There can’t be a woman out there who hasn’t stood in front of her closet and thought “I have nothing to wear”. But, if you have the right wardrobe essentials in your closet, it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

If you have staple clothing pieces as the “foundation” of your wardrobe, you will always be able to create an outfit you love.

These staples will be different for each woman as we all have a different body type, style personality, lifestyle and preferences.

You can then use these essentials as the basis for a capsule wardrobe. Take a look at the ultimate guide to creating a capsule wardrobe that works for you.

You may also want to check out our article on the most stylish fashion pieces women over 40 couldn’t resist.

Use your wardrobe essentials to build your wardrobe!

A closet which you put together on a foundation of carefully selected pieces makes getting dressed every day so much easier.

So, where should you begin when it comes to selecting the essentials of your closet?

Below we will list 28 pieces that you can use as a starting point. As mentioned yours may be slightly different.

It’s worth investing more in your basics because these can form the backbone of your closet for many years to come. So, look for classic items which are good quality. Think about cost per wear rather than cost to purchase alone.

Clothing essentials: Your basic wardrobe

Once you have the essentials figured out, you can then “color it in” with hero pieces, more color and more accessories.  Having your essential pieces in place will make sure that you can always mix and match easily.

These are your basic wardrobe and the building blocks of your bigger wardrobe.

28 wardrobe essentials for spring and summer

This is a list of wardrobe essentials that we created for you. You can use this to create your own personalized list.

As most of you will be heading into spring and summer, there are plenty of options which will work for the new season. But you can easily adapt these essentials, no matter what the weather.

Read on for my 28 essentials as well as a capsule closet created with them. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments at the bottom of the article if you agree with me, or if you would add anything to my essentials list.

Wardrobe essentials – Tops

1. A crisp white shirt

A white button down shirt offers endless outfit possibilities.

There are so many ways to wear it. You could team it with a pair of jeans, a blazer and ballet flats for a classic look, or wear under a sweater or a dress to give your outfit extra interest.

This white shirt from Wit & Wisdom is made from 100% cotton, making it comfortable to wear in any temperature.

Wardrobe essentials - Wit & Wisdom button-up shirt |

Wit & Wisdom button-up shirt

2. Cashmere sweater

A cashmere sweater adds an instant feeling of luxury to even your most casual of outfits, making it perfect to add to your wardrobe essentials. Pair with jeans and ankle booties, or you could wear with a leather or pleated skirt for evening.

This cashmere sweater by J.Crew comes in a classic crew neck. But you can choose your preferred neckline to flatter your figure.

You could always wear the white shirt from above underneath it.

Wardrobe essentials - J.Crew cashmere sweater |

J.Crew cashmere sweater

There are also great suggestions here from the 40+ Style Community on the best cashmere sweater brands to buy.

3. Silk shirt

Silk is another of those fabrics which adds instant luxury to your outfits.

You can expect to pay more for silk – but the beauty of it is that you can wear with absolutely everything for all occasions.

This slim, stretch silk shirt from Vince comes in blue or a soft yellow.

Wardrobe essentials - Vince slim fit stretch silk shirt |

Vince slim fit stretch silk shirt

4. Asymmetrical top

I’m a huge fan of asymmetry for all sorts of reasons.

Asymmetry can make a simple outfit look far more interesting. It can also help you to downplay the parts of your body you aren’t so keen on and play up what you do like.

This asymmetrical silk top from Nic+Zoe drapes well and is perfect instead of a regular tank top for summer.

wardrobe essentials - Nic+Zoe asymmetrical hem tank top |

Nic+Zoe asymmetrical hem tank top

You may also like this article on how to wear asymmetrical clothing, which has some stylish shoppable options.

5. Basic clothing – a solid color tee

It’s often advised to have a plain white tee in your closet. And, I don’t disagree that a white tee can be a hugely useful closet staple.

But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be white.

A tee in a solid color can provide a useful background to show off any statement jewelry that you have.

If, for example, you have a great red necklace, then opting for a blue, navy or a gray tee could allow you to show it off beautifully.

This Eileen Fisher tee is made from breathable Tencel fabric, which drapes well. Plus this particular shade of blue is one of the key color trends for spring and summer 2020.

wardrobe essentials - Eileen Fisher jersey tee |

Eileen Fisher jersey tee

Bottoms you should have in your staple clothing essentials

6. Black pants

Whether you wear them to work or you dress them up for evening, a classic pair of black pants will never go out of style.

