As summer plans come together (cue gleeful wringing of hands) it’s time to get our wardrobes well and truly organised. So I’m dedicating this post to easy summer style and sharing my guide on how to create a capsule wardrobe to see you through the season. In this post (Part 1) we’ll chat about the clothes you need. I’ll cover off shoes and accessories including bags, hats, beachwear and all other essentials in Part 2.
∗∗ Warning – this is a long post but stay with it, it’s worth it! – J ♥ ∗∗
Working out what to wear in summer has taken me years to figure out. From past experiences of buying a tonne of clothes that either don’t get worn because of the weather, my mood (always a factor), only lasting one wash or because they just don’t go with anything else in my closet, I’ve learnt the best thing is to work from a capsule summer wardrobe. These are the basics and key pieces that can be mixed and matched for any occasion.
The thing about my summer clothes is that they aren’t exclusive to summer. I have a number of items that I wear year round and layer as needed. I just switch up the running order for this time of year, pushing certain pieces to the back and bringing out my warmer day favourites.
What’s In a Capsule Summer Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe contains a select number of good quality pieces in each of the standard categories – tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear and shoes. The idea is that you don’t need a lot of clothes to have a lot of outfits, just a few well chosen pieces that are versatile and can be worn together to create a range of looks. Imagine never being stuck for ideas on what to wear ever again! I also want to say it’s not about spending a lot of money on each of the items, only that they are of a decent quality to last a reasonable period of time.
6 styles: white jeans, boyfriend jeans, jogger trousers, wide leg trousers, denim skirt, shorts
Let start with denim because lets face it we all still reach for jeans even when its warmer. I recommend two pairs of jeans; a pair of white jeans, they could be skinny, flared, cropped, mom jeans whatever style you fancy, and a pair of boyfriend jeans. You can dress them up or down and you really can’t go wrong with fresh whites and the looser fit of a boyfriend cut.
For something light-weight get your hands on a pair of jogger trousers. If you get something in cotton or silk-like material you’ll open up a lot more styling options. Check out my favourite jogger pants here. They’re so versatile. I wear them with sneakers, pointed toe courts and heels and it makes a welcome change from wearing denim (so guilty!).
A pair of wide leg pants or culottes is next on your list. Go for a colour that works with the majority of tops you already have. Being that bit wider they’ll keep you cooler in the higher temperatures. They’re great for work, travel and casual days.
Skirt wise, midi skirts and skater style denim skirts suit most people. Consider your shape and go-to style. You want something you can wear in summer and year-round (just add tights when it gets cold). There are so many options, you could go for a dark-wash A-line shape, a mini skirt in faded wash, or a longer midi-skirt with button details.
For shorts first have a think about the length. Longer shorts are super chic for work and special events (even if it’s just popping to the pub). Pick a neutral shade like black, grey or navy and dress them up with a silk blouse or cami top and a pair of heels. Distressed denim cut-offs look soooo amazing with gladiator flats or platform espadrilles, plus you can wear them to the pool. When it comes to colour and pattern I like to have a couple of options. Check out my favourite striped shorts here, love these!
6 styles: white boyfriend shirt, denim shirt, basic t-shirts, off-the-shoulder top, lace-up top / bodysuit, sweatshirt / sheer jumper
When it comes to tops a white boyfriend shirt is a must. No matter what the season I always wear one. It’s one of my hero pieces and can be worn with cigarette pants for work, as a cover up on the beach or dressed up with shorts or a skirt for night out. Vamp it up with a peekaboo dark lace bra underneath and leave it unbuttoned just a little. Check out my pick of beach-to-bar white shirts here.
A denim shirt is a must-have. It’s the perfect summer accessory. Wear it open over a tank top vest or buttoned up on its own. It’s also doubles as a jacket for breezy days and when you’re travelling.
As well as the two types of shirt make sure you have a mix of basic cotton t-shirts say in black, white and grey.
A couple of dressy tops, like an off the shoulder shirt and a cami top that can be layered will see you through summer events nicely. Structured clothing is incredibly alluring and impactful, try a statement top with cut-outs at the shoulder or neckline.
For chilly evenings grab a cosy sweatshirt or sheer jumper in a neutral shade. Check out one of my current favourite sweatshirt here.
