The Encore Artist: Add Functional Style

I shared some tips to build a solid foundation for your artist wardrobe with a basic outfit that fits your life in the first post of this series. If you have not seen it, be sure to check it out here. If you have, hopefully you have identified some favorite tops and bottoms that are your wardrobe workhorses. Mornings become easier when these pieces are front and center in your closet. But how do you keep from looking like you are wearing the same clothes every day? The secret is to add a few more ‘toppers’ and a couple pairs of shoes that speak to your unique style and support the activities that fit your day.


Add some style to your basic outfit in a capsule wardrobe


I have another post coming to add some sugar on top with accessories like jewelry, bags, and scarves, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, let’s talk about the next layer of a simple capsule wardrobe for your encore life: toppers and shoes add functional style suited just for you.



My basic outfit is very boring on its own. You will usually find me puttering around in the studio in a charcoal grey t-shirt and black pants. I wear the same thing when I work a couple days a week at Thimble Gardens (a sweet plant store here in Lebanon you do not want to miss). I choose tougher pants for working in the garden. And sometimes you will even find me in this basic outfit for church on Sunday.


However, I love color and patterns. Lots of color and patterns. Grey shirts and black pants are the furthest thing from this. So what is an artist to do? This one adds button up shirts and pullovers as another layer to change things up!


 Chris Cravens - Artist


There is also an opportunity to add some functionality to your basic outfit when you add another stylish layer. Here are some things to consider when choosing your own toppers:

  • Take a moment to look at the clothes in your closet already. Are there favorite shirts, jackets, sweaters, or pullovers that can work on top of your basic outfit to jazz it up a little? Is there a secondary color you are fond of that looks beautiful with your basic outfit?
  • Do you need a layer to keep warm without burning up during season changes? Try adding a fleece lined flannel or chamois shirt to the mix.
  • Got lunch with the ladies and need to dress up your basic outfit? Try adding a sweet blazer or sweater.
  • What about pockets for jobs like gardening, cleaning, working in a studio? Jean jackets and shirts with extra pockets come in real handy as toppers for a basic outfit.
  • Is it too hot for another layer, but you still want a change? A pocket-full vest or SPF shirt may be a great option for you.


Great Ideas for Topping Off a Capsule Wardrobe

LL Bean Buffalo Plaid Chamois Tunic 
J. Crew Boyfriend Blazer 
Soft Surroundings Sunset Shirt
Duluth Trading Co. Heirloom Gardening Vest




Like a basic outfit, shoes are workhorses for a wardrobe that works. I must admit that I am the woman who had a closet full of shoes while I worked in a professional office. When I had back surgery in 2014, I gave most of them away. To be honest, while I still miss heels sometimes, it was very liberating to make the move to comfortable shoes. I tried many brands until I found a couple that work well for me.


So, how do shoes work with a capsule wardrobe? Like selecting your tops and bottoms for a basic outfit, the shoes you wear most days should fit your life. In my own closet, I have a pair of leather work boots for the studio because I do not want to drop hot metal on a tennis shoe. I have a favorite pair of colorful gym shoes for walking my dog, Millie, and a few pairs of dressier shoes for fun.


Shoes for your Encore Artist Wardrobe

 Danner Vertigo 917 in Cathay Spice 
Aertrex Dana 



Shoes are like a cake stand. They can be very practical, yet still pretty, and support your basic outfit. Here are some things to consider when deciding on shoes to complement your encore career wardrobe:

  • Take a moment to look at the shoes in your closet already. Do you have a pair or two of shoes you always seem to grab for certain tasks? This is a great sign of shoes that should stay a part of your capsule wardrobe. When you need to replace them, find the same shoe (or something similar) for ease.
  • Are there jobs you do regularly that need a specialty shoe? Do not be afraid to spend more for a quality shoe or boot that you need for the bulk of your time. I tried a few pairs of cheap boots and finally splurged to buy a pair of Danners for the shop. This has been such a good investment. They are comfortable, last so much longer, and look great to boot.
  • Have you found a shoe brand that fits your feet like gloves? Sign up for their emails and watch for sales to save money and get first dibs on new styles. For walking and light hiking, my favorite brand is Merrell. For me, these shoes fit extremely well, and they suit my funky outdoorsy style.
  • Are there occasions where you need dressier shoes? Consider keeping your favorite pair or two and releasing the rest from your closet. If you are like me, sending those extra shoes out the door may be difficult. But, think of it this way, instead of hanging around in the dark, they will bless someone else and clear space for shoes that work better for you.



I hope these tips help you feel more confident in building a capsule wardrobe that works for your life, not just a job. In the last post, Your Basic Outfit, I recommended re-organizing your closet and drawers to move the tops and bottoms you use most in the most accessible spots. Now, it is time to move the toppers you have selected right next to them. And, to move the shoes that work best for your daily life to the best spot on your shoe rack.



As you are shifting things around in your closet to make better use of what you have and adding pieces that fit better with your style and life, you may want to consider donating unused clothing and shoes. If you are not quite ready to de-stash your closet, try this little trick: wrap a piece of colored tape around hangers of clothes you are not sure about. Tack a little piece to the bottom of shoes you think you might want to get rid of, too. Now, set an alarm 6 months from now as a reminder to take a peek at those hangers and shoes. If you have not touched them, it is time to say goodbye.


I hope you have enjoyed the process of developing your encore lifestyle wardrobe a little bit more with toppers and shoes that make sense and celebrate your unique style. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please drop a comment below or reach out to me directly and stay tuned for some ideas to add a little more spice with accessories.


Articles in The Encore Artist: Making Your Wardrobe Work for You series:

  • Your Basic Outfit (here)
  • Add Style to Your Basic Outfit (this post)
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