Capsule Wardrobe: The Professional
The “capsule wardrobe” represents everything we stand for at Articles of Style.
It will help you dress better, save time & money, support artisans and shop sustainably.
The key to a good capsule is that all (or most) of the items can be styled together to create different looks for different occasions.
With a perfect capsule you can get dressed with style in the dark and not have to replace items for many years.
To give you an idea of how to build a wardrobe that is right for you, we put together an example of a 21-item capsule wardrobe for “The Professional”.
This capsule wardrobe (and all of the looks that follow) is comprised of only 21 carefully selected items:
1: Start with a foundational suit
Every businessman needs a solid navy suit, it should be the anchor of your wardrobe. There is no garment that is more versatile or business appropriate.
We recommend a soft shoulder and a fabric with some texture - like this navy hopsack - so the jacket can double as a sportcoat.
2,3,4: Add three shirts
A businessman can't have too many shirts that are white, blue or white and blue. Start with these three classics: solid white, solid sky blue and white with blue stripes.
The key is that all three shirts work well with the suit.
Pro tip: for the white shirt go with french cuffs and a hidden placket front. This way it can double as a formal shirt that you can wear with a tuxedo and bowtie, in addition to your suits.
5,6: Add two separate trousers
Next add two neutral trousers - like the light gray worsted and khaki cotton twill shown here.
The key is that both trousers work well with the suit jacket and all three shirts.
7: Add a sportcoat
Every businessman needs a great go-to sportcoat, for all those times when a full suit isn't required. Look for something in a classic pattern like a glenplaid or houndstooth and don't be afraid of some texture - this is an area where you can flex a little.
The key is that this jacket works well with the suit trousers, all three shirts and both separate trousers.
8: Add a complimentary suit
One navy is covered, medium gray is your next suit. Look for something dark enough that it can be worn for evening events (or even formal events in a pinch), but just light enough that the suit trousers can work with the navy hopsack jacket (from the first suit). If your first suit was textured, this one can be worsted to give you a little contrast and serve as your more "serious" suit.
Pro tip: make this one a three-piece to give you the option to make it more formal, and to have a neutral vest to layer into various looks.
The key is that this suit can be mixed-and-matched with the first suit and works with all three shirts, both trousers, and the sportcoat.
9,10,11: Add accessories
You need some ties - keep them classic and versatile. Here we have a navy bamboo solid, a raspberry windowpane bamboo and a black grosgrain bowtie.
The key is that the ties work with both suits, all three shirts, both separate trousers and the sportcoat.
12: Add a pair of jeans
Every guy, businessman or not, needs at least one great pair of jeans. We typically recommend a well-made pair of raw denim since they will look sharp and dressy at first and break-in beautifully over time (like this pair which is 10+ years old).
The key, again, is that these jeans can be worn with both suit jackets, all three shirts and ties, as well as the sportcoat.
13: Add an all-weather coat
You're going to need a coat. The first one you should invest in is a navy blue all-weather 3/4 length Mac. It's a cross between an "everyday coat" and a "raincoat" that can be dressed up or down.
The key is that this coat can be worn with both suits, all three shirts and ties, both separate trousers, the sportcoat, and the jeans.
Pro tip: this particular mac has a removable quilted lining for the colder seasons, which means it can be worn year-round.
14: Add a classy coat
The other coat you should consider is a classier topcoat in navy or charcoal - something that is elegant, professional and sexy enough to wear out for an evening affair. This butter-soft cashmere herringbone topcoat is a great example as it can be worn for both business and pleasure.
Once again, the key is that this coat can be worn with both suits, all three shirts and ties, both separate trousers, the sportcoat, and the jeans.
15,16: Add two sweaters
Next up is some basic knitwear. Keep these thin, fitted and neutral - like a black cashmere mockneck and a gray cashmere crewbeck as shown here.
The key is that both of these knits work with both suits, all three shirts, both separate trousers, the sportcoat, the jeans and both outerwear pieces.
17: Add a shacket
Consider this a more casual version of the sportcoat - it can pull a lot of the same moves, but leans significantly more casual.
The key is that it works with both suit trousers, all three shirts, both separate trousers, the sportcoat, the three ties, the jeans, both outerwear pieces and both sweaters.
18: Add a formal option
As a businessman, you are sure to encounter a black tie event and you'll want to be prepared. Sure, you can wear the mid gray suit with the hidden placket shirt and black bowtie - but there's nothing like the feeling of wearing a proper tailor made tuxedo.
This one is a little less about "pairing it with everything" and a little more about being ready for when the time comes...although if you're anything like @threepiecepapi you might just wear the shawl tuxedo jacket with a black t-shirt, a late night cocktail and a super late night spliff.
19,20,21: Add footwear
One BOOT, one LACE-UP, one LOAFER.
RODMAN, PIP, and MIKE.
If you're starting from scratch in the footwear department, focus on black first. Black goes with everything (including navy, gray, khaki) and always looks regal and elegant.
Pro tip: for the lace-ups go with a "whole cut" (or seamless) design. This allows them to double as formal shoes (with a fresh shine).
Now here is 14 different looks for different occasions, using only the 21 items that make up this capsule wardrobe:
1: Day at the Office
You're starting your workweek strong.
Alternate version for the rain.
Alternate version for the cold.
2: Client Meetings
You're traveling to meet some clients in the city.
3: Business Casual
A light day at the office, followed by dinner.
4: Serious Separates
You're attending that conference, or making that presentation.
You're taking the wife to brunch and might have a few mimosas.
Your friend is finally getting married.
Alternate version for a more formal wedding.
Pro tip: If you don't have a proper tuxedo (I know, you do) this is a great back-up plan.
7: Casual Outting
You're going to the bar, or the game, or a friends house for dinner.
8: Sexy Times
You got a hot date or you're going out for cocktails.
9: Trying that New Restaurant
She's been wanting to eat there for a while.
10: Weekend Chill
Try putting on a collared shirt with your weekend fits - and see what happens.
11: Date Night
Sometimes dressing "nice" is actually really simple - it's less about the colors and patterns and more about the fit and textures.
12: Black Tie
When the time comes you will be ready, and you will be remembered.
13: Go Anywhere
This is an example of a look that is hard to define because it can be worn just about anywhere, for just about anything.
This is how the AOS team and I dress most of the time - it's simple, it blends "casual" and "dressy", and overall it looks elegant, handsome and approachable.
14: Go Anywhere II
Another example of the AOS preferred aesthetic - down the middle, not dressy, not casual - just stylish.
Now, of course, there are plenty more great combinations using only these 21 items. This article was simply meant to share the philosophy of how to build a sustainable wardrobe and get the most out of your garments.
Remember the major keys to building a lasting capsule wardrobe:
1. Buy the best quality you can afford so it will last and you won’t have to replace it.
2. Never buy anything that doesn’t fit you properly, as poor fit is a leading reason why clothing gets discarded and replaced.
3. Avoid trends and logos at all costs. Look for generational designs that will never go “out of style” and look great on you.