Wardrobe essentials are indispensable staples, without which your wardrobe would not function. Not to be confused with wardrobe basics, which include underpants, bras, camisoles, socks, sleepwear, loungewear, hosiery and thermals. 

The characteristics of wardrobe essentials:

  • They can be clothing items, footwear or accessories. 
  • They are usually versatile, simple in design and current.
  • They are often wardrobe workhorses.
  • They are NOT statement pieces, but rather complement a statement piece to create a pulled together look. 
  • They are PERSONAL. What is an essential for one person is not to another. 
  • They are not the most interesting part of the outfit, but often an important ingredient. Think of them as the foundation of an outfit, or the glue that makes the other pieces come together to create a cohesive whole. 
  • They make the rest of your closet a lot more wearable.  

Your personalized list of wardrobe essentials can change over time as you accommodate your evolving style preferences. One of my style goals for 2016 is to pare down my list of wardrobe essentials (the process happened quite organically last year). I’ve removed blazers, moto jackets, trench coats, tall riding boots, and button-down shirts. I absolutely still love to wear those items, but not as often as I used to which makes them, well, less essential. I wear a large assortment of coats and jackets, and not just the classics. I’m wearing soft pretty blouses more than my button-down shirts, and short booties a lot more frequently than tall boots. 

This is my current list of wardrobe essentials with the exact pieces represented in a collection: 

1. Black Turtlenecks:  Few items make me feel as fab as a fine gauge black turtleneck because the silhouette works well for my very long neck, regular size bust, and narrow shoulder line. They keep me warm, polished, and layer well under jackets and shirts. They work with almost all my bottoms, and Greg loves them too. I have duplicates in the same style.

2. Trendy Jeans: I frequently wear jeans, and have as many white pairs as blue. The style of my essential jeans changes with the trends, which is a practical way to evolve my style. Last year I updated my jeans capsule and bought essentials and statement jeans. For this leg of my style journey, my essential jeans are white boyfriend jeans and cropped blue jeans across various washes and hem widths. 

3. Dressy Black Trousers: I updated my dressy black trousers last year. They’re extremely handy to have in my closet because they are my go-to dressy trousers for all sorts of evenings out. They are Modern Retro, which is in line with my current style preferences, and they can be dressed up or down. 

4. Denim Jackets: I brought one of my fitted denim jackets out of the holding zone and wear it when I don’t want to wear the roomy mixed media version. I wear them a lot in Summer, and I enjoy sporting the denim on denim trend. 

5. Flat White Footwear: I love wearing white footwear because it bookends my light blonde hair. It also makes my outfits look crisp and modern. My go-to footwear for Spring and Summer are flat white booties, loafers and ankle strap flats. In Autumn & Winter, I tend to wear a larger assortment of statement booties across all sorts of neutrals and animal print. 

6. Oversized Watches: My oversized watches are like a bracelet. I interchange between four styles daily. I’d like to get another gold watch this year. 

If you haven’t already done so, consider compiling a list of wardrobe essentials. Some people can work completely from intuition, but for most the structure is a big help when it comes to building an effective wardrobe. When clients call me for an outfit creation session because they’re battling to create outfits, it’s often a case of missing or dated wardrobe essentials.  More wardrobe essentials usually means fewer wardrobe orphans. They might not be the most exciting items to shop for, but they transform items into outfits. Do keep them current and don’t feel bad about spending a significant portion of your fashion budget on them.