Business Casual Capsule Style Inspiration

business casual capsue

Building A Business Casual Capsule on Limited Resources

Y’all, I am unreasonably stressed out about building a business casual capsule wardrobe for my internship that starts tomorrow.

Under normal circumstances, in which local stores – and especially thrift stores – are open, it wouldn’t be so much of an issue. I would likely just head to the local thrift store, try on 50 things, and come out with a week’s worth of clothing for under $100.

But in pandemic times, I find myself in the high risk position of needing to discern size charts online and purchase literally 6 days worth of clothing on an extremely limited budget while attempting (admittedly half-heartedly) to adhere to some kind of ethical or sustainable criteria. Because returns are iffy, I’m afraid of spending money on things that won’t work out and then being stuck with them. It has caused way more stress than I anticipated.

I’m also facing the reality that secondhand sites like Ebay and Poshmark (even Thredup) are much harder to navigate when you don’t have brand awareness around a particular style of dress. I don’t know what kind of work pants suit me yet, and so scouring secondhand online has been a huge headache.

Today, in an attempt to give myself some direction, I decided to start a Pinterest board for Business Casual inspiration (please see my board for image sources).

Business Casual Style Inspiration


  • Colors: Black, Navy & White Stripe, Green, Yellow, Orange, Natural Linen
  • Pant Styles: High Waist, Cropped Wide Leg, Cropped Cigarette/Slim, Pleated
  • Top Styles: Fitted Solid Color, Blousy Stripes
  • Shoe Styles: Black Oxfords, Brown Loafers, Low Heeled Oxfords
  • Fabrics: Cotton, Linen, Leather

The key, for me, is to figure out how to integrate my casual style into more business casual looks. I’m one of those people who can’t focus on the task at hand if I feel significantly out of place in my clothing. I don’t want to feel like I’m putting on a character or dressing outside of my age or context. So, beyond the financial and shopping barriers, there’s also the question of what MY business casual style actually is.

My plan, right now, is to try to work with the blouses and shirts I already own and focus in on shoes and pants for purchase. Because I have more brand awareness (and store credit) for Everlane, I have decided to buy a couple items there. I also purchased some shoes from Cole Haan (we got their stuff in somewhat frequently at the thrift shop I worked at and it was always high quality) and a couple pairs of cotton-blend cigarette-style work pants from Kohl’s (my mom had a coupon).

I share this with you, in part, to assuage my own guilt, but also to show that it can literally be impossible to get what you need for a given life context and also be totally ethical.

We do what we can, we say a prayer, and we get on with our work.

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More Style Inspiration

I have previously shared roundups of brands that work for a business environment in my Brands That Are Better Than J. Crew post, if you’re interested. I’m hoping to put a new one together soon.

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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