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A Minimalist Workwear Capsule Wardrobe (if wearing black and white just isn’t your thing)

February 27, 2018
A Minimalist Workwear Capsule Wardrobe | Tiny Ambitions

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gotten on board with the “minimalists must wear all black or white” mantra. It’s just not for me. Nor do I think you have to wear neutrals to be a minimalist. If that’s your style, that’s great. But, if you’re like me and you get discouraged whenever you see an all white/black/grey minimalist wardrobe online, then this is the post for you!

I wanted to share with you the key pieces that I wear to work every week (since I do spend 35 hours there each week). I own more than the 12 pieces I’ve included, but I wear these ones on a weekly basis around 90% of the time. I didn’t include shoes in this list because a) I wear the same pair of vintage leather oxfords every day and b) they were at work when I was taking the pictures for this post. I also didn’t include purses or outerwear because, again, I use the same backpack for work every day and I live in Canada, which means I have one coat for every season and wear it every day.

This post is not about telling you that you have to wear these exact items to be a minimalist. Far from it. I want this post to show what a real-life minimalist wears in her daily life to show that it doesn’t have to be all black/white/grey or super modern.

Some Work Context

I work in a semi-professional environment. As you’ll see from the images below, my work environment is somewhere between casual tech startup and business formal mega corporation. My department also tends to dress a little more formal than the rest of the staff, since we work in marketing and communications – we have to look the part!

My Minimalist Workwear Capsule Wardrobe

A Minimalist Workwear Capsule Wardrobe | Tiny Ambitions

1) Green Pashmina

My mom gave me this scarf a couple of years ago and I wear it probably 4 out of the 5 days I work in a week. I have green eyes, so when I wear green close to my face, they pop!

2) Black Cashmere Cardigan

Ok, so I do still own some black staple pieces. This cardigan might be my oldest piece in my closet. I purchased it when I was in high school, so that makes it over 10 years old. It’s definitely a workhorse. It’s beautifully soft and the shoulders are slightly puffed for some extra detail.

3) RW & Co Navy Blue Wool Pants

These dress pants are one of two pairs of dress pants I own, and I wear them at least twice a week. The wool blend material means they are more sweat and odor-resistant than synthetic blends so they don’t need to be washed as often. My laundry bin is grateful for them.

4) Second-Hand Michael Kors Shift Dress

This dress was a recent purchase when I changed jobs in November. I purchased it off Etsy from a vintage store and fell in love with it right away. It has pockets – pockets! Give me a dress or skirt with pockets and I will be happy forever. I normally wear this piece one or twice a week as well. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s actually a white and blue print, which I love.

5) Stella and Dot Drop Necklace

This necklace was a gift from my in-laws last year for my birthday. I don’t buy jewelry for myself, mainly because I almost never wear it. But, this necklace is a lovely translucent dark green colour that goes with pretty much everything in my closet. I also really like that it lands mid-chest on me.

6) Vintage Emerald Green Wool Pencil Skirt

I love this skirt. It’s as simple as that. I purchased it second-hand from this Etsy store and it’s a great example of quality vintage construction. When I wear it, I feel like a Mad Men era boss, in the best way possible. The color is vibrant emerald green (that, of course, didn’t show up in the picture), it fits me perfectly and it’s wool, which I prefer over synthetic materials.

7) Miel Sisters White Camisole

I don’t normally like synthetic fabrics, but that goes out the window when we’re talking about base layers. I discovered Canadian brand Miel Sisters last year and they’ve become a fast favourite of mine. This camisole is the perfect base layer under most of what I wear in a week. It has a shelf bra, strong straps and the material is engineered to be sweat and odor-resistant. And, it’s manufactured in Canada, which is the cherry on top.

8) Second-hand Aritzia Babaton Elliot Pant

I love these pants so much I actually own two pairs. Both purchased second hand from eBay. I wear these pants on casual Friday because they are so comfy but still professional. I love the side-zip and behind the knee seaming which makes for a perfect fit. Bonus, Aritzia still makes them!

