Building a Classic Smart Casual Wardrobe

smart casual capsule wardrobe

Row 1: camel coat, trench coat, textured jacket (old AT), neutral blazer
Row 2: neutral pullover, black top, layering tank, striped sweater
Row 3: my favorite petite-friendly: black jeans, medium blue jeans, wide leg trousers, off white jeans
Row 4: white sneakers, black loafers, neutral slingbacks, slim shaft booties
Row 5: reversible belts, black crossbody bag, neutral tote

Last year I did a big post on my 5 staple fall-winter pieces that can be mixed and matched into over 10 timeless outfit combos. While those category of items much remain unchanged, I wanted to share an updated post with some currently available options and additional pieces I love mixing in with old favorites. You can see my IG Reel of these pieces here.

With my current lifestyle I find myself dressing smart casual on most days, with the comfort of casual pieces like denim and sneakers, but also a polished element like a chic wrap coat or blazer. These are some of the item types I reach for the most that also mix & match easily for a variety of outfits. For a dressier business casual wardrobe, I’d replace the denim with slim ankle pants, and the open back shoes with a pair of closed back pumps or flats.

Outer Layers

  • Camel coat. Pictured: Uniqlo coat xxs (see my review). A long camel coat is my must-have for elevating everyday outfits, and my preference for length has slowly shifted from knee length to a longer midi length over the years. I can throw this on over jeans and sneakers for daycare pickup, and it also looks elegant paired over workwear or a dressier look. If you’re not familiar with double-faced wool coats, they’re designed to be unlined for the look and the drape. A coat like this would be suitable for ~30-50 degree weather depending on how much you layer underneath. Since our Edited Pieces coat from last year’s post is sold out, the Uniqlo one has been my longer, in-stock pick!
  • Trench coat. Pictured: J.Crew coat 00 petite (see on me). With my evolving style, my ideal trench coat these days would actually be something longer and more relaxed in fit. I haven’t found anything of the sort yet in petite sizing, but if you’re taller, I tried on my friend’s The Drop long trench and was actually impressed by how lightweight and comfortable it was (they also make a shorter version). If you want a tailored and above-the-knee fit, then this J.Crew one is a classic in a high quality water-wicking material and a detachable hood.
  • Neutral blazer. Pictured: Berksha xs petite (see my review). For a smart casual wardrobe, I really love a semi-oversized, boyfriend inspired blazer like this to wear with denim. But for a business casual wardrobe I’d opt for a more trim, tailored fit like this timeless J.Crew blazer.
  • Textured jacket. Pictured: old Ann Taylor. Current options: Mango, Bloomingdales, J.Ing. To add a feminine touch and some texture to my denim outfits, I adore my semi cropped textured jackets! Ann Taylor will come out with a good tweed jacket every so often – each one that I’ve purchased there, I still love years and years later.
petite camel coat trench coat outfits
Uniqlo coat xxs (sleeves folded under & DIY stitched), J.Crew trench 00 petite

Bottoms

  • Black bottoms. Pictured: WHBM petites makes one of the best fitting slim straight jeans I own. Black slim straight jeans are a must for me as they can also almost pass as pants for semi professional looks.
  • Vintage wash blue jeans. Pictured: Madewell 24 petite (see my review). I have been reaching for these non stop since I got them! Note that per my review, the waist runs big and fits loose on me, but with my fluctuating waistline I didn’t want to commit to a size down.
  • Trousers. Pictured: Abercrombie xs short (see my review). One of the best petite trousers I own, and I especially love that these can be dressed up with heels or down with sneakers.
  • Cream jeans. Pictured: Everlane 24, 26″ inseam (see my review). If you don’t wear light colors often, you’d be surprised at how easily this color pairs with black, camel, and pretty much every neutral. Sandwich it between a camel coat, camel sweater and darker brown boots for a beautiful cold weather lighter hued look, or between a black coat and black sock booties!

Tops

  • Black top: Abercrombie top xxs for an interesting neckline, as well as a black mock neck top.
  • Layering tank: Reformation rib tank xs, Ann Taylor drape tank xxs petite are two favorites. The Ann Taylor one is worth getting in multiple colors for a business casual wardrobe, for wearing under blazers and cardigans!
petite sweaters for capsule wardrobe

Sweaters

  • Striped knit: Sezane xxs, Alex Mill. You won’t regret buying a high quality striped knit! It also serves as a great accent piece for throwing on over your shoulders or tying around your waist when wearing a lot of solid colors.
  • Neutral solid pullover: Quince sweaters xs, Everlane alpaca sweater xxs. These are the two brands I’ve been wearing the most often. This Everlane sweater in “almond” is the perfect greige color, and I’ve been very happy with my Quince alpaca and cotton sweater and just ordered their fisherman cashmere one! The fit of Quince sweaters in XS is pretty petite friendly and I don’t even need to cuff the sleeves.
  • Cropped cardigans: H&M, Everlane, Nordstrom

Shoes

  • White sneakers: Veja Campo size 35 (most comfortable Veja style, see my review of their styles here), Everlane size 5 as a classic off white sneaker.
  • Neutral pumps: Edited Pieces size 5.5, or very similar Marc Fisher cap toe pumps that are fully stocked. As mentioned before I’d go with a closed back pump for business dress codes, but I love a slingback for a slightly more casual feel when pairing with a lot of denim.
  • Black loafers: Sam Edelman size 5.5. So comfortable off the bat!
  • Sock boots: This type of boot is perfect for wearing under straight jeans and pants, but so hard to find in a medium price range. Ann Taylor has some great options right now and should be having some good sales this month! As a splurge option, I’ve been eying these Loeffler Randall booties forever and just need to decide on a color.

