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 wardrobe essentials or wardrobe basics. Or they can be bold statement pieces. They can be printed, solid, any colour, any fabric, old or new, classic, avant-garde or vintage, modern retro or trendy, pricey or inexpensive. The mix of wardrobe workhorses in our closet evolves over time.

Despite our mindful intentions and discerning shopping decisions, predicting whether a wardrobe item will become a workhorse is not easy at all. The recent discussion about this on the YLF forum is well worth a read. Most agreed that it’s a crapshoot, and so do I. Sometimes workhorses are predictable if they are items that are signature to your style. On the other hand, spontaneous wild cards can unexpectedly become workhorses. Items that are workhorses one year can fall out of favour the next, or vice versa.

Workhorses can be hard to predict at purchase time because there are a multitude of variables that affect the frequency with which you wear something in real life. Some reasons are logical, like if an item malfunctions when it’s put through its paces so it’s not as comfortable or easy to wear as you thought it would be. The way you currently feel about your body can make you change your mind about a potential wardrobe workhorse. The need for change can make a trusted workhorse fall out of favour, and make a new unexpected workhorse the refreshing flavour of the season. And there’s your mood, which reflects your daily choice of outfit and is also unpredictable. It’s a wonder that we’re able to predict potential wardrobe workhorses at all.

Personally, I find that I can more accurately predict whether an item will become a wardrobe workhorse when it’s a wardrobe basic, eyewear, a piece in my happy colours, a piece that boosts my confidence in an extreme way and is beautifully made, a piece that is extremely comfortable, a piece that is sentimental, modern retro or nostalgic in some way, or a piece that forms part of my signature style. I find that I can less accurately predict whether an item will become a workhorse when it’s a new-to-me colour, silhouette or accessory that refreshes my style, a trendy or fashion-forward piece, or a wardrobe essential.

Here are some 2019 purchases that I predicted would become wardrobe workhorses, and did.

The red aviator is in my happy colour and a nostalgic throwback to the ‘90s fashion I liked. The white buttons on the blush denim jacket launched me into orbit, and the swingy style is modern retro. Although you can’t see it in the stock photo, the denim blazer has amazing cuffs that turn back and the silhouette boosts my confidence because it’s sharp, tailored and unique. Plus it was a gift from Greg so it’s sentimental. The Ecco sneakers are in my happy colours and extremely comfortable and versatile. The streamlined wide cropped check pants are gorgeously luxe and checked pants are signature to my style. The Hobbs trench is impeccably sharp and confidence boosting, while the polka dot shirt is fun, well-made, comfortable, and boosts confidence too. The wide crops are white jeans, which are signature to my style. And the white tuxedo stripe and insets on the cropped flares instantly pulled at my heartstrings. They were also a gift from Greg so fably sentimental.

Here are some new 2019 purchases that I didn’t think would become workhorses, but did:

The lined woolly Veronica Beard pants are earthy, which is not my thing, yet I reach for them all the time. The monogrammed “A” necklace layers well with my pearls, so I wear it a lot. The red patent boots are extremely comfy, and just this year I’m majorly in the mood for red shoes so they’re my favourite boots of 2019. The ultra trendy COS jeans at the new shorter full length really caught me by surprise, and I love them. They are amongst my favourite pairs of jeans at the moment, so I guess I needed a change. The bouclé blazer at the trendy new longer length was a risk because I generally prefer shorter jackets. Yet the vibrancy, drama, and excellent pattern mixing ability of this darling makes me very happy, and I reach for it a lot. The chunky Seinfeld sneakers were a wild card, yet they became an instant workhorse because they fit well, are really comfy, look super trendy, and fondly remind me of the late ‘80s. It also helps that Greg thinks they are super cute.

Here are some items that I thought would be wardrobe workhorses, but aren’t:

In theory the white belt bag would be excellent for my urban life. It looks great, and adds a trendy touch to my look. But it’s awfully hard to get things in and out of and very impractical for that reason, especially when I have Yorkie Sam in tow. My wallet and gigantic phone are a bad fit. My crossbody bags are infinitely more practical. The rain coat is super cute, and does the job, but it’s not warm enough. I reach for my warmer rain coats more often. The white denim jacket feels great and is a wonderful length and fit. But the silver buttons put me off a little more than I thought they would, and I wish they were brass or gold. I will absolutely keep on wearing the raincoat and denim jacket, but they’re not workhorses and that’s okay. I don’t consider them wardrobe fails at all. The belt bag on the either hand might need to be passed on. Thankfully it was not a pricey purchase.

Over to you. Do these thoughts on predicting wardrobe workhorses resonate with you? Do you have wardrobe workhorse wisdom to share?