Dear Working Mother,

Have you ever wondered how you can have a wardrobe that’s bursting at the seams, and still feel like you have nothing to wear? I know I do… I love shopping but I never seem to have any “outfits”, just lots and lots of different items that don’t go together…

If you ever struggle with your wardrobe for work or home, then today’s article from contributor Maria Macklin, might help you figure out what you’re missing to have the perfect capsule wardrobe!


Elaine Lawless
The Working Mother


 What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

When you open your wardrobe doors are you inspired?  Do you love everything your wardrobe contains?  Do your clothes suit you, express who you are as a women, make you feel comfortable/fabulous/authentic?

Typically a woman juggles many roles; wife, mother, lover, sister, carer, daughter, organiser, financial controller, transport manager, chief laundress and house manager, chef, cleaner, professional woman, etc. Some roles may need their own set of clothes.

A capsule wardrobe is the minimum amount of clothes required for the maximum amount of wears. It’s a collection of essential items which suit you in colour and style, match your lifestyle and that make you feel great.   It’s a mini- wardrobe that you love. Typically, the clothing items you can go back to time and time again can form part of your capsule. The capsule clothes provide the foundation for a successful wardrobe.

In order to achieve your capsule wardrobe you need to recognise your own lifestyle requirements. You may need one or two capsules – one for work and a separate for home. However, these days there is a blurring of how our lifestyles fit together and the professional wardrobe has moved towards business casual for many, or even smart casual for some. Some items from your wardrobe will cross over and work for several roles.

When you take time off from work and need to return, it’s even more important to examine your wardrobe and systematically work out which clothes will be suitable for work and which will not.  More relaxed clothes are better for home.

In general, each bottom in your wardrobe should have six tops to go with it. (Six pairs of black trousers doesn’t constitute six bottoms!) Before you invest in a new item, ensure that it will have flexibility within the items you already own – it can be worn with several other items.  Where you spend your time is where you spend the money. You will sabotage your capsule wardrobe if you don’t understand your lifestyle requirements.

I have reviewed clients wardrobes and discovered too much of one thing and on balance not enough diversity.  For example, the woman who has 18 pairs of black trousers and 20 long sleeve t-shirts.  Or a wardrobe full of suits and smart dresses, when actually the wearer spends 50% of her time at home and therefore needs more relaxed clothing.

Once you have your capsule, seasonal trend items can be added to add more diversity. Some women live by the rule of a capsule wardrobe all year round.  Others favour an abundance in all things (why have 1 pair of red shoes when you can have 4?)… it’s really a personal choice.

Based on today’s lifestyle requirements, here is what I recommend for a capsule wardrobe:

  • One great fitting jacket – to mix and match with your jeans, trousers, skirts and dresses.
  • Two well fitted cardigans or knitted jackets to create a more casual look
  • Two pairs of great fitting jeans or casual trousers, to be work day, night or weekend.
  • Two skirts – one in a neutral colour and one in a great basic colour that flatters your shape
  • Two pairs of trousers that are a perfect fit for your shape and lifestyle – they may be very formal or less so depending on your professional dress code.
  • Eight tops, t-shirts, vests and over layers in great necklines, colours, fabrics and patterns to wear with your jeans, trousers and skirts.
  • Two dresses or tunics for day wear that could be worn in different ways, i.e. with a belt, layered, under a jacket or cardigan.
  • A lightweight mac or trench that reflects your style. Choose one in a good neutral.
  • A timeless winter coat – as sometimes it’s the only item visible, good quality and excellent fit is essential.
  • A good quality timeless leather bag – used daily so invest in a great one!
  • Two good quality leather belts – one to be worn with jeans or casual trousers and one to be worn with dresses or skirts
  • Interesting jewellery in your metal, colours and scale – these are very personal to you and so reflect your personality. They need to be discreet in a professional environment.
  • Five pairs of shoes/boots to suit your lifestyle, ie, ankle boots, knee boots, sandals, heels, flats
  • Two evening outfits to fit with your lifestyle

You may also need to consider a suit if required for formal wear, sports/hobby wear, gloves, scarves, holiday wear and special occasion wear.

Understanding the capsule wardrobe gives you an outfit for every occasion, clothing items that work hard for you and therefore have a low cost per wear and choices that aren’t repetitive.

So, make yourself a coffee, take the capsule wardrobe recommendations into your wardrobe, tick what you’ve got on the list and shop for the gaps.


Maria Macklin
Colour & Style Image Consultant

Coolaha, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, Ireland


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