Today’s Ten takes up the question of wardrobe essentials. If you are going to develop your personal style, you need to know what your essentials are. I thought reading mine might help. This list is definitely not meant to be universal. But it is a good point of comparison for you. Know this first:
I do not own a white shirt, little black dress, or black pumps. No one has ever called me the queen of practical dressing. These, however, are all items that I own more than three of and cannot seem to live without. In the world according to me, every gal over the age of 30 should own at least one of each of these items. So with that giant-sized grain of salt, here are my top 10 wardrobe essentials.
1. A Totally Not Black Statement Dress
My perfect dress is the antithesis to the LBD. I am one of those people who do not look great in black. I just never feel like me if I am wearing too much of it. I still love a great little dress, but all of mine feature standout details and a lot of personality. Shown here are 2 All Saints dresses, one featuring a neutral print, and the other my favorite shade of beigy-pink with zipper embellishments.
The keys to picking the right statement dress are cut and fit. You should learn which lines look best on your body type and always stick with those. Dresses that create a waist line look best on me. I feel great in a-line skirts and hourglass shape dresses. Straight cut, boxy shirt dresses, tight, and very short dresses are NOT right on me, but they may look great on you. The dress should also fit you perfectly to really make a statement.
Go for color and print, but pick those that make you feel like you. I cannot do neon brights, yellow, or super bold and busy prints. I usually opt for prints that have a softer, more painterly look to them.
Once you know what your personal statement look is, you will be able to identify the perfect dresses for you whenever you see them without falling for every trend that might not work for you.
2. A Slouchy Handbag
I have a hard time finding handbags. I feel that most look unnatural on me. The key for me has been soft and unusual colors, distressed details, mellow-toned hardware, and a super slouchy shape.
I know many of you will opt for a neater look. And it is true that I can often be found rummaging wildly for keys and all manner of things, since my bags often do not have compartments. Still, I love my slouchy bags. Please try one for the weekend at least!
3. Skinny Jeans
I believe that skinny jeans look good on everyone. I could not survive without my collection of Joe’s Jeans Skinnys. My absolute must have pair are super dark rinse. They can look formal and business like for work, and they add snap to dressed down looks too. This past year I’ve added skinnies in a range of colors, and yes, print. They’ve really added more versatility to my basic look, which is skinny jeans, with a blouse, jacket, and heels.
4. A Silk Blouse
A closet full of nice silk blouses in easy-to-wear colors has transformed my wardrobe in recent years. I used to wear mostly tees and more casual shirts under my jackets, and I was frustrated because I could not find a professional look that worked for me.
Wearing a well-designed silk blouse with interesting details under a jacket has elevated my skinny jeans to the right level for my work and lifestyle. And working with clients on their personal style, I can say that the addition of silk blouses to even the most casual of wardrobes makes a big difference.
A silk blouse is sophisticated and comfortable. In warmer weather you can wear them alone with jeans or shorts, strappy sandals, and simple jewelry. In colder weather they are thin enough to layer beautifully with jackets, coats, and sweaters. They come in enough different cuts and colors to mean that anyone can find a few that are right for them.
5. A Leather Jacket
On to my guiltiest wardrobe pleasure. A leather jacket serves many purposes. It can be worn like a blazer over a silk blouse, thrown over tees, and be a key piece in making dresses and skirts work in more casual settings.
You really only need one great leather jacket in a basic color. But if you find yourself wearing it almost daily, it could be a good sign that you are ready for a blazer-cut leather or an unusual color. You could also try one of the amazingly well done faux leather jackets available everywhere these days to get the look at a fraction of the price. I have both real and faux leather jackets that I wear with everything.
6. Eye Catching Heels
Nothing makes me feel more well-dressed and styled than a lovely pair or heels. My requirements for pumps are that they not be too basic (ie: black or tan). I love unusual colors, like olive, and deep blue. I also like more distressed or worn in finishes, suede, or perhaps some embellishment. I find that if you wear really nice heels (and some eyeliner or lipstick), you can get away with some fashion risks. For example, I love slouchy looks. High heels and a swash of makeup spruce the slouch up just enough so that it does not appear sloppy.
If you do not wear heels you can ease into it like I did. One year I decided to trade in my flats for 1.5 inch heels. By the next year I was up to 2 or 2.5 inches. The following year I did 3″. It worked! Now I can wear a 4″ heel if I need to, though I find that 3.5″ is very comfortable and there are many shoe shopping options at that height.
7. Embellished Tanks
Sequins, beading, lace, embroidery, even gathers or stripes, are all adornments on the many dressy little tops that I have in my closet. I used to view these items as strictly “going-out” wear, but now I happily reach for them to wear under jackets and blazers every day. These little touches really elevate an outfit to the level of interesting. Evening pieces for day has been an ongoing trend that really hit a high point this fall. I love it because I love working that balance between dressy and casual that defines style and design for me right now.
8. Boho Boots
I love having a good little wardrobe of boots. I like to be warm and cozy in the cooler weather so I never feel like wearing regular shoes. But I also like to have options! My main requirement for boots is that they look a little bit rebel. I think it stems back to my combat boot-wearing grunge days. Now distressed leathers and suedes, slouchy styling, or motorcycle details all fit the bill. Maybe someday I will get a pair of shiny, grown up and ladylike boots. As long as I have my bad-ass ones to fall back on : ).
9. Fitted Blazer
I have a nice collection of fitted blazers. Most of them fall into the tweedy, velvety, or knit varieties. A cute little jacket can make an outfit all on its own, which is why I rely on them so heavily as part of my daily uniform. Elie Tahari has been my personal favorite resource for jackets with unique details that fit perfectly every season.
10. Standout Accessories
When it comes to accessories, I like to make a definitive style statement, or just not wear any at all. I’m not an understated pendant on a thin chain kind of gal–most of the time. In the winter I almost always wear a scarf to keep warm. I like cuff bracelets and cocktail rings. And I am most attached to my sizable collection of statement necklaces that I have picked up from travels, discount shops, and boutiques all over. I pick a few new ones each year and mix and match them with my outfits. I truly love quietly bold pieces that are not flashy, but are very eye-catching nonetheless. I do not feel quite dressed without my accessories.
So there you have it. Closet essentials in my world. How about you. What can you not live without?
Credits: My wardrobe. Photography and graphic design by Jill Bremner.