20 Basics for Every Woman's Closet

Monday, March 25, 2013

Closet Staple, basics, clothes workhorses, classics. Call them what you will, but I think there are foundations on which every wardrobe can be built. If you follow NFD on Twitter or Facebook, I've already asked, but feel free to respond further with your thoughts on the subject. What are clothing items every woman needs? Of course, your life and age might change the answer somewhat. I live in Wyoming and will never need "clubbing attire" for example. Still. Some things are pretty universal, so basics? Discounting for seasonal items such as coats and swimming suits, these twenty pretty much cover it. These pieces could be your entire wardrobe, or could just be the pieces that make your other stand-out clothing items really work. However you use them, here they are:

20 Basics for every woman's closet



20 Basics for Every Woman's Closet

1) An LBD- Of course an Little Black Dress You need something that works for everything. Funerals, concerts, fancy dates, the office or a day at the park- an LBD has got you covered. I like this one in particular for the hemline- it is respectable to enter a church in, but not so long it seems out of place in a casual setting- and for its sleeves. Sometimes you just need something a bit demure (see above church example). 

2) A Solid Colored Dress- I love color, but for foundation pieces neutrals are going to get you more milage. One exception though, is a solid colored dress. Every closet needs a pop of color and, frankly, sometimes black can be a little too somber. Going with a solid color though, allows you to mix and match with things so much. Put it on and feel instantly cheered. Afraid of committing to something so bold and bright as a red or mustard color? Try white or blue.  

