15-piece summer workwear capsule wardrobe

How to create a 15-piece summer workwear capsule wardrobe

Nikki Parkinson Fashion, How to 3 Comments

If there ever was a more challenging time to dress for work, it’s January and February in Australia. 

Across most of the country, the high heat and humidity factor is energy zapping, making you feel far from fresh. 

Add to this energy-zapping situation, you may have run out of steam in the outfit inspiration department. Spring-summer is such a long season in most parts of Australia. What excited you back in September may give you a ho-hum response right now when you look in your wardrobe.

It’s also a time of year when many women return to work after a short or extended maternity leave. Childcare places become available when older kids move on to school and other age groups move up within the centre. What you wore before going on maternity leave may not feel like “you” any more.

Whatever your reason for needing a little help in the workwear department this post will help you work out what to wear to the office for now and into autumn.

If you’re looking for daily inspiration, check out the new Instagram hashtag #corporatemumstyle started by some of the women from the #everydaystyle community. The more general #corporatestyle also offers great inspiration. 

If the classroom is your office then check out the new hashtag started by Alex from What the Teacher Wears – #austeacherstyle.

If your office is on the casual or you work from home, then check out this post.

10 tips for dressing for the office

1. Current office workers: pick up one or two key new pieces to work back with your existing work wardrobe. It can make all the difference to how you feel about fronting up to work for the new year. A new handbag, a new laptop bag, a new pair of shoes, a new necklace. All these things can work with so much in your current wardrobe but with a fresh spin.

2. Get all your current office clothes (remembering that you might have some cross-over pieces with weekend wear) out of the cupboard and spread them all out on your bed. Examine each piece – do they need repairing? Drycleaning? Throwing? Consider this a micro-edit of your whole wardrobe. You want to know exactly what clothes options you’re dealing with before you think about buying new pieces.

3. Use the Styling You weekly outfit planner to plan a week’s outfits in advance. Spending a little time each Sunday doing this will take the stress out of the daily rush. Download HERE.

4. Starting from scratch and need a whole new work wardrobe? You’ll get more bang for your buck concentrating on buying good quality basics in neutral colours (pants, skirts, dresses, tops) – this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot of money; it means taking the time to look and feel the fabric, check washing instructions and try on the basics to make sure they fit well for you. These pieces are the anchors of your whole outfit so they have to fit and flatter. Buy well and they will serve you not just in summer but layered for the cooler months as well.

5. Spend less on fashion-y colours and items. These show-pony pieces are fun to have around but they date more easily and don’t work so well in creating a capsule wardrobe situation. Instead of show-pony clothing pieces, make your accessories the show ponies. That way you can wear similar basic, neutral combinations each day and just add a fun accessory to change the look.

6. Always carry a light, extra layer with you. Most offices in summer are air-conditioned to seemingly arctic temperatures. A lightweight jacket (full-length or three-quarters) always looks smart and pulls together any outfit – and can even double up on the weekend as a way to dress up pants or jeans.

7. Commuting on public transport or doing the school drop off on the way to or from work? Wear flats and carry your heels in your bag. Having a combination of a tote bag and small cross-body handbag works in this situation. The tote can carry your lunch, laptop and shoes and in your handbag, keys, phone, sunglasses and lipgloss. The small bag will fit in your tote but be a lighter option if leaving the office at lunch time and not wanting to cart everything with you.

8. Don’t forget that you have a personality. Just because you work in an office where people generally dress the same, doesn’t mean you have to become a cookie cutter of the next person. Find ways to show your personality through your style – within the confines of the office dress code/policy. Accessories are ideal for this.

9. You can also create interest in your work outfit by contrasting structure and flow within the same outfit. Generally one piece in an office outfit will always have some kind of structure to it but you can soften this with a piece that is softer in texture or more fluid in its design. For example a structured jacket will pull together a more fluid dress into a work outfit. A more fluid top would contrast with the structure of a pencil skirt.

10. Help another woman get back into the workforce by donating your work clothes. Organisations like Dress for Success (the SY charity of choice), Wear for Success and Fitted for Work take donations of preloved workwear in good condition – right down to shoes and accessories – so if your efforts at #3 above yielded some pieces that no longer work for you but could help others, then look to see if there is a Dress for Success or Fitted for Work in your area. Conversely, if you’re heading back to work and need work clothes, Dress for Success regularly holds bargain sale days where you could pick up several outfits for very little.

15-piece summer workwear capsule wardrobe

Creating a capsule wardrobe for yourself is a great exercise to do. It’s something that I’ve worked closely on with the members in my Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe style challenge group. (This online program will open up again for autumn-winter late March.)

At a base level, I start with 15 pieces: two dresses; three tops; three bottoms; one jacket; three pairs of shoes; four accessories. I work from a base of neutrals and add one, maybe two accent colours. The key is having the majority of pieces work with the majority of other pieces in the capsule. From those 15 pieces you can add more but this disciplines you to only add pieces that work with existing pieces.

Putting together a capsule wardrobe is never about buying everything new. It’s about working with pieces from your wardrobe and only adding in any gaps that might become evident.

For this summer workwear capsule wardrobe, I’ve included neutrals with a few pops of colour for summer freshness. Lightweight jackets not only finish a workwear outfit, they provide much-needed warmth in air-conditioned offices. I’ve kept the accessories to a minimum but that doesn’t mean you have to – accessories will be your ongoing key to showing a little personality in your outfits.

15-piece summer workwear capsule wardrobe

1. Leina Broughton dress $249 @ Birdsnest

2. Trenery dress $179

3. Sportscraft top $99 (on sale)

4. Katies top $34.97 (on sale)

5. Country Road top $139

6. Country Road skirt $139

7. Katies pants $34.98 (on sale)

8. Sportscraft pants $149.99

9. Oroton tote $208.50 (on sale)

10. Uberkate earrings $225

11. Nine West heels $149.95

12. Nine West heels $149.95

13. Country Road loafers $149 @ David Jones

14. Witchery blazer $199.95

15. Bird Keepers blazer $89.95 @ Birdsnest

So over to you? Have you got any workwear suggestions or tips to add? 

* This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something via one of these links I may receive a small commission. Full disclosure policy here.

  • kathl29

    I love the blue dress – such a great colour.

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Lovely outfits Nikki,great for not just offices but great tips for a dressier outfit,thank you Xx

  • Kathryn

    Hi Nikki, this makes me wish I still worked in an office 🙂 I wear a uniform, although lately I have been wearing the thinnest tees I can find because of the heat instead. What is it with office air conditioning? I remember freezing and having a fan heater under my desk! Have a great weekend x