9) Sears Pima Cotton Blush V-Neck T-Shirt

Right before Sears went out of business, I discovered they made the perfect t-shirt for me. Spandex-cotton blend, not sheer, just the right length, v-neck and in a gorgeous light blush colour. Needless to say, I also own this shirt in white and a grey melange. But, I find myself reaching for the blush most often.

10) Handmade Short Length Necklace

This necklace was also a gift from my sister-in-law this past Christmas. It was handmade by a local Canadian designer and I love it. I wear it on the days I’m not wearing the Stella and Dot Drop necklace (i.e. whenever I wear something with a v-neck).

11) Hand-me-down Navy Elephant Print Blouse

This blouse was a hand-me-down from my apartment mate from grad school. Her laundry shrinking mishap was my gain! I adore this blouse. It’s fun because of the print, but still professional. And, it has roll-up cuffs for when it gets a little warmer out.

There you have it! This is what I wear in any given week. I might sub in a white t-shirt every now and again for the blush one, but, for the most part, this is what I wear to work. I hope you had fun rummaging around in my closet! If nothing else, let this post serve as a reminder that no lifestyle trend can tell you what to wear. Minimalism is great, but if I’m expected to wear black, white and grey everything, I’ll be mailing back my membership card.

How would you describe your style? Do you have a workwear capsule wardrobe? Let me know in the comments!

If you missed the most recent episodes of Tiny Bites, you can listen to them below!

Tiny Bites Episode 19: Minimalist Relationships
Tiny Bites Episode 20: On Being Alone

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

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*Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

  • the Budget Epicurean March 20, 2018 at 8:10 am

    LOVE the green skirt, looks fabulous and I’m sure even better on you. For work, I have grey, black, pinstripe, and khakis that rotate, plus several tank + blazer combos and other work shirts, and I also rotate in sweaters for cold weather. Definitely need to work on paring down though, I’ve got several things that haven’t seen the light of day in over a year. Maybe this is the motivator to make this spring cleaning the one that leads to a true capsule wardrobe for me! Thanks for proving minimalism doesn’t equal colorless.

    • Britt March 20, 2018 at 8:22 am

      Thanks! That green skirt was a true gem of a find. When I made my capsule for work, I put everything I haven’t worn in a bag in my closet. At the end of the year if I don’t touch it, I’ll be donating everything. Good luck with your spring cleaning!

  • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment March 4, 2018 at 6:12 am

    I’ve seen quite a few black/white/neutral minimalist wardrobes online, too, and it’s definitely not for me either! Like you Britt, I have a minimal wardrobe that is colourful but supported by a handful of very versatile ‘plain’ items like cardigans and pants. I don’t have a capsule as such, but now that I’ve pared down my wardrobe quite a lot, the fewer items I have end up on high rotation. At the moment I am loving white, red and blue for some reason so I have basically been wearing the same five or six outfit combinations with those colours for the last few months. If it ever cools down here (and I’m beginning to think that’s never), I might be able to build myself a spring collection of outfits! That’s something I’m looking forward to, as it’s nice to change things up with the seasons. Thanks for sharing your minimalist workwear capsule with us, Britt!

    • Lisa | Simple Life Experiment March 4, 2018 at 6:15 am

      Whoops, I mean autumn 😉

    • Britt March 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      I love your style! It sounds like the perfect colours for summer (which is weird for me since we’re still buried in snow). It will be interesting to see how your rotation changes once things cool down a bit. I’m curious if my workwear rotation will change for Spring -my guess is I’ll just drop my cardigan and change out my shoes. Thanks for reading, Lisa! I’m glad we’re both colourful minimalists. 🙂

  • Brittany March 3, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    This was great! I’d say the majority of my clothing is neutral (I love all things gray) but I have some brighter colors too — canary yellow cardigan, floral scarf, forest green dress, etc. I love seeing capsule wardrobes than still encompass some color! Also, I’d love to know your secret for keeping you black cardigan so nice for so long! Mine seem to fade within a year!

