How to create a summer workwear capsule wardrobe

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 19 Comments

This is the time of year that typically a lot of women are returning to work – either after a break or to the workforce because daycare spots are more likely to be available at the beginning of a year as older kids move out of daycare and into school.

It’s also a time of year that it super tricky to navigate in the workwear department if you have been working all summer and are completely over your current workwear wardrobe offerings.

Most of us don’t have a lot of fluffing-about time in the morning. Most households will operate in a regimented, army-like fashion just to get the kids and yourself out of your pjs and out the door.

The key to taking the stress out of the morning rush is to start with a de-cluttered wardrobe plan ahead what your wardrobe week looks like.

Check the weather app for the forecast wear you live, plan out your outfits in advance. Write down each day’s outfit on your phone – or take a photo of it.

Trust me, I work from home and do this trick so I’m not staring blankly at my wardrobe for five minutes figuring out what I’d like to wear.

That’s five minutes I could be spending on my simple summer everyday makeup routine.

These 11 tips for getting your work wardrobe sorted will also help you, whether you’re starting from scratch and needing a whole new work wardrobe or you’re just wanting to freshen up your existing wardrobe.

To help visualise how you can make your summer workwear wardrobe work for you – and keep things varied without breaking the budget – I’ve put together a summer workwear capsule wardrobe for you.

These 15 pieces may be similar to pieces you already have in your wardrobe. One or two of them might be just the style of thing you’ve been looking for to freshen up your office look.

Everyone has a different budget to spend on workwear. What is budget-priced to one person, might be top-of-the range to another. Let’s drop the judgement on that and concentrate on our own budget and work within it. Use what I recommend as a style guide and buy pieces that fit YOUR budget.

I suggest spending most on the workwear basic pieces, shoes and bag – things you might wear every day or repeatedly over the course of a month. Spend less on the more fashion-forward pieces that are more highlight show-pony pieces in a workwear capsule.

When creating a capsule wardrobe – for work, play or travel, starting with a base of neutrals helps you to extend the possible outfit combinations from fewer pieces.

In this case, I’ve chosen black and white as my base – always a wardrobe winner and then used a couple of key pieces to pop that base with colour.

You might choose navy or earthy colours. There is no right or wrong – it’s what you feel comfortable and confident in.

The capsule becomes the foundation of your wardrobe and you can build in more colour and patterns – more show pony pieces – once you’ve nailed the basics.

Summer workwear capsule wardrobe

1. Bird Keepers dress $99.95 @ Birdsnest

2. Sacha Drake dress $249 @ Birdnest

3. Katies tank $14.95

4. Bird Keepers blouse $69.95 @ Birdsnest

5. Bird Keepers blouse $79.95 @ Birdsnest

6. Peter Morrissey shorts $20 @ Big W

7. Target skirt $35

8. Target pants $49

9. Katies jacket $69.95

10. Bird Keepers blazer $89.95 @ Birdsnest

11. Target blazer $59

12. Nine West heels $159.95

13. FRANKiE4 Footwear heels $239.95

14. Uberkate necklace $129

15. Oroton tote $247.50 (on sale)


Just a few possible outfit combinations

1 + 12 + 14 + 15 (swap out different coloured jackets and nude heels as alternative)

2 + 13 + 14 + 15 (white or red jacket)

6 + 3 + 12 (add white or red jacket and accessories)

6 + 4 + 13 (add red or black jacket and accessories)

6 + 5 + 12 (add black jacket and accessories)

7 + 3, 4 or 5 (add jacket and shoes of choice and accessories)

8+ 3, 4 or 5 (add jacket and shoes of choice and accessories)


When shopping for clothes or accessories – even if it’s for work – remember my only rule:

Don’t buy it unless you LOVE it.

Do you work in an office? Returning to the workforce or looking to refresh your work wardrobe?

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about more casual options for those who work at home, in a relaxed, creative environment or are new to a school or kindy community and looking for options to wear for drop-off and pick-up. On Friday, we’ll be talking back-to-school wardrobes for teachers.

For some real-life office wear inspiration, check out the Instagram feed of my gorgeous friend, Rachel from @redcliffestyle.

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

Comments 19

  1. My ‘youniform’ has morphed over the past few years and I’ve now settled on dresses as my preferred workwear. I find the whole-outfit option of a dress easier on my mornings and my clothing budget, and if I get the right fit a dress is more flattering on my body than most skirt or pant and top combos (I’m an hourglass with extra minutes, so splitting my soft middle is rarely my best look, and untucked tops don’t always look as professional as my office requires).

    I currently have 5 dresses that can be worn for work and, with the exception of a 2-in-1 that’s quite corporate looking, can also work for after hours and events. They are in shades of grey (including an animal print), navy and black (though I’m waiting on delivery of one in emerald green!). Quite corporate/boring colours but also easy to mix with my ‘accent’ shades of emerald, teal, purple and royal blue.

    Colour may be added by way of a scarf, footwear, a cardigan or jumper layered on when the weather cools off, or a statement piece of jewellery. I am building a collection of quirky brooches that I source from second-hand shops, estate sales, Etsy etc.

    It’s a simple look that suits my lifestyle and my personal style, and my ‘youniform’ is now recognisable to others while still being unique to me.

    1. Oh I’m cracking up! An hourglass with extra minutes … I love it! And totally agree that dresses are so, so easy for work. And I especially love that you’ve worked out what really works for you, your lifestyle and your personality … that’s the key to confidence! x

    2. You sound so much like me! Any tips on great places to buy dresses for work – this month brings new location, new home and new job for me!

        1. Thanks so much Nikki! I have actually gone through many of your oosts and getting hreat ideas now. I usually come through via facebook but it’s easy to navigate between posts here. Thanks again!

      1. I’ve recently found some lovely items at Jacqui E and Sportscraft, Pru – I try to buy on sale when I can but as I’m at the larger end of standard sizing sometimes it’s tricky! Good luck with all the new things in your life 🙂

  2. Great tips Nikki not that I need an office wardrobe but I do need dressier option for funerals and other events where my normal wardrobe is just too casual! I couldn’t agree more on spending more on a good leather bag and shoes,I only buy good quality leather bags,I just think they look classier and chic and they last for ages and comfortable shoes are a must there is nothing worse than sore feet.
    Love the outfits you have chosen Nikki Xx

  3. Love love love this post Nikki! So helpful in getting the wardrobe organised & make outfit planning that much easier. Looking forward to the casual edition tomorrow- I’m about to start working with young children & would love some tips on comfortable, practical yet stylish clothes to wear working with young children x

  4. Only working 3 days a week has taken a bit of pressure off the work wardrobe. I tend to stare blankly into the wardrobe the night before – saves time in the morning! xx

  5. I had a couple of fantastic three piece black suits from Jigsaw and Witchery that saw me through many years. I agree that a great pair of co-ordinating shoes and bags are worth investing in too. x

  6. Makes me wish I still worked in an office! I read back through the links on this post, and realised I could probably go through my wardrobe again. It’s not too bad, but while I’m home I should probably take the advantage of time to look at it more closely. And rearrange a bit. I went through my skincare and makeup yesterday, and cleaned out two kitchen drawers, it’s strange not being at work and having time to do it! Back to work for me next Wednesday 🙂

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