Help me order my capsule wardrobe online
April 17, 2017 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I hate shopping and fashion but I desperately need new work clothes. I'm a very not-feminine, Gen-x cis-woman looking for a business casual capsule wardrobe. I'd like to buy it all online. Help?

Inspired by this recent question (and this answer in particular), I'd like to put together a capsule wardrobe that will last me a couple of weeks between washes and cause a minimum of angst when getting ready in the morning.

Some details:

I'm profoundly disinterested in fashion, and am I guess what you would call tomboy-femme? except that implies some level of interest in fashion. I seriously have zero interest. If it were ok to wear T-shirts and yoga pants every day of the year, I would.

I'm looking mainly for clothes that are black, gray, and various muted shades of red and green. I don't like pastels or bright colors.

I hate jeans of all kinds (and can't wear them to work anyways).

My ideal wardrobe would consist entirely of plain T-shirts and dress pants with an assortment of cardigans. More specific details about each of these:

T-shirts: made of nice, durable fabric, well-tailored and maybe slightly fitted but not form-hugging. No plunging V-neck or scoop neck. No "feminine" touches like lacy collars or bows or whatever. No itty bitty cap sleeves (seriously, the world never needs to see my upper arms). No drapey, flowing shirts. I have wide shoulders, wide hips and a short waist, and these tend to make me look pregnant.

Pants: Ideally, corduroy pants or generic "dress" pants. I want to avoid the stretchy, slinky material that is so common in a lot of pants these days because I hate the way this feels. I also hate pants that drag the ground because it's assumed you'll be wearing heels, which I never do. Also assume that it's unlikely I'll be going to a tailor or having them altered.

Cardigans: Once again, looking for something that is well-made and slightly tailored/fitted. Absolutely no long, flowy sweaters.

Importantly, I'm looking for clothing that will last. I air-dry all of my work clothes but stuff always seems to look crummy within weeks no matter how gently I treat it. I'd like to wear this stuff for a long time.

Clothing not made by sweatshop labor is ideal.

I'm hoping to find styles that are bland and modest, as described above, while also being aimed at women in their 30s and 40s.

I'm of average height and generally wear anything from a 6 to a 10, depending on the brand.

Is there a recommended online source for clothing such as this? I have found that when I've ordered clothing online in the past it's about a 50/50 chance whether I'll actually like it.

My main goal is to look pulled-together in a bland sort of way while also staying far, far away from malls, outlet stores, thrift stores, and anything with a dressing room. Blech.

Thank you!
posted by whistle pig to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Everlane! Lots of bland-chic, which I mean in the best way. I love their stuff.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:54 AM on April 17 [6 favorites]

Land's End, Eileen Fisher, and J. Jill are three stalwarts of women's basic clothing.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:06 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]

Old Navy has lots of reasonably priced basics that hold up decently well. The pants are tailored but they have varieties that are not overly feminized. I believe they have free and easy returns if you're not pleased.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:09 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

I've done the capsule thing a few times, and I've found that for me, a HUGE part of making it work is actually going into the store. I know, it sucks, it's stressful, it can be demoralizing, it's a big time commitment, but ideally you should only have to do the in-store shopping thing 2 times a year, max. (Once for fall/winter, once for spring/summer.) So you can certainly do it online, but be prepared to return a ton of stuff, since it's not easy to tell what will feel and fit right from online photography. The essence of the capsule wardrobe is that you should buy exactly what makes you feel comfortable and happy, and nothing else. So (very selective, thoughtful) shopping can actually be very important to the project.

I realize you say you hate fashion, and I'm not trying to say this is about creating a "look," just that you want to find the perfect, comfortable t-shirt that makes YOU feel like you don't have to think about it whatsoever, because putting it on is like a part of you. Ditto pants. This can be done with online shopping but you shouldn't expect to not return or exchange anything, and I find that doing it online actually takes me much longer, or I end up settling with things I don't really like all that much, and I'm uncomfortable and waste money.

But I second Old Navy for having surprisingly decent and durable basics, some of the time, which also fit in a way that is generous and flattering.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:22 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]

Duluth trading co gets high marks for simplicity and durability as well as reliability (chances are you will be able to order a very similar item to one you already own in a few years). I can't speak to their fit for you as we have very different shapes but they tend to be generous in the shoulders.
posted by Mizu at 9:33 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]

J. Jill's ballet-sleeve tunics serve well as the type of top you need. They do change colors for the seasons and right now are more pastel than you're seeking, but I have several in black and also some of the other less-spring-y colors that should come back as the seasons roll around. I wear them with cardigans and dark jeans daily. They last well.

I also do well with cardigans from them, but I think they might be too unstructured for you. Take a look, anyway, maybe there's something that would suit.

