Make Every Day Easier: The Capsule Work Wardrobe

The Work Capsule Wardrobe

Are you always late for work trying to decide what to wear? This is gonna help you out…

We’ve all been there; staring vacantly into the wardrobe with no idea what to wear. What’s worse, it’s raining outside and you’re already running late for work. While your sprawling collection of workwear grants you ample opportunities to throw together stylish and sophisticated looks, having to think about it first thing each morning – or perhaps prepare the night before – starts to take its toll. Of course, you only ever want to look your best, but the prep and planning involved is taking up way too much of your time. So what’s the answer?

Welcome to the capsule workwear wardrobe

You may or may not have heard of a ‘capsule wardrobe’. Once a niche concept, many people are now following in some famous footsteps and trimming their workwear wardrobe right down. The idea is simple. You find a few looks – perhaps even a single look – that you love. Then you buy it several times over so you’ve enough to wear to get you through the week. A capsule workwear wardrobe isn’t about sacrificing on style; it’s about creating a statement ‘uniform’ for yourself that shows you at your best – but without the stress and struggle that comes with endlessly rummaging through the wardrobe each day.

British women and workwear: the truth

38% of women choose their outfit the day before work

To find out if it’s time we took up the capsule workwear wardrobe en-masse, we surveyed over a thousand British women. They told us how they really feel about dressing for the workplace, the time and effort it takes, and how they go about it.

nearly 1 in 10 women have lost sleep over what to wear to work

Of those we surveyed, almost four in ten told us they prepare clothing the day or evening before each working day, with a further two in ten revealing they plan ahead ‘most days’. Ladies in Liverpool were most likely to agree, while interestingly, those employed in the arts and culture sector were the least likely to pre-plan or worry about their attire.

women waste nearly 2 days a year choosing what to wear to work

Our survey also revealed that the average woman under 40 in the UK is spending around ten minutes just thinking about what to wear to work daily. That might not sound like much, but it adds up. Over the course of a year, this amounts to nearly two days (43.5 hours). Interestingly, 6.8% of those surveyed said it’s taking more than 15 minutes each time – totalling at least two and a half days lost per year.

a quarter of female working brits would prefer a work uniform

When given the option, a quarter of women said they’d prefer to wear a uniform to work, and 95% of these gave ‘not having to decide what to wear everyday’ as a reason for this view. And while two thirds said they’d rather not have a uniform, 16% of these admitted they do still find picking outfits stressful, and 25% told us they’d already created their own capsule workwear wardrobe anyway.

Free your mind: the psychology explained

It’s no coincidence that the capsule workwear wardrobe is a concept adopted by some of the most successful people on the planet. Whenever asked, time and time again they tell us how keeping things simple allows them to channel their energy into their areas of expertise. Their work means they already make many other important decisions every day, so they cut out those that are less necessary. By making as few decisions as possible, they claim their minds are clearer and more focused. While it’s easy to think of a self-imposed uniform as restricting, the famous names who’ve taken up the trend speak only of a sense of liberation.

Inspiration: six big names who’ve mastered the art of the capsule wardrobe

Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney Capsule Work Wardrobe
Image credit: REX Features

Being a world-renowned human rights lawyer, wife to globe-trotting film star George Clooney and now a mother to twins, it’s no surprise Amal Clooney sticks to a successful formula when it comes to choosing her workwear. She puts her energy into her work, her family – and saves her creativity for the big occasions. Her staple styling of a white high-neck blouse, matched with pinstripe trousers and blazer is perfect proof that something simple and refined can work wonders day-to-day.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie Capsule Work Wardrobe
Image Credit: Rex Features

You’re probably used to seeing Angelina dazzle in no end of incredible gowns and dresses. But when she’s off the screen, her role as a Special Envoy to the United Nations keeps her busy. This demanding job has her constantly on the go, so it’s no surprise she’s taken to a capsule wardrobe. Angelina opts only for black, navy, grey and white – taking the stress of colour coordination out of her daily routine.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Capsule Work Wardrobe
Image Credit: Rex Features

Perhaps the most famous example there is, Apple founder Steve Jobs was nigh-on-never seen without his staple black turtleneck. Steve’s decision to save his decision-making and idea-generating efforts for the world of technology may well have revolutionised the way we all live.