3) Cambray Button-Up- Really, you might be thinking? A denim shirt? But first off- Cambray is a much softer and more wearable fabric. Take your time and wait till you've found a shirt that feels good to the skin. Secondly, it  goes with everything and can be added with most outfits to give an "effortless" feel. It gives a casual feeling to more  formal clothing with the fabric, and its classic structure keeps a casual look from getting too sloppy. If you still aren't into cambray, a check or plaid patterned button-up can often achieve the same effect. 
4) Camisoles- Have multiples of these in multiple colors. You can use them for everything. 'Nuff said.  
5) White Button-Up- The classic of all classics. Wear it buttoned to work. Leave it unbuttoned over another shirt for a day around the house. Add a tie for a menswear look; a ribbon around the neck for a girly one. Tie the ends into a knot for a sexy tomboy feel.  Pop the color to show you too are a Rebel Without a Cause. Tuck it in; leave it out. It all looks good.
6) T-Shirts- They are like camisoles and you will use them all the time. Get multiples in multiple colors but I'd at least have one- one perfectly fitting not-too-loose, not-too-tight one in white.  
7) Brenton Striped Shirt- Ever since Chanel made these fashionable for more than just sailors to wear, they haven't gone out of style. Put one on to feel instantly chic in that not-trying-too-hard kind of way.  
8) Silk Blouse- Though a solid colored silk blouse also works, a simple pattern (one that is not over large, as the size of a pattern- if too small or too large- I think can looked dated quicker) adds versatility and interest. It can become the focus of the outfit, or can act as a neutral if more vivid pieces need to take center stage.  Plus, silk looks feminine and refined, and feels fantastic.  
9, 10 &11) Sweaters- I chose three sweaters here, which might seem like overkill, but each plays a valuable part in your closet.  A black turtleneck is timeless and looks great at every age. If turtlenecks give you a headache, try ones with cowled necks instead. A  sweater with a classic shape can be layered over anything and looks good alone or with cuffs and collars peeking out from under it.  I would also go for a chunkier knit and a slightly boxier shape over a tightly clinging one to leave more to the imagination. The last type of sweater to have in a closet is a cardigan or shrug. It can any be any color. It adds versatility by not completely covering the layers under it, and can be more easily removed if temperatures change. 
12) Tailored Trousers-  These can tan, brown or black. They can be wide-legged a la Katherine Hepburn, or cigarette pants a la Audrey Hepburn or anywhere in between, so long as they are flattering to your size and shape (tailor if needed). Every woman needs at least one pair of pants that are job interview/business meeting appropriate, even if your career is something where people dress casually. Because you never know when  opportunity knocks.  
13) Jeans- Everyone should own at least one pair in a flattering shape. Dark wash jeans almost always have a slimming effect. Colored jeans are also a good option; they are fast phasing out of being a trend into things everyone of every age wears. The key to colored jeans (or any clothing, really), is just make sure they fit- and don't forget these to can be tailored. You can be weekend-ready in jeans and a T; wearing them with boots makes any girl ready to commune with nature; and a add a blazer to head to a coffee date with friends.  
14 &15) Skirts- A lot of women overlook the value of skirts in favor of either pants or dresses. But skirts are easy to move in, and as separates allows for a lot or mixing and matching with other closet items. A Pencil Skirt  is a very work-appropriate skirt (but also one that can make you look sexy depending on what it is styled with). This pencil skirt is grey- with only a simple detail to give it a little pizzazz, but this could also be a great piece to add a splash of color to your look with. Go for a bright solid color and pair it with a neutral colored top for a cheerful outfit. The other skirt I would make sure to have on hand is any Skirt with a bit of movement to it. Here, I chose a chiffon maxi, but you could also do a tulle skirt or a circle skirt. I'd keep things at least knee-length. Between these, you have the chance to create two very different shapes.  
16, 17, & 18) Shoes- I love me a good shoe, but should push come to shove, I think any lady can get along with these three (well, and possibly a sneaker for exercising). Black Heels will take you to work, take out to town, take you to funerals, weddings and everything in between. I'd get ones that don't have too high of a heel, a closed toe and a classic shape. You also need an alternative to a heel, something you can walk in. I could walk all over cities in Ballet Flats and have my feet not hurt. I love to have a pair in red ( I think every woman should own a pair of shoes that makes her feel like she's Judy Garland), but practically speaking black ones can do no wrong. They go with everything. Lastly, have some Boots. Everyone looks good in boots, and they are good to have when out of doors and in winter too!  
19) Grey or Black Blazer- Another piece I feel people should have for work and job interviews alone. Whether you go with like colors or have a blazer in a different shade than your bottoms, you still will always give a good air of professionalism. They can also be mixed with almost anything. Blazers over a dress or with jeans make any look feel effortlessly cool.   
20) Tweed or Brown Blazer- I can hear what some of you are thinking, "But Kristian, it's not my style; I like to feel feminine!" It can be good have some more androgynous items in your closet though. I love bows and polka dots and twirly skirts too, but there are times when less can be more. Mixing elements- rough with the soft, masculine with the feminine can give visual interest while keeping things understated.   

36 comments

  1. These are all great things we definitely need. I'm missing the white button up and striped shirt so clearly I must get on getting those! :)

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    1. My white-button-up gets so much use!

      Are there any essentials like that in your closet? I love to hear about the items people remix a lot! :)

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  2. I feel like I should enlist you to find me good rown/tweed blazers because the one you have in here and the one in the Teddy Girls post are both amazing. I love them! I am missing a lot of this - I can't wear pencil skirts, I don't own anything white, and I don't own pants anymore :D

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    1. Thanks Katherine.

      That is a good point about the pencil skirts. I know several ladies who've mentioned it doesn't work for their shape. Perhaps it is better to say have two skirts in different shapes. Like, I love the red one you just did a remix of (whatever style of skirt it is, I'm not sure but it is cute!)

      Keep meaning to ask, but what was the decision not to wear pants like/for? I'd love to read a post about it (if you've done one...?)

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  3. great list!! It reminds me that I'm missing some! haha
    xo,
    nancy

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  4. Clubbing attire! Hah, is that ever a staple? (Or maybe I'm just an old fudy-dudy...)

    I rarely if ever wear my lbd dress, the last time I did pull it out was for a funeral and that has just sort of made the dress depressing to me. The solid color dress though is a compete must for me, you can do so much with one, it's really a great foundation piece. I really think you covered everything, the only thing I could think of as a staple would be a good coat and pair of boots for us cold weather gals but that just varies from climate to climate, most people in Florida don't need a pair of bunny boots or sorrels.

