professional capsule wardrobe. So armed with a less-than-full wallet and several cups of coffee in my system, I took a shot in the dark and set out to create my own professional capsule wardrobe with the help of these 3.5 rules:

1) Keep the count down to 35 pieces (or less): Un-fancy, the capsule-wardrobe bible that kickstarted my own project, recommends a 37 piece wardrobe for each three month season. However, since I’m a competitive lil bitch, I decided to one up her and shoot for only 35 pieces for my three month internship. I ended up bringing 5 less than I planned, and with only a month left out here, I’ve had no problem creating outfits from the 30 pieces I brought with me.
2) Stick to a color scheme: A neutral color palette should be the basis for your capsule wardrobe – I chose black, white, and grey to create the bulk of my capsule wardrobe pieces, but this was mainly because those were the neutral colors that appeared most in my current clothing repertoire (I swear, I own more black and white striped shirts than a mime). The most important part of creating this capsule wardrobe for me was to capitalize in what was already in my closet, so I was able to find a bunch of my essentials from things I already owned. After settling on the neutrals, it’s best to introduce two accent colors into the mix as well. I chose pink (surprise!) and a few yellow/gold tones.

3) Make sure that the clothes go together: When you’re working with only 30 pieces, you’d think this one is a no-brainer, but it’s actually much harder than it seems. You shouldn’t choose a jacket or sweater if it can’t pair with 80% of your tops. Don’t bring shoes that are too flashy to be worn more than once in a week. And your bottoms should be able to go with absolutely everything in the rest of your capsule wardrobe. Not only does this rule guarantee that you’ll be able to create a ton of outfits out of only a limited source of clothing, but you also have pretty good chances of looking half-decent if you get dressed in the dark one morning (not recommended, however).

3.5) But don’t neglect your faves either: Once I had committed to my neutral color scheme with pink and gold accents, I realized with horror that my favorite, emerald green top did not fit within the hierarchy of my newly-created capsule wardrobe. Try as I might, I could not figure out a way to justify its noticeably distinctive style amid a sea of smart basics. And when I finally got tired of trying to skirt my own rules, I decided to eff the rules: there are certain items in your closet that are distinctly “you,” and they shouldn’t have to suffer for simply being too hella unique.

I’ve now gone 7 weeks wearing the same 30 pieces and loved every second. I’ve managed to feel professional and smart and chic without the stress or wallet strain that I’d struggled with in the past.

Now, to answer the question that I’m sure is on your mind: weren’t you worried that someone was going to notice that you kept the same 30 pieces on constant repeat?

Unless your life is the plot of The Devil Wears Prada, chances are that your coworkers don’t pay much attention to what you’re wearing. Sure, you want to look nice for work, but by no means do you need to buy those J. Crew skinny pants in every color to bulk up your professional wardrobe.

When I started this project, I was worried that coworkers would comment on whether or not it was the third time that week I was wearing those same black slacks (more than likely, it was). But what I found is that I actually got complimented more often than I ever had before – and typically, I got complimented not on each individual outfit, but on my overall professional style.

I came out of this experience with a better sense of my own style, more space in my closet, and a bigger budget to spend on coffee. And isn’t that all a girl can really ask for?


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Emily Sermons

Creator & Coffee Addict

Emily is studying user experience and web development and works at Adobe in web applications support. She enjoys Hershey's kisses and shouting her thoughts into the void of the internet.

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