July 7, 2021
The Call Came…
and she’s expected to be in the office 2 or 3 days a week, starting in September…
She can’t wear her old work clothes – her size has changed in the last while, working at home!
And she’s overall not thrilled about the whole “back in the veal feeder pen cubicle” office environment.
So she’s going to be as super-professional, organized and mature as she can manage!
Starting with an inspiration that will leverage her navy and grey wardrobe core – almost mandatory in an office that’s mostly men, and in a conservative industry.
She loves her colors…
Her office isn’t non-stop suits, but she still has to be pretty serious some days, so she starts with the “the Board of Directors is going to be in the office today” outfit!
Because she’s going to do this with a plan, she decides that she’s going to assemble a 4 by 4 Wardrobe for work; 16 garments should be enough to get her through the Autumn and Winter, right?
She frankly freaked out just a wee bit at the thought of a suit, so her next work outfit is going to be MUCH more relaxed; this is a “casual Friday” outfit in her world:
It all hangs together pretty well, but it’s early!
She can wear pants most of the time, so long as they’re not skin-tight, and there’s no skin revealed anywhere else…
More than halfway through assembling her work wardrobe, she feels happy and confident that she has lots of versatility!
Another skirt, a neutral blouse, and a statement cashmere sweater!
FINALLY an accent color!
Four garments left! She really wants a dress, for those days when she doesn’t really want to get dressed at all! Of course, a couple more accents would be nice… And when you don’t know what your wardrobe needs, another shirt or top is probably a good choice:
This wardrobe could get you a LONG way… imagine business travel with this as your travel wardrobe:
And with the accessories, it looks even better!
As always, we’re going to look at some possible outfits; this is never wasted time if you can save yourself from missing a critical garment, or from packing something superfluous!
Are you going back to your office? I’m hearing from quite a few of you who will be back by September…
p.s. Three years ago, our heroine was going directly from vacation to a contract signing…
Very happy to see dressier work clothes featured again, it’s nice to have the full range of life’s activities represented on the Vivienne Files. Today’s wardrobe brings home that I should get my tops to bottoms ratio adjusted, I’m trying to wear skirts and trousers two days before changing during winter (Southern Hemisphere) so need to look out for more tops.
Julie in Melbourne
Just to mention the charcoal ballet flats page cannot be found. Or some thing. At least by me…
Love the capsule!
I updated the link – I hope it works now!
I started a new job in May and have been in the office full-time. Maybe I’m in the minority but it’s a relief! (Maybe most of that is the new job. ?)
A whole new wardrobe was called for. My previous job was part-time and most of my summer work clothes were 3-4 years old. Not to mention my style has changed considerably. My old clothes just didn’t feel right anymore. I wonder if that’s the case for many of us these days?
The charcoal ballet flats can be found on the Nordstrom website by first searching for ‘charcoal’ and selecting ‘shoes’ in the box on the left. Enjoying this blog very much.
Beautiful colors today. Beautiful picture. Beautiful matches. … Funny dividers! Thank you for todays input.
I never left the office… but gained weight, nevertheless. 3 Kilograms, which was enough that my “good clothes” are too tight! I will have to go shopping this week, as my daughter will marry in 3 weeks time (I am late about getting clothes, I know.. She married last year with just the close family, and I had nice pants and blouse, this year she will have The Big Wedding. Thank you, Covid 19.). Today, the basic colors you showed are all mine, and really very nice. I find them a bit bright (even for an accent color?). Also in comparison to the colors in the picture, if i may say so. Also, I cannot wear plain colors. Within 10 minutes I will make a mess, likely at breast height, or have sweat stains, even though I’m long past the menopause. Maybe you could add some more tops with patterns? (Horizontal strips in large sizes tend to look… mmmh…. not sooo elegant).
Chris in Indy says
I just started at a client (I’m an accounting consultant/contractor) and have to be at my client 2-3 days a week starting this week. I rummaged though my closet and found 3 pairs of pants that fit (!!) and with your help, put together a mini-capsule that will get me through what’s left of summer and into early fall. All I had to purchase was 3 polished tee shirts and a good nude-to-me bra and that’s it!! Thanks, Janice!!
Loved loved loved the casual Friday look! My work wardrobe is fairly casual overall since I’m in a Middle School, but I know at the end of the year several staff mentioned that with students returning in the fall they were planning on amping up their wardrobe. I never got quite as casual as some… Since I was on the tech end and frequently met w parents and students. I enjoyed this post more than some lately – don’t know why – so thank you!
