I’ve been watching a lot of Gemary’s videos recently, and I love how her outfits still have a chic and slightly glam feel while overall remaining neutral and minimalist in style. If you’ve been keeping an eye on my outfits this year, you know that is not my personal style. Thinking about how I could scratch the itch of neutral-chic, combined with the fact that I’ve been wanting to do more outfit styling and capsule wardrobe mixing, I’ve decided to start up this series of Styling a Capsule Wardrobe.
Each post in the related “translating a style board” series takes SO much time, to the point where I don’t want to start one unless I have a fantastic concept and am pretty confident I’d be able to execute it. My own outfits in recent months have been a lot more shoe and accessory focused, but I think it would be boring if it’s always just outfits based on my wardrobe, as there’s only so much I can say about “yep it’s casual shoes with a Free People dress”. So I’m just going to put together outfit collages from a 12-ish piece capsule, and explain why I think the items suit each other, given the persona or prompt I had in mind.
There will be affiliate links in this post, but the primary purpose of these posts is to show examples of how those general types of items might be paired. If you have any items you’re struggling to style, let me know in the comments and I can take a stab at working it into a future capsule post. No pressure to buy the linked items since unless otherwise noted, I haven’t personally tried any of these pieces. But if I’m going to cite the image source anyway, might as well get that coin from clicks.
Casual: Primarily results in “could wear it to the grocery store” formality of outfits. Or a casual office. Or a low-key get-together. But not quite at the level of poolside bash or formal wedding guest.
Glam: A little shiny, a little trendy, clean finishes. Okay, I guess this is more “polished”, but I feel like “polished casual” is such an overdone phrase in the personal style hobby community that I. Just. Cannot. Anyway, despite summer fabrics, don’t want to lean too far into crunchy, and despite the casual, don’t want to be so casual it feels like loungewear or children’s clothes. I didn’t include hair and makeup suggestions here, but these are polished enough that I think any of these outfits would work with a full face look if you want to lean into this side.
Traditional neutrals and seasonal materials. Feminine but generally not whacking you over the head with it.
- Crew neck sleeveless ruched midi/maxi dress (Gap, image via thredup)
- Square neck puff sleeve shirred/smocked bodice mini dress (Hill House Home Athena Nap Dress)
- Crew neck chambray t-shirt dress with front patch pockets (random sourceless Pinterest image)
Mostly Target for these today.
- Universal Thread Grooved Open Oval Wood Hoop Earrings
- A New Day Multi Tube Hoop Earrings, Gold
- Universal Thread Stripe Tail Twisters, Orange
- Joshua Tree Baseball Hat, Orange
- Universal Thread Straw Circle Tote Handbag, Natural
- A New Day Soft Shoulder Handbag, Black
- Birkenstock Arizona Sandals, Birko-flor, Black
- A New Day Talia Lace Up Sandals, Black
- A New Day Madison Sneakers, White/Black
Why this stuff works together
- chunkiness, dressiness, and color value of shoes (but all are leather-ish)
- material and shape of bags
- more earthy and more glam earring options
- Different length, sleeves, neckline, fabrics on dresses
- Not too boring: something extra on each dress. Asymmetrical ruching, patch pockets, puff sleeves
- For a more casual vibe, went with a more floppy leather tote. A more structured tote might feel too formal with Birkenstocks if the dress is simple/casual. Also avoided visible hardware as too much shine there might start clashing with Birkenstocks or Sneakers.
- Summery materials (cork, straw, wood) that can lean boho, but clean finish, modern shapes
- The dressy sandal is quite minimal and flat. A heeled sandal could clash in formality with the chambray dress.
- Classic spring/summer fabrics for all the dresses
While you can certainly be very stylish with as classic as possible of items if you have immaculate fit and quality, well-cared-for materials, throwing in some more on-trend items is a solid way to make sure the outfits don’t feel too blah. Cause by nature, trend elements are usually a detail that’s a bit nonstandard. So you get the visual interest, and built-in modern vibes even if you aren’t going, like, full avant-garde gallery director version of modern. You certainly don’t need to be on-trend to have an interesting and stylish look, but it is certainly one element and given that the majority of people in my experience enjoy looking at least somewhat on trend, it would be silly to try to completely ignore it.
Alternatively, you could also use these notes just to understand what details of this set are particular to the current day. Because I am pulling images from stock photos, even if I’m creating like, an Italian renaissance inspired capsule, there will usually be pieces that might feel particularly cool now vs in 2011 or 2027.
- puff sleeves (still going strong. I assume I don’t have to link this one.)
- Birkenstocks (also more of a macro trend, I think. Very glad comfort shoes have come back in.)
- square toe sandal (all those 90s thrift store shoes now have their moment)
- Multi-hoop earring (I don’t think this is a huge trend, but I’ve been seeing that style of earring at a bunch of big jewelry brands and it’s certainly not the classic single hoop. I think it goes along with the…
- …70s oval/curve shape in the earring (this is also pretty big in home decor right now). This works with the more classic style of the straw tote, too.
Ah, the knit dress with classic summer accessories. I do like that the earrings are more in oval / random squiggly territory than just a circle, because it adds something a tad off the beaten path to this look. But also I think the shape is still simple enough that in 8 years people wouldn’t look at it and say “ah yes, the summer of 2021” like they might with a cow-print bucket hat.
This one’s more of a sporty-chic vibe with the sneakers. Each item here is “classic but a little interesting” so while it doesn’t feel loud at all, it also doesn’t quite 100% blend in. Black dress, a little asymmetry. Gold hoops, but 3 each. Leather shoulder bag, but with a bit of pleating. And a little colorblocking on the sneakers.
This one’s dressy enough that I could see this working for a fancy night out. You could definitely wear this to the opera/ballet in a casual city like San Francisco and no one would blink an eye. But because the dress is a knit and the sandals are flat, it’s not too ostentatious for day-to-day in the city.
Kind of a farmer’s-market-cute styling with the scrunchie scarf and straw tote. Could definitely go brunch-y with a different shoe, but I like how the sneaker keeps it more utilitarian.
A lil more glam here with the black leather trendy sandal + shoulder bag. But the woven cotton dress and the wooden earrings balance them out with some earthier materials.
It’s cute. The hat keeps it casual. The shoe and accessory keep it from going too youthful.
This one’s probably the least glam/polished of the lot. But even then, the shapes are very clean, and you could dress this up with something like a slicked down center part low bun and throw on the gold earrings if you wanted to dress it up.
Still summery with the straw and the breezy chambray smock dress, but paired with the slicker sandal and earring. I think this dress with this sandal might be the most disparate match up here, but because the pieces are pretty low key I think it works. It’s like, any black ankle boot or white sneaker is probably not going to look weird with a basic legging, you know?
None of these items are from Madewell, but this look feels extremely Madewell to me as they are always including these types of items in their releases. The scrunchie is doing some work here to keep the whole look in minimal-chic rather than just I-grabbed-the-minimal-required-random-simple-pieces. I like the scarf tie style cause it’s pretty relaxed, but a headband or some barrettes would also work if you want a smarter finish.
And of course there are dozens more minute variations that you could do with accessorizing these three dresses, but I’m going to pause here. I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I’m looking forward to creating more! Probably slightly more themed in the future, but as much as I enjoy the oddball stuff like circus yuppie, I’m down for the basics too.