Stylists Say You Should Narrow Down Your Spring Wardrobe to Just 16 Pieces
Here's what to keep in your capsule collection.
Spring is known as the season of rebirth; vibrant flowers blossom and bloom, and furry forest creatures come out of hibernation. But nature isn't the only thing in desperate need of an awakening — your closet could stand to be refreshed and rejuvenated, too.
For most of us, this past winter was another long one in quarantine, during which we were not only socially distancing ourselves from loved ones and friends, but also from any article of clothing that didn't resemble pajamas. We're certainly not telling you to break up with your cozy staples (after all, Amazon forecasted "elevated loungewear" will be one of the biggest trends for spring), but we are encouraging you to pack up your heavy sweaters and bulky outerwear. It's time to narrow down your spring wardrobe to the essentials that will give you new life, such as versatile, stylist-recommended pieces.
It doesn't matter what side of the skinny jean conundrum you're on; personal stylist and image consultant Christina Stein Imberlina of Style by Christina tells InStyle a pair of denim that's tailored to your specific stature and shape is a must for spring.
"If you are petite, try upgrading your denim with a high waist flare in a dark wash. This silhouette will give the illusion of height. If you're taller, a high waist, boot cut in a lighter wash is the way to go."
Shop now: Levi's 501® Original Fit Women's Jeans; $98
You've probably heard this before, but mixing and matching is the key to creating a capsule wardrobe for any season. For example, tank tops and T-shirts — along with this season's handkerchief and halter tops — make great staples because they're easy to wear with cropped cardigans and lightweight button up shirts, head stylist at Tobi Joanna Angeles tells InStyle.
Shop now: Madewell Supima® Cotton Essential Tee; $25
A Transitional Pant
To reiterate, we are not telling you to bid adieu to sweats, yoga pants, or leggings. You don't even have to wear anything with a zipper if that feels like too much of a leap for you. In fact, according to Jamie Frankel, a wardrobe stylist with Honey Artists, one of spring 2021's most anticipated wardrobe essentials is a dressed up version of the comfy loungewear you know, love, and attached to: A pair of trousers.
"Whether it's a belted paper bag style or front-pleat straight leg, [trousers] still offer breathing room and look great in spring neutrals and pastels," says Frankel. "Go monochrome by pairing them with the same color top — it helps in making you look put together when you inevitably forget how to."
Shop now: Spanx Stretch Twill Cropped Wide Leg Pant; $128
A Trusty Sandal
For Frankel, easy-to-slip-on sandals, specifically Birkenstocks, are the past, present, and future (and can transition with you through the seasons).
"Peel off the cashmere socks that lie beneath during the winter months and cruise comfortably right into spring. The updated big buckle ones in white are my spring/summer go-to style."
Shop now: Birkenstock Arizona Big Buckle Sandals; $150
An Everyday Dress
"Dresses are another must-have staple because it's a low effort way to look polished," says Angeles. There are also so many styles to choose from, and if you stock your closet with basic bodycons, A-lines, or sundresses, you'll always have a throw-on-and-go outfit at the ready.
Shop now: Universal Standard Sammy T–Shirt Dress; $94
A Sweater Set
Loungewear isn't the only trend from 2020 making its way into this year's essentials lineup. According to LA-based stylist Lindsey Dupuis Bledsoe, matching sweater sets will still be a hot ticket item. Think about it: Sweater sets are a two-for-one deal, and these versatile layering pieces can serve up multiple looks, depending on how you mix and match them with other items in your wardrobe. You can wear them together, separate, or, Dupuis's personal favorite, paired with a monochromatic bottom, "to keep it uniform."
Shop now: Reformation Gisela Cashmere Tank and Cardigan Set; $198
A Puff Sleeve Dresses
Having Bridgerton withdrawals? Same. We still haven't recovered from the devastating news of Regé-Jean Page's (aka the eye candy Duke of Hastings) exit from the Netflix period drama, but regency-era dresses are entering our spring wardrobes. It's no conciliation, but it's something, and who doesn't want to inject a bit of Daphne's elegant style into their closet?
So which designs are forecasted to be spring essentials? Empire waist dresses are definitely having a moment, as are romantic silhouettes with voluminous sleeves, says Dupuis, who suggests pairing the feminine aesthetic with a masculine sandal, for balance.