I don't like the way their pants fit and would steer you to Lands End for pants instead, but that's probably a matter of personal build, so you might need to buy a few styles from a few places and see what fits you best, and return whatever doesn't, if that's less painful for you than in-person shopping
posted by Stacey at 9:46 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Nthing Lands End. I have multiples of their cotton cardigans that I wear 3/4 of the year.
I can't speak to their pants, but they do offer hemming, once you find the style you like.
Good quality basic pieces.
posted by sarajane at 9:50 AM on April 17

I second Duluth Trading company and generally "performance" or "cross-over" or "athleisure" clothing lines, like Nau, Icebreaker, Ibex and Toad & Co. I'm a squishy middle-aged lady with little to no muscle tone but am easily able to find things that fit and are comfortable from those companies, so you don't have to look like a yoga model to wear the clothes. MMLaFleur is organized around the idea of a low maintenance, mix & match professional wardrobe but it tends toward quite feminine. If you're near a Nordstrom, their house brand Halogen is good for simple professional basics (Caslon--another house brand--tends to have good simple t-shirts and cardigans and chinos but a lot of casual stuff that is not what you're describing) and Nordstrom will hem pants when you buy them (if you're not near, it's free return shipping)

I personally really like Icebreaker for durable, comfortable basics in neutral colors, simple lines and (where I live) 3-seaons of wear: pants, t-shirt. They do jackets and cardigans as well, but the online shop swaps out seasonally. You can usually find close-outs at places like Sierra Trading Post but those tend to be the weirder brighter colors. Some of it is obviously sport-y but some of it is not. I've got a black tank-dress and a knit blazer from them that I wear probably once a week in the cooler months (and I wear the dress all summer, unlayered). After years of wear (I wash them at home), they both still look great.
posted by crush at 10:05 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Pants: Talbots and Loft, both run sales often. Many other options linked here.
posted by Kalatraz at 10:35 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]

I have astonishingly similar preferences, and I just wind up buying 10 - 12 copies of everything I like, in the hope I won't have to go shopping again any time soon. I don't want to look fashionable or unfashionable. I just don't want to have my clothing have any relationship to fashion if possible.

If there was a service that would put this kind of thing together, I would pay them a lot of money to take the hassle out. Does anyone know of one?
posted by 3491again at 10:40 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]

Lands End has got pretty much every item you listed, and I find their stuff to be far more durable and well-made than something like Old Navy (which I find tends to fall apart after the first couple of washes). They also tend to use machine wash & dry-able materials, and they have a good return policy. They're highlighting a bunch of pastel spring colors right now, but just scroll past them -- they have almost all the basics in black and other muted colors, too.
- Women's Shaped Layering Crewneck T-shirt
- ALL the cardigans (check the so-called "dress cardigan" if you tend to prefer a shorter length).
- Work pants, dress pants, corduroys.
posted by ourobouros at 11:07 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]

Tradlands makes really beautiful quality shirts - the knitwear section specifically has some tshirts.

+1 to Everlane
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:36 AM on April 17

As to the "looks crummy after only a few weeks," if I am dealing with pants with a fine surface, I turn them inside-out before washing them to prevent some of the inevitable scuffing and abrasion on the creases. I don't overload the washer, because the clothes will suffer more friction on the agitator (I use a top-load washer). Clothes should circulate freely, not sludge together in a mass during agitation. I wash clothes of similar weight (that is, similar fabric stiffness and heaviness) together, so that heavier, stiffer clothing doesn't abuse the lighter clothing.

I also line dry, and sunlight, while very helpful for drying, greatly accelerates fading. I leave my pants inside-out while they are on the line.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:40 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]

I've had good luck with Macy's Charter Club tees for simple, non-fussy workwear.
posted by bunderful at 3:55 PM on April 17

That was my answer you liked. I am in Ireland so tend to use Irish or U.K. websites as shipping costs are a factor. I'm also "plus-sized" so the t shirts I wear are usually men's, because I, like you, don't want fitted or fancy touches. That's where I have the most difficulty, because something can look fine on a website, only to have stupid too-short sleeves when you see it for real! Seriously, when you find something you like, I advise ordering multiples immediately.
posted by Samarium at 4:08 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

What about StitchFix? My daughter hates shopping, and never has time anyway, but she needs to look professional at work. She started using it about 5 or 6 months ago and she loves it. She said it took a few tries to dial in her style, but now she loves the majority of what they send. And they make it super easy to make returns. I'm not working outside the home any more, but this would have been a godsend for me when I was. I think you can also set your budget.
posted by Gusaroo at 4:25 PM on April 17

I'm very into buying clothes from Thredup, a sort of online thrift store. Pretty good search broken down by brand, size, style. Reasonable prices, and they ship to your house. If there's something that doesn't fit just ship it back for free.
posted by forkisbetter at 5:14 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]

FWIW, my experience with Stitch Fix was that they didn't seem to pay much attention to the style profile I'd entered. Mine was basically "imagine Han Solo but female. No fuss, no frills. Simple pants, a bit more flair ok on tops, did I mention no frills?" Things they sent me included floaty layers, mesh, lace, pants with no pockets, and the like. Of the items that I did like, several wound up shrinking so badly in the wash (cool water, hang to dry) that I wound up throwing them out/dumping them on the freecycle table in our building's laundry room. A couple of the items were great, but the overall success rate was bad enough I wound up cancelling.

IME, if you dislike shopping, Stitch Fix is unfortunately not the solution.
posted by Lexica at 5:14 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]

Thank you all for your helpful advice.
posted by whistle pig at 5:43 PM on April 17

I have similar work clothes and shopping preferences/aversions. At Lands' End in particular, I recommend:
- these t-shirts (material is thicker, less clingy than their "layering" t's),
- chinos: trouser leg or straight leg - (comfortable cotton).

I haven't ever tried their cords or cardigans, but they always have them.

The really nice thing about Lands' End for the shopping-averse and non-trendy is that they don't change their styles/fits very often, so once you find something you like and figure out your size (including pants inseam), you can just order a bunch more whenever you need them. I also like that you can order online and return either through the mail or at Sears.
posted by fussbudget at 6:11 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]

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