Subliminal Style
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Catching Rae

Year in Transition: My Corporate Client's Journey to Capsule Dressing

Over the past year, a client of mine made a career transition from a relatively relaxed, "Californian" business environment to a more traditional, corporate setting. This client is highly intelligent, organized, and proactive - so of course the first instinct was to get all her sartorial ducks in a row STAT. With a few lifestyle variables up in the air, however, we ultimately slowed the process down and transformed both her closet and her wardrobe in a series of stages. 

Corporate Suit Capsule

Corporate Suit Capsule

Recognizing Variables

At the outset of this project, my client's work lifestyle transition looked something like this:

  • More work from home > More work away from home
  • Lots of on-site visits > High-Level Meetings + ?
  • Ankle pants & silk tops > ?
  • 100% in California > ?% in New York

As you can see, we felt initially vague about exactly how my client's time would be divided. We definitely had some theories about what her new job would ultimately look like, but acting on theory instead of data and experience would have ultimately left her without many key pieces needed to thrive in her new environment. Instead, we had to start with what we knew for sure. 

Stage 1: Re-Organizing

What we did know for sure about my client's new lifestyle was that she would be adding two new spheres into the mix: a traditional office environment and an executive environment. So the first thing to do was re-arrange the closet into general, overarching capsules reflecting those spheres - anything appropriate for the office went into a section we called "Business Casual," and anything appropriate for executive meetings went into a section we called "Corporate." We also created sections for "Going Out" and "Staying Home." All her shoes were divided into "Work" and "Casual" and were also arranged by heel height. 

From here, we were able to evaluate what was missing from each section and ultimately buy things like suits, button-front shirts, dressier shoes, a couple warm items for travel to New York, et al. This ensured that my client could, first and foremost, quickly dress for all of her work environments. 

Business Casual Tops Capsule

Business Casual Tops Capsule

Stage 2: Data Analysis & Editing

As my client started to live in her new wardrobe and work her new job, she was able to get a better idea about many things:

  • % time in office vs. on-site visits vs. executive meetings
  • temperature of environment & movement requirements
  • workplace culture
  • She owned ABC but wasn't reaching for it. 
  • She kept reaching for XYZ but didn't own it.

This data then allowed us to make further adjustments over time such as:

  • Adding pullover sweater vests
  • NOT adding more suits, but rounding out the Business Casual capsule
  • Re-assessing and returning some statement shoes
  • Purging capsules that were too full for the intended use

We actually spent the majority of this transition year in Stage 2! With every seasonal change, we were able to purge a little more and learn from my client's real-world experiences with her clothes. It was not an in-and-out process - but again, it is always worth it to take the time to work with real data than to move forward based on all theory. 

Left: Casual Shoe & Bag Capsule, Right: Work Shoe & Bag Capsule

Left: Casual Shoe & Bag Capsule, Right: Work Shoe & Bag Capsule

Stage 3: Refining

Now we have reached the Refining stage! This is the time to turn a wardrobe that is merely organized into a well-oiled machine that actually makes getting dressed easy. 

During our last session, my client shared this article on creating proportion-based uniforms from (it's a fabulous read that I highly recommend for anyone looking for a formulaic dressing strategy).  Since we had already answered the tough questions - What are her favorite outfits? What combinations don't work in real life? What pieces do reflect her true style? - it was easy to identify several mix-and-matchable capsules based on tried-and-true outfits. 

Within the Business Casual capsule, for example, we came up with these formulaic sub-capsules:

  • Loose bottoms + tucked fitted tops + any shoe
  • Long & loose bottoms + fitted tops + high shoes
  • Slim bottoms + long & loose tops + stable shoes
A visual representation of a capsule formula.

A visual representation of a capsule formula.

If you already have capsules set up in your closet, definitely consider further analyzing your favorite looks for different formula opportunities. Maybe your eye cares less about proportions and more about color combinations - or maybe it's all about a crazy statement piece for you.  This process will ultimately look differently - and yield different results - for everyone. That's the whole point!

There is no set formula out there that will assuredly churn out an outfit that adequately represents your unique sensibility... unless and until it is created. This takes a bit of foresight, awareness, and focus, but in the end the ease of use and savings in time is completely worth it.