In reading all the comments I find I can empathize with lisap and others that can’t justify spending big bucks on essentials. I often look at the pieces on YLF and think Oh, I’d love that....but then when I see the’s just not going to happen on my budget. I’m sure some of it is not having a clear idea of style moniker and what my signature style really is. Maybe if my purchases were not so random but part of a true plan then I could rationalize that any specific purchase is really the right piece and it will definitely move my style forward in a good way. Appreciate the different approaches everyone has shared here.

Lisa - it's bloody, bloody hard to find nice tops to wear under blazers. I will share mine. First I break items down to "best in class." So I have primarily gap and madewell jeans - which I love. I think I have exactly one pair of premium denim the C/E loved let out the hem crops and they are nice but I like my madewell better!!
On Tops:
1. JCrew Jackie Shell - best value, dry clean they stay nice longer
2. Theory mock sleeveless turtlenecks wendel and I have a slightly heavier ribbed one
3. EF cami, tank, ss tee, ls tee. You only need one and they last forever, hand wash, hang over night and they are perfect and feel so good on!!
4. Everlane $100 cashmere - black, charcoal, pearl. Best winter tees ever
5. Everlane oversized boyfriend blazers - Best value in class boyfriend blazers
Now we all like what we like and I am a minimalist compared to most. But just something to ponder...there's a difference in the experience wearing clothing that feels wonderful on, drapes, perfectly, is literally effortless. EF silk, to me is that. There's a whole book entitled "Simple isn't easy." And Malcolm Levine's book "10 steps to fashion freedom" is very much about that. Like your McQ black skull scarf, it's a different tactile experience and these pieces, rather than think of them as boring, they become chameleons that allow other statements to shine but are so wonderful that they enhance the whole experience. That's why they are worth the money and work to find, at least for me. Hope that helps!

Just chiming in to recommend Aritzia. I have the Babaton Akira blouse in off white, and the quality is superb - substantial fabric, great drape, washes well. I’m eyeing the sleeveless version for spring to wear under a blazer. Yes it’s polyester, but I don’t always want silk, especially for travelling. I notice there are several camis on their website too that might be worth a look.
Another option - Olsen. Only a fraction of the stock is shown on The Bay’s website (and what IS shown is so poorly displayed that it’s pitiful) so unless you can check in-store you won’t find much.
And for quality/price, it’s hard to beat Eddie Bauer’s long sleeved, crew neck, all cotton tees. The neckline is great, not too high, and after many, many washings it still sits nice and flat. These might be more casual than you want though.
As to EF, well I love everything I’ve ever bought from this brand, but the prices are crazy high now. I have my eye on the washable silk tank that everyone seems to rave about. If it’s available at The Bay I may try to order it on Seniors’ Day to get the discount! Maybe you have a 55+ person in your life who could do that for you?
Hope you keep us posted on what you order!

elpgal, the ON camis, I didn’t even consider them! I once wore them several years ago, but hadn’t revisited them at all. Thank you for the great share!

I share your struggles, Lisa, when it comes to price, longevity, fit of essential items. I came up with some guidelines for myself, may be you will find them somewhat useful. My essential pants are only from Massimo Dutti, COS and Theory (from The Bay on sale). I accept that pants will almost always require some alterations. And I’m OK with that. I have a good tailor from Nordstrom, who is not cheap. For me, it is worth it. I buy occasionally a pair of trendy pants from Zara, no money wasted on alterations, though.
The best blazers (they go on sale) are from Massimo Dutti, in my opinion but They fit a standard height, so luck for me. But I try anyway.
I mix higher end sweaters from The Bay or Winners like Vince or Theory with cashmere from Joe Fresh. Love them equally but don’t expect JF to last for more than 3 years.
Jeans are only from design brands and on sale. They are essential for me but I still can’t part with $200. So, it takes forever to find it. I’m used to it, endlessly checking sales, trying, searching. But no compromise.
I know Angie suggests to try all retailers and I do but I found which ones work for me, especially for essential pieces. I sometimes pay a full price, especially if panicking but mostly wait for sales. The process of acquiring essentials is slow and frustrating for me

For me, essentials are usually used as under-layers, pieces of an outfit that won’t really be super visible (leggings, skinnies, stretch tees). I buy some of those at outlets but also find that athleisure-type brands can be a good source: they make things that fit smoothly and can stand up to hard wear and laundering. This is really important to me- I hate putting in the effort to select a perfect thing, only to see it fall apart in the wash or get snagged by a zipper or a fingernail. Hate delicate clothes!! And I don’t like to bother with babying my essentials.

My go-to for this would be Athleta, but you probably have some similar version where you live. Columbia is also great for basic sportswear-ish pieces that can cross over into casual everyday wear.

Such great replies here - thank you all! Sorry for the delay : I worked late last night and needed to decompress after a long, cold day .
Jessikams - my go-to for athleisure is Lululemon and MPG, and I'm happy with that. I'm looking for pieces for my "other" life where I need/want dressier/nicer pieces.

Irina - you sound like a very thoughtful and dedicated shopper, and looks like we like the same brands. Focusing on a few brands/lables that work is a great idea (as Angie mentioned earlier). I need to find a dependable tailor , stat.

missvee - I indeed have a 55+ person in my life......ME! I didn't know The Bay did seniors discounts. Hmm. Anyways, I do like Aritzia and buy the odd piece there. Their pants works me, camis and tanks: less so (cut is wrong, too straight and too low in front) . I did just buy a gorgeous heavy charmeuse blouse with beautiful detailing that I love though!

gryffin - thanks for all of the ideas! Everlane is indeed back on my radar,and I'll be checking them out today. And you hit the nail on the head: I need/want/enjoy wearing clothing that feels luxurious and special. I am willing to spend the $ on good pieces, it's finding them that is the issue. I'm contradicting myself a bit through this post, and I realize that.....I think reading and writing all of this has brought me back full circle to realizing that it's the best-quality essentials that my $ should go toward, not fun sneakers and sweaters

whidebey girl - nodding along to what you are saying ....also not having a clear idea of my style making it harder

Responding to comments on page 1 shortly ! (one needs two screens to toggle back and forth without losing your typing - gah!)

