Capsule Wardrobe

Whether it’s a small budget or the desire for simplicity, capsule wardrobes make maintaining a classic closet easy. Here is one expert’s advice for teachers looking to fashion a timeless and affordable style.


Between grading student work, professional learning, standardized tests, and other mandatory tasks, teachers shouldn’t have to stress over what to wear. We’re not saying educators should pre-select outfits for every day of the week (gold stars for those who do), but maintaining a simple closet can prove beneficial in many ways. If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with the idea of a capsule wardrobe.

According to Stephanie Olinski, a product development manager with Camuto Group from Vince Camuto in New York, once individuals are able to appropriately dress their body type, they can craft a well-rounded wardrobe for any price. Enter the capsule wardrobe. Choose your budget, then divvy out the dollars on about 30 items.

While the Arizona-educated, New York transplant has plenty of tips to give, she suggests each educator review the employee code of conduct for dress code specifics — how casual is casual Friday, and are jeans really acceptable? Next, she says she’s ready to set teachers on track for a fashionable and successful school year. When cleaning out and restocking your closet, consider this:

Staple pieces are a must. Basics are the root of any capsule wardrobe — think high-quality bottoms, neutral tops, items for layering, etc.

Teachers should purchase:

  • Button down shirts that can be layered according to the weather. Pro-tip: Be open to more than the traditional, basic oxfords.
  • Shirtdresses, for women, are not only great for Arizona heat, but also are professional. Pro-tip: Be sure to double-check the length before leaving the dressing room or house. Also, keep in mind they can be worn with pants, not only solo.
  • Culottes for women or cropped trousers for men. These comfortable items are easy to wear over again with varied tops. Invest in a nice pair and pay attention to the directions for washing to avoid tampering with the textile.
  • Secure a bag that is versatile and good quality. Pro-tip: Refrain from bright colors and prints because they do not go with everything and often go out of style.
  • Buy anything denim, if the dress code permits. Pro-tip: Wear items a few times between washes to increase the fabric’s longevity.

Olinski shares other tips to make your dollar stretch further and ensure your purchases are strategic.


  • Find a sturdy bag and good pair of shoes that tie outfits together. Someone may have the best ensemble, but the wrong bag or sloppy shoes will throw it all off. You’ll want something you can carry to class daily, but also to conferences or professional learning opportunities.
  • Be open to more than stereotypical professional wear like pencil skirts and blazers. Trousers might be the best investment for teachers who are up and down working with students all day. Wondering what to do with your stuffy professional wear? Pair that blazer with your favorite sneakers or your pencil skirt with a cute T-shirt for a casual J. Crew-inspired twist.
  • Stalk sales. The usual selling period is about six weeks. Therefore, stores are always trying to rid the old before they come in with the new. Keep an eye on the sale rack for pricey, but well-made pieces you can’t live without.


  • Wear overly tight clothing. If you have to think twice, it’s probably a risky selection and may distract from student learning and professionalism. Plus, a capsule wardrobe means you need to plan for all seasons, which may include indulging for special occasions.
  • Consider leggings pants, unless you are working in the classroom over the weekend, layering for winter, or under a dress.
  • Purchase items that are too trendy or considered “fast fashion.” Often, these styles include ruffles or off-the-shoulder items.

As a young, independent, and professional woman, Olinski believes there are plenty of options for selective and smart shopping. Also, keep in mind many companies offer discounts for those that subscribe to their brand’s e-newsletter — load up your cart and wait for an e-coupon before making big purchases.

“I think there are definitely affordable options, but people need to look and search. Affordable places are hard to find, but a lot are online,” she says.

When in doubt, she recommends males and females bookmark stores like Zara, UNIQLO, Madewell, and ASOS (and a bonus bookmark for women: & Other Stories).

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