Accessories

  • Black bag: YSL – one of my most worn bags this year.
  • Neutral handbag: Naghedi (see my review) also ranks high on the most worn bag list! I also have their Cashmere color which is a deeper neutral for cool weather, and you cannot go wrong with this style in Black. The Medium size would be the most versatile for everyday use.
capsule wardrobe accessories belt jewelry
Simple, versatile accessories: Anne Klein watch (resized), Edited Pieces accessories
petite fall winter capsule wardrobe

For Daily Posts

Leave a Comment

20 Comments

  1. Olivia Swan wrote:

    Please make a timeless classic smart casual wardrobe for every season. I’m a minimalist girl and want to buy good quality items that will be in style at the test of time! Thank you!

    Posted 12.1.22 Reply
  2. Kiki wrote:

    Hey Jean! Do you have a preference between the Alex Mill vs Sezane jumper? I need a striped sweater and wanted to know your thoughts!

    Posted 11.20.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Kiki! I own and love the Sezane sweater and have not tried on the Alex Mill in person, but their sweaters in general are very high quality. I’d choose based on whether you want the button down detailing!

      Posted 11.21.22 Reply
  3. Katie wrote:

    How is the Quince cashmere fisherman sweater? Thinking about ordering one, esp if they have a Black Friday sale. How is the fit on a petite?

    Posted 11.20.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I love it, it is SO soft, but note that it sheds like most cashmere or wool sweaters especially if you wear it with black jeans or leggings. The body is petite friendly but I need to cuff up the sleeves. I tend to wear my cotton quince fisherman a little more often even though it’s not nearly as soft but because its easy care.

      Posted 11.21.22 Reply
  4. Katrina wrote:

    Hi Jean, I noticed the Quince Alpaca sweaters are dry clean only. Do you have any suggestions for washing at home or do you always take them to the dry cleaners?
    Ps, I’ve been following your blog for 7 years now and I owe you so much thanks for helping me budge out of wearing jeans and basic tees to a beautifully elevated wardrobe. I bought my first sewing machine because of you and taught myself to hem and take in my own clothes. I had no idea there was a world out there for petites (I’m 5’1”, 99 lbs) and moving into a career in the corporate world would have been such a struggle without your sage advice and tips. Thank you again for everything you are doing here, you have been an amazing inspiration for me.

    Posted 11.11.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Katrina, thank you so much for following along all of these years! Your note has made my day 🙂

      Regarding the alpaca sweaters, I hand wash mine using a little bit of The Laundress wool & cashmere detergent and then lay it flat on a rack to dry. That’s worked well for me! But I also want to mention that I wash my sweater very infrequently, only when they’re actually dirty.

      Posted 11.14.22 Reply
  5. Rihana S wrote:

    This article is helpful in managing your wardrobe for winter.

    Posted 11.11.22 Reply
  6. Cristina wrote:

    Perfect timing, I meant to start a capsule wardrobe for ages!! I am looking forward to donating most of what I own and building a new timeless wardrobe. Thank you for sharing.

    Posted 11.10.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      So glad our timing lined up!

      Posted 11.11.22 Reply
  7. Rachael wrote:

    Keeping my eye on this space for petite drapey trench recs – I’m on the hunt as well!

    Posted 11.9.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Ah yes, I’ll be sure to share if / when I find a good one!

      Posted 11.11.22 Reply
  8. Dorothy wrote:

    Thank you! Quality over quantity! I will use your guide to make my wardrobe classic & easier to get dressed & look great at the same time! Plus it will be easier to keep things organized and clean! You have stayed true to your self & your style!

    Posted 11.9.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thank you for your kind note, Dorothy! I agree it certainly makes it easier to get dressed when you know all of your pieces fit well and be mixed in matched in several ways

      Posted 11.11.22 Reply
  9. Lysa wrote:

    Yay! I love this post!! I’m trying to be more strategic with what I buy. Would love to see these capsule-type posts for different seasons/trends/colors.

    Posted 11.9.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thank you Lysa! I’ll keep that in mind when the warmer weather starts to roll around

      Posted 11.11.22 Reply
  10. April Barnes wrote:

    Thanks so much Jean!

    I just ordered an alpaca sweater from Quince. It says dry clean, but I know you hand wash many of your wool sweaters. Do you hand wash this as well? I love the EP sling backs but unfortunately can’t wear them. Please let me know if you have seen a black toe style like this in a closed shoe. Thanks again, such lovely pieces!

    Posted 11.9.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi April! I always hand wash mine with a little The Laundress wool & cashmere detergent and lay flat on a rack to dry without any issues so far. But I also want to mention that I launder sweaters very infrequently, only when dirty. Hope this helps!

      Posted 11.14.22 Reply
  11. Cheryl Walter wrote:

    Your timing is perfect! I am trying to put together a great capsule wardrobe for winter travel. This is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much. The current trousers, chunky knits and long coats are so challenging to make work on petite frames. I am 4’10”. I could not have pulled off these looks without without your blog!

    Posted 11.9.22 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Thank you so much for your note Cheryl, I’m so glad that this post came at just the right time for you!

      Posted 11.14.22 Reply

Get the newsletter!

What updates would you like?