A wardrobe workhorse is an item of clothing, pair of shoes, or accessory that gets a LOT of wear. Workhorses can be simple and subtle, or bold statement pieces. They can be printed, solid, any colour, any fabric, old or new, classic or avant-garde or vintage, retro or trendy, pricey or inexpensive. 

Wardrobe workhorses can be predicable items, or catch you by surprise. They can even be spontaneous wild cards. Items can be workhorses one season but orphans the next, and vice versa. We can carefully consider a potential wardrobe workhorse before purchasing it, but despite our efforts it malfunctions when it’s put through its paces. Workhorses can wear out faster than other items because they work extremely hard. Sometimes they are easy to replace, and sometimes not.

An item that becomes a wardrobe workhouse normally falls into one or more of these categories.

1. Basics

Wardrobe basics like knickers, bras, camisoles, sleepwear, socks, hosiery, workout wear and loungewear become workhorses because we wear them daily. Of course, everyone’s list of basics is different. Some basics are seasonal, and some people don’t wear sleepwear, loungewear or work out.

2. Essentials

Wardrobe essentials become wardrobe workhorses because they are the “glue” that makes other items in your wardrobe work together to create complete and cohesive outfits. Their versatility and simple design makes them easy to wear and incorporate into all sorts of looks, hence you frequently reach for them.

3. Eyewear

Improved eyesight with prescription specs or sunnies makes them an indispensable accessory and therefore wardrobe workhorses. I wear my eyewear daily, making it one of my most important style accessories.

4. Confidence-Boosting Items

Certain items in your wardrobe create instant confidence, and so you wear them often. It could be the way they fit or showcase the favourite parts of your body. It might be the way they conceal an area of your body, or how they add a crisp, streamlined and professional integrity to your outfit. Or it could be a sentimental item that makes you feel comforted and supported in some way.

5. Practical & Comfortable Items

We tend to crave physical comfort and items that do their job. Items made of cosy fabric can become workhorses, as can deliciously comfortable shoes. Waterproof and snow-proof attire can become workhorses because they protect us from the elements. We can frequently reach for breezy Summer tops and dresses because they are machine washable, breathable and don’t need ironing.

6. Items in Happy Colours

If your mood is lifted by wearing a specific colour, it might be the reason you reach for that item more than others. My own citron, white, ink blue and tomato red items lift my spirits, which is why items in those colours have a good chance of becoming a wardrobe workhorse.

7. Items that Refresh Your Style

A new-to-you item that adds just the right refreshed, evolved and updated touch to your outfits can become an instant wardrobe workhorse. It might be a trendy pair of mules or slides, a pair of wide crops, a new denim jacket, dangly earrings, a cropped top, a midi skirt, high-rise jeans, a straw bag, a gingham blouse, or a pair of utility pants.

8. Items that Form Part of Your Signature Style

Often items that form part of your signature style become wardrobe workhorses. My own chunky white pearl necklaces are a wardrobe essential and part of my signature style, and they work very hard. So do all my white pairs of flats.

Smaller wardrobes tend to have a large percentage of workhorses, because there are fewer items to choose from when selecting an outfit. Larger wardrobes tend to have a smaller percentage of workhorses because there are many items that compete for daily wear.

What are the workhorses in your wardrobe?