Wardrobe essentials: advice from the experts

by Sylvia

Wardrobe essntials and basics
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Do you ever think about your wardrobe and what essentials you need to have a versatile wardrobe that covers all your needs? This may be a good time to have a good, long look at your wardrobe and see if you have all the basics you need to truly mix and match. This is part 1 of a little series on planning your wardrobe and here is what some style experts have to say about all the style essentials you need in your wardrobe For what it’s worth I also give you my list!

Nina Garcia

“The bones of your wardrobe are those essential staples that go with almost everything, never go out of style, and are enduringly chic. They are meant to be a blank canvas that you can layer on to.”

  1. The little black dress: the ultimate blank canvas
  2. A classic men’s white shirt: chic and simple
  3. Cashmere cardigan or turleneck: for any kind of occasion, throwing on cashmere makes you feel instantly luxe
  4. A trench coat: makes you instantly mysterious
  5. Denim jeans: instantly stylish, simple and practical
  6. A man’s classic watch
  7. Diamonds: perfect for day or night, casual or dressy, winter or summer
  8. Ballet flats: for the (very few) moments that you need practical footwear
  9. Classic high heel pump: for the times that you cannot wear your outrageous, impractical and bold high heel shoes
  10. A great bag: a practical bag when all your fancy ones will not suffice

As written in the little black book of style. She also has a more comprehensive list in The One Hundred which also includes such things as an Ipad, cowboy boots, fishnets, leather pants and red lipstick.

Amanda Brooks

“Basics don’t have to be classic. If you don’t have a classic sensibility, why would you build your outfit on a classic foundation?”

  1. 1-shirt: particularly soft and long
  2. Oversized items: like your boyfriends’s button down shirt or sweater
  3. Jeans: at least 2 pairs, one hemmed for day time and flats and one for evening with heels
  4. Practical pants: comfortable lose-fitting pants that are not jeans
  5. Jean jacket: make sure it’s the classic cut and that it fits perfectly
  6. Tank top: wear them with everything from sweat pants to long evening skirts
  7. t-shirt or sweater dress: basic and easy to wear
  8. Anything fitted and stretchy: like leggings and leotards
  9. Black tights
  10. A well fitted bra

From I Love your style.

Tim Gunn

“When it comes to a list like this, how tempting it is to rely on some old favorites: the strand of pearls, the little black dress, the crisp white button-down. We must, however, remember the rallying cry of the great Elsie de Wolfe, “Suitability, suitability, suitability”.

  1. The trench-ish Coat
  2. The sweat suit alternative: every so often you just need to be comfortable
  3. A beautiful boot: far more interesting than the ‘It’ bag
  4. The shapely jacket and go anywhere top: he is cheating here by combining 2 items in 1 point!
  5. Signature jewelry: on one hand the ‘make a splash’ signature piece and on the other the ‘personal’ signature piece
  6. The under arsenal: the great basis of any outfit
  7. The day dress: still around and perfectly hip and contemporary
  8. The after-five look: like tuxedo pants and a tank
  9. The new, cheap, terribly trendy item: think of this as the pressure-release valve
  10. Denim: one for dressing up and one for running around.

From Quality, taste & style


  1.  The little colourful dress: I think the little black dress is much overrated and many women over 40 don’t look so good in just black. Opt for a colourful dress in a timeless colour that suits you. Or go for a black and white print dress.
  2. White pants (in hot climates) or denim: I like sailor pants but skinnies or regular cut  trousers are good too
  3. A striped top: stripes always look good and are so easy to combine with many outfits
  4. A great blazer or jacket: for a stylish way to cover up and stay warm
  5. Statement necklaces and a modern versatile watch: forget the expensive diamonds. Buy a few timeless statement necklaces in silver or gold and a few colours instead! Use versatile watches.
  6. Ballet flats or a funky (non-standard) sandal: you need to be able to walk in style!
  7. Bulky heels with straps at a height you can walk in: for that extra height. These high heel shoes are solid and comfortable and give you instant style
  8. A nice big bag: so you can carry flats, your heavy photo camera, ipad and makeup essentials
  9. Fashionable sport outfit: so you look fabulous during sports as well
  10. Fabulous and invisible under garments: so you can dress to your strengths and look stylish!

Of course this covers only the wardrobe essentials. But this is only part 1 of a new series on wardrobe planning. Next week: creating a wardrobe capsule.

So what do you say. Whose shortlist do you agree with most or what is yours?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }


I love lists! Those types of books are fun to read – and Tim Gunn is my Hero. If he said a paper bag was chic to wear on your head I would believe him. :)
I agree with so many of these essential items.
1) Well fitted undergarments – makes everything else you wear look better.
2) Jeans – dark, light, colorful, white, cropped, straight, bootcut, boyfriend – the most comfortable thing I own.
3) The little black dress (even if it is navy or gray or brown) – always there for a last minute invite for drinks, nice lunch, or for a funeral. Buy the most simple shape and layer over it – or under it.
4) A white shirt. Wear it knotted above jeans, tucked into a pencil skirt, as a coverup over a bathing suit. The perfect garment. Wear it under the little black dress to make it more casual.
5) A Cashmere cardigan. Just putting it on makes you feel more of a lady. :)
6) A trench coat. My new one has a button out lining so it is practical for 3 out of 4 seasons.
7) Diamond studs are the all-around earring. You can wear them everyday with jeans to a ballgown. Get (good) fakes if you worry about losing them.
8) The perfectly fitting jean jacket. Mine is lined in leopard silk and I adore it!
9) A great blazer. Makes any outfit more polished – even jeans and a tee.
10) Lots of boots, shoes, and bags. Every color, shape, size. I change my bags to match my outfit and the occasion – often twice a day.
What a great post Sylvia!