Dresses and Jumpsuits
4 styles: day dresses, jumpsuits, playsuits and party dresses
Dresses are my favourite summer choice and take the pain out of figuring out what to wear. They can be mini, midi or maxi length, whatever works best for your height and shape. Throw a blazer over them for work and add heels and a killer bag for weddings and formal events. If you can get one of your day dresses in a loose style with sleeves it can also be your beach cover-up. A maxi dress is a great choice as you can wear it for day trips or as an outfit for a special event or wedding. Just watch out for heavy lining underneath, you know that polyester kind that’s way too warm for summer. Best to avoid.
For a stylish alternative go for an all-in-one playsuit. Choose wisely and it will bring you from day to night. The lace and cami versions are perfect for date nights and show off your summer tan!
I also like to have a jumpsuit on standby for more leg coverage. I hate being cold on planes. Check out my favourite jumpsuit here. It’s easy to style, handy for travel and looks great with flats or heels (aka no brainer)!
4 styles: denim jacket, parka jacket / trench coat, light blazer, kimono
There’s no denying we need some kind of cover-up during summer. Your denim shirt, included under the Tops section will also act as a denim jacket so that’s one sorted already.
I have a khaki parka jacket which is constantly in use over summer so I would highly recommend it. I love adding it to a fresh white dress to play up the contrast or wearing it over a pair of boyfriend jeans and soft tee for a cool understated look. Alternatively a light trench coat makes a great cover up during the warmer months.
For work a light blazer is a good choice. Again, choose wisely in terms of colour and weight and you’ll be able to wear it throughout the year.
To take your look from day to night just pop a kimono over whatever you’re wearing and add a pair of heels or sandals!
How Often Should I Update My Wardrobe?
I try to refresh my summer pieces every two years. In some cases I need to replace things every year – a clean white tee doesn’t last long when its barbecue season or when my kids are around.
How Do I Make Sure All The Pieces Work Together?
Colour and texture are the unifying ingredients in a capsule wardrobe. When it comes to colour stick to 3 main colours as a general rule, say black, white and grey. Back it up with a few pieces in 2 or 3 accent colours like baby blue, blush pink or camel. Personally I don’t think you have to wear brighter colours in summer to look fresh, though I would switch the emphasis so that the lighter colours dominate. That being said, I absolutely love wearing black on sunny days, it always looks so chic, don’t your think? I also think it’s fine to wear black to a wedding so you might want to think about having one of your formal dresses in black.
Step 1 – Gather: as a starting point have a look at what you’ve already got. Pull out whatever clothes you have in the wardrobe and closet including the non-summery stuff. There could be things you haven’t considered for summer wear.
(∗∗ Tip: store summer-only clothes in a couple of clear containers with lids under the bed / in a dry room. They’re so much easier to find when your need them ∗∗)
Step 2 – Sort: put all the clothes on your bed and start sorting. Take it category by category, starting with the tops and go from there. This could take a couple of hours so set aside time, but I promise it will be worth it!
Step 3 – Cleanse: create 3 separate piles for each category.
- In Pile 1 (The Keepers) place the clothes you love, these are the items that fit right now and you’d be happy to wear out.
- In Pile 2 (The Rejects) set the clothes you absolutely won’t wear, maybe they don’t fit or aren’t in good condition, regardless they won’t make the final edit. Put them in bin bags, they need to go to the charity shop or recycle centre.
- In Pile 3 (The Maybes) lay the clothes you’re undecided about. Perhaps you don’t like them much as you did or they don’t fit as well as they used to. Set them aside, you may want to give them to a friend or revisit them later.
Step 4 – Analyse and Fill: once you have everything sorted in piles, take a look at The Keepers in pile 1 and see if you have any gaps e.g. a denim shirt. Keep a note of the gaps in each category but my advice is not to rush out and buy everything at once. Wear what you have and if you find you could really do with that missing item then go and get it. Also, depending on your style and how you wear clothes you may find that you don’t wear certain things, skirts for example, as much as you do shorts so stick to them. Just get an extra couple of pairs of shorts instead of skirts.
For more inspiration and to help you get started I’ve included a bunch of gorgeous pieces below. Happy shopping!
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Thanks for dropping by – J ♥