Dress For Your Day Work Wardrobe Capsule

dress for your day

There is a new term in workplace style called dressing for your day.  You may have heard of it or your office may have implemented it already.  It is an extension of dress down Friday by giving employees the opportunity to choose what to wear based on the type of day they will be having.  Jeans may be okay for a day in a cubicle, but not when you have corporate meetings out of the office, for example.  Basically, companies are putting faith in their employees that they have enough common sense to know the right thing to wear based on what their day will be comprised of.  Of course, this faith comes with guidelines that seem pretty obvious to anyone with a normal I.Q., like no tank tops, ripped jeans, untucked sloppy looks, shorts, low cut dresses or tops and super short skirts.

What the dress for your day dress code is also allowing for is client-heavy industries such as accounting, sales and consulting, who haven’t really had the luxury of dressing down, to now consider it.  As long as the day ahead doesn’t require high level interfacing, these employees can now choose a more lax outfits if appropriate.

Overall, I am in total support of this new dress code of being able to choose what to wear based on your day.  However, invariably, there are always going to be some employees that push the boundaries of what their company is offering and wind up ruining it for everyone else.  And, sadly, few employers really know how to deal with these infractions beyond taking it away from everyone.  Unfortunately, when it comes to giving rules about dressing for your day, it’s not as easy as telling workers to avoid certain oh-so-obvious clothing selections like ones that are too sloppy, too revealing or too laid back.  There needs to be more guidance.  If you are a company grappling with this, just drop me a line.  Okay?

The stress of dress for your day

Dress for your day can often create more stress for employees, not less.  Sure, at first, the idea of being able to go to work in a pair of jeans sounds appealing, until you realize putting together a stylish and casual work appropriate outfit with those jeans just isn’t as simple as it seems.  I have had more than my share of clients tell me they often just wish they could go back to the ease of simply trying to figure out what top to wear under a suit.  Now it’s all about separates, accessorizing, color combining and having varying levels of professional clothing to match.  For the woman who struggles with putting an outfit together, dressing for your day can be a nightmare, not to mention expensive if you have to build your closet with all these different.  As a result, you get a lot of people walking around in totally uninspired, boring outfits that really don’t make them feel particularly good about themselves.  And we all know how not feeling confident in what we wear can have an impact on how we conduct ourselves.

So let’s talk about the dress for your day concept more extensively.  Below, I have put together a small dress for your day work wardrobe capsule to show you that to successfully and appropriately pull this off, you don’t need to segregate your clothing into different parts based on levels of casualness nor do you need a lot of clothing either.

dress for your day

What you see here are eight clothing options, a few pairs of shoes, a scarf and some accessories.  Using just these selections, I am going to put together ten different dress for your day outfits in varying degrees of casualness simply by mixing and matching.  Use this as a guide to build a functional wardrobe to take on whatever your workday has ahead.

Dress for your day work outfits

Outfit #1

dress for your day

Let’s start with the most professional outfit, a skirt suit (link to jacket and link to skirt) from BOSS Hugo Boss.  If suits are something you will only have to wear once in a while, choose the most simple style you can find.  Not only will you be able to more easily change it up, you’ll also be able to break it apart to create more casual looks.

I styled this suit with a burgundy tank from J. Crew, nude d’orsay pumps from Sam Edelman, a printed scarf from Ann Taylor and drop earrings from Alexis Bittar.

Outfit #2

dress for your day

In this next outfit, I used this very classic v-neck sweater in camel from J. Crew and styled it with a pair of cypress green pants from Theory.  A side note about these pants, all my clients have been buying them.  For a pop I added these MICHAEL Michael Kors pumps in an orangey red and a pendant necklace.  When choosing pants to add to your capsule, make sure they will work with the blazer from the suit you are using.

