Have you ever found yourself standing in front of your closet, trying to pick out an outfit to wear, only to find yourself stuck and completely overwhelmed by all your choices? I sure know I have. The trouble with having too many articles of clothing is that it’s too many options to choose from and these options make it difficult to put together your best outfit ideas. Wardrobe essentials are a game changer.
Contrary to popular belief, more isn’t always better. If you’re looking to scale back your closet or you know that you want to build your wardrobe, but you aren’t sure where to start – this post is for you. Building your best wardrobe doesn’t require a bunch of random items hanging in your closet and filling your drawers. Your best wardrobe is built by choosing quality pieces and basics that are multi-functional, well constructed, and contain carry-over styles that can be worn throughout the year. I’ve found that purchasing timeless basics is the key to starting the wardrobe of your dreams. They’re critical because they’re the pieces that can be made to work for almost any occasion. They’re versatile, meaning you can dress them up or dress them down, and depending on what you pair each piece with, you can make the style all your own.
It’s important to remember that this won’t happen overnight. To build your wardrobe from the ground up means that you have to look at your current style and figure out the direction you want to go with it. Then, you’re going to look for pieces to bring your vision to life. And If my years working retail and time spent building my brand have taught me anything, it’s that I have a true love of fashion. This passion is what drives me and I want to share these tips so that everyone can feel their absolute best.
First things first, a few quick tips before we jump into the key pieces for building your wardrobe, shop my favorite picks at the bottom of the post!
Black is always in season! It’s always been a classic staple for a reason and every colour under the rainbow looks fantastic when paired with black. If you’re looking for other neutral colours to add as staples to your wardrobe, I suggest grey, navy, and white. I know, I know, I can hear some of you saying “but I can’t wear white!” I promise you, you can. Everyone can pull off white in the right look, it’s all about building the outfit.
Also, I always encourage searching for vintage pieces when putting together a wardrobe. It not only saves you money but it’s also great for the environment by cutting down on clothing production.
One of the main reasons I love shopping vintage is the knowledge that each piece comes with its own story. I like to imagine that each piece I purchase has a romantic and dreamy story of where it originated, the things it’s seen, and the places it’s been.
Now, let’s get into the pieces that will help you build an essential wardrobe.
Wardrobe Essential #1 – Little Black Dress
Let’s start with the most classic wardrobe essential. Every wardrobe should contain a classic little black dress (or LBD). I like to go with a form-fitting dress in a fit and flare cut because it accentuates my waist but is free-flowing enough to be fun.
Whatever cut you prefer, you’ll be able to wear this dress time and time again. It’s classic and the accessory possibilities are endless.
Wardrobe Essential #2 – White Button-Down Top
A white button-down top, or blouse, is a closet staple. It’s versatile enough that it can be paired with dressier or more laidback looks. If you’re looking to dress it up, you can tuck it into a skirt and throw on a pair of heels. Or you can french tuck the top into a pair of skinny jeans and pull on your favourite flats.
The tricky part is finding the right white button-down or blouse for you. Depending on your style, you may find that you’re okay with the button-up tops being a bit looser fitting. I have to accommodate my large chest, and to me, there’s nothing worse than buying a shirt only to see that the buttons gap in the chest area.
Luckily, through some trial and error, I’ve found what works best for me. And you’ll have to do the same. You’ll probably have to try at least a few shirts before you find one that works, but when you do, I promise it will be worth it.
The same can be said for blouses. I tend to go for styles that give shape but are loose enough to fit my chest.
Wardrobe Essential #3 – The Perfect White T-Shirt
Another closet staple is the perfect white t-shirt. And when I say perfect, it’s all about the material for me. If the shirt is too clingy, it folds in all the wrong places and snags instead of lying flat in all the right places. If it’s poorly constructed, the seams will quickly come undone and look sloppy. This is why investing in quality pieces is so important. When you’re selecting a t-shirt, you have to set your expectations higher than the basic cotton tee.
Look for t-shirts that are of higher quality and make sure that you try them with the bottoms and accessories that you plan to wear so that you get the full idea of where the look will go.
Wardrobe Essential #4 – Turtle Neck
In the colder seasons, I am always reaching for my turtlenecks. And truthfully, this is probably my favourite item of all time. It also happens to be the item that causes me the most trouble – because when I find a turtleneck that I love, I want one in every colour!
But the reason that I love turtlenecks so much is that they’re a wonderful way to look chic yet feel as comfy and cozy as possible. I don’t always want or have the time to get all dolled up, but that doesn’t mean that I want to look frumpy.
The key to finding a great turtleneck is picking ones that are well constructed and ones that won’t stretch out. For my personal style, I also look for cuts that shape my body but aren’t tight or too form-fitting.
Wardrobe Essential #5 & 6 – Chunky Knit & Faux Leather Jacket
Another great alternative is a chunky knit. Pull it together with a faux leather jacket and you’re set.
Speaking of faux leather jackets, that’s another must-have for any wardrobe! This adds a touch of edge without going over the top. It pulls together looks for every season and can be thrown over everything from a summer dress to leggings and a tunic top.
Wardrobe Essential #7 – Jean Jacket
When you’re in the market for another versatile and crucial piece of outerwear, you’re going to want to invest in a jean jacket. Look for one that’s slightly oversized so that you can throw it over a chunky knit in the winter or even wear it in the spring or fall when the weather starts out chilly in the morning but warms up throughout the afternoon.