Shop now: Selkie The Puff Dress; $245
A Crochet Something
If you overplayed knits in the winter, try giving the crochet trend a try for spring. According to celebrity stylist Emily Sanchez, grandma's favorite pastime is looking to be a fashion staple this season, and it's popping up everywhere — on clutches, collars, and even tops made entirely from crochet patterns.
"Crochet is light and breezy for the warmer months, but still has the cozy and comforting feel we all need after 2020/2021," Sanchez tells InStyle. "Bonus points if you're already plotting to sport Miu Miu's crochet embellished minidresses for fall 2021 like I am."
Shop now: Crochet Bag; $40
A Compression Top
Body contour is huge for this spring. High compression tops, bodysuits, tanks, and even T-shirts are forecasted to be wardrobe staples, since they make for exceptional foundation pieces, Malissa Akay, Express chief merchandising officer reveals.
"We are all about layers that are made to be seen," she says of the brand's new Body Contour collection. "A fitted top worn on its own or as a foundational layer — with high compression for ultimate smoothing — can pull together any outfit. Choose from a neutral color palette and range of styles, pair with just about any bottom, and you're good to go for the season and the occasion."
Shop now: Express Body Contour Double Layer Halter Tank; $44
Mini dresses, mini skirts — whatever your preference, hiked-up hemlines are always hot for spring, and Sanchez concurs.
"As someone who basically lives in mini skirts and dresses, I consider myself an expert and spring is the perfect time to try a new take on the mini," she tells us, adding there's no better time than now, as we emerge back into society, to "show off some leg with options like fringy versions, a pleated school girl style or a micro mini, if you dare,"
Shop now: Gucci Horsebit-Chain Check Pleated Wool Mini Skirt; $1,400
Prints That Uplift Your Mood
OK, so florals aren't exactly groundbreaking for spring (we get it, Miranda Priestly), but if flowery prints bring a smile to your lips, embrace them. Now more than ever it's important to incorporate joyous prints into your wardrobe like florals, bold patterns and colors, because they provide an instant mood boost, says Sanchez.
"Look for silhouettes that work for you in eye-catching prints that make you smile."
Shop now: Rachel Antonoff Vinnie Prawn Skirt; $250
If you're ready and/or willing to make peace with denim, Jen Reed of The Sister Studio highly recommends investing in a simple, non-distressed pair of white jeans for spring. It's an instant wardrobe enhancer, Reed tells InStyle, and stresses that the piece is super versatile, wearable for any occasion.
"You can style with a blazer for work, dress them up with a frilly blouse for date night, or pair with a basic tee and sneakers for a casual daytime vibe."
Shop now: A&F Vintage Stretch High Rise Skinny Jeans; $89
A Flowy Dress
If, when you think of spring, you envision sundresses with flowing skirts that billow in the breeze, these are pieces you need to incorporate into your ideal spring capsule wardrobe. Caitlin Covington of Southern Curls & Pearls, who recently launched a collection with Pink Lily, agrees, adding that the piece is an essential because "you can pair it with a jacket on cooler days, then style it with strappy sandals as the weather gets warmer."
Shop it: Caitlin Covington x Pink Lily The Santorini Dress; $60
If your personal style abides by the motto "athleisure over everything," good news: Biker shorts are a must-have for your spring 2021 capsule wardrobe. Brit Morton Turner, Founder of Fit Atelier, a fitness concept store, says aside from matching the piece with a sports bra, you can pair it with a blazer for a polished look that's totally lax.
Shop now: Girlfriend Collective High Waist Bike Shorts; $48
Notice the use of 'bottoms' and not 'jeans.' While wide-legged denim is definitely a solid option, wide-legged trousers are also on the table for spring 2021 as far as Erica Hanks, co-founder of Showroom, is concerned.
"I couldn't live without a great pair of wide-legged jeans that can be styled with either a cozy sweater or a crisp, tailored shirt," she tells us. "High-waisted and wide-legged trousers always add a few inches to your figure, and are easy to style up or down according to the circumstances."
Shop now: The Great. The Seafair Jean; $285
Spring 2021 is going to look and feel differently than both spring 2020 and spring 2019. For many people, this season will be a re-emergence into the world, but after over a year of clinging to any form of comfort we could grasp, something like wearing 'real' clothes can feel uncomfortable. One solution, TORRID CEO Liz Muñoz tells InStyle, is to stock up on wire-free bras and underwear that are both sexy and comfortable.
This is Ask the Experts, where our favorite fashion know-it-alls share their wisdom. Just because you can trust your style instincts doesn't mean you should have to.