Wardrobe essentials: advice from the experts

by Sylvia

Wardrobe essentials and basics - advice from the experts | 40plusstyle.com

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

Find out 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
Nina Garcia | 40plusstyle.com


“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 turtleneck: 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

Amanda Brooks | 40plusstyle.com

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 GunnTim Gunn | 40plusstyle.com


“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

Sylvia from 40+Style (that’s me)

  1.  The little colorful 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 colorful dress in a timeless color that suits you. Or go for a black and white print dress.
  2. White pants: good for both summer and winter, although you may like to opt for winter white in winter. Really don’t like white? Opt for denim. (here are some of the best jeans for women over 40). I like my white pants in all kinds of styles but cropped cigarette pants are still my favorite. (ok, I also like my black pants!).
  3. A white asymmetrical top: combine it with almost everything. Very good for hiding tummies too!
  4. A great blazer or jacket: for a stylish way to cover up and stay warm. Find out how to fit a blazer here.
  5. Statement necklaces: forget the expensive diamonds which can be aging. Buy a few timeless statement necklaces in silver or gold and a few colors instead for a young and hip look!
  6. The flats of the season: you need to be able to walk in style! Looking for comfortable shoes, you’ll love our list of arch support shoes.
  7. Bulky heels with straps at a height you can walk in: for that extra height. I like to wear my comfortable Fly London shoes. 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!

So what do you say? Whose shortlist do you agree with most and what is on yours?

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Wardrobe essentials - Advice from the experts | 40plusstyle.com

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suzanne

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!


2 Sylvia

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


3 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…


4 Sylvia

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


5 Tangobabe

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


6 Nanne

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!


7 Sylvia

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


8 Tangobabe



9 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……


10 Sylvia

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!


11 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!


12 Sylvia

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


13 Greetje

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.


14 Sylvia

Sounds great Greetje!


15 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!


16 Arletta

1. 2 pairs Levi’s 501’s; because, despite their selling out and lying to their customers, Levi’s still makes the best jeans on the planet, and, those are the 501’s.
2. Lace up boots with wedge heels (think 1970’s, Fry boots for hippies and gypsies) in some lovely neutral shade of luggage tan or thereabouts that can technically be worn with anything.
3. 1 Twinset in a color that makes your eyes “pop”. Neckline of your choice, because, only you know how many chins you’ve got and how much of those shoulders is padding.
4. 1 pair dressy, slightly weird sandals – also in a shade that can mostly go with everything.
5. 1 long, flowy, crinkle up broomstick skirt, without tiers, in a sumptuous fabric (or, that pretends to be sumptuous, anyway) in a color that will go with the twin set.
6. 1 pencil skirt that will go with the twinset, but, is a different color than the long skirt.
7. 1 pair of dressier slacks that will go with the twin set.
8. 3 print blouses that will go with both skirts, all the pants, and the twin set.
9. Leather jacket or denim jacket. Not feminine or frilly, but, as a good counterpoint to everything that is.
10. A very sexy pair of leggings – in whatever color they can be that will make the wearing of them with the twin set or any of the print blouses seem excessively sexy and naughty.

Now, feel free to take out two of the print blouses and one of the pairs of Levi’s, as I am tired of all the cheating going on. 10 items is 10 items, not a list of 10 things of varied amounts.


17 Sylvia

Great list Arletta!


18 kay kerns

Amanda’s and Tim’s are the lists for me. especially Amanda’s.


19 Roberta

In no particular order.
A great denim jacket.
white jeans.
Black sweater dress (can go casual or formal with accessories)
Dressy black pumps
Boots in an unusual color (Tim is so right)
A man’s watch (a friend once asked me if I got mine as a retirement gift)
A great day dress. Sleeveless means you can wear it in cool weather with a cardigan.
Cute walking sandals, for hiking Paris or Manhattan.
An unusual gem necklace: turquoise or garnets or mabe pearls. Surprisingly versatile.
Chambray shirt – these tend to be softer than a white oxford, and you can dress them up or down. Plus they don’t pit stain like white.
Wool Challis scarf: mine is a dark dark red and I wear it with everything.
You can see how much I like YOUR list.



