This year sort of clarified the essentials for me (and now that I think about it, not just for my wardrobe!)

Mine are:
1. high rise bootcut jeans- blue, black
2. skinny jeans- blue, grey/black
3. Vneck cotton Tshirts- blue, grey, black
4. sneakers (sort of borderline between athletic and fashion)
5. ankle boots (neutral, low)
6. zip sweatshirts- yep, blue and grey
7. puffer- one short and light, one super warm

Borderline essentials:
Last year I would have included Vneck wool sweaters as essentials, but I don't find these so essential anymore since I don't leave the house as much and don't want to deal with the hand washing.

I also often wear a pullover sweater or long sleeve knit top, and maybe these are essentials. But I feel like if any of these wore out, I might replace it with something different- whereas for the list above I have either already duplicated or would try and find a very close or exact replacement.

Some revelations:
Although I have some statement items (colorful blouses, print scarves, plaid shirts), much of the rest of my wardrobe I would call "subtle statements". Many of these are slightly jazzed-up versions of the essentials- for example, the same bootcuts but in corduroy, the same skinnies but in burgundy. I'm not really a statement kind of person, so some of my statements are probably similar to other people's essentials. They might be the most interesting thing about an outfit, but they are not super statement-y.

I don't often wear jeans in the high summer, but I don't really have an essential bottom for that season- I might wear a dress or cropped pants at home, but can't wear those to work. Every summer I try to find new pants to wear and then am not especially satisfied with my choices. I get 1 or 2, and wear them a lot because I need to get dressed, but then put summer pants on the list for next year. I need to find my "essential" summer pants! Something that I can rely on, that is full length but ok to wear both out in the heat (at least briefly) and to work in the lab.

Thanks for reading, that was helpful to write down.