How to Style Work Wear

5 Steps for Building An Office Capsule Wardrobe (+35 Outfit Ideas!)

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One of the questions I get asked about a lot is regarding work wear – the essentials, incorporating personal style within a corporate 9-5 wardrobe, injecting color, and so on and so forth. I’ve also gotten a ton of requests for adding more work wear posts on the blog, which is something I’ve thought about doing since I transitioned back into a corporate office environment back in January, but candidly I didn’t know where to start.

There is sooo much I want to offer y’all when it comes to curating and fine-tuning a professional wardrobe so I figured I’d start from the beginning. For your awareness, back in 2015 I did pull together a basic 9-5 capsule wardrobe leveraging neutral essentials. That is a great place to start if you are entering the workforce for the first time or need a little help curating unlimited outfit options without breaking the bank, plus I also share 21 outfit ideas using the work capsule!

Today I thought that we’d start by preparing your closet. What do I mean by this? By looking at and filtering your closet, you get a better sense of what you have, what you can wear to the office and where you need to fill in holes in your work attire wardrobe. This process can get messy so I suggest you clear out a large space in your room for enough space to work with while you go through each item piece by piece. This can be your bed or free-standing clothing rack.

Here we go!
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Step 1: Determine your dress code. Most jobs have one, but once you have that figured out, go through your closet and pull out every piece that falls within that dress code and leave everything else in your closet that does not. In most cases these will be pieces likes distressed jeans, shorts, etc.

Step 2: Define your color palette. With a simple glance at what you’ve got hanging in your closet and what you’ve removed, a color palette or theme can be determined easily. From there, ask yourself what key colors do you want to establish as your neutrals. This can be different for any given person, for me neutrals in my wardrobe are black, white, gray, pale pink and navy. Prints and patterns are also a fun way to add variety to your aesthetic but you must make the decision on whether or not you feel comfortable mixing and matching. Remember, it’s important that the items you include in your capsule work together so that you can get more millage out of your wardrobe.
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Step 3: Edit. By now you should be seeing a much more streamlined look to your closet and what it should include. Here you’ll want to edit what you’ve already gathered. For example, you’ve got four gray cardigans but you’re not going to be needing to include them all in your capsule. Pick one or two that are flattering, comfortable and versatile and incorporate those.

Step 4: Figure out the seasonal necessities. Depending on where you live and whether or not you experience seasons, this is where you examine your capsule and figure out what seasonal pieces need to be added for a fully rounded wardrobe. Jot these seasonal necessities on a piece of paper or open up the Notes App on your phone to record these. In this step you want to think functionality – a trench coat, weather appropriate footwear, sweaters, etc.

Step 5: Create and determine the holes. At this point in the process you should have a pretty good collection of pieces gathered to form your work capsule wardrobe and now you should be able to see what the capsule might be missing. Only incorporating the items gathered, begin organizing them by groups, i.e. bottoms, tops, dresses, shoes, and toppers (cardigans, blazers, etc.). Start creating outfits and don’t hesitate to try things on to see if certain patterns, styles and silhouettes go together. I recommend taking pictures to help you keep track of all of the outfit formulas, and leverage when you need ideas! Incorporate accessories, switch out your shoe options and don’t forget to create transitional outfits to take you through the seasons.
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This step helps you realize any pieces that may not have been leveraged during the outfit making process. Once you’ve established those, if there were any, you’ll need to decide if you want to include or exclude them from your capsule. Since there are no hard and fast rules, you can be as ruthless or forgiving as you’d like! Sure, a perfectly curated, intentional wardrobe is great but having some wiggle room to alternate pieces is also a fun option to have available.

By now you should have a pretty good idea of any items you may want to add to your capsule to fully utilize the existing pieces. Jot those down, head to your favorite stores and do some try-ons to decide whether or not you want to really make the purchase, and whether or not they’ll work with what you’ve got.
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Phew! I really hope this post was helpful! That was a ton of information and I only scratched the surface, there is so much more work attire style information I want to share with y’all! As an added bonus since you stuck around for this entire post, I created 35 outfits! If you are sticking to a more neutral palate, I highly recommend visiting this post for inspiration!

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