20 Georgie

I’m not 40 plus just yet but I liked the article and wanted to add my own list of essentials. It was hard but I managed to stick to 10…almost 🙂

2 STONE WASH JEANS because they’re so versatile.
3 LEOPARD PRINT BALLERINERS. For me, leopard print nearly has the classic timeless status of denim, diamond stud earrings or a casual white shirt etc.
4 A TOUCH OF RED. Whether it be lipstick, nail varnish or an accessory.
5 NUDE HIGH-HEELED PUMPS (under 3” heel) They blend into the skin but add a classy touch and even look good with black outfits.
6 NAVY BLAZER. I think navy is a great alternative to black (not so harsh) and a blazer instantly makes you look and feel smart.
7 OLIVE-GREEN COAT. I found this colour blends with most casual outfits, especially all my leopard print shoes 🙂
8 PRACTICAL-SIZED HANDBAG in a neutral-colour.
9 PLAIN BLACK DRESS that can be dressed up or down, day and night.
10 A BIT OF JUNK JEWELLERY. If I had to pick one item it would be a gold bangle.


21 Sylvia

No worries. This website is for everyone that enjoys style 🙂 Great list.


22 Georgie

Thanks 🙂


23 Pam

I’m well over 40 and love this list!


24 Arielle

I love your list, Georgie! I can get a good sense of your personal style through it!


25 Mimi

Nina’s and yours. I can work with them.


26 Juliella

I will not can not wear heels. I would like to hear about alternatives. I use danskos, clogs and a dansko wedge black tapered shoe with a wedge heel of 1 1/2 inches but can only wear one with a thick strap. I feel limited and would like advise.


27 Sylvia

Hi Juliella, Lots of women over 40 have the same issue. I’ve written a comprehensive article on arch support shoes at https://40plusstyle.com/arch-support-shoes/. Be sure to check the many comments from women just like you too who offer their advice too!


28 Paula LH

So glad that not all of the lists insisted on white shirts/tops. Some of us (me) don’t look good in white. ANY shade of white. I invested in a light blue shirt and a pale warm yellow shirt as my substitutes.


29 Jackie

I have to say my list is more in line with Nia’s and yours Slyvia I don’t really own play or a lot of sweat suits usually just opt to wear lounge or leggings as it hard to dress my apple shape when it comes to this type of clothing. I’m 52 and am really trying to learn to dress my shape and is a challenge. HELP!!! I have wide shoulders and boobs, no hips, but nice legs……Apple shape….


30 Sylvia

Hi Jackie, we are starting our Find Your Style challenge soon. It’s free so I hope you join us? https://40plusstyle.com/join


31 Arielle

I love lists, too! It’s great to see where I am with all these things–do I have a classic bag, for example? Not really! But I do have some great boots. And I also love knowing what DOESN’T work for me and my style: a men’s wear white shirt has never worked on my curvy hourglass body. I think I would have to get one custom-made or tailored in order to fit me, but because I’m not much of a menswear person anyway, it’s not high on my list of priorities.

On my list:
1) Classic Frye motorcycle boots–so comfy and add edge to any outfit, which is crucial for me and my style
2) Likewise: a classic (Schotts) black leather moto jacket
3) Skinny jeans in a dark wash with excellent fit
4) Patent leather pumps
5) An a-line leather skirt
6) Cashmere and cotton sweaters in flattering colors–not too tight, not too loose
7) A deeply personal collection of necklaces (mine are sterling) one can layer to add a little interest with a t-shirt or plain sweater
8) Cool graphic tees, to be dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a ladylike skirt and jewelry
9) High-quality cashmere and cotton cardigans to throw over the t-shirts
10) A big comfy, fluffy coat, maybe in an animal print


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