    • Britt March 3, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks, Brittany! I only wash the cardigan on the delicate cycle in cold water, and I try not to wash it after every wear. I normally wear a t-shirt underneath it so I can wash it less frequently. Fingers crossed it keeps holding up so well!

  • Sarah March 1, 2018 at 8:58 pm

    I was just noticing how almost my entire wardrobe is neutrals right now. I used to be way better about adding some pops of colour but for whatever reason I’ve moved away from it.

    I’m intrigued by the capsule wardrobe idea. I would like to do it just for my work wear. I have lots of clothes and am not willing to get rid of them but the majority are casual pieces and I struggle with putting together work outfits.

    • Britt March 1, 2018 at 9:12 pm

      I really like the idea of a capsule for a specific area of your life. My capsule for work has made my morning so much freaking easier. I always know what I’m going to wear (lest a few substitutes).

      Thanks for reading, Sarah!

  • Michele Tse March 1, 2018 at 7:12 am

    I’m lucky to have a uniform for work, so I only need to worry about my casual weekend wardrobe. You would think that would make for a smaller wardrobe but when my only fashion expressions are on the weekends, I tend to overdo it. Thank you so much for showing how little it takes to express yourself. Tell me what style tee you get at sears. Like you, I can never find the right length or fabric.

    • Britt March 1, 2018 at 7:18 am

      Thank you for your kind words! I don’t know if you can get it anymore, but it’s a Pima Cotton 96% cotton, 4% spandex. I have it in a crewcut and a v-neck. Thanks for reading Michele!

  • Mary in Texas February 28, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Since I’m not currently in the workforce, I have a fairly limited wardrobe. I have 3 pairs of black pants that I can be seen in public in, 1 pair charcoal gray pants, 3 tees (long sleeve) in shades of blue, 2 tees in shades of green, 1 red tee. For summer I have 3 tees in either blue or green. Shoes are easy-2 pairs black walking shoes and 1 pair black dressy shoes. Non-public: 3 pairs black sweat pants, 4 long sleeve tees, 3 pairs cropped pants (black and khaki), 6 short sleeve tees, 1 pair Keds, 1 pair sandals. 1 black sweater, 1 patterned sweater, short jacket, long down coat. 1 nice black dress. I get a lot of color from the socks my niece knits for me–mostly shades of red, blue, and green.

    • Britt February 28, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing! It’s interesting that you split things up between public and non-public. I would wear anything I own out in public except for PJ’s, but I have no problem looking like a yoga bum in public.

  • jennifer | honey rule February 28, 2018 at 5:58 am

    britt, great post!! i love your workweek wardrobe and i can definitely appreciate the fun colors in there. i’m so boring (my laundry is always just grey on grey on grey). but gotta love it when you find a pair of pants that you like so much that you go find two pairs to own!

    • Britt February 28, 2018 at 7:19 pm

      Thanks, Jennifer! If grey on grey works for you and makes you feel good, that’s all that matters. I wish I could find more of that pair of pants in different colours and in my size – it would be like hitting the jackpot!

  • Linda Sand February 27, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    I have a chain necklace that hits me mid chest. I’ve discovered I can hang a pin from it to make it into a statement necklace without having to own more chains. My shirts and pants are mostly black but my jackets are sapphire or tie-died cranberry, etc. By changing my jacket and/or necklace my few black pieces look different every day.

    • Britt February 28, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      That’s such a great idea! I’ve never thought of that before but it makes so much sense. I love that you have Jewel tones in your wardobe. I love those rich, saturated colours.

