10 Wardrobe Essentials
Thursday October 28, 2010

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Recently someone asked me share my top wardrobe essentials for building an ideal wardrobe that is not only functional, but stylish as well. And so my wheels have been turning for the past couple of weeks contemplating exactly what I would include as my top 10 essential items.

Now you probably already have noticed that I am a “list” girl, I have created many wardrobe lists for myself in the past based on books I have read, and I continue to edit and tweak as I gather new ideas. The first few authors that come to mind are Tim Gunn and Nina Garcia, but I know there have been many more.  So using them as a guide, below are my top 10 Wardrobe Essentials that I have found are the most versatile, functional and most importantly, have the ability to allow the beautiful woman that is wearing them to shine.

Quality Jeans

A quality pair of designer jeans is more than worth the price.  Not only will they hug your body in the most flattering way imaginable, but you’ll be wearing them for many years to come.  As a young girl I had a horrible time finding jeans that were long enough at the price point I could afford, but once I learned that what I needed was going to cost a bit more, I realized that what I was paying for – a much longer lifetime, quality and a beautiful silhouette was more than worth the price once I had saved up.  And always remember to buy them a bit snug, as they loosen a bit with wear. Some of my favorite brands for my figure are Citizens of Humanity, Rock & Republic, and Notify. The versatility of jeans makes them a must have as a foundation piece in your wardrobe. Expand your possibilities by including boot cut, straight leg, a pair to wear with flats and one with heels, and don’t forget boyfriend and trouser jeans as well.


Begin by purchasing a classic khaki trench which can be paired with jeans, dresses, skirts for either day or evening. The flattering classic belt tie is a wonderful feminine component as it cinches your waist and displays your figure. Once you’ve included khaki, feel free to include colors (red, yellow, green, prints) or other classic tones (black, white or navy).  One of my favorite go-to outfits is my dark denim straight leg jeans, ballet flats, a blouse or classic t-shirt and a trench. Viola! I’m ready for just about anything.

Cardigan/Cashmere Sweaters

Whether with a dress, skirts, jeans or dress pants, a cardigan or cashmere sweater can be dressed up or down depending on the situation.  While a cardigan can be paired with a beautiful camisole or sleeveless blouse that shimmers, a luxurious cashmere v-neck sweater can be layered and accessorized with a beautiful scarf.  With a cardigan, let it fall by your sides, or wrap around a belt to look more cohesive, and with cashmere sweaters remember that lightweight styles can be worn in the spring and summer as well.

Dress Pants or Skirts (Your Preference)

A pair of well made dress pants in camel, black, gray or tweed are a wonderful way to bring the element of mixing and matching to your wardrobe. There are many different styles to choose from depending on where you want it to hit on your waist and how you want your leg to look. Wide leg, as shown above has the effect of elongating your leg when paired with a slim fitting blouse and belted waist.  A slimmer leg can also pull off a very professional look when paired with a cardigan and blouse. Heels look wonderful when dress pants are worn, so don’t forget to grab your favorite pumps.

Skirts – pencil skirts and A-line skirts – are the traditional classic options. A pencil skirt is more formal and slimming, while an A-line is camouflaging and playful. Both however, are very feminine, so it is completely up to you which style you choose to wear. Choose prints and pair with a solid silk blouse or keep a couple of neutral colors in your closet as they can work any beautiful trendy top you find from season to season.

Leather Jacket


There are many different types of jackets that you can include in your wardrobe, but a short leather jacket is a versatile piece to have on hand. Paired with jeans for a weekend outing or a casual dress ensemble, it truly allows you quite a bit of freedom when pulling together casual, yet stylish outfits.  Black, brown, camel or even jewel tone leather jackets are all options to consider. Always make sure it fits well through the shoulders and the sleeves hit just below your wrist bone.

White Shirt

Diane Keaton is a perpetual reminder of the seemingly endless ways a white collared shirt can be worn.  With skirts (knee length or full), jeans or dress pants, this is one of the ultimate versatile items to include.  Now, if you’re like me, and you don’t necessarily wear the classic long sleeve, button up design, don’t forget the many other different styles, for example, the beautiful asymmetrical neckline and capped sleeve Caroline Herrera look above. Layer and accessorize as necessary.



Depending on your taste and lifestyle, you will gravitate toward different styles of blouses.  Whether they be long sleeve, short sleeve or sleeveless though, you will want to have a few in your closet. Again, pair them with jeans and skirts, layer them with cardigans or jackets, and have the peace of mind knowing you can wear them to work or out on a date.

A Nautical Top


Many essential wardrobe lists don’t include a nautical top or sweater, but if you’re someone who tends to choose casual over dressed up, you will want to include this item.  Worn by itself, with a pair of ankle jeans and flats, one’s style factor rises immediately because it looks so effortless, but at the same time so creatively done, when in reality it is simple.  In chilly instances, a trench, or short sleeve cardigan look just as chic.

