The Ultimate 2021 Capsule Wardrobe

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 shake-up 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.


(Image credit: @greceghanem)

While it would be easy to say that 2021 is a different year so that 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 that 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. 

1. Two-Piece

There are few items that defined last year as much as the tracksuit. But with the warmer weather, there's a shift towards more summer-friendly two-pieces. Think plissé-style co-ords that are cool for the summer and will work well into the autumn, too. 

2. Statement Blouse

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 oversized collar, all you need to do is make it fun and bold.

3. House Dress

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.

4. Cardigan 

All hail the cardigan, which really came back with a vengeance at the end of last year. It's a great staple to have in your wardrobe for those cooler summer evenings. 

5. Gold Earrings

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

6. Pearl Necklace

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

7. Trainers

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? 

8. Chunky Sandals

There's one sandal trend that's dominated 2021 so far, and that's chunky black sandals. Where they differ this year, however, is that they're '90s influenced with platform soles and thick straps. 

9. Denim Jacket

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-washed or indigo, there's no "right" way to wear it this season. Just make sure it's denim. 

10. Shacket

Thanks to Taylor Swift's pandemic albums—and all the photos she's posted on IG to promote them—the shacket is about to get an even newer lease of life. 

11. Raincoat

Thanks to the unpredictable UK summer, it's worth investing in one of these. 

12. Silk Scarf

Ditch your wool scarf for an accessory that doubles up as a chic necktie and a headscarf. 

13. Bucket Hat

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 future. 

14. Joyful Dress

Ready to see people IRL? Make sure you're wearing your most joyful frock. 

15. Slippers

Slippers, but make them fashion. Choose from the rather pricey The Row versions or Sleeper's shearling ones that look so fun. 

16. Tote

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

17. Loose-Fitting Jeans

Can't face wearing tight jeans? Me neither. It's good news then that baggy, loose-fitting jeans are in for 2021. 

18. White Shirt

The white shirt never goes out of fashion, but I'm seeing it everywhere in 2021. 

19. Pendant Necklace

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

This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Next up, these are the biggest autumn/winter 2021 fashion trends to know. 

Elinor Block