I've Been a Stylist for 20 Years, and This Capsule Wardrobe Is My Secret Sauce


Szymon Brzóska/The Style Stalker

Ever wondered how even when a celebrity is out shopping or grabbing dinner with a friend, they always seem to look both polished and effortless? Well, there's most likely a stylist behind their low-key ensemble. That, and a stylist's trusty capsule wardrobe, or as they call them, their "kit," which many in the business, including Hollywood styling veteran and Affirm partner Tara Swennen, swear by. In fact, the celebrity stylist of more than 20 years never heads out on a job without it. 

To find out how we, too, can get that same nonchalant look that every well-dressed celebrity has, I called on Swennen to find out what exactly lives inside her kit. And just like when she dresses clients like Kristen Stewart and Allison Janney on the red carpet, she didn't disappoint. 

Clothing-wise, Swennen tells Who What Wear, that her styling kit is all about the classics. "Those tend to be neutral pieces, such as white and black tanks and tees; black, [skin-tone], and red pumps and strappy heels, black and white trousers; and neutral blazers." For her, the key is to find and invest in upscale basics that will "stand the test of time," she says. "Trends are constantly evolving, but ageless, staple pieces that are high quality and built to last will survive not only the four seasons but [the entire year]." 

Knowing that splurging on pricier essentials isn't always the easiest or most possible route for shoppers, though, Swennen is joining forces with Affirm. "I’ve found Affirm to be really helpful in making these investment purchases because it lets you buy the essentials you need now, but spread out the costs over time," she says. That way, you can build your own life-long capsule wardrobe without obliterating your monthly budget. 

With that in mind, see what wardrobe essentials this stylist of 20 years swears by and finally unlock the secret to all your favorite celebrities' effortless aesthetics. 

1. White Cotton Tee

"The perfect white tee is truly essential for my clients year-round. It is the perfect layering piece that pairs with virtually anything. It can be paired with jeans, under blazers or dresses, and adds a casual cool to just about any ensemble."

Shop white cotton tees:

2. Wide-Leg Jeans

"As '90s nostalgia hits the scene this summer, I won’t go anywhere without high-rise wide-leg jeans. This roomie cut combines comfort and ease while bringing an effortless vibe to any summer look."

Shop wide-leg jeans:

These have gone viral more times than I can count. 

3. Classic White Sneakers

"One of the most classic, versatile, and effortless shoes is your classic white sneaker. Whether it’s from Vans or a Chuck Taylor, this shoe is a wardrobe staple."

Shop classic white sneakers:

If you don't already own a pair of these, here's your shot. 

4. Lightweight Black Blazer

"When it comes to polished layers, nothing is as timeless as a classic black blazer. It adds a sharp, sleek, and tailored edge to any look."

Shop lightweight black blazers:

Zara is our low-key source for blazers. 

If you're down to splurge, this is the blazer to do it on. It's guaranteed to last you forever. 

Just wait—the back is also incredible.

5. Crossbody Bag

"Crossbody bags are not only trendy and stylish this season, but also extremely practical as well. Opt for a fun pop of color or a fun shape such as a fanny pack and throw them on for just about any activity this summer!"

Shop crossbody bags:

This is what we mean when we say something looks expensive.

6. Vintage Carry-All Tote

"Vintage handbags are fun and easy to combine with contemporary pieces. In fact, they should be the focal point of your look! Simply ensure that you buy an authentic piece—these are worth the splurge. If a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is!"

Shop vintage carry-all totes:

It doesn't get much more classic than this. 

Balenciaga's old-school bags are all coming back in a major way. 

7. Shell-Top Sneakers

"A collaboration with Run DMC in the 1980s solidified [Adidas's Superstar sneaker's] legacy as a style icon. I like to pair them on my clients with cargos, pleated skirts, and oversize denim."

Shop shell-top sneakers:

These will be everywhere this summer. 

If you want to buy the colorway that not everyone has, these are for you.

You can't go wrong with all-white Superstars.

8. Summer Slides

"Elevate your everyday look with this effortless essential. I always have these on hand for summer as they give some breathing room for one’s feet. They come in a variety of styles and are perfect for your summer getaway."

Shop summer slides:

These are one of our top-selling products. 

9. Bodysuit for Layering

"This fitted staple is a layering lifesaver. They provide a smooth foundation layer to pair with anything from blazers and crop jackets to skirts and jeans and even underneath dresses."

Shop bodysuits for layering:

10. Strappy Sandals

"This is a fitting essential in my studio. Opt for a classic neutral such as black or red, or match your skin tone to elongate your silhouette: The key to finding the right sandal is making sure you incorporate both style and comfort! Platforms are great trendy options too!"

11. Sequin Cocktail Dress

"These are always a red carpet fave! Be sure to choose a high-quality sequin so that it doesn’t look tacky and remember to not over-accessorize! The key to full sequins is minimalism on every other front!"

Shop sequin cocktail dresses:

There's a reason why this dress is selling out mighty quick. It's perfection.

Saturday night called—it said to wear this dress. 

12. Easy Summer Dress

"These are a wonderful investment, as they can be reused summer after summer! They are the perfect dress for a spring wedding or a summer vacation! Try a fun print or a floral and pair with a wedge or fun flat."

Shop easy summer dresses:

This dress can easily be taken from day to night with a shoe change. 

You just know this dress will be breezy even on the hottest summer days. 

13. Silk Scarf

"This versatile accessory adds interest, flair, and color to one’s look. There are literally dozens of ways to tie scarves, from around one’s neck to one’s head to even one’s bag. Opt for a vintage classic from brands like Hermès and Gucci for a timeless look."

Shop silk scarves:

Hermès. That's it, that's the caption. 

Zara's silk-scarf collection right now is on another level.

14. Perfect Sunglasses

"Fashion should always be stylish but can also serve a purpose. I always have sunglasses on hand for my men and women as UV radiation from natural sunlight can be damaging to one’s eyes. Find a style that works well for your face and use them as a playful accessory to add edge to one’s look."