Wardrobe Essential #8 – Cardigan
Cardigans also make great additions to any wardrobe. Black, white, or cream coloured cardigans add an element of comfort to every outfit. Finding the right fit for you will have you feeling like you’re being hugged by your favourite blanket.
Wardrobe Essential #9 – Coats
For coats, you’re going to want three pieces to cover different seasons and weather conditions.
You’ll definitely want to get yourself a wool coat and a trench coat. You’ll want to make sure that they both cinch at the waist to give your body the definition it deserves!
Every closet should also contain a winter puffer coat. Listen, I live in the north (a.k.a. Canada) and it can get pretty cold during the winter months. When this time of year rolls around, I’m always sure to have a puffer coat that hits about knee length to keep the wind from breaking through and chilling me to the bone. It’s important to remember when selecting coats for the winter than you size up so that you can layer your favourite looks underneath.
Wardrobe Essential #10 – Skinny Jeans
For bottoms, I simply couldn’t live without my skinny jeans. I always go for ones that have plenty of stretch in them. It’s so uncomfortable to be in a pair of form-fitting jeans that have no stretch, it limits your movement and just leaves your look feeling stiff. Skinny jeans are also great for dressing up and dressing down. You can take the same pair of dark wash skinny jeans, wear them to work on casual Friday, and then transition them into drinks with friends after your shift.
Wardrobe Essential #11 – Black Pencil Skirt
A black pencil skirt is a timeless piece that pulls together a more classically feminine look. If you’re going for a more casual look, you could pair it with a great turtleneck or you could dress it up and tuck in your favourite white blouse.
Once you’ve got your basic clothing pieces selected, it time to accessorize.
Wardrobe Essential #12 – Heels
When I say that you should have a good pair of heels in your wardrobe, I know it sounds intimidating. But what you’re going to look for is a pair that you can wear for more than an hour. For most of us, walking around in 6-inch stilettos is simply impractical. I’m all about finding a pair that look chic without giving my feet painful blisters. Again, this is where you’ll look for good quality. A kitten heel is a great beginner’s heel and I love them for classing up a look.
Pointy toe flats are also a great alternative to heels. The pointed toe is great for giving the illusion of elongating your legs and the possibilities are endless with the kinds of outfits they match with. You can wear them with everything from skirts to skinny jeans.
Wardrobe Essential #13 – Ankle Boots
Ankle boots are crucial for winter wear. But it’s not just about the look when you’re considering purchasing a new pair. If you’re going to be wearing them during a winter with snow, you’re going to want to pick boots that also have a good grip on the bottom to avoid taking any tumbles!
Wardrobe Essential #14 – White Sneakers
White sneakers are a hot trend right now, and one that isn’t going away anytime soon. Again with these, you’re going to want to look for comfort and ensure your feet get the proper support they need. Also, be sure to invest in an extra pair of shoelaces. I know it seems like such a small thing, but the first part of a white shoe to get dirty will always be the laces, they also happen to be the hardest to clean. So, it’s best to have extras on hand.
There are other accessories that are smaller items but they will not only switch up the style of your look but they are also where you can express so much more of your personality.
Wardrobe Essential #15 – the Perfect Handbag
Invest in a high-quality handbag. When deciding on a new bag, ensure that you go with a classic style and avoid anything that’s super ‘trendy’. Trends come and go, the point of investing in a proper handbag is finding one that you can use over and over again.
Make sure that the handbag also hits all of your desires. You don’t want to get yourself a handbag that doesn’t even fit your smartphone – trust me, I’ve made this mistake. Think of all the reasons you’ll need a handbag and all of the items that you’ll be putting in it before making the purchase.
Wardrobe Essential #16 – Sunglasses
A great pair of sunglasses goes a long way. Make sure that you go for a comfortable fit, and just like your handbag, go for a classic frame instead of something trendy. This is personal to you and something that you’re guaranteed to wear all year.
It’s a serious investment, so go into a sunglasses shop and try on a bunch of pairs before narrowing it down to your final decision. Also, if you are someone who breaks things easily, I would recommend purchasing a less costly pair. This way they won’t cost too much to replace if you get a little clumsy.
Wardrobe Essential #17 – Toque
Invest in a toque (beanie) or a cute beret. Especially if you live somewhere with cooler temperatures, you’re going to want to stay warm and these pieces will help you look fashionable doing it.
And while this one probably won’t make it out of the house, I think it’s worth a mention. Buy yourself a great pair of PJs! I’m a huge fan of cotton PJs for casual and everyday wear, then I go for silk when I’m looking to splurge on myself. I also size up with the PJs because it’s all about comfort, right?
Now, with all of this new-found knowledge, I don’t recommend running to your local mall and purchasing the first item you set your sights on. This process will take time – remember, it’s all about quality. If you make rushed decisions you may end up purchasing items you don’t love. And if you don’t love them, you won’t wear them.
Take your time and start by looking at what you currently own and where you’d like your style to go. Pick some key pieces and stick to your basic colours. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t incorporate colour into your wardrobe. In fact, I love colour! Just make sure to take this process one step at a time – the goal is to build a full wardrobe without getting overwhelmed.
Figure out what your style is and what pieces you’ll need, think about all the wardrobe essentials. Then, create a plan based on all the tips you’ve learned today and go build the wardrobe of your dreams.
Also check out my article about seasonal wardrobe changes, read more.