Before I started my business, I didn’t pay any attention to wardrobe basics. As a matter of fact, I actually learned the term when I took my first image consulting training. I don’t think I had many, if any essentials other than black pants and blue jeans. What I did have was a jam packed closet with a lot of clothes I didn’t wear. A few things were quality, but most weren’t because I couldn’t afford it since I was buying so often.
So what are wardrobe basics? These are the pieces that you can wear with almost anything. They typically don’t have a lot of detail to them so they let your clothes with more style, details or “flash” shine brightly. Basics can also be considered the building blocks of your wardrobe.
These are the clothes you’ll always see in the “must haves” lists so often. While I don’t usually subscribe to these lists, since they assume everyone wants to look alike, they do have some merit.
As I was reading one of the previously mentioned lists recently, I got to thinking about it and I thought “Wow, I bet my list I compiled 8 years ago is outdated!” But the great thing about it is that even though styles have changed considerably, these basics are hold outs. My list today is very much the same as what it was originally!
When you buy your staples in classic, 3 season fabrics, they will stand the test of time for quite a while. In other words, when you spend money on quality clothing, you’ll get a really great cost per wear over time! Ah, music to my ears!
Below is my list of basics that I recommend at least most wardrobes need. Keep in mind that you don’t have to find exactly the pieces listed, rather find those that resonate most with your personal style, body type and coloring.
Another thing to note: I’m not suggesting your wardrobe isn’t complete without these pieces, or that you should run out and try to buy everything in one trip.
Ah and one last caveat—I’ve written “black” for many of the items; however, if black isn’t great for your coloring, choose another dark neutral, such as chocolate brown, navy or charcoal. Or for spring/summer, you might replace black with white, tan or another light neutral that complements your coloring.
(List is in no particular order.)
- Little Black Dress: Ah, the little black dress! I have never seen a “must have” wardrobe list that didn’t include this darling. Choose a relatively dressy fabric, such as a crepe or a rayon or silk blend. The more simple the style, the more easily it can be changed easily with layers and accessories. It can easily take you from the office to cocktails to a black tie affair!
- Black pants: I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a client’s closet that didn’t have a pair of black pants. In fact, most women have more than one! If you need to update your black pants, I urge you to seek perfection…both in fit and fabric. I don’t need to convince you just how versatile they are!
- Jeans: Choose a style that fits perfectly and is most flattering for your body. A dark wash is essential if you’re wearing jeans for business. (No, these probably aren’t your Saturday jeans.) If you wear them a lot, I encourage you to update your styles regularly.
- Black pumps: I prefer patent leather, but kid leather or suede will do nicely as well. If you’ve got black already, try animal print to spice things up! (In many circles, it IS considered a neutral!) If you’re extra-opposed to a heel of any kind, sub in ballet flats that have a bit of structure and a rigid heel. And if you want to really go crazy, add pumps and ballet flats to your wardrobe!
- Silver or gold hoops (medium size) or diamond (or cubic zirconium) studs: These earrings serve as “neutral” grounding for your accessories, and won’t compete with any necklace you might be wearing.
- Tailored blazer: A dark neutral is a natural choice, (but if you’re feeling like you need a little color, choose an elegant blazer in your favorite color.) This jacket will go over everything in your wardrobe from jeans to a dress. Even if you don’t wear suits for work, having a jacket on hand for presentations and important meetings is priceless!
- White Blouse: I really hesitated to include a white blouse as a wardrobe basic…purely for personal reasons. I’m just not that much of a shirt/blouse person. But I decided to be a big girl and include it. Out of all of the pieces I’ve mentioned, I feel as though this one deserves the very most consideration to your personal style. If you run out and buy a plain, white blouse for the sake of a basic, you can potentially end up looking uncomfortable and inauthentic. Perhaps you are more of a white, silk blouse woman or an over-sized, men’s shirt kind of gal, or maybe a crisp bow will truly make you feel like you.
- Perfect t-shirt: Of course, white would probably be most practical, another color that flatters your skin tone and is fairly neutral is good, too. Truly to feel amazing and get a great fit in a T, you need to spend just a little more money. Plus, it will feel and wash better, too. A few brands of T’s I absolutely love are Splendid, Majestic, 3 Dots, and Adea.
- Cardigan Sweater: There are so many days we just don’t want to wear a jacket, right? A cardigan sweater is so much more comfortable and cozy. A few ways you might not have thought of wearing a cardigan before: -a v-neck cardi under a jacket buttoned to look like a little vest adds warmth for frigid offices. -over a little black dress to dress it down a little -with shorts in the summer on a cool evening, (much more sophisticated than a hoodie.)
- A knee length dressy coat: I know that with all of our snow and outdoorsy lifestyles, to think of any type of a coat but a ski jacket can be hard to imagine. While down is efficient in the cold, it just doesn’t do anything for your business looks! Unless you absolutely never wear skirts or dresses, a knee length coat will work with just about anything you’ll wear. Plus, dressy coats are actually very stylish right now with jeans and leggings.
- Swim suit: Okay, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this on another “must have” list before mine! Here’s the thing, even if you don’t swim much, you never know when you’ll need a suit. A Jacuzzi is a requisite for any hotel I stay at. Plus, you never know when you’ll be whisked off to a tropical island…or even just San Diego for a corporate retreat.
And there you have it, my list of 11 “must haves” for every wardrobe. As I mentioned earlier, there is so much room for personal style! And no, there’s nothing wrong with your closet if you don’t have all of these pieces. (A secret, I’m missing a little black dress and black pumps!) If you’re a minimalist, you just might need all of these things and then a few more. If you’re a maximalist, you may have duplicates of all of these items, and I urge you to keep only the ones that make you feel absolutely fabulous! I promise that either way, getting dressed will be much easier!