I am sensitive to your dilemma. I haven't come up with anything that is helpful though. Best wishes as you work to strike a balance.

I have this issue too. I like to have items that fit well and have a hard time finding them but partly because I don't want to spend a lot. It probably wouldn't be as big an issue if I were willing to spend the money. But I also feel like I am picky and hard to fit.

I love buying *anything but essentials* mainly because it sounds like a daunting task to buy that ONE hard working thing that will be a mainstay - and of course, we think that means we have to pay a lot up front for it. But if you think that a black tank top might be a good addition to your work wardrobe, but you're not sure, why not go buy a Gap Body black tank and see if you actually wear that first before finally upgrading that piece to a nice quality linen tank or silk tank? You might come to find you think tanks are dumb and you're glad you only spent $16 on it

This fall, I had the crazy idea that I should get rid of a lot I didn't wear and buy a small capsule of "essential pieces" for the winter. It was EXTREMELY boring. I mean very boring for me to locate things I'd wear solidly - also, that meant no wild colors (gotta like the idea of it before I branch out!). But looking back over this fall + winter so far, I wear both cashmere sweaters 1-2x per week and the 2 pairs of basic black work pants I got in my PERFECT FITS and had tailored, I wear them all of the time also. I LOVE items of flair, if there is something shiny, flashy, red, or leopard print out there...I want it, and usually those things are easy to buy because I see them on me, living their best life (hahah!), but I tell you, I've never had an easier time getting dressed for work! These pieces just work. No fuss. When cashmere goes on sale, I'll add two more *fun* colors to the mix, but for now, black and gray basics have taken me VERY far! I went "all out" and bought a dark blush colored silk tank, and while I love the feel and it works with every single blazer I own, as much as I want to be, I don't think I'm a silk girl (its soooo hot!)- but I just might be onto something with basic shell tank tops under blazers. Live and learn...right?

LaP - great suggestion to look at Uniqlo. A coworker was wearing really nice black jeans yesterday, which she said were from...Uniqlo! Must see what they have. Boden is not really my aesthetic either, and as much as I appreciate and admire the colourful fun look , it's not where I need to focus much attention. Not familiar with Grana, but am off to check it out now!

Gretchen - I admit I'm alterations-adverse, mostly because it adds yet another 3-4 steps to the whole process. However, if I'm going to continue to invest in better clothes, I need to find one I can trust. And good point about identifying the success factors in essentials that do work.

Column - I'm no stalker at all, but maybe I have to become one!

Jenn - I feel like I've been stepping back and waiting for too long, thus the overall unhappiness with my essentials pieces. I also don't like turning simple shopping into a world-class tracking mission , as it gives me zero pleasure and takes a lot of time. Off to look at maximizer/satisficer info....not even sure what that is I'm totally fine with high- low and my closet is representative of it, moreso in the statement pieces. I've decided essentials need to be the best they can be in order to satisfy me.

Keturah - thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply. You're another one who advocates for a good tailor ...

Thanks Lynn

Sal - again, you're so practical and effective in your shopping. A list? What's that?

Suz - gryffin mentioned the Jackie shell too. I'll have to check it out. I don't do sleeves under jackets, but was just curious what you wear. I wish I could wear a mock or turtle (sleeveless) . That would be a great piece to add. I think it brings too much focus to my rapidly aging neck now though.....yuck.

Suntiger - yes, cost per wear is a perfect way to look at buying essentials. And you are right - I'm more inclined to buy a better quality essential than an inexpensive , lesser-quality piece. I'd like the simple essentials to be able to hold their own while wearing them, and not have them be something you're embarrassed to show if you take a jacket off etc.

aliceinwonderland - sounds like you and I are on the same page .

elpgal - YES - and my size has fluctuated so much in the last 6-7 years.
It never did, and maybe that is what's holding me back.

kkards - yes, I can talk you into any expensive thing we can find you Let's go shopping !

I am really hoping the Eileen Fisher shell works out!

Lisa - I have the list but whether I stick to it is another matter!!

Love what Gryffin wrote here

rather than think of them as boring, they become chameleons that allow other statements to shine but are so wonderful that they enhance the whole experience.

I do agree with that and need to remember to put that into action myself. I have a black tee that I love and always feel good wearing - it just has a couple of small details that make it more fun/special/flattering than most black tees that I find. It has a scoop neck and a twisted side seam.

I wish I had some good advice for you, but I often feel that I am in the same spot. I like my essentials to be pretty classic but not *too* classic, and when you start dealing with fit issues, it can be really hard to find the right thing. And although I'm willing to pay more than I'd like for a hard-working essential, I have my limits. For instance, two years ago I found a James Pearse tee that was close to exactly what I wanted--but I couldn't justify the $100+ price tag for the material, which looked like it would disintegrate after a single season of hard wear. (Luckily, J. Crew came out with an almost identical tee for literally a quarter of the price, and so I ordered two.)

I guess my only suggestion would be that if you do find something that looks just right but is a little higher priced than you'd like to pay, go ahead and treat yourself, at least in a couple of instances. See how it goes. If you really enjoy wearing the purchases, maybe it will be easier to funnel more of your budget into esentials.