Wardrobe Staples Women Must Have among Their Clothing Items - dummies

Wardrobe Staples Women Must Have among Their Clothing Items

By Jill Martin, Pierre A. Lehu

There are some items that you absolutely need ready and waiting in your closet. These make up the basis of your wardrobe; they’re the must haves, no matter what your style — the wardrobe essentials. To be considered a wardrobe essential, an article of clothing has to have several important attributes:

  • It must be versatile. This is the most important quality of an essential piece of clothing. One key factor in versatility is color. Because wardrobe essentials have to go with lots of other clothing, they tend to be monochromatic and neutral in color. They also must work with different outfits. A blazer that you can pair with a skirt, pants, or a pair of jeans is a good example.

  • It has to be of good, perhaps even exceptional, quality. A wardrobe essential makes a statement, and anyone looking should be able to tell that it’s top shelf. High quality also means that it wears well — very important for a garment that you’ll rely on again and again.

  • It should be in a classic style. You don’t want your wardrobe essentials to ever really go out of fashion.

  • It must be a 10. These garments, like everything in your closet, should have all the qualities of a 10, and because they form the basis of your stylish wardrobe, it’s okay to spend a little more for these than you would other, less essential, items.

A lot of wardrobe must-have items are black. Black garments offer many pluses: No one knows how often you wear them. Stains are difficult, if not impossible, to see. The color is flattering on every person and every body type. And with a black basic, you’re free to add color in other areas of your outfit and have fun with prints or great accessories.

Little black dress (LBD)

Ah, the little black dress. It should be sexy, yet sophisticated. It should be well-made and fit like a glove. It should hide your flaws and accentuate your attributes. It can go from day (wear it to the office with a cardigan or blazer and a set of pearls and leather pumps) to night (take off the blazer or cardigan and add some makeup, jewelry, and heels).

Pearls and pumps make the LBD simple yet chic.
Pearls and pumps make the LBD simple yet chic.

Choose a LBD in the style that suits you, makes you feel comfortable, and looks most like you. It can be sleeveless, have cap sleeves, or have 3/4-length sleeves. It can have a V-neck, boat neck, crew neck, or square neck. It can be knee-length, a little longer, a little shorter, or miniskirt length. The LBD is both universal and individual at the same time. Find one that makes you feel fabulous and make the investment because this is one piece that really gives you your money’s worth!

Black blazer

The black blazer is key in your wardrobe. Because it’s black, it goes with virtually everything. You can change the look just by changing the accessories.

Although it doesn’t need to be ridiculously expensive or high-end, the blazer does need to fit you perfectly and work with your body type. If you want to appear taller or longer, choose a blazer that’s longer. If you want to accentuate your beautiful waistline, make sure it’s fitted in the waist area. Also make sure it’s current. Avoid one that looks like something from the 80s — oversized with enormous shoulder pads.

You can wear a single-breasted blazer comfortably and fashionably either open or closed, and you have the option of wearing it over dresses or skirts, as well as pants.

You can never go wrong with a black blazer and blue jeans.
You can never go wrong with a black blazer and blue jeans.

Don’t be afraid to make the blazer your own: Add a favorite pin to the lapel if you want to jazz it up when the occasion calls for it. A black blazer doesn’t have to be boring. Again, it’s a basic that you can build your outfit around.

Crisp, white button-down shirt

The white button-down shirt should fit you well. At first glance, your white shirt may look no different than the one your husband or boyfriend wears under his suits, but yours is made and cut specifically for a woman. It should be flattering and accentuate your best features.

You can wear a white shirt on its own, tucked in or out, under a sweater, under a jacket, or as part of a suit. Keep the following things in mind as you decide on your white shirt:

  • Style: The more expensive shirts look a little dressier and need to be pressed (otherwise, they look messy), but if you’re buying only one, a dressier shirt is the way to go because it’s more versatile. If you have a great waist, buy a fitted shirt; if not, buy one that is cut straight.

    Less fancy shirts are also an option if you’re planning to wear the shirt only as casual dress. This type is good with jeans or tied at the waist over a bikini, for example. These shirts aren’t as structured and don’t need to be pressed.

  • Material: Whether dressy or more casual, the white shirt is generally made of cotton. If you can, go for combed cotton, which means that longer fibers were used; these fibers are stronger and give the material a more luxurious appearance.

    Many shirts designed for office wear are made of cotton in an oxford weave. Although a comfortable type of cotton, these types of shirts don’t wear as well, and tend to pill at the collar and cuffs. Cotton broadcloth is sturdier and resists soiling.

  • Construction: Because your collar is usually at eye level, make sure it’s sewn properly. Women’s button-down shirts don’t generally have actual buttons on the collar that button down to the shirt, so make sure there are no puckers in the material and that it lays flat.