Outfit #3

dress for your day

Next, I simply swapped out the green pants from Theory and added the navy Boss skirt.  The rest of the outfit consisting of the J. Crew v-neck and pendant stayed exactly the same.  If you wante to simplify it, you could add the nude pumps from the first look instead, but I quite like that the MICHAEL Michael Kors pumps add a pop to a very classic look.

The more classic your capsule is the more you will be able to do with it.  Look to your accessories to add interest instead.

Outfit #4

dress for your day

My suggestion to make sure the pants in your capsule work with the jacket of your suit was for this reason.  In the outfit above, I made the BOSS Hugo Boss jacket a separate navy blazer and paired it with the green Theory pants.  Instead of heels, I made the look more casual with these leopard flats and added this very popular Lafayette 148 shirt under the jacket for crispness and professionalism without being too suity.  For accessories, I used this bangle from Banana Republic and the same drop earrings from Alexis Bittar.

If suits aren’t required at your place of work but you still want to look professional, try creating unsuited suited looks using separate pants and a blazer.  As long as it doesn’t look like you are trying to force a suit it can look very pulled together without being overly traditional.

Outfit #5

dress for your day

When it comes to choosing jeans for work, they need to be fresh, clean and sharp.  Avoid wearing very worn jeans that you would wear on the weekend, unless, of course, your workplace is super laid back.  Yet, even if your jeans are more relaxed, you can elevate the look of them by pairing them with more elevated pieces.

In the outfit above, I styled these J. Crew jeans with the camel v-neck and placed the BOSS Hugo Boss blazer over it.  The leopard flats add an additional level of sophistication and all it takes is the pendant to finish the look.

Outfit #6

dress for your day

In this outfit, I styled the same base as in outfit #4, using the Lafayette 148 shirt and Theory pants, and made it a bit more casual by using this soft tan cardigan from Madewell and cognac booties from Sam Edelman.  I finished the look with a colorful novelty necklace from Nordstrom.

When taking a look down to being more casual, instead of a whole new outfit, look to see how changing out one or two pieces can bring down the look.

Outfit #7

dress for your day

This is probably the most casual look in the capsule.  I wouldn’t recommend it unless this level of casual style has been approved by your workplace or you know you will have a day that allows for this type of dress.  Depending on your job, it might be smart to have a spare pair of dress pants on hand at your desk just in case.  I styled the J. Crew jeans with the cardigan,  burgundy tank, Sam Edelman booties and Alexis Bittar earrings.  Adding this scarf from Ann Taylor elevates the look.

Outfit #8

dress for your day

Earlier, I mentioned how a casual piece can bring down the look of an ensemble and in the outfit above I am showing how one piece can get elevated when paired with other more professional pieces.  I added the Madewell cardigan to the BOSS Hugo Boss navy pencil skirt and white shirt from Layayette 148.  I finished the look with the tan pumps from Sam Edelman, colorful necklace from Nordstrom and Banana Republic bangle.

Outfit #9

dress for your day

Here I am elevating the basic jeans and blazer look by pairing a crisp white shirt and orange pumps from MICHAEL Michael Kors with the BOSS Hugo Boss blazer and Lafayette 148 shirt.  I finished the look with the Ann Taylor scarf, colorful necklace and Banana Republic bangle.  Need to elevate this outfit quickly?  Swap out the jeans for the skirt of the suit.

Outfit #10

dress for your day

This last look is just another combination showing that you can get multiple levels of dress for your day style using less than you think you need.  I styled the green Theory pants with the burgundy tank top and Madewell cardigan, and finished the look with the pendant necklace.

Keep your color palette tight, not boring

Don’t forget, when creating a dress for your day work capsule make sure that the colors of the capsule harmonize.  Yet, don’t be afraid to take risks with color.  As you can seem from my capsule, it consists of burgundy, orange, deep green, navy and camel.  As a guide, choose a base of neutrals that work together and then add pops and accents of shades that work with those neutrals and harmonize with each other.

I hope these tips to create a dress for your day work capsule help you create stylish looks that work for whatever type of day you have ahead.


