So, I really struggle with this concept of essentials (as I’ve noted all over other folks’ threads). I thought I'd attempt a data-driven approach and just look at my wardrobe numbers and see if any categories jump out at me.

Categories where I have multiples:

  • Wool trousers (different fits and all patterned, no solids -- but that might just be a fluke of availability) -- these might actually be statements? They tend to require “boring” tops and my general MO is to dress them down with basics like sweatshirts, henley's, graphic tees, etc.
  • Merino jersey dresses (again, a couple different cuts, and a mix of colours and patterns) -- these feel essential in an FFBO kind of way. Two out of three get worn year-round; one is winter-only. I’ve been buying the same Icebreaker style for years and keep replacing it with the same… finally wised up and got two: one solid, one striped.
  • Flannel shirts (my fall staple top) -- I could possibly just expand this category to tailored-but-casual shirts, to account for the two oxford shirts and two chambray shirts that I wear in warmer weather. Perhaps: tailored, menswear-inspired shirts? Anything too long/blousy/billowy/oversized becomes a statement, because I’m mostly wearing them over straight or wide bottoms.
  • Levis 501s (the bulk of my jeans -- and they get recycled into shorts when the knees bust). I keep replacing them with the same thing, so...
  • Breton tops (my spring staple top) -- or maybe just horizontal stripes in general? My rugby stripe sweater and tee feel pretty indispensable too.
  • Solid colour tank tops (The Supima tanks from Uniqlo are my go-to in this category. Icebreaker used to make a merino version with a comparable fit that I loved even more, but they discontinued that model, so for now I’m stuck with cotton.) Again, these might actually be basics, even though I wear them as standalone tops in the summer?
  • Black and navy footwear (sturdy but not overly chunky/stompy because I don't like physically heavy shoes, minimal heel) -- I have shoes in other colours, love shoes in other colours, but black and navy are my go-to support acts. Anything else is a statement.
  • Leggings (four pairs -- which basically works out to one cropped pair for summer, one wool pair for winter, and two for the rest of the year) -- essential in the sense that my dresses wouldn’t get much play without them. Maybe these should be considered basics, since they function as hosiery, except that they don’t fall apart on me.
  • Hoodies (again, I have four, in varying weights and fabrications, and they get worn so, so much, year round. Wool in the winter, cotton in the summer (and cotton ones at home in the winter, tbh)
  • Striped summer dresses -- I have three, or four if you add in the striped merino dress which is a year-round piece. These might be statements? I love that they are standalone outfits that need very little embellishment.

From this list, I suspect that I use my toppers as statements -- or maybe “wildcard element” is a better term than statement. That outer layer on top is the style modifier -- dress down with a field jacket, or up with a blazer; make it cozier with a wool sweater, breezier with a cotton sweater, etc.