Black trousers

A pair of high-quality, flat front, black trousers are a necessity in every wardrobe. Stay away from pleats because they only accentuate an area that no one really needs accentuating! If you can buy only one pair of trousers, select a length that matches the heel height you most commonly wear. And choose a lightweight wool that will work in summer or winter.

If you can buy another pair of trousers, ivory is great to have (even in the winter). Winter white is a refreshing change in the darker months, and it shows that you have style and are daring enough to let everyone know it.

Knee-length black skirt

Every woman should have a knee-length black skirt that fits perfectly and gives her a slim appearance. The particular style is up to you (and what looks good on your body type): It can be a pencil skirt or an A-line skirt. So that it can go from season to season, look for one that’s a lightweight wool.

The basic black skirt and sweater set — always chic and classic.
The basic black skirt and sweater set — always chic and classic.

Classic beige trench coat

The classic trench is a necessary staple because it never goes out of style and you can wear it in just about any season. If you stick to a classic trench coat, it will last you for years. When choosing a trench coat, follow these suggestions:

  • Make sure the coat fits in the shoulders. You don’t want to be drowning in your coat. You should always be wearing your clothes; they should not be wearing you.

  • Choose a style and length that gives you the look you want. Decide whether you want it to cinch at the waist or be looser fit. A belted trench flatters your waistline in contrast to your shoulders and the overall volume of the coat itself.

    If you plan to wear it over dresses and pants, make sure it’s long enough that your dresses aren’t sticking out the bottom. You can get away with a shorter trench if you are only going to wear it with pants or jeans.

  • Make sure the coat doesn’t overwhelm you. If you’re on the smaller side, pick a coat that’s less busy, that is, has less going on with the pockets, lapels, buttons, and so on, and make sure it’s single-breasted. If you’re taller, you can carry off a more traditional looking double-breasted trench.

Black leather bag

A black leather bag is a perfect everywhere bag, a bag you can wear to work, to lunch, to dinner, and even shopping on the weekend. It goes with everything, and you’ll feel comfortable using it with whatever color or prints you may be wearing. It should be medium-sized: large enough to hold whatever you need during the day but not so large that it looks awkward if you find yourself running straight out to dinner with it.

Quality blue jeans

Everyone should have a pair of favorite jeans — you know, the kind of jeans that make you feel sexy, pulled together, and comfortable. These jeans should be current in style, and the cut should be one that flatters your best assets. The great news is that nowadays jeans companies are making jeans to accommodate every body type. So figure out what your body type is, then pick the cut of your jeans accordingly. Some suggestions:

  • If you have great legs, you may want a pair of skinny jeans.

  • If you want to direct attention away from your waist area, choose a flared jean.

  • If you have a great waistline and want to draw attention to it, go for a pair of high-waisted jeans.

If you are only investing in one pair of jeans, go with dark denim. They are more slimming and more versatile. You can wear them totally casual during the day, and you can dress them up for night.

Pair of black pumps

Black pumps go with everything, they won’t get too dirty, and they can also go from day to night. If you can afford only one pair of black pumps, go with a dressier pair; shoes are generally easier to dress down than to dress up.

When buying shoes, make sure they’re comfortable! Don’t expect them to “break in.” You’re going to spend some money on them because shoes tend to cost a bit more, so make sure they fit right.

White and black cardigan sweaters

Cardigan sweaters are great for those times when you don’t know what the weather will be like or if it’s the middle of summer and you get stuck in a ridiculously cold air-conditioned restaurant or office. If you get warm, you can always throw the cardigan over your shoulders and tie around your neck, and if you’re chilly, you can wear it.

If you can afford it, get your cardigans in a light cashmere. If you can’t afford cashmere, a great cotton does the trick! Whether cotton or cashmere, a good-quality cardigan sweater should last a very long time.

Set of pearls

A set of pearls can be a beautiful accent to any outfit. They’re perfect for the office and for a formal affair. Obviously, real pearls are expensive, so if you can borrow from Grandma — lucky you! If not, you can buy fakes. Just play around with them.

Pearls aren’t just for those who prefer classic styles. There are many ways to wear them, and a long strand can be worn with a funkier outfit.

Pearls are not just for Grandma.
Pearls are not just for Grandma.

Diamond studs . . . or cubics!

You definitely don’t want to leave your ears bare, and diamond studs go perfectly with everything. If you are heading to work in a suit and then out at night in jeans and a blouse, studs are the perfect complement. They’re classy, and you can throw them on without worrying whether they go with what you’re wearing because diamonds go with everything!

Don’t have the money for genuine diamonds studs? Don’t worry. Buy cubic zirconia instead; just keep them small.