How to Build a *Realistic* Capsule Wardrobe in 2020

Stock your closet with these quar-ready, WFH-friendly basics

Like nearly every other facet of our lives, there’s a good chance the COVID-19 pandemic has totally upended your approach to fashion. Gone are the days of buying showy, impractical pieces just because. Our much narrower worlds means a few closet staples receive heavy rotation, while most others are destined to collect dust on their hangers (sorry to that gorgeous, office-compatible trench that won’t be necessary in a WFH situ). It’s why we’re taken by the concept of a capsule wardrobe: a minimalist collection of feel-good, wear-anywhere pieces that all work together in harmony. Whatever your reason—budget constraints, nowhere to go but the grocery store, a newfound desire to be comfy 100% of the time (we don’t blame you!)—this simplified and streamlined method of dressing just makes sense in 2020. Read on for our new-normal essentials and how to build an undeniably chic wardrobe around a less-is-more, comfort-first approach. 

The Banker-Stripe Blouse

Now that company dress codes, like the offices they’re enforced in, are pretty much non-existent, there’s little need for an entirely separate, reserved-for-the-weekday wardrobe. That means buh-bye to buttoned-up blouses. Instead, we’re drawn to the ease of a banker stripe (the pattern blessedly requires no ironing). Look for one that’s equipped with breezy details: a rounded hem, slightly dropped shoulder and a generous, oversized fit. Roll the cuffs and leave it open over a tank and knit shorts, or simply button it up when work calls—your fellow Zoom-ers will be none the wiser. 

Sunday Best Future Button-Up, $78,

The Half-Zip Sweater 

If you’re anything like us, the period from March to May 2020 saw your sweatshirt count grow exponentially. But if you’re craving a new kind of cozy—one that puts polish and pleasure on the same plane—consider the half-zip sweater, the chic covering that only looks like you put in effort. The vintage shape has an expensive-seeming quality, so you can feel good wearing it over bike shorts, under an oversized blazer and yes, even with sweatpants

Spencer Badu Black Half-Zip Sweater, $210,

The Wear-All-Day House Dress

The practical house dress is exactly as it sounds: a one-and-done answer to feeling fully put together around the house, no effort necessary. There are almost no rules when it comes to shopping for a house dress; just look for one with a laidback drape and adjustable closures so you can comfortably throw it on as you wake up to slow-moving mornings. When you’re wanting to stretch its cost per wear, get crafty with layering: a mock-neck sweater worn under works well and depending on the shape, a blouse with the top buttons undone brings a nonchalance to the look.  

Laura Siegel Collection Hand-Dyed Shibori Stripe Dress with Gathers, $680,

The Cropped Tank 

Fashion insiders like to wax poetic over the Perfect White Tee, and while there’s no denying that the closet staple really is the pinnacle of versatility, let us not underestimate the similarly multifaceted cropped tank. Its styling options within a quar capsule are endless (breezily layered under the aforementioned button-up, worn athleisure-style with tailored sweats, swapped in to separate a coordinated set); the only difference here is the updated—and arguably cooler—shape. Bonus: the right fabrication and fit can allow for a comfortable bra-less experience.

Arq Crop Tank, $45,

The Linen Trouser 

When the occasion calls for actual pants to be worn (think virtual weddings and check-in chats with the in-laws), level up with a linen trouser. The summer-favourite fabric is designed with bigger weave, so, when coupled with a roomy fit, you’ll reap the peak breathability benefits. Make the smart-looking switch anywhere you’d normally turn to a pair of jeans: with your banker-stripe blouse half-tucked into the waist, as an evolved bottom for the co-ord top, or worn with the oversized blazer (just for the camera roll pics that prove you didn’t fully yield to comfort in a five-month span.) 

Mango Linen Suit Trousers, $99.99,

The Knit Co-Ord Set 

There’s no doubt that quarantine has heightened our lounge-y inclinations. But after weeks of wearing the same PJs from sunrise to sunset, even we have to admit that the novelty wore off. It’s why we’re devoting some of our capsule spend to a knit co-ord set. Answering emails, doing chores, bingeing Netflix—sporting this matching combo will make you feel like you’ve gotten ready for the day. Styling them outside of their designated pairing is a cinch since they’re perfect separates in their own right. 

Zara Ribbed Crop T-Shirt (worn underneath), $19.90 and Ribbed Shorts, $25.90,

The Loose-Fitting Blazer 

There’s a reason you’re seeing oversized blazers in street style shots, on Instagram, pretty much everywhere: they’re a one-stop shop to achieving that in-demand, but highly elusive, effortlessness. Scour your local vintage haunt for that can’t-be-replicated ’80s fit, but if you’re having little luck with the shape, pick a less structured design and opt for a size or two up from what you’d regularly wear. You’ll achieve that deliberately oversized look—perfect for elevating a house dress or slim sweatpants—all the same. 

Madewell Caldwell Double-Breasted Blazer, $229,

The Sand-Coloured Mock Neck

Refined, unfussy and highly wearable—that’s the indelible appeal of a mock neck, and the precise reason it deserves a coveted spot in your capsule. One done up in a pretty flaxen shade offers major utility in your closet, too. Try layering it under your house dress or half-zip sweater to weather-proof each look. It’s on this particular piece where we suggest splurging a little: invest in one that feels good on the skin (hello, cashmere!) so that you’re not deterred by wearing a form-fitting top all day. 

Theory Basic Cashmere Mock Neck Top, $195,

The Tailored Sweatpant

With the entire winter season ahead of us, you didn’t really think we’d deprive you of sweatpants, did you? Working a pair into your capsule means seeking out a slim silhouette that works for a bevy of semi-social circumstances, not just horizontal couch time. We love a neutral-hued pair coupled up with a cropped tank and oversized blazer for a one-on-one friend hang, or stripped down to a simple mock neck for that once-a-week grocery run. (Ace styling trick: rolling down the waistband, like rolling up the sleeves on your button-up, gives the illusion of a well-considered look.) 

Reigning Champ Midweight Slim Terry Sweatpant, $140,

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