It’s time for my annual post on wardrobe essentials. A quick reminder: wardrobe essentials are indispensable staples without which your wardrobe would not function. They are not to be confused with wardrobe basics, which are items like panties, bras, camisoles, socks, sleepwear, loungewear, hosiery and thermals.
A wardrobe essential is the “glue” that makes other items in your wardrobe work together to create complete and cohesive outfits.
- They can be clothing items, footwear or accessories.
- They are versatile, current and simple in design.
- They can form part of your signature style.
- They are SPECIFIC items within a wardrobe category, and not the entire wardrobe category. For example, in your boot capsule, the simple heeled black booties are the wardrobe essentials and not the ones that make a strong visual statement.
- They are NOT statement pieces, but often create a pulled together look by complementing a statement piece.
- They are PERSONAL. What is essential to one person is not to another.
- They are often wardrobe workhorses.
- They are fabulous items to duplicate in the same or different colours.
- They are not usually the interesting part of the outfit, despite being an important ingredient.
- They make the rest of your wardrobe more wearable.
- They evolve over time to accommodate your changing sartorial preferences.
Your wardrobe essentials list can be long or short, depending on your style and sartorial preferences. I have changed my list quite a bit over the years. Blazers, moto jackets, black trousers, trench coats, button-down shirts and riding boots were all essentials in the past, but all except tall riding boots are no longer on the list. I much prefer wearing soft blouses to shirts. I wear a large assortment of coats and jackets, but not just the classics. My black trousers are more of a statement piece than an essential. And last, I’m down to two moto jackets that I don’t wear that regularly because I am weening myself off the look.
Here’s my current list across four seasons with the exact pieces from my wardrobe represented in collections. All items are workhorses, so much so that I have duplicates of exactly the same colour.
1. Black & Dark Blue Turtlenecks & Slash Necks
I love wearing turtlenecks because they create flattering proportions by enclosing my long neck. They keep me warm and look polished. The fine gauge classic sort with a fluid fit are my “Winter tee,” and layer well under jackets and coats. They also look great with skirts, jeans and trousers. I have as many blue T-necks as black and adore them equally. I’d like to include a few more dark blue slash necks since they work well with my pearl necklaces.
2. White & Cream Knitwear
I wear cream in the Autumn and Winter, and white in Spring and Summer. The optical white crisp cotton yarn is perfect for warmer weather. Again, they are my “T-shirts,” so I wear them with all sorts of bottoms and as layers under toppers. I managed to find three more last year, and feel good about my assortment.
3. Striped Knitwear
This was an unexpected Spring and Summer essential. I love stripes, but don’t have lots of the pattern in my wardrobe. Yet I crave a classic striped cotton pullover in the Spring and Summer. I have a nice collection and will probably leave it at that.
4. Trendy Jeans
I am wearing blue jeans less frequently as I opt for trousers, dressy pants, white jeans, skirts and dresses instead. That said, blue and white jeans continue to form a large part of my style. Some of them are statement jeans, and others I view as essentials. The silhouette of my essential jeans changes with the trends. For this leg of my style journey, they are cropped straights and flared silhouettes in blue and white denim across various washes and hem widths. I’ve also added two full-length dark wash cuffed straight leg jeans. I have one pair of white boyfriend jeans that I enjoy wearing too.
Two of the pairs of cropped faded blue jeans are on their way out because they’re worn through. I will need to replace them, but not sure how, and I might not replace them with jeans at all. I’d also like to add one more pair of “everyday” white jeans because white jeans are my thing.
5. Denim Jackets
I have four denim jackets across a variety of lengths, washes and fits. Light, dark, fluid, tailored, short and long. I wear them a lot in Spring and Summer with dresses, casual pants, skirts, and enjoy sporting the denim on denim trend too. I often layer them under a Spring coat. I’ve had one of them for ten years, and it’s still going strong.
6. White Footwear
I love wearing footwear in shades of white because it bookends my light blonde hair and adds a crisp, interesting and modern element to my outfits. I have an assortment of white essential and statement pieces in the footwear department. My go-to white footwear for most of the year are flat or low-heeled white booties and hi-tops, and I have duplicates of the styles. In the warmer months, I like to wear white loafers, sneakers and sandals. My flat simple white sandals are worn through, and will need to be replaced. I’ll also need another pair of white flats.
7. Black Riding Boots & Belt
I added back in a pair of classic black riding boots as a wardrobe essential because I’ve worn them a lot in Autumn and Winter. They look great over a pair of sleek jeans with matching black belt, instantly pulling together all sorts of top, scarf and coat combinations.
8. Pearl Necklace, Pearl Bracelet & Pearl Ring
I have an assortment of real pearl necklaces, bracelets, and a wedding ring that is just about all I wear in the pearl department. Sometimes I wear all three items at once, or I choose between the necklace and the bracelets. I always wear the ring, and am adorned with pearls daily. I also wear my layered knotted faux pearls from time to time to create the pile of pearls. But those make a statement and are not an essential.
9. Gold Watches
I have three gold watches because it’s my preferred metal and I wear one daily. I like the way they work with my pearl bracelets and ring. I’ll be evolving this essentials category by adding another dainty gold watch at some point.
Wardrobes that are rich in statement pieces are wonderful to look at, but often dysfunctional unless there are wardrobe essentials in place to create wearable outfits. On the other hand, a wardrobe that is full of essentials can lack excitement, sass and verve unless there are statement pieces to add interest, drama and personality. Find the balance that works for you. Some prefer a large assortment of essentials, whereas others prefer a large variety of statement pieces. Either way, wardrobe essentials deserve your attention because they transform items into outfits, thereby making the outfit creation process a lot easier.
Consider compiling a list of wardrobe essentials if you haven’t already done so. Some people can work completely from intuition. But for most, the process of identifying your essentials, noting them down, and making sure your list evolves with your style, will help you to build an effective wardrobe.