Ok, I’m game for an experiment. Here is a list of neutral-ish things that I own and wear often, i.e., potential essentials. You can see that I’m pretty uncomfortable with/resistant to this concept. But I’m interested to see where the discussion goes.
Black and navy skirt leggings.
Medium-wash and dark-wash skinny jeans. I desperately want a pair of cool-medium-gray skinnies.
These are essentials in part because I do not have any other options. I would like to add a more straight-leg or boyfriend-type jean but I cannot find any that suit me.
More abstractly, I would describe my desired essential bottoms as non-trendy jeans that are mid-rise for me (=low-rise to retailers) without embellishment or distressing, in shades of blue and black/gray.
White cotton blouses with detailing (tuxedo pleats, pin tucks). I would like to rely on these LESS. Instead I would like to wear fluid-fit silk blouses in light colors like ballet pink and lavender. Less crisp attention, more subtle shimmer. But those would not be neutral so they could not be essentials, correct?
In spring, Breton-stripe tees. I think these do the same work as the white blouses of “lightening up” an outfit. I currently have one that is medium blue and white, and one that is navy and white with a pattern of whales superimposed — so maybe they are not plain/neutral enough to be essentials after all?
In cold seasons I rely on v-neck cardigans with a high stance and some kind of texture and/or detail: shawl collars, pockets, cabling, etc. I have a wide assortment of these. Which ones I reach for most vary by season (and depends on which tops are currently in the mix). I do not necessarily wear the neutral ones more than the colored ones. I currently rely most on longer-length cardigans, but only because all my bottoms are skinnies.
Boxy or tunic-length pullovers (black, charcoal, gray flowered sweatshirt). Again I feel that I would like to add colors though and would reach for those more. A-ha: that’s because my bottoms are all neutral, and I’m fairly happy with that. So I want color on top.
Riding-style tall boots. My cognac ones are the purest expression of this and probably the ones I wear most but I think the gray and black also function as essentials.
If I could add a different silhouette of bottoms I think that loafers and oxfords with menswear detailing (brogues, tassel loafers, etc.) would also become essential footwear.
Cropped mid-wash slim jeans.
I have a pair of navy shorts that I wore a fair bit last summer. I also have a pair of black shorts but I don’t think I wore them at all last year.
Oh, and a midi-length black knit skirt. I bought it at the end of August and did wear it quite a lot, but obviously got along fine without it!
A 3/4 sleeve embroidered white popover
3/4 sleeve navy/white Breton (oddly though, I don’t think I wore it at all last year. Instead I wore the heck out of a 3/4 sleeve blush-pink sweater with orange stripes — not an essential).
None. I have a wide assortment of 3/4 sleeve cropped v-neck cardigans that I wear constantly. I wear the colors much more than the neutrals though. Last year my most worn summer cardi was icy lavender, of all things.
None. During summer I rely a lot on empire-waist sundresses that fall anywhere from just below the knee to just above the ankle. Most are colorful/patterned. I do have a solid black one but I reach for the patterned ones much more.
None? My most worn footwear in summer are canvas skimmers (periwinkle blue, pink) and flat Euro sandals (most worn = pinky coral and fuchsia, though I do have a pair of brown ones that I don’t wear too often these days). When I look at my summer footwear, I think that PINK serves the “glue” function, but that’s not neutral so it can’t be an essential, yeah?
Maybe my tan braided clog sandals would qualify here? I do wear them a fair bit — in some years, they surely reach essential status.
Have at it, y'all!