This pair of Halogen wide leg pants is designed in a classic wide-leg style which is particularly on-trend this year.

wardrobe essentials - Halogen wide leg crop pants |

Halogen wide leg crop pants

7. White pants

Just like black pants white pants should be a staple in your wardrobe. Other than black, no other color is as easy to combine and the extra benefit is that an outfit with a white base will look fresh and energetic.

This pair of Eileen Fisher pants feature an ankle length style, making them perfect for spring and summer. For more ideas on how to wear them, take a look at how to wear capris and cropped pants.

Wardrobe essentials - Eileen Fisher high waist pants |

Eileen Fisher high waist pants

8. Dark denim jeans

Finding the perfect pair of jeans isn’t easy. But, I’d definitely advise you to make it a dark wash pair.

Not only do they work in a huge range of scenarios, but they’re also very flattering. Plus, they’re less likely to stain so, if you invest in a pair which are a little more expensive than the norm, they’re likely to last you longer.

A classic bootcut will suit most body shapes, but you could also opt for flared, cropped or skinny, depending on which style looks best on you.

The Citizens of Humanity flare jeans (below) will flatter most body shapes.

Citizens of Humanity high waist crop flare jeans |

Citizens of Humanity high waist crop flare jeans

9. A classic skirt

A classic skirt will mean different things for different women. But most women will suit the two classic styles. Choose either a pencil or an a-line to flatter your figure.

You could opt for a patterned skirt to wear with your plain tops, or a plain skirt to wear with your patterned tops. Or, of course, you could try out some pattern mixing.

This skirt from Vince Camuto isn’t “classic” as you would expect because of the asymmetrical detailing, but I’ve included it in my wardrobe essentials because it could be worn so many ways, and it comes in a versatile neutral shade.

Vince Camuto belted asymmetrical skirt |

Vince Camuto belted asymmetrical skirt

Wardrobe staples: Dresses

10. An evening dress for formal occasions

No matter whether you go out frequently, or hardly at all, everyone needs a dress that you can pull out of your closet at short notice for formal events, and know that it will look great.

A classic black cocktail dress will see you through most events. You can add a silk wrap or some great jewelry to make it look different every time.

Choose a style to suit your body type. Below is a dress from Vince Camuto with a flattering peplum.

Vince Camuto angled ruffle sheath dress |

Vince Camuto angled ruffle sheath dress

11. A wrap dress

A wrap dress is one of those wardrobe essentials that suits everyone, no matter what your body type.

The wrap dress defines your waist thanks to the waist tie and elongates your figure, thanks to the v-neck. It skims over your hips and thighs, making it a flattering option for pear shapes.

Not only that, but you can wear a wrap dress for pretty much any occasion. Depending on the fabric you choose, you could wear to work, to a casual lunch or to a formal event such as a wedding.

Many wrap dresses also have sleeves if you prefer a dress which covers your upper arms.

For more options for dresses with sleeves, take a look at this article.

This wrap dress by Polo Ralph Lauren comes in a classic red shade and could easily be dressed down with sandals for vacations or with heels for formal occasions.

Polo Ralph Lauren ruched sleeve wrap dress |

Polo Ralph Lauren ruched sleeve wrap dress


Of course, most of us don’t live in a climate warm enough year round to ensure that we never need to wear a jacket or a coat.

Not only that, but a layer of outerwear can add extra style to your outfits. Here are my essentials.

12. Leather or faux leather moto jacket

A leather moto jacket is a classic which exudes a certain rock star cool. This is one the go-to pieces of women who have a rock style personality.

You could wear on casual days with jeans and sneakers.

But, you can also use a moto jacket to toughen up, and add an unexpected element, to outfits such as a maxi dress, or a pleated midi skirt with a sweater and booties. In short, it pretty much goes with everything.

Not only that, but a leather jacket can actually get better with age, so you’re sure to keep it for many years if you choose a classic, fitted style.

You don’t have to choose classic black. You could opt for a lighter color which may be more flattering close to your face, and which you can wear during spring and summer.

This Blank NYC moto jacket comes in blue color and would be a good way to make a black dress look more “summery”. It would also look lovely worn with the white jeans from #7.

Blank NYC suede moto jacket |

Blank NYC suede moto jacket

You can also check out our list of the best leather jackets for women that you can wear with any outfit.

13. Trench coat

There can be few pieces of outerwear which are as iconic as the trench coat.

Developed as an alternative to the heavy coats worn by soldiers in the First World War, a trench adds an instant touch of class to any outfit, even if you’re simply wearing jeans and a white shirt.

The shape itself is a classic and you could opt for the traditional beige color or you could opt for a different color or a classic pattern such as a this London Fog trench coat which features tiny polka dots.