At my office, we’ve been told that we won’t go back until January of 2022, so thank goodness I don’t need to start thinking about this just yet, but like Beth said above, I don’t know if my old clothes will feel right anymore. I don’t think I will go back to a full suit look and maybe just focus on separates with a slightly more casual vibe. I’ll deal with the more formal stuff once there is a conference looming on the horizon.
I liked this outfit, and some of the t-shirt style pieces could also be used for working at home.
All I could say when I saw this wardrobe palette was “Ooh-la-la”. I am retired and wore scrubs to work so I don’t relate to the story line, but this 4×4 provides enough inspiration for church and other dressier fall/winter occasions. Thank you!
Linda in Bluffton says
Agree with Julie … glad to see dressier clothes come back to your posts. Over the years, I’ve invested in some great “workplace classics” and I’m constantly looking for ways to leverage them – even in the more casual lifestyle I’m enjoying these days. Fun look-back post!
What a delightful wardrobe!
This is a great wardrobe! I like everything except the long cardigan with the dress. To me, that is a very dowdy look but the cardigan will, of course, go with the rest of the clothes. Maybe a short jacket/sweater would be a nice addition. Thanks!
There are certain Janice Guidelines I latch onto which have saved me from making lots of mistakes, whether it’s packing or purchasing. One of them is the advice to try out several additional outfits with each piece. When you’re disciplined about your neutrals (and get to a certain age of wardrobe planning, you’ll find that nearly every single purchase you make adds at least 3-4 new outfits to your closet.
I keep recommending TVF to my friends who stress about packing and the state of their wardrobe. It’s hands-down the best capsule website I’ve seen.
Amanda Hudson says
Beth T says
Great colours. Dark blue and grey are the backbone of my wardrobe, though my grey bottoms are only casual. My office or formal wear would be navy or purple wide leg trousers, skirt or culottes, a floral/paisley blouse with a cardigan/jumper or jacket. For myself, I would swap out the grey and white shirts and one of the tees in favour of smart crisp accent striped or patterned shirts and an accent patterned tee. I like to wear blended tops and second layers along with accessories. The pink top would have pink accessories.
Beth T says
Love the turquoise socks. A quiet statement to one’s colleagues that you are prepared to surprise and not play safe. Coloured shoes would be equally surprising.
NATALIE K says
Good Morning Ladies!! I love the neutrals and the wardrobe. Being older and having a big chest I would change those pullover sweaters to cardigans! Have a lovely day!!
Sally in St Paul says
Nice to see a business capsule, and I’m sure very timely for many readers trying to re-assemble an office wardrobe after covid-19 related weight gain, style shift, etc. This color palette is also right up my alley.
One thing I noticed is the importance of deciding what you want to be able to wear as a suit. Buying the navy blazer, navy skirt, and navy pants from J Crew’s Italian stretch wool line ensures that they will work together like a legit suit. The grey pants from the same line means that they will also certainly look right with the navy blazer. It’s unfortunate that J Crew doesn’t have the corresponding dress (Resume dress) in navy (though they do in grey) because for a more strict business environment, I would like to have the dress + blazer suit option. But if this heroine is like, eh, probably would wear my blazer + skirt combination rather than the blazer + dress combination most of the time, it’s less important. And having a dress that is washable ponte rather than dry-cleanable wool is an advantage.
I’m also waffling a bit on the grey grandpa cardigan that works well for a slightly less casual look with the pants and probably the grey skirt but feels a bit off with the dress. I would readily wear that dress + cardigan in my business casual workplace and because I don’t care a lot about the silhouettes of my outfits. But for business professional, that cardigan feels a bit slouchy and not “smart” enough with the dress IMO. (I think someone else commented similarly.) I’m sure the heroine has more low-key days when the dress + grandpa cardi would be fine, but given how small this capsule is, would she want a layering piece for the dress that hits the professional note? (If a person could find the unicorn navy-and-grey pattern cardigan/jacket, wouldn’t that be lovely?)
I think the fact that our heroine works in a conservative, male-dominated environment makes this capsule work well; if her colleagues are in suits much of the time, she could easily wear her navy suit (blazer + skirt or pants) 3 times per week. (If she needed a suit 4-5 times per week, she would probably be buying two matching grey suit pieces in the place of the more casual grey cardigan and grey skirt. I would take “not non-stop suits” to mean suits are required 3 or fewer times per week.) Then she has plenty of options for the 2 (or 3 or 4) times per week she’s not in a suit.
