Colourful 20-piece Summer Capsule Wardrobe for Work and Play
Time for another installment of our little 20 Pieces 20 Outfits series!
The summer capsule wardrobe that you'll see in this post is inspired by an email that I got from 28-year old Laura from London:
I am a huge fan of your blog and cannot wait for your book to come out!
My goal is to build a capsule wardrobe this Summer, but I'm starting to question whether that is even possible, considering that I love bright colours and I work full-time at a PR agency. Most capsule wardrobes that I see online are a little too basic for my taste and seem to be tailored to people who work from home or stay-at-home mums. I would love to simplify my closet and have an easier time choosing outfits in the morning, but I don't want to wear monochrome basics every day. I was wondering whether you might have some tips for me? "
So let's dig into this. From Laura's email it seems she has two main questions/worries:
- Is it possible to build a capsule wardrobe around bright, bold colours rather than just monochromes and basics?
- Is it possible to build a capsule wardrobe that works for both an office job and home life?
My answer is the same for both questions: Yes it is! It's just a little trickier than building a small, mixable wardrobe (=capsule wardrobe) for a work-from-home minimalist, but it's totally doable. To build a wardrobe like that you can follow the exact same process I've covered lots of times before on this blog: Collect inspiration, define a overall style direction, choose an colour palette, pick some outfit formulas, map out a rough wardrobe structure and make sure each piece you include really pulls its weight.
If you (like Laura) love bright colours and need your wardrobe to work for business AND play time, I have two extra pieces of advice:
Don't skip the colour palette step
Just because you love colour doesn't mean you want to wear ALL the colours. Your wardrobe still needs to be built around a specific palette, to be cohesive and mixable. Go ahead and pick bold, bright colours like fuscia pink or lime green, just make sure your final palette is wearable, and also includes at least one or two more muted shades to support and balance out the other colours.
Read this post for more thoughts on choosing a functional, helpful colour palette for your wardrobe.
Balance your wardrobe across three groups
- Double-duty pieces that you can wear to the office and at home, evenings and weekends
- Add-on pieces for work that are a little more professional looking and that you can combine with your double-duty pieces (like blazers)
- Casual pieces that you only wear during your free time. Think sneakers, shorts, t-shirts and so on
For more thoughts on this method, check out this post.
In the end, the best way to double-check whether your wardrobe is versatile enough for work and plan, is to simply brainstorm possible outfits. That's why it's so important to map out your wardrobe before you head out to the shops - like we are doing in this post.
When it comes to building a (capsule) wardrobe for myself or a reader, I always like to start by writing a quick summary of the overall structure and style I have in mind.
- 25 pieces or less
- a bright, fun colour palette with few neutral pieces
- must work for a smart-casual office and weekends (daytime and nighttime)
- include a mix of separated (pants and skirts) and dresses for extra variety
- lots of patterns
The colour palette
In her email Laura didn't specify which colours she prefers, so to illustrate the point I chose a mix of oranges, red and light blue as the main shades for this capsule wardrobe:
To make sure Laura's wardrobe gives her plenty of outfit options for the office as well as evenings and weekends, about half of the pieces in the wardrobe are double-duty pieces (marked with an asterisk below). I also included a few more purely casual pieces (the t-shirt, t-shirt dress and camisole) that she can use to dress down some of these double-duty pieces for weekends.
The 2+1 formula
As you can see below, for most item categories I included two double-duty pieces (the first in a simpler, versatile design and the second in a bolder colour) + one casual piece. For small work/play wardrobes like this one I think that's a good formula to keep in mind.
- *Versatile shirt dress in a neutral shade that works for pretty much any occasion.
- *Dress in an accent shade that can be dressed up for work (perhaps with a blazer on top), dressed down with flats, and worn for going out with some heels.
- Casual dress for weekends.
3 Pairs of pants
- *Versatile trousers in a neutral shade
- *Trousers in an accent shade
- Summer shorts
- *Simple A-line skirt for all occasions (in a main colour, in this case a soft orange)
- *Patterned skirt
- Skirt with a fun pattern for weekends (paired with flats) and going out at night (paired with heels)
- *Basic white shirt
- *Sleep top in a main colour for work
- *Another top for work and free-time
- *And another double-duty top in an accent colour
- Casual white t-shirt
- Camisole for weekends and going-out
5 Pairs of shoes
- *Neutral heels for work and going out
- *Versatile sandals in a main colour (light blue)
- *Versatile sandals in an accent colour (red)
- Casual sneakers
- Casual espadrilles
At the bottom of this post you'll find all the links to the specific pieces shown in this post. But first, to complete this season's 20 Pieces 20 Outfits post, here are 20 outfits that can you could create using the 20 pieces:
Here's where you can find the pieces in this post:
Dresses// Shirt dress: People Tree, orange dress: People Tree, striped dress: Amour Vert. Pants// White trousers: Helmut Lang, yellow trousers: Jan 'n June, linen shorts: Mango. Skirts// peach A-line skirt: J.W. Andersen, blue patterned skirt: Ace and Jig, cream printed maxi skirt: Topshop. Tops// white shirt: Amour Vert, chic work top: People Tree, white and light blue top: People Tree, red top: J.Crew, white t-shirt: Zady, peach camisole: Cuyana. Blazer// Mango. Shoes// Strappy heels: French Connection, red sandals: Marais USA, light blue sandals: Topshop, sneakers: Superga, flat espadrilles: Tabitha Simmons.