The Ultimate Guide to Smart Casual Work Capsule Wardrobe for Women

Work wear is an important part of our lives since we spend a lot of time at work in day. If you think about it. Maybe that is why it becomes a part of our life and a biggest part of our wardrobe. But in this post I want to share how you can build a sustainable capsule wardrobe. You can use these tips to build your workwear wardrobe that you can easily upgrade as you find better pieces and can also get the most wear out of. 

This post is more for those of you who have a business casual dress code at work and struggle the most with keep a balance with being casual but at the same time looking professional.

So, let’s get started. 

Kind of Business Casual Dress Code

Before we can talk about styles or kinds of business causal dress code, its important that we decide what business casual means. I saw this article from Indeed.com which clearly defines what business casual dress code entails. 

Business casual dress code definition

So to sum up it easily we can say that its a combination of casual, comfortable and structured and sophisticated. This style of dress code became really popular with a much more relaxed and highly collaborative working environment where there was a need to constantly move and be able to stay comfortable through out the day so that your work is not affected. 

This style of dress code is much more suited for industries like banking, technology, medical, teaching, retail and many more where you no longer need to suit up to be able to look professional. 

But certain industries like technology, teaching, retail take accept a much more casual side of the business casual dress code compared to industries like banking or medical. 

So, before you can determine what to add to your work capsule, it’s important to understand what kind of business casual dress code you have. I am going to divide them into two style of Business casual.

Preppy Business Casual

This is for industries like banking, legal, media, marketing agency where you have a dressier side to business casual. You need to still look much more put together but you don’t have to wear suits all the time. 

The challenge is that since you have to look much more polished, it’s hard to find a balance and most of the times we end up finding ourselves being uncomfortable.

Industries like technology, retail, teaching where we do not have to wear heels or close toe shoes or button up shirts all the time. But we also struggle with looking polished and sophisticated, whereas for the other ones where you have to look a bit more polished we are forced to wear more suits and heels and stay uncomfortable all day. 

Laidback Business Casual

This is for industries like technology, retail, teaching where we do not have to wear heels or close toe shoes or button up shirts all the time. You are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and most likely there is no stress on having to look polished at all.

Which definitely becomes a challenge when you are wearing a lot of laidback clothing and footwear. You probably struggle with not looking sophisticated or put together. While this is welcomed, you probably want to do better (that is why you are here).

Breton striped sweater

What To Include in the Workwear Capsule?

Coming from a Business Casual Dress code myself where we were told we didn’t have any specific dress code, its really hard to understand what you should include in your capsule wardrobe. And the common answer you might find answering yourself, is well what I like to wear to work. 

Ofcourse, you should, but remember you came here to find how you can create smart casual outfits for work. So, let’s focus on those parts. Certain clothes pieces will always look smart effortlessly compared to pieces that will look really laidback. This not only helps you to create smart looks but it also will save time trying to create a smart business casual look.

Below are what you should include in your smart casual workwear and what you should not.

What You Should Include:

  • Tailored Clothing that fits you well but is not figure hugging. 
  • Solids and Prints that look sophisticated.
  • Clothing pieces that do not wrinkle a lot. 
  • Footwear that are structured and close toe which makes you look sophisticated.

What You Should Not Include:

  • Oversized Clothing which looks cool, but screams laidback.
  • Body hugging clothing items which will make you feel uncomfortable and not being able to focus on work.
  • Exaggerated Logos or captions (I am also guilty of in the past).
  • Wild prints that seem distracting. 
  • Strapped sandals and footwear that look like you are going to a vacation.

Colors to consider in your workwear capsule

This is where you can really expand and enjoy your capsule wardrobe and at the same time its also a great starting point for building your workwear wardrobe. Creating a color palette for your capsule is the key to making all your outfits look cohesive and stylish easily. And this is the base for the wardrobe as well. 

If you pick too many different colors, it will be difficult to create  cohesive outfits with minimum effort. You will spend quite some time figuring out what will match with what and end up feeling frustrated with your capsule wardrobe. 

On the other hand, if you only pick one or two colors or just stick with basic color palette, you might get bored with your capsule wardrobe and hate everything in it. 

An easy solution is to start with a mix of basic shades and two fun colors that you feel confident in wearing at work and can also be mixed and matched together. This way you have a building block for wearing colors and having fun with your capsule wardrobe. 

You can easily add more color once you get comfortable with wearing the colors in your wardrobe. 

Colors to consider in your work wear

Though I am a big fan of bright colors, you don’t have to start with that. But you can definitely incorporate it when you can. Some of my favorite shades that work well with neutral shades and make work clothing items stand out and stylish are:

  • Green and shades of green
  • Blue and shades of blue
  • Lighter Pink
  • Lilac
  • Burgundy
  • Purple
  • Orange

Colors to avoid

There are a few colors that I think you should absolutely avoid because they just feel more childish and not appropriate for work:

  • Neon shades 
  • Lipstick Red
  • Fuschia (It can work but rare occasions)

How to Build Budget Friendly Work capsule?

