I can’t pretend I work a 9 to 5 in an office because it’s no secret I’m a work from home mom, but I did work in the corporate world early in my career. Finding ethical business professional clothes can be cumbersome if you don’t know where to begin. If you are looking to build a slow fashion workwear capsule wardrobe here are the pieces I would choose, plus 4 tips to help you get started.
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Let’s start with a story: During college and 2 years after I worked in a corporate job. I as an intern just before the new PR Director and had the cubicle next to her.
She was a classy, well-dressed businesswoman, with her signature bold lipstick. She knew the role she wanted and did her job very well. Everyone respected her. I took note of how she carried herself and her approach to workwear style.
As we became friends, I noticed she wore the same few suits all the time. I would guess she had maybe 3 pant and skirt suits with jackets that she mixed and matched with 5-7 tops. Her clothing was high quality and wore well. No one noticed or probably cared that she wore the same few pieces over and over. She always looked great and was very professional.
This was possibly my first introduction to a workwear capsule wardrobe without me even realizing it. Although I trained the PR Director on how our company worked, she unknowingly trained me too. Looking back, I can see all of these things in her professional style:
1. Mix and Match
While creating this workwear capsule I chose pieces that can easily be mixed and matched to create at least 10-12 different outfits without repeating the same pieces too many times. There are 17 clothing items here, 4 pairs of shoes, 2 bags and a minimal 5 piece jewelry capsule.
Obviously a white top can be added to every pair of bottoms, but you might get sick of wearing that, right? Just keeping it real here. How do you spice it up enough to enjoy your outfits, feel good in what you are wearing, but also not have too much or a wardrobe that gives you decision fatigue? Read on.
2. Style matters, color does not
Start with a color palette you love to wear. For this capsule, I chose 5 colors I like and feel good in. You don’t have to choose the exact same colors if they don’t fit your style. This capsule wardrobe is meant to provide a guide for the types of workwear clothes and styles that go well together. If you don’t like wearing white (or similar) choose a color you love and that goes with several bottoms.
A blazer is a classic piece that elevates any outfit – choose brown, tan, black, white, or olive (as pictured). All of those colors can act as neutrals and go well with trousers, skirts & dresses. The color is less important than the style.
Sidenote: You can wear more prints if that’s your style. Choose classic prints like stripes, gingham or small florals that you will still like in 3 years and in the color palette you chose. Instead of a classic white button up, what about a lace blouse or something with more texture like this? The point here is that the style is versatile.
3. Chose versatile pieces
A lot of the pieces in this workwear capsule can be worn multiple ways. The skirt? It’s reversible! You get a black and a leopard print skirt in one piece. Where was that style when I was in the corporate world?
The wrap top can be tied several ways and is also reversible. I converted the Smocked Dress into a skirt in this post & showed several other ways to style it.
Versatile clothing that you love will get you far in a workwear capsule. You want to buy things that you will want to wear over and over. Pick colors that you feel good in and want to wear everyday so you will enjoy styling the same piece on repeat.
4. Buy quality vs. quantity
When it comes to slow fashion it’s important that you buy the best quality you can afford. The idea is to choose better and slow your consumption. Don’t settle for a quick fix. Stay focused on your goal of having professional clothes that will serve you well and last for years.
Back to my PR friend – we once traveled to an event together. I was a mere 22 and had recently been introduced to the fast fashion nightmare that is H&M. I have to admit I loved it. You know how I described it to her – “It’s so cheap!” As a college student on an intern budget I spoke a little too freely. She gently said to me, “Ashleigh, don’t buy cheap. Buy quality, even if it’s only one thing. Have you been to Ann Taylor?”
I didn’t change my shopping habits overnight and it took me another 6 years before I learned about ethical fashion vs. fast fashion. If I could do it all over again, these are the pieces I would wear in a professional business setting:
Slow Fashion Workwear Capsule
- White Button Up (reversible), more colors available
- Black Blouse (use code ASHLEIGHBECKER for 15% off), more colors available
- Pink Cotton Blouse: silk option or washable silk (more affordable), or more colors
- Sweater (use code ASHLEIGH15 for 15% off)
- Bodysuits (use code SELA15 for 15% off)
- Wrap Top, more colors available
- High neck tank top (use code ASHLEIGH15 for 15% off), also available in white
- Blazer (use code SELA15 for 15% off), more colors available
- Trousers, (use code SELA15 for 15% off), more colors available
- Wide Leg Elastic Waist Pants, also available in black
- Almond Linen Pants, (use code ASHBECKER15 for 15% off first purchase), more colors available
- Wide Leg Crop Pants, (use code ASHLEIGH15 for 15% off)
- Reversible Skirt , more colors available
- Olive Button Front Dress (use code SELA15 for 15% off), more colors available & a print
- Smocked Tiered Dress
- All weather Boots, available in more colors
- d’Orsay Flats, available in more colors
- Black Blocked Heels
- Nude Blocked Sandal (use code ASHLEIGH15 for 15% off)
- Ava Hoop Earrings (mix and match beads available)
- Makena Hoops, available in gold and silver
- Arches, available in gold and silver
- Zoe Choker Necklace
- Zoe Pendant Necklace
*All jewelry is from Sela Designs, a nonprofit jewelry company I started. Sela Designs donates 100% of profit to charities working to care for orphans, end human trafficking and break the cycles of generational poverty.
How to build a slow fashion workwear capsule wardrobe
I hope this post is helpful as you build your slow fashion capsule. Don’t forget to consider secondhand options like ThredUP, Poshmark and local secondhand boutiques as well. If you are just starting out, shopping secondhand is an affordable and sustainable way to build your professional wardrobe.