Creating a work wardrobe that won’t break the bank

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about ‘capsule wardrobes’ and minimalist closets. When you are short on space or your budget is tight, this approach makes sense. However, it may be worth considering even if you are a clotheshorse or a shoe-aholic.

I recently caught up with long-time Dress for Success Calgary volunteer stylist, Michele McGregor, to talk about the capsule wardrobe. Here are some things to consider:

“A capsule wardrobe is defined as a small collection of clothing that does not go out of fashion; such as pants, skirts, shirts that can be implemented with trendy or seasonal pieces,” says Michele. “This also means quality over quantity when it comes to items in your closet, and it creates space for other things that matter.” She emphasizes that this approach provides a structure where anyone can find his or her best look. It’s also an ideal way to set up a work wardrobe.

Where do I start?

  • Have a plan! Is it to spend less time getting ready? Spend less money? Know what gaps you have in your wardrobe and learn to shop to expand it versus adding more things.
  • Write it down. Once you determine the gaps in your wardrobe, it makes shopping easier. Have a friend be an objective voice if you are struggling to find gaps or make choices when shopping.
  • Choose a color scheme: This is important. The garments you already have or will choose must complement each other as you develop your wardrobe.

Seek out resources

Look at Pinterest and search “capsule wardrobe” to get ideas on how to build a spring/summer wardrobe and a fall/winter version too. Social media, such as Instagram is another good source. Calgarian, Morgan of the Garment Life posts wardrobe ideas on her Instagram account @thegarmentlife. You can also check out her website.

Nicky Hilton even wrote a book about it, “365 Style,” where she identifies staple pieces for any wardrobe and a slightly different method for selecting items and defining your style. You can find a copy at your local library.

Bloggers also talk about the benefits of building a capsule wardrobe. This blog by Vivienne documents, with beautiful photos, ways to work with colour and how to adjust your wardrobe based on the seasons.

Enjoy the process!

Taking steps to build a capsule wardrobe will give you ease in getting ready for work each day and ensure that you feel great when you walk out the door!

Some capsule wardrobe essentials

  • Tank tops: In black; white; grey
  • Short sleeve t-shirts: V-neck; scoop neck; crew neck
  • Long sleeve t-shirts: In white; striped; black. Perfect on its own or under a sweater.
  • Blouses: A button up; a printed blouse (in your chosen colour palette); a wrap style blouse and or a chambray denim colour shirt. Blouses can go with jeans or be worn for work.
  • Black dress: Yes, the little black dress. Select one that complements your shape and size. Length should be at the knee for a timeless look.
  • Sweater: In a round neck; v-neck; crew neck. Lightweight sweaters work well on chilly summer nights or under a coat in the winter.
  • Jeans: Darker denim or black denim is a classic; no holes or rips. There are many styles to choose from: skinny, slim & straight fit as well as tapered, bootcut or athletic fit. Try on a lot of styles to get your best look.
  • Black shirt: Choose one that works for your body shape; classic style should hit on the knee in terms of length.
  • Cardigan: Select in your chosen basic colour palette; for example: black; white (summer season), grey, or navy. Choose a button up, an open front cardigan (the one that you can just throw over things) or a waterfall cardigan (flowing open style; also great for layering).
  • Blazer: A Classic one; tailored professional in a neutral colour such as navy or black or grey. Or choose a long boyfriend blazer for casual looks or a looser waterfall blazer, open and flowing, and great for layering in the seasonal weather.

On a tight budget? Think about shopping at a consignment store. Dress for Success Calgary also has special boutique sales when clearing out fashions at the end of a season, or in conjunction with one of our fundraising events.

Our next clothing sale runs during Fashion 150 on June 1, and on June 2 and 3.

Sheila Taylor, MA is a career counsellor and DFS volunteer. She is madly cleaning out her closet but is having a difficult time deciding on what shoes to keep.

Originally published at

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