London Fog polka dot trench coat |

London Fog polka dot trench coat

14. Blazer

A blazer is another one of those pieces which is so versatile. Choose a timeless color or pattern and it will be something you will want to wear for many years.

You could add to your jeans with a tee and a pair of sneakers or heels to instantly elevate your outfit, or you can wear for a night out or for work.

You will want to opt for a style which nips in at the waist for the most flattering effect, unless you have a rectangular figure and you want to play up your androgynous figure with a boyfriend-style, looser fit.

There are more ideas how on how to dress the rectangle.

A single-button style like this one by Court & Rowe is generally more flattering as double breasted blazers do have the potential to make you look wider. The red collar on this blazer also create a flattering v-shape.

Court & Rowe plaid tweed blazer |

Court & Rowe plaid tweed blazer

Take a look at how to fit a blazer to get the right one for you.

15. Long sleeveless vest

A long vest such as this blue mesh style (below) is a versatile piece of outerwear that you can use to add interest, or to skim over the parts of your body you aren’t so keen on.

It is particularly useful for hiding a belly, or for elongating your figure if you are petite.

La Fiorentina longline mesh vest |

La Fiorentina longline mesh vest

Check out this article for more sure-fire ways to hide your belly with the right clothes.

16. Denim jacket

Jean jackets are always on trend because they exude an effortless sort of cool.

They’ve been worn by everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna.

While over-sized, boxier denim jackets have been particularly on trend recently, a more fitted style like this denim jacket by Wit & Wisdom is generally more flattering.

You can wear over your summer dresses to make sure you can still wear your lighter-weight dresses during spring and fall when the weather is a little cooler.

Wit & Wisdom denim jacket |

Wit & Wisdom denim jacket


17. A comfortable AND stylish pair of shoes for every day

Find a pair of shoes which you find both comfortable AND stylish which you can wear every day.

Depending on where you live and what your lifestyle is like, these will be different for different women.

These can be flat shoes of are have a small heel but you may want to consider a shoe with arch support.

One pair I really like are these ‘Yall’ sandals by Fly London, which have arch support, so they are comfortable enough for walking around. Not only that, but they go with the vast majority of my wardrobe.

Fly London 'Yall' sandal |

Fly London ‘Yall’ sandal

18. Heeled sandals (to go with everything)

There can be very few women who want to wear heels all of the time.

But, if you have a pair of heels in your closet, make it a versatile pair.

I believe a nude pair of block heels is a great option like this one from Steve Madden. You could wear these sandals with everything from an evening dress to with a pair of jeans and a nice top for a more casual evening out.

A block heel is more comfortable than a a regular heel and a nude pair will also lengthen your legs further.

Steve Madden 'Irenee' ankle strap sandal |

Steve Madden ‘Irenee’ ankle strap sandal

19. Sneakers (in white or metallic)

Thankfully, sneakers have never been more fashionable.

So, that means it’s easy to be both on trend AND comfortable, without having to suffer for fashion. I’ve never believed in the old “beauty is pain” adage.

If you choose a classic white or a metallic pair, then you should find they go with a lot of pieces in your closet.

These Tretorn sneakers have a padded footbed so they should be comfy all day.

Tretorn 'Nylite Plus' sneaker |

Tretorn ‘Nylite Plus’ sneaker

20. Ankle booties (for transitional dressing)

One of the most useful pieces of footwear you can have in your closet, ankle booties help you to continue to wear the summer favorite dresses and skirts you have in your closet through spring and fall as they will add just enough extra warmth.

They can, of course, also be worn with jeans and pants. They can also add a little edge to outfits.

You can opt for flats or heeled depending on your preference. You can also choose booties to suit your style and weather, opting for closed or peep toes.

This pair by Sole Society have an on-trend reptile texture.

Sole Society 'Laurelah' bootie |

Sole Society ‘Laurelah’ bootie

20. Ballet flats

A pair of ballet flats are a wardrobe staple which will go well with your skinny jeans and capri pants.

They will never go out of style and will be comfortable enough to wear all day.

These Carvela Comfort ballet flats come in a good choice of colors. Take a look and see if you prefer this red or one of the neutral shades.

Carvela Comfort 'Luggage' ballet flat |

Carvela Comfort ‘Luggage’ ballet flat


21. Classic leather belt

Not just for keeping your pants up! A leather belt can be used to create a different look and feel for your outfits.

You could belt around a dress, or you could cinch in the waist of a cardigan, for example, to show off your waist.

You may find that belting pieces that you have pushed to the back of your wardrobe, because you don’t feel they are flattering enough or that they have enough shape, could well give them new life.

