Nine to Five

Preparing for a Capsule Wardrobe | Workwear

Author: Lauren Coleman

After a few comments on my recent organisation post I feel it necessary to take up the challenge and pull together a winter capsule wardrobe.

Whether or not I will achieve the 37 pieces advocated by Caroline of Unfancy fame is debatable. One thing I do know is that after my recent clear out, I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR and I urgently need to buy some new apparel. The mix and match element of a capsule closet really appeals to me as does the pared-back approach.


Selecting a palette for the season is pretty easy for me. Most of the items left in my wardrobe are black or grey so this seems like a good place to start. In theory this sounds super boring, however when I look at the Pinterest board I have for fashion in the cooler months, lots of the looks have a dark base but throw in a bold lip, a great hat or a strong nail and they’re suddenly more interesting.
I also plan to take heed of the suggestions in my recent layering post and mix in textures and patterns to break up the monotony. I adore stripes, leopard and tartan so I hope I can accent a few outfits to stop them becoming too dreary. I fear I will quickly tire of the capsule wardrobe otherwise.


Thankfully my minimalist capsule collection doesn’t include accessories so I hope to really get the most of my extensive costume jewellery collection and drawers crammed full of scarves.
As the winter wardrobe will take me through the festive period I plan to include a few dressier pieces however attire for weddings, new year’s eve etc isn’t going to be included.

First on my list is to sort out my work wardrobe. I work three days in the office and two days from home so I need quite a variety of clothing to get me through the working week.


I think I pretty much have the ‘working-from-home’ wardrobe nailed. The ‘top’ half consists of several fine knit slouchy jumpers in varying shades of grey, a chambray shirt I bought last year from H&M and a plaid one I bought a few months ago from the same place. I like to go for comfy, yet fitted ‘bottoms’. I’m all for the recent trend jogger trend. Obviously not Joey Essex style but something a little more structured. I have a pair of black joggers with thick cuffed bottoms from Primarni and a more tailored dark grey cotton pair from Zara a few years ago. During the winter months I’ll need to throw in a thick cardi or two and a few woolly jumpers. Before you know it that’s twelve pieces making it into the capsule wardrobe.

In the Office

I’m struggling a little for dressing in the corporate world. A duck-egg polyester number may work for Dolly Parton but my go-to piece for professional wear is always a well-fitting black dress, paired with a smart blazer and a snazzy shoe. I have a black skater style frock I picked up from the H&M Trend label several years ago and it’s still going strong. However other than this item I’m seriously lacking in the dress department. After Miranda’s recent winter florals post I definitely need a printed frock. I’d also like a long-sleeved fitted dress too but all I can seem to find the bodycon variety which would require some serious Spanx to stop me feeling too self conscious. And shoes? Don’t even get me started. I need ankle boots and low heels as all my other chaussures are falling to bits.

Moving on the trousers I am desperately searching for a couple of pairs of slim leg black pants. As far as I’m concerned a well-fitting pair of trousers in an absolute essential to the wardrobe and can be worn on many an occasion. Over the years I have bought loads and loads of pairs but am yet to find the perfect ones. A few months ago I bought a high waisted pair of black jeans from Dorothy Perkins. I loved the fit and the style but after several washes they already seem to have worn out and have become ill-fitting. I would absolutely love it if any of you could let me know where you’re getting your trousers from?

Once said black trousers are sorted I plan on combining with a few silky shirts or perhaps throw in a few of the fine knits from above. Last year I bought a leather pencil skirt from Next and to be honest didn’t really get much wear from it. I’ve noticed a lot more leather-clad ladies around the office so I see no reason why I shouldn’t join them.

As you can see, this capsule wardrobe experiment is going to be far from cheap. However this is my own fault for having such an extensive clear out and I imagine in the long run it will be far more cost-effective. In the next couple of weeks I hope to share the ‘leisure’ side of the collection and when I’ve narrowed down the whole list I will share photos of the whole lot.

How are you getting on with your own capsule wardrobe? Have you any recommendations for the essential black trouser? What are your go-to outfits for dressing for work?

Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman
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31 thoughts on “Preparing for a Capsule Wardrobe | Workwear

  1. Working in a creative office I don’t have to wear a suit to work (which I think should stay back in the eighties) but I do meet clients and do presentations a few times a week. I also visit building sites, go to warehouses and style houses. So my work wardrobe has to be very versatile, smart, practical and comfy! Which can be tricky
    mint velvet has some great pieces they have some lovely tops that you can mix with jeans or trousers. Their knitwear has a real luxurious feel and I find you can mix a their pieces together to create different looks.

    1. Wow Stacey, that’s quite a wardrobe you need to have. Mint Velvet look like they have a gorgeous selection of basics. Thanks for recommending.

  2. When you say slim black pant, if you mean properly black jeans that aren’t denimy and will never lose their stretch you need the faithful topshop leighs. Topshop also do a nice cigarette pant most seasons for more formal, and I’m partial to coated/ leather look for dressy or pairing with slouchy knits and river island’s are the best. Good luck, I may try a similar experiment with my wardrobe!