Little Black Dress


Again and again, the little black dress is listed as one of the must have items and truer words have never been spoken, whether you choose to purchase a black sheath dress, black wrap dress or a beautifully short cocktail dress, you are set to look amazing. Always be on the lookout for one that calls your name.  You never know when you’ll come across something you can’t imagine not having in your closet for those unplanned, last minute occasions.

Wrap Dress


Diane von Furstenberg has me hooked and for a very good reason.  The wrap dress again is an item with legs, in other words mileage, when it comes to getting your cost per wear.  You will find that a wrap dress can be worn in so many different settings and can be accessorized different to meet your needs.  Be sure to include one, or two, in your closet.

Click here to see a list of the 10 Essential Shoes Every Woman Should Have. And please do share what your essentials are, as I’m always looking for new ideas and reasons to shop (okay, I probably have enough reasons to shop, but one more won’t hurt 🙂 ).

*Click here to find out where to shop for these items on a budget.

*Click here to take a shop at my hand-picked essential items.

22 thoughts on “10 Wardrobe Essentials

  1. Great compilation! I love your list and have everything except for the leather jacket. I’ve let go of and limited my jackets since living in FL. I did keep a great red trench and a charcoal long wool jacket for dressy attire in case I’m back home in the winter. 😉 Funny, I have one of these posts sitting in draft mode (along with 55 others, now if I can just find the time to finish & post it!

    A flattering, well made pair of jeans (even if they are $250+ dollars are worth every penny!) I like the jean image you selected for this post.

    Have a great day!

  2. I love lists too and often refer to the Nina Garcia/Tim Gunn suggestions. Your comments about your favorite brands and suggestions on how to use them adds even more. I want to find a few really great white shirts. I have a thing for white shirts with long, long sleeves (since my arms are long and they are hard to find) ~ I just love the way the cuff or pleated ruffle looks lying against my hand (as opposed to barely at my wrist which is the way most blouses I try on seem to fit!). Great post, Shannon xo

  3. This is EXACTLY what a I needed Shannon! Thank you for all the suggestions! I don’t know about the leather jacket (at least for me personally) but I LOVE LOVE LOVE all your other suggestions! I think the first I will invest in is that GOOD pair of jeans! I can’t wait to check out the designers you suggested! Thanks so much!!

  4. Jean shopping is a pain in the butt. But once you find the right pair it’s magical! I LOVE trenches: I have black, denim, and leopard! I’d like to find a purple one and black patent too. Eventually I’d like to find a black leather jacket, I always liked a bomber style but that rick owens -esque shape has grown on me too. Though I live in tropical climate where I can wear a leather jacket in the winter at night once a year, so it’s not a priority.
    Liya looks fantastic by the way.

  5. I love most of the items on this list. I don’t agree with the leather jacket however. Alot of wardrobe essential lists out there include a leather jacket and I don’t know why. I have no intent on ever purchasing one (something about it seems too hard and tough). What I would add to this list is the pencil skirt (preferably a few!), work-appropriate dress (example – sheath, but doeesn’t have to be a sheath) and wool coat. Also quality jewelry and I see the shoes are mentioned in another post. Love all the rest!

  6. Forgot one more item – a beautiful blazer. This doesn’t have to be a traditional “suit-style” blazer, although it can be. A versatile blazer can make ANY outfit look polished.

  7. I just found this post on Pinterest and I love the info! I am feeling pretty good as I have the majority of the items checked off! I do {need} to invest in good jeans one day and still looking for the perfect little black dress. New follower here, Thank you!

  8. This is a great list!! (But then I would say that wouldn’t I, cos all ten are among my personal wardrobe staples, LOL!!). I agree with Stephanie: I’d definitely add a blazer (navy for me, with nautical brass buttons)to pair with a classic Breton top, white jeans, and St Tropez sandals or ballet flats.

    I’d also add a classic pure camelhair coat, which looks eternally chic – a plus because it will last forever!, a really good leather bag, and at least one Hermès silk foulard. Voilà: this Parisienne’s list! 🙂

  9. you know, I with you absolutely agrees. All these things will make clothes of the woman universal and smart. I love wide trousers! they are fine and aristocratical. and a top in a strip. m-m-m, trend. I love everything!

  10. These are fantastic Shannon! Definitely what I am looking for! These are classic styles and my style!

    Thank you

  11. Basically this is my capsule wardrobe essentials, except the leather jacket. Despite it looking bombastically amazing on my best friend, this item always looks wrong on me, like somehow it is too harsh. I would prefer wearing my trench coat instead 🙂

    Hell yes for stripes! Here in Paris there is a lot of people wearing stripes (navy blue / dark /other coloured lines on white) and inversed stripes (white stripes on dark colour)

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