I’ve recently put together a new capsule wardrobe to get me through the five days of the working week, and will happily admit it’s mainly to save time and hassle in the mornings. It’s far too cold and dark outside to be fumbling around working out whether this goes with that or not, and this collection is practically foolproof even if you’re still half asleep.
This is all technically based on things I own in real life, but it’s obviously not much use being told all about this particular item I’ve upcycled, that one-off thing I’ve thrifted, or anything that’s completely sold out and is unlikely to come back into stock. For that reason I’m including clothes from the high street that you can get hold of relatively easily right now in case you’d like to give it a try yourself.
Remember to shop in your own wardrobe first, i.e. use what you already have, to save money and the environment. You’ll probably find you own several things that can be put to good use here, perhaps including some old favourites.
You can easily adapt the basics of this capsule wardrobe to suit yourself, from the shapes to the warmth levels and the colours that suit you best, and I’ll mention lots of different options to try as we go along. It’s pitched at an informal level with a bit of smart casual mixed in because that’s how I roll most of the time, but you can also tweak it to be more or less formal depending on your personality and where you spend most of the week.
Let’s start with the five trousers and skirts, because they’re often the most difficult to get right:
Trousers and skirts
A mixture of shapes, shades and fabrics for versatility. From left to right we have:
Next blue rinse tailored wide leg jeans | £45
A smart pair of dark blue jeans to flatter most body shapes that can be dressed up or down. My real-life pair are these ones, but they’re sold out in most sizes and I’m not sure if they’ll restock them – the Next version currently has much better availability. (sorry, sold out at Next)
George Skye black mid-wash high rise straight leg jeans | £15
These practical jeans skim the leg but don’t cling like skinnies do, and George cater for most body shapes and sizes at affordable prices. You might already own a pair of girlfriend, boyfriend or mom jeans in this colour, and a tapered or straight black suit trouser would work here as well.
FatFace Peyton brown utility trousers | £25 in sale (was £55)
Not gonna lie, I love a good utility trouser – just chuck ’em on and Get Things Done. This particular pair are well made and hard wearing so they’ll look good for longer. If you don’t want to buy new, maybe you have some mid-tone brown chinos or cords instead, or a pair of khaki twill trousers that could be put to good use.
Seasalt Ambrose A-line denim midi skirt | £65
A classic blue denim midi that’ll last for years and years, and can be purchased in different lengths. These sorts of skirts also turn up regularly in charity shops and on Depop and eBay, if you’re looking for something similar second hand. Not into denim skirts? Alternatives that would still work here include: a dark blue cargo skirt, mid-wash blue jeans in any shape you like, or navy or mid-blue trousers (smart or cropped).
Oliver Bonas twisted animal print pleated midi skirt | £65
A pretty, versatile skirt that has a matching top (see next section) so you can put them together and it’ll look like a dress. If you don’t want to buy a matching set, substitute in a black midi skirt with a neutral ditsy print on it or a midi in a light shade of animal print as either of those will pair nicely with all the tops I’ve suggested. If you aren’t into pretty skirts, try a taupe, mocha or stone/neutral suit trouser instead.
Now it’s time to move on to the next five items of the 20-piece capsule wardrobe, the all-important tops. The golden rule for choosing capsule wardrobe tops is that each top needs to work with every single skirt or pair of trousers, so at the end of the week when you’re left with one random top and one random skirt/trouser you can be sure they’ll look good together.
Tops / jumpers / blouses & shirts
Five very different tops for mixing and matching: two bright, two light and one dark.
M&S Collection green textured relaxed jumper | £25
There are plenty of fun bright green tops around on the high street at the moment, including this mid-weight textured jumper from M&S – a reliable staple for contemporary easy dressing. If you work/live in a warmer environment then you might prefer a thinner jersey top, and if you feel the cold then pick a chunkier knit and perhaps put another layer underneath it. If you aren’t a fan of bright green, choose a knit or shirt in a softer shade such as khaki, olive, moss, sage green or teal blue as these will still work with the rest of the wardrobe items.
M&S Collection cream mix striped collared jumper | £25
A versatile, chic jumper for contemporary styling. If you’re feeling the cold, it also works well with a polo- or turtle-neck top layered underneath it for extra toastiness. If you don’t want to buy new you could also substitute in a white, cream or off-white Breton top or similar stripy jumper with a light background.
M&S Collection bright pink supersoft crew neck sweater | £17.50 (also in 2 for £30 offer)
A girly colour pop in a warm shade. The jumper I have in real life is more of a burnt orange, but this M&S version will be better for many skin tones. Many other colours in the M&S jumper range would work here too, including pale pink, hot pink, deep rose, coral, dark peach, hot orange or dark orange. If you don’t like fine knits then try a sweatshirt, and if you don’t like bright colours pick a light blue or pale grey top instead.
Next black cosy crew neck jumper | £20
This is a fairly fine gauge knit with some room in the body to give it some flowiness, and it’s thin enough to wear tucked into a waistband too which makes it more versatile. Failing that, most of us own a black long sleeve top of some sort which can be mixed in with all the other clothes to good effect.
Oliver Bonas twisted animal print ruched blouse | £55
This feminine co-ord blouse matches perfectly with the skirt shown above, and it’s also just right for doing jeans-and-a-nice-top with. Although it’s technically a pattern, the animal print is working as a light neutral here, so you could also swap in a white or ecru shirt or blouse, or a light coloured sweatshirt or oatmeal jumper instead if you prefer.
The next article in this series covers all the other important essentials you need to make this capsule wardrobe work effectively, including shoes, boots, jackets and accessories. Then we can start the mixing and matching.
Has anything in particular caught your eye? Are you feeling inspired to put together a capsule wardrobe of your own?