  • Carol

    This is a fantastic work capsule wardrobe that would also give options for weekend and travel. You have the best ideas! It is amazing the versatility of so few pieces. I also think you have nailed the work-appropriate looks. Today at work I am wearing burgundy jeans, a black blazer, loafers, and a patterned scarf. I feel professional and comfortable. It is hard to find the balance of relaxed and polished. I would love to see this idea illustrated in another set of colors!

    • Thanks Carol! I am so glad you enjoyed it! I can try to do another color palette, but it’s really not that hard to tweak. You can keep most of the base pieces the same and change up the accent and pop. As longs as those accent and pop colors harmonize you should be okay. Then try to find one print that brings them all together. The beauty of base neutrals is whatevery you add to them will work.

      • Mary Council

        Just to piggy back on Carol’s comments, I too loved this post. I have followed your posts for some time because I am one of those who has NO sense of what to put together, and I have learned so much from you. However, I would also love to see this idea illustrated in cool colors rather than warm. It should not be hard to tweak the color palette, but sadly it is for me.

  • Dot

    Love this! These ideas are great for anyone, not just those in the workplace. Thanks!

    • Pat

      Ditto to you Dot! As always, Bridgette, you have me thinking of new ways to create travel ensembles out of an everyday wardrobe. Now, to find some cute leopard flats that can do the European miles.

      Thank you, thank you, Bridgette, you are the best!

      a faithful fan,

      • Those leopard flats are great, if you are willing to purchase shoes from Ivanka Trump. I know some people aren’t these days. I will say that many clients LOVE them. Regardless of who she is related to, she does make comfortable shoes.

    • Thanks Dot! Yes, it can definitely be worked for everyday! I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • Alice Warburton Watts

    Wow, this is another stunning post from you Bridgette! Really useful as my workplace’s dress code is fairly casual (I’m an ESL teacher) but I need to keep businessy items in my wardrobe as my industry is unstable at the moment and I may need to look into doing relief work or get job hunting if I’m let go. Thanks so much for this – I love when you make versatile capsules, especially seeing how you incorporate trend and funk up classic looks. It helps me see a seamless, mixable wardrobe instead of segregating my smart and my casual items.

    • Thanks so much Alice! I am so glad that this post helps you for present and possible future. My mom used to do ESL work with adults on the side (she’s a reading specialist) and she LOVED the work but this was years ago.

  • Patricia

    Nicely done! I didn’t care for the Madewell cardigan, it looked sloppy in a flat shot. So I followed your link and checked it out on a model. Liked it much more, looks casual but not baggy.
    I’d wear all the looks you included. And feel pretty great doing that.

    • Hi Patricia, thanks! The Madewell wouldn’t have been my first choice but so few websites use actual product shots and that often hamstrings me in selections. Not that a lot of my clients haven’t purchased much of what I showcased above, I have personal experience with most of it. In terms of cardigans like the Madwell one, many clients have bought this one from Lord & Taylor in stone heather http://rstyle.me/n/b5eyn68d2e. It’s quite stunning and on sale!

      • Patricia

        I had not thought about that aspect of pulling items for a wardrobe post. You need it in a product shot and in the right color. Oh the headaches behind the scenes of creating posts! And I get peeved if I pin something and it doesn’t come thru in my chosen color…

        • OH…MY…GOD! It can be mind numbing! You have no idea how ridiculously excited I get when a retailer starts including product shots. Sometimes just finding the right item can take over an hour, and that is just one piece. And nothing is worse than when I find something and it’s practically sold out.

  • Mishswishes

    Loved every look! So polished, even the casual outfits looked put together as opposed to thrown together.

  • susan haven

    Thanks for these great ideas! I work at a University, so Dress for your day is the way we do it. Meetings at the Vice President’s office? Suit or skirt, but summers are all about shorts, but nice in case I am meeting parents. I am really bad at using my suit pieces as separates, so this gave me some great ideas.