Why Not . . . Create a Special Occasions Capsule Wardrobe?

Jun 11, 2014

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I have spoken for quite some time about the benefits of creating a capsule wardrobe. Not only does simplifying our wardrobes to 10-15 times make it easier when it comes to making decisions, but when we invest in quality, timeless pieces, we create a peace of mind each time we pull together an outfit knowing we look our best.

So the thought occurred to me this past week as graduation ceremonies and soirees were taking place, wouldn’t be nice to have a capsule wardrobe already in place for special occasions so as to eliminate the stress that inevitably strikes when we realize we haven’t the perfect outfit to attend a special event we’re invited to and we only have a few days to prepare. I will confess, in the past I have wasted far too much money searching for a perfect dress or outfit at the last minute which results in two avoidable self-induced headaches – buying something I don’t love and spending too much money. Argh!

What I’ve come to realize in the past couple of years in which I have steadily build my special occasion wardrobe is that knowing you have a dress waiting for you in the closet without having to go shopping for it upon receiving the invitation reduces stress and builds excitement for the arrival of the special occasion. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love shopping, but it has been my experience that the most ideal frock always presents itself when I no longer have an opportune time to wear it which leaves me no argument in which to purchase it . . . until now.

What I would like to challenge you to begin today is to slowly, but steadily build a special occasions capsule wardrobe that should any invitation arrive in your inbox or mailbox, you could if you had to, be dressed to shine in a few hours. How? Let me show you.

Primary Elements:

The focus for each item that helps to build the capsule wardrobe must help to bolster one, if not all of these elements:

1. Timeless in Shape, Design, Color

2. Quality Fabric

3. Tailored to Flatter

What does a special occasions capsule wardrobe consist of? At the foundation of anyone’s capsule are the following items:

  1. 4-6 outfits (dresses, suits, etc)
  2. Coats/Outerwear
  3. Jewelry
  4. Undergarments
  5. Shoes
  6. Clutches/Handbags
4-6 Outfits for the following special occasions:

After you are clear about the foundational items, what you choose to complete the 4-6 outfits will depend upon your signature style (learn more about how to create your unique signature style here). Below are the four five occasions you should have a particular outfit ready to go in your closet:

~Simple & Chic (aka Smart Casual, Dressy Casual, Casual Chic)

Perhaps a play or dinner party is in your plans for the evening, or maybe a date night at a favorite restaurant. Simple and chic attire calls for more than your day-to-day clothes, but still comfortable and appropriate to the occasion. Heels are absolutely acceptable if that is your style, but flats are just as chic. A simple wrap or shirt dress, or a shift that is effortless and pulled-together. For some, simple and chic is their everyday attire, but depending up on where you work, this may be a shift. In this case, make sure you have something such as a beautiful silk blouse (high style) to mix with something more informal – a well-tailored pair of dark denim ankle jeans. Simple and perfect for the occasion.

~Al Fresco Chic

As the summer months arrive, more and more special occasions are organized outside. Whether a simple 4th of July beach party, an outdoor wedding or enjoying a special dinner in Paris out on the terrace. Such times call for resort attire. Find a beautiful stunning maxi or tea length sun dress, prep the oversized sunnies and wide brim hat if the occasion calls for and don’t forget, if you will be wearing a suit, to choose a chic cover-up that functions as a beautiful clothing attire as well.

~Business Formal

Choose a sheath that can be easily worn with or without a blazer. Whenever “business” is mentioned, remember no spaghetti straps or strapless, this is still a potential work environment with colleagues and bosses about, but you can still let a little of your personality shine and bare arms as well in certain situations. This could me a book launch, an interview, a reception or a family or religious gathering.

~Festive Attire

Primarily in celebration of the holidays where eye-catching cocktail dresses and little black dresses are de rigueur. Have fun, wear your strappy sandals. Remember to keep what you reveal in balance. Look spotlighting your gams, keep your decollate subtly clothed. Colors are absolutely appropriate, but choose solids and fabulous fabric. Don one signature statement jewelry item and then let your personality and wit do the rest.

~Creative Black Tie (aka Black Tie, Formal Attire)

For occasions that require the men to wear tuxes and the women to wear floor or tea length gowns. Think sophisticated glamour, red carpet at the Oscars, formal weddings, balls and perhaps the opera.

Remaining Details:

Undergarments. Once you have begun to shop for each of the 4-6 outfits, as you bring each into your closet, shop for the appropriate undergarments to ensure they hang well on your body and nothing is transparent that isn’t supposed to be.

Jewelry. Remember less is more. Choose one or two items – a belt, statement necklace, a cuff, beautiful earrings or a broach that will complete the outfit and add your touch of personality without overwhelming the outfit.

Shoes. This is after all a special occasion, so don’t be afraid to invest. Choose wisely – how long will you be on your feet? If not that long, choose those 4 inch Manolos, but if not, invest in both comfort and style.

Outerwear. Each item will depend upon the season. In certain climates all you will need will be sunscreen or a large scarf, during winter, you will need a wool coat. And remember with winter, often the coat is seen just as much if not more than the dress depending upon where you are going. Again, don’t be afraid to invest.

Handbags. I am a believer in clutches for special occasions or any handheld handbag that is small, holds the necessities but doesn’t impede the beauty of the outfit. After all, you are going to enjoy, not to work.

As you no doubt have noticed, building a complete special occasion capsule wardrobe cannot be done over night. In order to include quality pieces that will look as stunning this year as next, you must take your time to regularly be perusing even when you don’t have an occasion yet to wear it. Watch sales, know what works best on your body and for your lifestyle and then don’t be afraid to make the purchase when you know it will be a perfect fit. Trust me an occasion will eventually arise when you will wear it. And when that invitation arrives, you will be beaming simply knowing you already have something show-stopping to wear.

~Reader feedback – What do you have in your closet that always helps you look your best for any special occasion that may arise?


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5 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Create a Special Occasions Capsule Wardrobe?

  1. Thank you for the inspiration! I have never thought about creating a special occasion wardrobe. I have several events to attend this summer, so I guess this is a good time to get started. 🙂

  2. What a briilliant idea. Moments before reading this I read an email invitation to a 50th and immediately wondered what I’d wear. The wondering is even more urgent when it’s a wedding or other formal event. Thank you Shannon, I’ll give this some thought.

  3. Shannon, this makes perfect sense — especially since I had a major anxiety attack trying to figure out what to wear to an outdoor wedding in another state last fall! Thank you so much for all these suggestions!

  4. Hi Shannon,

    I am 52 and attend formal functions where I stand most of the night. My saving grace is a pair of black patent leather pumps by Clark’s. I call them my hiking heels. When I first married my executive husband eight years ago I cried because I had nothing to wear to events! Now I have a gown, cocktail dresses and fancy summer and winter suits and gorgeous pashminas, including a black Chanel that is like butter. I feel so secure that I can be dressed in an instant for whatever wonderful opportunity I get the totally get the capsule wardrobe. Thank you for your blog Shannon, you bring me joy and inspiration:). Heather

  5. Love your blog! So inspiring! I am middle aged with 16 yr old triplets and am trying to re-find my “style” and invest in classic, timeless pieces. Thanks for the great ideas!

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