I believe that everyone should have a personalized list of wardrobe essentials that brings factors like body type, lifestyle, work requirements, climate and personal preferences into the equation. It is a foundation that is tailor made to fit your unique wardrobe requirements.

A wardrobe essential is an indispensable staple. Without it, your wardrobe wouldn’t function. Essentials are versatile, current and simple in design, but not necessarily boring or trendy. They are not the pieces that create the interesting part of your outfit, but they allow you to mix and match other items.

My list of wardrobe essentials has been the same for years. I update, replenish and duplicate as needed. The list won’t change unless there is a fundamental shift in my lifestyle. Here it is:

  1. Camisoles: They make items wearable, add polish to my look and keep me warm. I love their layering quality and how they smooth out my silhouette.
  2. Button downs: I prefer woven tops to knits and am able to fit button down shirts straight off the rack. My long neck also happens to like a shirt collar. I feel pulled together, clean cut, crisp and professional when my outfit incorporates a button down shirt.
  3. Turtle necks: They are my Winter camisole and I wear them under everything to keep warm because I feel cold easily. They make my ensembles look sleek and streamlined. A turtle neck is also a great neckline for my giraffe neck. We are a match made in heaven.
  4. Jeans: I often wear smart casual clothing which makes fabulous jeans a necessity. I also live in a cold, wet place and tucking jeans into boots is a practical Winter solution.
  5. Denim pencil skirt: I get tired of wearing jeans, which makes a denim skirt a welcome option for smart casual dressing. It’s also the perfect item to showcase dressy knee-high boots of which I have several pairs.
  6. Black pencil skirt: My lifestyle requires business casual clothing and I’ve found a simple black pencil skirt in a luscious fabrication extremely versatile. I don’t own a pair of black slacks because I feel better in a pencil skirt. We have to go with what makes us feel fabulous.
  7. Biker jacket: There has always been an edge to my style and I throw this item over everything. It gives my outfits instant attitude.
  8. Pinstripe blazer: A fully lined, beautifully cut jacket anchors an outfit which I need as a working professional. I adore the visual interest and androgynous quality of gangster stripes, which is why my basic tailored jacket is not plain black.
  9. Denim jacket: It’s the perfect casual cover-up for dresses and non-denim skirts.
  10. Little black dress: I wear a classic, high-necked sheath dress well and love that it can be dressed up or down, layered, or worn on its own.
  11. Trench coat: Seattle is wet and chilly which makes a weather resistant trench essential. It’s also perfect for travels to Western Europe, which has a similar climate to Seattle.
  12. Ballet flats: I wear 10-hour ballet flats with everything – frocks, skirts, pants and jeans. They also add a Chanel-esque aspect to my style.
  13. Converse sneakers: They’re ideal for casual occasions and daily dog walking.
  14. Short chunky pearl necklace: I love pearls, which makes a bit of retro glam a part of who I am.

If you don’t already have a working list of wardrobe essentials, use mine as a starting point and substitute my items with items that are more in line with your needs. For example:

  • My woven button downs might be your knitted tops
  • My turtle necks might be your scooped neck tunics
  • My trench coat might be your lightweight jacket
  • My jeans might be your cotton skirt
  • My pencil skirt might be your black slacks
  • My LBD might be your little blue dress
  • My pinstripe blazer might be your suit
  • My denim skirt might be your day dress
  • My pearls might be your scarf or earrings

It might take a season or two to identify your wardrobe essentials, sometimes through trial and error, but it’s worth thinking through the process. You’ll find it much easier to create ensembles once your essentials are in place because they are the practical building blocks of your wardrobe.

Note that in an earlier version of this post I used the term “wardrobe basic” instead of “wardrobe essential”, but I have found that people normally associate the word “basic” with items like underwear and socks, so I’m switching to “essential”.