You need to consider seasons as well when building your capsule wardrobe. But here is where most people go wrong. Instead of building a capsule wardrobe for all four seasons, build your capsule wardrobe for weather. Let me elaborate. 

If you are building a capsule wardrobe for summer which will have a lot of lighter clothing pieces. You can use those items to build your fall and spring capsule wardrobe without buying everything new. You can use the same principle for winter where your clothing items can be repurposed in fall and spring as well. 

Ofcourse there will be some exception, like a Linen shirt cannot be worn in fall or spring. The same will go for a thick cashmere turtleneck sweater that can only be worn in winter, it will be too hot to wear them in fall or spring. 

Maybe a good idea will be to keep the items in those material to a minimum so you don’t have to shop a lot for the next season.

Repurposing Pieces in seasonal capsule

You need to consider seasons as well when building your capsule wardrobe. But here is where most people go wrong. Instead of building a capsule wardrobe for all four seasons, build your capsule wardrobe for weather. Let me elaborate. 

If you are building a capsule wardrobe for summer which will have a lot of lighter clothing pieces. You can use those items to build your fall and spring capsule wardrobe without buying everything new. You can use the same principle for winter where your clothing items can be repurposed in fall and spring as well. 

Ofcourse there will be some exception, like a Linen shirt cannot be worn in fall or spring. The same will go for a thick cashmere turtleneck sweater that can only be worn in winter, it will be too hot to wear them in fall or spring. 

Maybe a good idea will be to keep the items in those material to a minimum so you don’t have to shop a lot for the next season.

Choosing Color Palette for Sustainability

You need to plan out your color palette and build all four season capsule wardrobe with that in mind. Now, you don’t have to stick to the same colors, but making sure that next seasons colors can easily be worn with the previous seasons colors. 

This way you will be able to wear a lot of pieces from previous season in the next one and reduce shopping. You can check out my colorful capsule wardrobe videos where I am sharing the exact concept. 

How to put together work capsule?

Lets talk about essentials and other pieces that you would need to add to your capsule wardrobe. You can then decide what should be colored and what should be in neutral. Its important to not get carried away with too many colored pieces or less colored pieces. I have a colorful capsule wardrobe guide that will help you in adding colors that will look cohesive. That will come in handy when you are building cohesive looks.

Essentials

To build a smart casual capsule wardrobe that will cater to business casual dress code, we need to have some essential pieces in our wardrobe that you can wear every season. Below is my list:

  • White Button Down Shirt
  • Crew neck T Shirt (Mid length Sleeves)
  • Black Blazer
  • Midi Skirt
  • Tailored Pants 
  • Relaxed Fit Jeans
  • Crewneck Sweater
  • Breton Striped Top/Sweater
  • Double Breasted Coat
  • Loafers
  • Simple White Sneakers (No funky styles)
  • Chelsea Boots
  • Sling Backs

Extra Touches

These are items that can take your outfits and personal work style to the next level and add more confidence. I call them extra touches because they are not needed, but can make a huge difference.

  • Printed Shirt /Blouse
  • Black Button Down Shirt
  • Structured Sweatshirt
  • Plaid Blazer
  • White Trousers
  • Straight Leg Jeans
  • Trench Coat
  • Shirt Dress
  • White Chelsea Boots
  • Neutral Tall Boots
  • Sweater Dress

Accessories

These are the most forgotten aspect of workwear. And I am including bag to it though we have started to not consider them as accessories because they are essential for work. These accessories can elevate your smart casual outfit and make you feel much more confident.

  • A neutral tone tote bag 
  • Structured Backpack (If you prefer this)
  • Pendant necklace with a simpler chain, not too shiny .
  • Watch 
  • Perfume that is not too strong
  • Wool Scarf 
  • Structured Hat 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Belt with hardware

Fun Element

You can use any of these items above and shop for a fun piece that you absolutely love. This way you look forward to wearing that piece and the whole process of getting ready becomes enjoyable. 

For me getting ready to work is the best part of working everyday, no matter how much I enjoy what I do at work. Its because I find pieces in my work wear that I love wearing and looks good on me. So, its important that you find those pieces that you will gravitate towards and flatters you as well. 

You can buy a cool print blouse or a dress that flatters you a lot. This not only is fun, it also elevates your confidence. And that is the purpose of style.

I hope this post was helpful. Let me know if I am missing something and you want me to answer your question here. 

Affiliate links may have been used in this post. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post at no cost to you. For full disclosure check the disclaimer.

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