Great list Suzanne but 10 includes many things. It’s hard to stick with 10 things only not?


Anja van der Vorst

I particularly like Amanda Brooks’ ‘statement’ and totally relate to that!

Further, all of the lists contain items that I agree with.

My list would be:
1. one or two pairs of jeans
2. well fittting undergarments
3. ‘under’ dresses (spaghetti strapped) in black, white, nude and every other color you can think of;-)
4. ‘under’ skirts (mini), also in black, white, nude and all sorts of colors
5. ‘under ‘tops (spaghetti strapped), same story as 3 and 4
6. sleeved tops and dresses to wear over 3, 4 and 5. Preferably in soft or sheer materials and in happy colors and patterns.
7. some nice and comfy cardigans to wear over the above when it’s cold
8., 9. and 10. accessories, accessories and accessories!!!!!! Heels, flats, boots, sneakers, shawls, jewelry, belts, leggings, stockings, hats, bags, ribbons, flowers for the hair, flowers for on the shoes, hair clips, nail polish, make up….the whole shabam in every imaginable color.
With this list, of I go: layering, combining, accessorizing…



Great list Anja, but you also don’t stick to 10 items, but it’s clear that accessories are very important to you!



Expectable from a person with the motto: “More is more”;-), that a list of 10 items only is impossible!



This is a great idea for a series of posts, and very helpful! As I’m in the process of creating a good basic wardrobe all advice on this is very welcome! My list (at this point) would be some from each list:

A few great accessories like a statement necklace or a stand-out scarf
Good underwear
A striped top
A fitted tee
A 3/4 or long sleeve knit top/sweater
The little colourful dress (totally agree with you on the LBD being overrated)
Cashmere cardigan
A trench coat
A well fitting blazer or jacket
Jeans, at least 2 pairs, one hemmed for day time and flats and one for evening with heels
Practical pants, comfortable lose-fitting pants that are not jeans
A man’s classic watch
Ballet flats
Classic high heel pump
Ancle booties
A great bag

Looking forward to your capsule wardrobe post!



Great list as well! I guess 10 basics don’t suffice. We need at least 25!





Greetje Kamminga

I would really be depressed if I had to stick to just 10. It is funny, I have a lot (and more) of the lists but missing the following items which I would put on my list:
1) THE little black dress although I have a winter and summer sort of LBD. But not the perfect one (had to part with that the perfect one as it didn’t fit anymore. Sad.)
2) The great white shirt. I have 3 of them, but still not that right special one.
3) Cashmere cardigan. Again I had to part with the perfect one. And me and cardigans are no great friends, so It takes some time to find another one.
4) A red perfect jacket with 1 buton (probably not that handy to chose red, is it?
Than the rest is acquired:
5) Black pumps
6) Black bag of good shape and quality.
7) Jeans. If I can only chose one: a slim fit of 7 for all mankind
8) A winter coat to go with jeans, like a parka. Long enough to cover a longer jacket, sleeves not too tight so everything fits underneath it, excellent quality but not out there.
9) A coat for over a dress
10) Good jewellery ( Sylvia… One item, but it covers a world ha ha)
Have to look for items 1 too 4……



I also don’t have a few of the list items. For example a white shirt. Have several, but no perfect one. Am getting a bit frustrated by them as they all discolour here, but will keep an eye on Anne Fontaine’s shirts. I think red is perfect. I wouldn’t mind having one of those myself. I do not have pumps!


Heather Fonseca

I love to. Gunn’s list! It’s practical but flexible. The first two are too specific to the wearers (I never wear men’s shirts and oversized anything looks silly on me) your list is great too. I like that you include a bright dress!



I agree. Gunn’s list is probably the best!



Nina said: “A classic men’s white shirt: chic and simple”… and all of a sudden I thought of my husbands shirts from the time he was much slimmer. None of his friends wanted them (3) as they are a bit outspoken (Etro and such). But they are really beautiful. I could’t throw them away.
So…. I tried them on myself. THEY LOOK GREAT. And so comfortable. Jippy.



Sounds great Greetje!


Sophie Davis

Hi Sylvia! It may not come as a surprise to you, but I actually think that your list is the best! I love colour and although I do own a LBD, I believe your comment about looking (and feeling) better in colour is very true. Also, as a retailer of beautiful sterling silver, I obviously totally agree with your advice regarding a good statement piece of jewellery in silver or gold. A good statement piece of silver can also be perfect for dressing up or dressing down, so needn’t be reserved just for evenings. I confess to not owning a pair of flat pumps as they make my short, rather sturdy legs look even bigger, but I can seem to get away with some very pretty flip-flops as my flat alternatives. Again, another great blog – I look forward to the next one!


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