There is clearly some upfront thinking that needs to happen prior to building out a capsule like this. For me, the big one is: how often do you need to wear a full-on suit? Are you OK with having that one suit that you wear (and change up with different shirt and accessories) or would that feel wrong/odd for your style or in your environment? For your non-suit days, what range of business casual do you need to cover? How often are OK with wearing the same base outfit?
If this were me, I would also look at much more than a sampling of outfits to make sure it works. (Obviously this is an “exercise for the reader” situation; Janice would lose her mind putting together images for every combination!) In this case, I think every top/sweater works with every bottom piece, so that’s terrific. Then I’d look at the bottoms/dress with the layering pieces. The navy cardigan works with all 5 bottoms/dress. The navy blazer works with 3 of them. The grey cardigan works with 4 of them (to my eye; others may disagree on the grey pleated skirt from a silhouette perspective). That seems like PLENTY of versatility. For a professional wardrobe, I like that the accent colors are all represented in that useful “pullover sweater that can be a stand-alone piece, top layer, or layering piece under a blazer” category.
Other than my not understanding driving mocs in a work capsule and wanting to substitute a different scarf for that blue check one that clashes with the check shirt, I have to deem this capsule just about perfect! I will take one of each, please. ;)
Sara K says
Yay, business clothes!
I work from home, but find that dressing for work helps me separating work time from free time and somehow makes me feel more effective. This summer, I have discovered silk tops with cap sleeves. Perfect “office” wear in the heat!
I just spent the afternoon at various stores, JCrew, Banana Republic, Nordstrom, Loft,White House/Black Market, and Macy’s. I could not find trousers circa 1986, that drape nicely for a corporate world. Crop trousers? No, thank you. I would like trousers that cover my ankles and hang nicely without stretch and spandex. Gosh, I remember being a teen in 1986 and dreaming of the day I too would wear lined pants, like mom, and have actual store associates wait on me at Nordstrom or Macy’s. I just wanted dressier pants than chinos or khakis and in black as the last pair I purchased before Covid-19 hit was from Christopher Banks which no longer exists. I used to find Jones New York blouses at Dress Barn. They no longer exist. It was a discouraging afternoon for me as I am either a 14, 16, or 18 depending on the brand. I came home empty handed. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll drive an hour away and try Dilliards.
Can’t remember if it was circa 1986, but I do think that the last time I could reliably find decent trousers was around then. Dillard’s carried Liz Claiborne pants that fit, were of good material and workmanship, and were comfortable. I wonder if Tim Gunn had a hand in that?
Oh HOW I miss lovely Liz Claiborne clothes… I can, after 30 years, remember some of my favorite things I wore, and some of the madly popular “groupings” that we sold…
It might not be the same quality as 1986, but JC Penney still carries Liz Claiborne.
Linings!!! I LOVED lined pants…. They would cost $500 now, if you could find them at all. What has happened to clothing?
Exactly! Clothing is now made to be disposable!
Try Pendleton – one of the last bastions of actual wool clothing. Their seasonless wool group has basic suiting that might fill the bill. https://www.pendleton-usa.com/product/womens-seasonless-wool-true-fit-trousers/47838.html?dwvar_47838_color=8019&cgid=women. (Not affiliated, just discovered them while on the same a few years ago!)
This. This is my color palette that I have been developing for the past few years. Good to see it works well together. Somehow seeing it outside my wardrobe helps confirm that it works. I won’t be returning to a job since I am the Grandma caregiver, but having a set color palette really helps me while looking for new clothes.
Janice, I like this better than any you have done for a while. The textures and colors look classy and luxurious. Thank you for your ongoing work.
Love this colour palette! Also, that painting looks like chains. Is this to indicate that our heroine is going to be chained to her desk now?!
I’m working from home now and the employer is making noises that it may continue. There is a certain freedom in working from home, and I don’t miss standing at the bus stop at 6:30 am in the dark and cold of an Ontario winter!
My workplace is very casual, so I wouldn’t need the dressier pieces, but I’d wear everything in this wardrobe very happily and add in some jeans or more casual pants/skirts.
Great job on this one!
Diana in Indiana says
Yay a work wardrobe! I’m so glad to see this. Black and Grey are my neutrals but your examples give me a great model to work from. Thank you for this!
One of the best yet Janice! This is so clever, and deceptively simple. Love that the starting outfits aren’t a column of colour – this feels very natural to my eye! Great stuff!
Kait Waters says
I absolutely adore your work. Thank you for continuing to post such lovely and inpsiring content.