Treasure & Bond pebbled leather belt |

Treasure & Bond pebbled leather belt

22. Tote bag

Your tote bag should be large enough so that you can carry all of your day-to-day essentials around with you.

It should also be sturdy enough to ensure that it lasts, even if you use it everyday.

Opting for a classic leather style will add luxe to your outfit and give your tote longevity.

With everything on this list, it’s worth seeing your purchase as an investment, but this particularly holds true for your tote bag, like this one from Rebecca Minkoff.

Rebecca Minkoff leather tote |

Rebecca Minkoff leather tote

23. Evening clutch

Of course, if you are heading out for the evening, then you won’t want to take your large daytime tote with you.

Choose an evening bag you can fit in what you need (phone, lipstick, credit card!) while not being too large to hold in your hand.

This clutch from Nordstrom should go beautifully with neutrals and brights.

Nordstrom snakeskin print leather clutch |

Nordstrom snakeskin print leather clutch

24. Silk or lightweight scarf

A scarf will allow you to add pizzazz to an otherwise fairly plain outfit.

Just think how much more stylish a simple pair of jeans and tee could look with the addition of a scarf.

Opting for lightweight scarf will bring extra luxury to your outfits. Choose a color which is flattering for your skin and hair tone.

This scarf from Kate Spade comes in a monochrome, floral pattern.

Kate Spade New York scribble flora oblong scarf |

Kate Spade New York scribble flora oblong scarf

25. Statement necklace

Just as a scarf can really make an outfit, so too can a statement necklace.

Useful for adding extra style to outfits which could otherwise be a little boring, a statement necklace can also draw attention away from parts of your body you aren’t so keen on and up to your face.

Opt for a necklace to suit your individual style.

This necklace from Kendra Scott features a double layer.

Kendra Scott multistrand necklace |

Kendra Scott multistrand necklace

26. Great sunglasses

Not only will sunglasses protect your eyes, and the skin around your eyes, they also add some movie-star glamour.

Choose a classic shape which won’t date like cats eye sunglasses and aviators.

These Kate Spade sunglasses are in a paler shade, which is an on-trend option for summer 2020. You might also like to take a look at the accessory trends for 2020 for extra style inspiration.

Kate Spade New York round sunglasses |

Kate Spade New York round sunglasses

Wardrobe essentials

Of course, there are plenty of essentials you will need in your closet, such as pajamas and other underwear, but I’ve included the two essentials which will make your outfits look better and provide versatility to your closet.

27. A perfectly fitting bra

So many women are guilty of not having their bras correctly fitted, or of wearing the same old bras for years.

But, by making sure you have really well fitting bras, you will ensure that what you wear on top of them will look great.

Your bust will be supported and held in place where it should be. You definitely don’t want your bust meeting your tummy!

The bra you will get most wear out of in your wardrobe will be a t-shirt bra. That’s because this will create smooth lines under your outfits.

b.tempt'd by Wacoal t-shirt bra |

b.tempt’d by Wacoal t-shirt bra

If you have larger breasts, there are some great recommendations here for the best bras for you.

28. Opaque tights or leggings

A pair of opaque tights or black leggings are your best friend when it comes to transitional dressing.

They give your outfits longevity which cuts across seasons and makes your closet a much more flexible place.

You could, for example, wear with your little black dress for a night out, or you could wear under a pencil skirt for work.

But, you could also wear with a floral summer dress and team this with your leather moto jacket to ensure you can wear your dress even when the weather turns cool.

If you choose control top tights or leggings, this could also help you to make sure you get smooth lines under your clothes.

This pair of leggings by Lyssé have a cropped length for summer. Also take a look at how to wear leggings over 40.

Lyssé crop leggings |

Lyssé crop leggings

Your wardrobe essentials in one capsule

Below you can see just a few of the ways you could put all of the clothes, shoes and accessories used in this article together.

But you could actually create countless other outfits. The cobalt blue top would, for example. look beautiful with the white jeans. Or you could wear the blazer with the red dress. Let me know what you would wear.

28 essential-piece capsule wardrobe |

That concludes our list of wardrobe essentials.

Very likely your list will be different and you may start to think about how your list differs from mine.

Do you agree with my choices? What would you choose as your wardrobe essentials?

Continue reading:

  1. The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Capsule Wardrobe That Works For You
  2. A Capsule Wardrobe For The Classic Style Personality
  3. How To Fit A Blazer – A Comprehensive Guide On How To Select The Right BlazerThe Ultimate Guide To Creating A Capsule Wardrobe That Works For You

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