The Ultimate 2021 Capsule Wardrobe

April 14, 2021 at 04:00AM

Twenty-twenty was like no year before it and 2021 is shaping up to be similar. The pandemic has impacted so many parts of our lives, including our wardrobes. It has proven that clothes aren’t just clothes—with a seismic shift in how we live, a change has also come with how we get dressed. This shakeup to our wardrobes has been the most acute for those of us who transitioned from offices to working from home permanently.

Out went smart suits and in came knitted co-ords and trackies. Tie-dye became the print du jour and a pair of shearling-lined Birkenstocks became the ultimate status symbol (one of the most popular shoes of 2020, according to Lyst). Heels? We don’t know her. Brands such as Nike grew thanks to an increase in demand for athleisure items, despite bricks-and-mortar shops being shut. Practical and useful pieces have taken over anything that you might deem frivolous (buh-bye organza tops), and the cottagecore trend was borne out of many of us embracing a “simpler” way of life.

While it would be easy to say that 2021 is a different year, so our wardrobes can have a total refresh and we can go back to our “old” looks, that’s not true. The new year is already much of the same WFH situation, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The good news is that all those pieces we bought in 2020 are useful for this coming year too. So when I was tasked with creating the ultimate 2021 capsule wardrobe, it was fairly easy to boil it down to 19 pieces. These are quite possibly items you already own but there might be some that you don’t, but you know you’ll find useful. I’ve also included items that will elevate your basic WFH look—from pendant necklaces to a brightly coloured Zoom-friendly shirt, these are the items that will keep you going for a long time. 

There are few items that defined last year as much as the tracksuit and that’s changing any time soon, especially not during the winter. Brand Les Tiens constantly sells out on Net-a-Porter, so perhaps it’s time to invest in one of its tracksuits, seeing as you’ll get a lot of use from it. 

I’m so bored of the phrase “Zoom-friendly” when referring to fashion but I feel like there’s no way of getting around it when talking about this capsule wardrobe item. Whether it’s a bright colour (I’ve got my eye on the Bottega shirt below) or an oversize collar, all you need to do is make it fun and bold.

The house dress is exactly what you imagine it to be: a dress to be worn around the house. The main thing here is that it needs to be loose and comfortable but still okay if you need to pop out to the shops.

All hail the cardigan, which really came back with a vengeance at this end of this year. It’s a great staple to have in your wardrobe for those winter days and still great when you head into spring/summer 2021

Nearly every luxury retailer saw sales of fine jewellery spiking this year. I can see why: It’s the easiest way to make you transition your knitted co-ord from comfy loungewear to acceptable workwear. 

Blame Harry Styles, but I think pearl necklaces will continue to be popular in 2021. These are to be worn with your sweatshirts and your blouses. 


Trainers will always feature in a capsule wardrobe. All you need to decide is are you more “dad” shoes or more pared-back in your style? 

If there’s one boot that continues to dominate (and looks great with literally everything), it’s the track sole boot. Wear now all the way through 2021 and beyond. 

Done with your puffer but want something that’s hard wearing throughout spring and summer? Get ready for the return of the denim jacket. Whether oversized or fitted; acid-wash or indigo, there’s no “right” way to wear it this season. Just make sure it’s denim. 

Thanks to Taylor Swift’s latest album—and all the photos she’s posted on IG to promote it—the shacket is about to get an even newer lease of life. 

Puffer coats are great for the cold, but rain coats stop you getting soaked. I own both and I can tell you now you won’t regret buying either. 

Don’t think of it as a scarf but don’t think of it as a blanket either. Embrace it as both and use it to keep you warm at your desk as well as when you’re out walking. 

Put down the beanie and reach for the bucket hat. This trend has been going for a few seasons but it seems like it’s now here to stay for the foreseeable. Try one in animal print to make those constant daily walks more fun. 

At some point, we are going to see people in 2021 and we will want to dress up. Make sure you’re wearing your most joyful frock. 

Slippers, but make them fashion. Choose from the rather pricey The Row’s versions or Skin’s cashmere ballet flats, which, to be honest, sound like heaven.

The large tote will never go unused. Invest well and you’ll wear for absolutely years. 

Can’t face wearing tight jeans? Us neither. Good news then as baggy, loose-fitting jeans are in for 2021. 

The chicest way to do matchy matchy, especially if you’re not a fan of tracksuits. This Frankie Shop version is simply gorgeous. 

One final flourish for your capsule wardrobe? The pendant necklace. 

Next up, the biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends to know. 

This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. 

Author Elinor Block | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC

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