  • Liz February 27, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    Wow, Britt!
    Thank you so much for this!
    I have been thinking about what articles of clothing I reach for and love the most lately. I’m a little more clear on my everyday casual attire which is what I wear the most… one pair of grey camo pants, one pair of distressed jeans, one pair of flower embroidered jeans, one pair of plain jeans, 4 solid t-shirts in different colors, 4 logo-type t-shirts, 3 different color tank tops, 2 different sweaters (one pink and one sparkly black), 2 light weight jackets (one green camo, one denim), 2 heavy weight coats (for CA anyway…one green with pink fuzzy lining and one blue down), 2 pairs of boots (one short brown, one short black), a diamond drop pendant on a short chain and two long necklaces (one with a tiny harmonica and one with a quote on a silver square). Phew!
    All of that doesn’t even count my work clothes… Even though I do wear all of these items on a regular basis can I call myself a minimalist?

    My job is different. I am a classical vocalist and sing for many Catholic Church Masses, both regular and special, such as weddings and funerals. I’m expected to look nice, of course, and to also dress in the appropriate color for the church literary season and the particular event. Needless to say, I cannot wear the same outfits on a regular basis. Even though it’s church, I am a performer. I’m trying to figure out the best way to work this, but I do think I have to expand my work wardrobe more than a 9-5 worker might.

    I guess I make up for some of this by living in a 640 sq ft house with my husband who wears about 5 things total…

    • Britt February 27, 2018 at 10:28 pm

      Of course you can call yourself a minimalist! If you’re happy with the clothes that you have and you actually wear them, that’s about as minimalist as you can get. Thanks for sharing, Liz.

      • Liz February 27, 2018 at 10:35 pm

        Thank you. I guess I needed the validation!

  • NZ Muse February 27, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    I veer between dresses (love them!!!) and tops with skinny pants. I really love colour. My fave pieces are probably statement type dresses with cool prints/colour blocking. (I’m a winter, so look best in clear cool colours – esp blues, or cooler reds/pinks)

    • Britt February 27, 2018 at 8:07 pm

      Your style sounds awesome! I really like dresses too. Probably because they are so easy to wear and require minimal thought haha

  • Becky F. February 27, 2018 at 9:50 am

    I have hazel eyes and auburn hair, so I love to wear green, too! I was glad to read that I’m not the only one who has issues with the black/white capsule wardrobes. Black doesn’t even work for me, I look so much better in browns. Thanks for sharing!

    • Britt February 27, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks, Becky! Always nice to hear from a fellow green eyed person (we’re so rare). I too cannot wear black, I’m much too pale for that. And I’m too accident prone to wear white. 🙈 Thanks for reading!

  • Erin | Reaching for FI February 27, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Aha, finally a capsule wardrobe I can get behind! I’m not sure I’ll ever have one myself but if I did it would look something like this (although with blue, instead of green since that’s the color of my eyes). I love how so much of it is vintage or hand-me-down!

    I have to say though, I’m really jealous of your ability to wear wool. I’m allergic to it, which rules out a lot of vintage things for me! 😭

    • Britt February 27, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Yah! I’m so glad you like it! Vintage and second-hand is 80% of my wardrobe. I just don’t like most new ‘fashion’.

      I’m so sorry you can’t wear wool. The green pencil skirt is lined so I don’t have any issues there. I normally stay away from wool sweaters though- they make me itch!

  • Ms Zi You February 27, 2018 at 8:08 am

    I’m very into a minimalist wardrobe…I dress for comfort not fashion!

    • Britt February 27, 2018 at 8:15 am

      That’s awesome! It certainly makes it easier to get dressed in the morning when you have a minimal it wardrobe.

  • Penny George February 27, 2018 at 7:02 am

    My everyday ‘uniform’ consists of a black tshirt and jeans or long denium shorts. l wear the black tshirts because lm large busted and they hide it well. l have a red cardi and a leopard print jumper that l add in winter. l have 2 dresses for more dressy occasions and 1 red and 1 white tshirt that l keep for social occasions. l love my wardrobe.

    • Britt February 28, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      That’s awesome! Its such a nice feeling to open your closet and love everything inside of it.

    Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.