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Capsule Wardrobe: Conservative Corporate, Part 1

I have always been a little envious of men’s corporate style. Their wardrobes are so simple. Each item has an obvious function and there are prescribed guidelines about how each item should fit. Found a shirt that fits well? Get five of them in different colours. Wear a different one every day of the week, with trousers that match interchangeably with each shirt. Sorted. There is something so appealingly workman-like and logical about that. I am beginning my first long-term full-time job (STRESS!) in a few months in a large law firm, and the last thing I would want to do is to be constantly self-conscious about the way I dress. With that in mind, I am trying to edit the clothes I own down to a capsule wardrobe of pieces that go effortlessly with each other. The more uniform-like the better. After consulting some excellent sites on women’s corporate dressing, in Part One of this two-part guide I have compiled a list of guidelines below on how everything should fit.Criteria for capsule wardrobe 

Dunhill’s creative director John Ray says that shirts should trace the body, not cling. Though directed at menswear, this is also good advice for womenswear generally. If my clothes are so tight that you can see underwear digging into flesh at all (bra straps digging into back fat, VPL… you get the idea), it’s too tight for work. I like to apply the ‘eating test’: would I feel comfortable in this if I impulse-ate a large plate of pasta for lunch? If the answer is, ‘Ehh… probably not,’ then I know it’s too tight.

Tops:   Necklines no more than 7 cm below collarbone level. Shirts must not gape at the chest. (I sympathise, my buxom friends!) Any top should still be appropriate when a cardigan/suit jacket is removed.

Skirts/Dresses:  Skirts and dresses no shorter than just above the knee. (The Portmans work dress selection appears to disagree with me though.) Must not flash large expanses of thigh when I sit down. Must not be too tight; the ‘eating test’ is especially pertinent here.

Suits:  Shoulder seams should hit exactly where the shoulder meets the arm, but shouldn’t be so snug that I can’t fit a dress shirt under it. I find that the most flattering length for a suit jacket is one that ends at the high hip area. I already have a suit that is classic to the point of being generic, and am looking out for something in a subtle texture and non-black colour.

Shoes:  My shoes should be so comfortable that I can walk fast, or even run in them. It is important for me to, quite literally, keep pace with my colleagues. I especially dislike it when people whine about how their feet are killing them, and truly aim never to do that. Comfortable shoes usually mean 1) reasonably wide heels, and 2) reasonably low height. To me, that translates to about a 2 to 3-inch height, max.

Having said all that, will I be able to extract clothing from my cavernous wardrobe to fit all these guidelines, or will I get buried under see-through, flimsy, poor-quality clothes accumulated after years of sentimental hoarding? All this and more in Part 2.



  1. Pingback: Capsule Wardrobe: Conservative Corporate, Part 2 | the timber owls

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