Finding workwear has become easier over the past few years - we no longer have to browse the ‘Back to School’ aisles for black trousers, for instance. But it can still be challenging to make sustainable fashion choices, particularly when you are starting out in your career or on a budget.
The temptation is to go to Primark and stock up on throwaway shoes and dresses until you’ve become more established in both the office and your career. But there is an alternative. It is possible to make your workwear wardrobe sustainable, either by starting with the basics and phasing out fast fashion items, or opting for a sustainable capsule wardrobe.
In this article, we will highlight the key pieces that are ideal for any versatile and sustainable workwear wardrobe, so you can make informed decisions when shopping. So, whether you’re just starting out in your career, looking for a wardrobe refresh, or heading back to the office for the first time since the pandemic began, we’ve got you covered!
But before we get into the details, we’re going to explain what a capsule wardrobe is.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
Fast fashion has made it easier than ever to buy every single item of clothing we want on a whim. See a celebrity wearing a cute dress to an awards show that you have to have? The next day, you will probably be able to buy an imitation of the dress online. But if we can buy anything we want, when we want, why are we still so dissatisfied? And why do we struggle to find something to wear as we’re wading through our wardrobes?
The term ‘capsule wardrobe’ was made famous by Susie Faux in the 1970s. The owner of the boutique, ‘Wardrobe,’ wanted to create a range of items that could be worn, regardless of the latest fashion trends. However you want to describe them, wardrobe essentials or staples can help you quickly decide what to wear and save you money in the long run.
How many items should I include in my capsule wardrobe?
You know you, your style, and your clothing needs better than anyone. So to give you an idea of how many items you might want in your capsule wardrobe, experts recommend between 25-50 items, with many settling for around 30. There are various challenges online to help beginners get to grips with creating a capsule wardrobe. It can be a great challenge if you want to declutter your wardrobe, make some money selling clothes you no longer wear, or streamline your possessions.
How do you put together a capsule wardrobe?
Before going out and buying new clothes, it is worth assessing what you already have. When was the last time you had a good clear out? How many pairs of jeans do you currently own compared to how many pairs you actually wear? Some clothes hold sentimental value, and while it’s worth holding on to them, there may be others you can sell, donate, or repurpose.
Let’s start with the basics. A great pair of trousers, whether they are tailored to perfection or have a lightweight feel, are a must for any capsule workwear wardrobe. You can dress them up with a shirt or blouse, blazer and heels, or you can go casual with a jumper or t-shirt and trainers depending on your office vibe.
Take a look at this pair from tentree
There are so many skirt options for you to choose from based on your style and work environment. You can opt for something floor length and flowy, a tailored pencil skirt, or something in between the two. And just because you opt for one over the other doesn’t mean you can’t adjust your style. You can easily pair heels, flats, trainers, or knee-high boots during the Autumn and Winter months.
This Serena Organic Cotton Twill Skirt in Posy Green from Lucy & Yak is perfect for the Autumn/Winter season
An office staple, the blazer not only enhances your overall look, but can be used for power dressing. If you need to give yourself a confidence boost before a big meeting or presentation, a blazer can make all the difference. Again, there are so many styles to choose from depending on your look, the season, and your office. You can opt for cropped sleeves, a cropped blazer, a classic tailored look, or a bright colour. The best thing about blazers is how versatile they are. You can wear it to work or dress up a casual evening look of jeans and a t-shirt with a blazer and heels.
Project Cece offers a versatile option in the form of its Avery Blazer
A dress or jumpsuit is the ideal piece of clothing for your workwear capsule wardrobe if you are in a hurry or don’t like making decisions first thing in the morning. You can dress it up or down depending on your accessories, outerwear, and the occasion. You can also change your look by alternating between a blazer or jumper.
We love this jumpsuit from Thought Clothing, available in black or navy
Blouse or Shirt
A statement blouse (think bold colours, embroidered detail, or an usual cut) or neutral shirt can work as part of any workwear edit. They are versatile and can be paired with any number of trousers, jeans, skirts, jackets, blazers, and jumpers. You can choose an item that fits with your overall colour scheme, theme, or style.
And Other Stories has a great range of statement blouses to choose from. We especially love this Printed Collarless Button Up Blouse
Potentially not your first thought when putting a work wardrobe together, but here us out. A plain yet stylish jumper or cardigan can be worn with any outfit; a dress with heels, jeans and blazer combo, a pencil skirt and flats. The key is versatility, so selecting neutral colours can be the best choice.
Finisterre has so many beautiful knitwear options to choose from, but if you feel the cold in the office, this Oversized Eyre Cardigan is perfect and it’s available in three different colours.
How many coats do you own? If you are aiming for a capsule wardrobe of 30-50 items, how many coats are you planning on keeping or featuring? A classic trench, parka, or statement print (think leopard) can help you stay warm and stylish during your commute through the changing seasons. A good quality coat will last for years and is a worthwhile investment.
If you have a long commute, walk to work, or want to guarantee you will arrive dry, the Alaska Recycled Jacket from Passenger could be just what you’re looking for!
Shoes, boots, and trainers
Taking the same approach to your shoe collection can help you downsize or ensure you are using what you have. Whether you’re obsessed with trainers, heels, or boots. Are you wearing all the items you own? Do you have buyer’s remorse? Or feel guilty? Starting with a clear out and then assessing what footwear you need will help you put together the basics for your workwear wardrobe. You may live in heels at work, or flats might be more practical. Whatever your needs, make sure your shoes are comfy and provide support.
It’s officially boot season in the UK, and we love these Heeled Knee High Boots in black or brown Vegan Suede from Will’s Vegan Store
When you are creating your perfect workwear capsule wardrobe, accessories suddenly become more important. You can completely alter the look of your outfit based on the accessories you choose. Think; handbags, scarves, hats, jewellery, sunglasses, socks, tights, belts, and hair accessories. Again, the trick here is not to go over the top, but to be selective in your choices, so that they match with multiple outfits, and you have something for every season.
Of course, no work wardrobe would be complete without a suitable handbag. Here at Paguro Upcycle, one of our specialties is our range of sustainable handbags. We love the classic Anna Recycled Rubber Vegan Tote Bag, and the Penyau Upcycled Vegan Seatbelt Bowler Bag for work occasions.
If you are having trouble choosing a handbag for your sustainable workwear capsule, check out our guide here.