    1. I have heard very good things about the Leigh. How do they fit round the waist? Do they ride down at the back?

      1. They’re fairly low waisted, everything usually tends to be big on my waist and too tight on legs but these are perfect because they have a bit of stretch. I wear them nearly every day as it’s lazy workwear with a nice blouse or a bit of cashmere 🙂

  3. I’ve got some really good work pieces from Gap before. I’m very into navy and they always have some navy dresses that are really good. New Look also have some good work items I’ve found. Depending on your leg length I think topshop would be a good call for some black trousers. They seem to cater well for all heights. I’m 5’2″ and really get on well with their petite range. When I wear trousers to work I normally add a smart tshirt and River Island have come up trumps in this department. I have a dark green one with a zipped back and a pale grey number that I’ve worn and worn.

    As for shoes, I’d recommend a simple pair of black courts for trousers and also dresses with tights and a pair of shoe boots. Kurt Geiger run a discount website where they sell all of their old stock and you can get some amazing shoes for £39 when they were available in their shops for £150!

    I miss shopping. At almost 23 weeks pregnant everything I wear nowadays is stretchy..

    1. Clare, I used to have several pairs of these, but every time I’ve gone to buy a replacement I’ve bought the wrong ones. Thanks for reminding me which ones I need to look out for x

  4. Ooh, I shall be very interested to see what pieces you come up with for your winter wardrobe! Why is it that whenever the season changes I always feel like I have no clothes?! Even though I obviously must have plenty from last year! So far, I have only bought myself a plaid shirt and a cream faux fur coat, both from Zara. The shirt I have worn a lot but I am still waiting for the temperature to dip a bit more before the new coat comes out!
    If you are looking for shoes and like a bit of animal print then I can highly recommend these shoes from Topshop They have a low heel and are sooo comfortable! I have worn them loads since I bought them a month or two ago!

    1. Loving the pony skin Emma. I’ve got a pair of leopard kitten heels en route to me from Asos. Really hoping I get as much wear out of them as you’ve done out of yours x

  5. Due to moving house, lack of funds means I am making my capsule wardrobe out of clothes I have but trying to add investment pieces when I can. Top of my list are a pair of tan boots to match my Ralph Lauren handbag. Any recommendation on where to get good quality comfy boots as I really want them to last. Possibly flat as I do a lot of walking and work with kids. Thanks 🙂

  6. I too am in a similar dilemma, I lost just under 2 stone for my wedding in July and haven’t put any back on (*pats herself on the back*) but it means all my trousers look like I’m wearing someone else’s and being held up by a very tightly done up belt!! For work, I have skinny navy trousers from Zara and River Island and a black pair from H&M however they need replacing very soon, they are like smart jeans with back pockets etc. Out of work I live in 2 pairs of skinny jeans which are now too big and stretched but its just SO much to replace all your clothes, especially this time of year with Christmas coming up. I find Dorothy Perkins and New Look good for work tops and I’ve been living in tan Chelsea boots with my skinny’s for work. Can’t wait to see all your new purchases! 🙂

    1. Hopefully you’ve got lots of lovely clothes to put on your Christmas list Jenna. I believe you’ve been very good this year 😉

  7. Hi Lauren

    Give Reiss a try for black trousers for work – they have some good ones in this season and hopefully you will find a cut that fits you right! xx

  8. I bought some black trousers from Gap for my autumn capsule wardrobe and I’m loving them, they’re like a cross between a legging and a trouser in that they’re stretchy (ie sooo comfy) but made of a much thicker fabric (so not see through and look smart), they have a little zip detail on the bottom too which makes them just that little bit smarter too. I can’t find them on the gap website now bit if you have a local shop, I highly recommend them

  9. I love a knitted dress for work in winter. It always feel comfortable in them and dress them up with a scarf. I am very sad a lovely charcoal grey dress I have had for about three years will be seeing its last winter this year – the bobbling and slight stretch is becoming noticeable. I live in thick black tights and ankle boots but also like brogues for a preppy look.

  10. All Saints have some gorgeous black trousers in at the moment. Pricey but they hang beautifully and don’t get stuck on your knees when you stand up!

    1. Kate, I am yet to do my All Saints “winter” spree (love their knitwear, I have pieces from 5 years ago I still wear now) – what are these trousers called? x

  11. I’ve just discovered un-fancy through Pinterest and am loving the idea of a capsule wardrobe. I always get torn between buying great value (mainly H&M and Gap for workwear) or spending double that in the hope the clothes are better quality and will last longer! I love mint velvet for example but find the clothes don’t wash and wear very well. I then end up going back to cheaper shops. Is All Saints worth splurging on Charlotte or do you end up doing a lot of hand washing?
    Also, that shoeaholics website is genius Jennifer. Thanks for the heads up! x

    1. Laura E – I get completely where you’re coming from. I but most of my clobber from H&M and Zara but always feel I should branch out into the more ‘upmarket’ shops but I’ve had some expensive mistakes in the past x

  12. I LOVE that you’re doing this Lauren! I really want to focus my wardrobe, and have been trying to go capsular for ages, but it’s not clicking for me yet. Can’t wait to hear how you are going to do this. Are you starting from scratch or have you kept a few chosen favourites/basics back?

    1. Hi Lu, I’m hoping it will be made up by about 60-70% existing items and several new ones. Otherwise I’ll be bankrupt! It’s worth giving it a go. I was really intimidated by the whole thing a few months ago but now it seems to make sense.

  13. Ah, I dream of a pulled-together capsule wardrobe! Have you looked at Boden for trousers? Their super skinny jeans are a dream. I have also tried their Ponte Roma skinny trousers. Look great, but made of soft and cosy jersey!
    I’m swiftly heading towards 30 now and thinking I should start to upscale my look whilst still looking like me! Perhaps a mild identity crisis… It’s tricky stuff!

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