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    1. Well, it is clearly not a staple in Wyoming at least!

      That is too bad that the black dress now has those sorts of associations for you. I'll admit a large reason why I think a black dress is good to have is precisely for funerals (my sister has borrowed mine several times for that reason), and concerts (like, orchestral ones). But in everyday it is all about the color! :)

      Oh, yes! A good coat and boots are so essential!

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  5. I think you've compiled a great list! And it's definitely made me realize how many of these things I don't own, but need. I love that chambray is a staple now! I don't know how I still don't have a good chambray button down.

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    1. I'm still looking for a good chambray shirt too. Hard to find one the color and softeness... Part of the reason for a new interest in "classic" items is realizing how many basic items my own closet lacks too.

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  6. Fantastic ideas! I need a good silk blouse, myself. This reminds me of a Hello Kitty style book I had when I was a kid, it had a list of essentials that included so many of the same things! It's funny how some styles never really change - I guess that's why they're staples :).

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    1. When I was a kid, my dad was always telling us that the "classics" never go out of style. And with the exception of the sweater-vest (he was so intent on us getting those!), it turns out to be very true advice! Now I want to see this Hello Kitty book; sounds fun.

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  7. Love your list! I always think it's interesting to hear different people's view of the classics. I must admit that I am missing many of the items listed above - LOL!

    http://mn2nz.wordpress.com

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    1. I love hearing what people feel are basics/classics. Sadly, I'm also missing out on some of these items. Keeping an eye out for the right ones!

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  8. Hi again Kristian! Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog! And especially thank you for reading what I wrote in "Prim and Proper". It was a very meaningful experience for me to visit my former students and see how far they've come in a year. :)

    To answer your question: I took my "Mint and Lime" outfit photos in the downtown area of Coral Gables, FL, a historic city within Miami (we have lots of cities within cities).

    Your selection here is so versatile. Each piece can be worked into a number of different looks for different settings. That's always been number one for me when buying an item. Except I've found myself making excuses lately since "I have a style blog now", haha.

    Also, I recognize some of these items from Modcloth. :)

    Looking forward to keeping up with your blog,

    -Nathy
    Earnestyle

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    1. It is a beautiful area. Besides seeing all the clothing, I do think it's fun to see where people live a bit.

      I use that excuse of "I have a style blog" for shopping too! Such a bad habit, but a hard one to shake, lol. Especially with Modcloth...

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  9. Brilliant post! You can never go wrong with basics. They are essential for any stylish girl. Great information- you really know your stuff!

    Sarah XxX

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  10. This is very educational. I hope you'll come visit and help me shop for these!

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    1. You and me on a shopping trip would be so fun. Seattle's not *that* far away though, is it? Maybe we'll swing it one of these days!

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  11. In all honesty, I need more basics. I have a ton of impractical dresses, and bold prints and embroidered things...hehe. I think I tend to stray away from basics b/c I went to private school where we had to wear button downs and blazers, solid skirts, and khakis and trousers and after years of doing that I hated it. However, I'm always in awe of bloggers that make basics look so incredibly stylish...my feelings have changed!

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    1. Well, you are always wearing your "impractical" dressed and bold prints etc, so hardly that impractical :) It is part of your style.

      I disliked "classics" in high school and middle school because my dad always wanted us in them too. (I still do not like Khaki). Didn't realize you went to private school. Are you considering that route for your kiddos (though, obviously a ways off)?

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  12. I'm of the feeling that the LBD and white button down should only be worn by those who are truly flattered by those "colors". No harm in substituting to make it work for your skin tones! This girl is all about navy, grey, and ivory...because I don't need to look dead in the name of stereotypes/rules.:). I also think if you can make your wardrobe work without jeans, you should 100% do it: over,over, over done!

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    1. Hmm, I had not considered different shades.. But of course, you should always make sure the colors look good on you. Very good thought Keri! I still like an LBD for funerals if nothing else, but grey and navy also work for those situations too.