Amy Zinck

Amy is the vice-president of a prestigious U.S art foundation. You might think that, working in the arts, her creative-leaning brain would be itching to try out all manner of colours and styles. But Amy says the key to her success is her miniscule workwear wardrobe. It contains just six of the same black trouser-suits, as well as two styles of top; one for summer and one for winter. When asked about her self-imposed uniform, she says “It is freeing. This is what I feel comfortable in, this is who I am.”

Grace Coddington

Grace Coddlington Capsule Work Wardrobe
Image Credit: NY Times

Vogue creative director Grace Coddington spends each and every day styling, creating and curating. To save her best and boldest ideas for the camera, she keeps things super simple when it comes to her own image. The fashion industry superstar has opted to wear only black for years. Ignoring her own day-to-day style inspirations has allowed her to channel all of her creativity into her work.

Matilda Khal

Matilda Khal Capsule Work Wardrobe
Image Credit:

Matilda Khal is the art director at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. She’s taken streamlining her work wardrobe to the extreme, and opts for one of 15 identical white blouses every day, paired up with smart black trousers. She adds her own personal flare by finishing the look with a custom-made leather rosette. Matilda insists that having one less thing to worry about each day feels like a breath of fresh air, and has made her much happier overall.

Inspiration: how real working women nail the capsule wardrobe

Emma Abbot – Director & Co-founder at White and Company

Emma Abbot – Director & Co-founder at White and Company

Q: What do you typically wear for work?

A: Either a pencil skirt and blouse or a pencil or skater dress.  I tend not to bother with jackets unless I am going to a meeting as they only get in the way.

Q: Do you have a capsule wardrobe/’uniform’ and if so, what are the key pieces that you couldn’t live without?

A: I tend to find a capsule wardrobe works best for me as I am a working mother who is always in a rush getting ready in the mornings.  My key pieces are pencil skirts and blouses, I have four different styles of pencil skirts (plain, patterned, ruffled) which I mix and match with 8/10 blouses and tops meaning I effectively have two weeks’ wardrobe easily sorted.

Q: Do you have any tips around dressing for success?

A: As a chartered accountant, I work in a corporate environment which tends to be saturated by “power suits”. I on the other hand prefer to stick to key pieces and mix and match my wardrobe depending upon the meetings I have each day.  I find I work best when I feel smartly dressed but in a more informal “out to dinner” style.

Gemma Young, Co-founder and CEO of Settled

Gemma Young, CEO and Co-Founder of Settled

Q: What do you typically wear for work?

A: For me it’s about mixing core pieces (skinny jeans, a great pair of black trousers, a black dress) with more ‘bold’ items. On a typical day, I wear a plain white shirt with some costume jewellery or a simple pair of skinny jeans with a bold pair of shoes. My rule is to wear ‘one piece that pops’.

Q: Do you have a capsule wardrobe/’uniform’ and if so, what are the key pieces that you couldn’t live without?

A: Choosing the perfect pieces for your wardrobe is key, especially when you are part of a start-up and have a lean salary. For me, the best investments in my wardrobe are feature shoes and unique jewellery that give me many more outfit choices. One of my favourite items in my wardrobe is a pair of silver converse which I might team with a more ‘smart’ black dress.”

Q: Do you have any tips around dressing for success?

A: My rule is to be myself. Exuding my own personal style has a positive impact both in terms of how I feel and how I come across to others. For me that’s about being comfortable and a bit quirky.

If you need some inspiration, or want to start building your own capsule work wardrobe today, browse our range of stylish and sophisticated workwear.


Sophia - Features Writer

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