      You are not a fan of jeans? Or you think jeans are overdone? Personally, I still feel they are a necessity. If they fit correctly, they can be used for so much and if nothing else I like them for working in out-of-doors. But then, several people in the comments have pointed out they don't do trousers of any sort at all, so clearly it doesn't match all people's lives :)

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    2. Both: overdone and seriously uncomfortable. :). Impossible to size well with my measurements too (over share alert, but 26 in waist, 19 in calves....jeans aren't often made that work for those two measurements being on the same body!). I also think jeans are something which truly reveals whether a person owns a full length mirror, and has a functioning objective eye on themselves...the skinny jean , so frequently misapplied, being the evidence of that particular phenomenon. Almost no one can find a dress that will unflatter quite the way bad jeans can. ;). But, surely I do own a pair that is solely for painting and projects.... And one that fits, which I wear but sparingly, as I doubt I'll find one that works any time soon ( they're pushing five years now....), when it comes time to replace them. I just usually feel my "talents" are wasted on looks that revolve around jeans, because eye for fit aside, you'll see a dozen girls looking the same or quite close to you only minutes out the door... Maybe I need to rethink that, though, as that eye for fit is a pretty huge distinction indeed! As for funerals, the last one I attended, I think I was the only one not in a floral, and it made me feel seriously conspicuous in my demure pencil skirt and ivory blouse combo... Either I missed the memo, and the funeral had a theme, or they no longer have dress codes anyone adheres to. I truly don't know whether that should be regretted or not,either.

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    3. A good dress or skirt can be pretty universally flattering, true :D

      How strange about the funeral. Most I attend people are wearing dark colors. But changing times....

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  13. This is a great post. Oddly enough there are a few items here that I've been meaning to purchase for years but haven't found the right item yet! Like a brenton striped shirt...I need one of those! Thanks for the list :)

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    1. Brenton striped shirts- like good ones without different '"twists on the classic" kind- are so hard to find! Mine came from a sale on J. Crew about two years ago...

      You'd look great in a striped shirt.

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  14. My wardrobe lacks a shoe department. With only basic black and brown shoes I have yet to go a long way. I do agree with most parts of this list. My LBD and basic jeans have gotten SO much wears! I am currently looking for a pretty, solid red dress to wear through the different seasons. I spotted one at Anthro two months ago, but I believe it's sold out by now :( x

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    1. I personally, really do like this red dress I pictured above from Modcloth (called "Luck be a Lady Dress"), but it is $74.00. Finally found one I LOVED at a much more reasonable price; it is from Chicwish.

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  15. I love this list! I'm still on the lookout for my perfect breton shirt ;)

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    1. J. Crew looked to have some on sale... :D

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  16. So I guess I'm just on the slow boat because I totally missed this post. I think These are some great basics! I can vouch for the "Luck be a Lady Dress." I picked up one in plaid 50% off during a sale at Modcloth. They're made in the UK by a company called Closet that specializes in basics for young professional women.

    My wardrobe doesn’t have a pencil skirt, though. I think it's a wonderful basic for a lot of women, but apparently I'm just not a pencil skirt sort of person, lol. I do love a skinny jean, though.

    I can see soo many outfit combinations here! Great work!

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    1. I've only recently been converted to the pencil skirt- I wanted all my skirts to be great for dancing, but I've since changed my mind. Still, as some other readers pointed out too- not all body types are flattered by the look. You do what fits you too.

      Yay for skinny jeans though :)

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  17. Oh dear, I might have to go shopping....I don't have half of these. But I do have tons of scarfs which I feel should be on that list. And a hat. It get's cold out there!
    Lovely list :)

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    1. While I specifically was discounting seasonal items and accessories from the list (too many items and too many different climates after all), I definitely agree with you. Coats and scarves and hats and gloves are all fantastic to have!

      And I don't have all of these either. I think being aware of holes in your wardrobe helps when you do shop, but I don't think you have to go and get everything right away either :)

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