Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of sorting through two very different closets that belong to women with very different lifestyles: my decorator friend Michele, who spends most days dressed up to meet with clients, and my friend Erin, whose days are spent managing a busy household with four active children. Yet they both had the need for the same few basics – essential items that will make any woman’s wardrobe work harder and smarter. Here, five easy pieces that will make you love your wardrobe all over again:
1. The Tank: Nothing is more potentially aging or stuffy than a matching, two-piece ensemble. In certain settings, like to church, it can work to pull out a sweet, two piece dress, but most of the time it’s boring and instantly aging. Instead, separate the pieces and pair the skirt with a simple tank for a fresh new look. A plain, beater-style tank can transform any suit, skirt, or pair of pants that you own, and make them appear hipper and more youthful. White and black are the essential colors to start with. My favorite tank is the Beater from Michael Stars, but great tanks are available everywhere and at every price.
2. The Denim Jacket: Another easy wardrobe refresher, the simple little denim jacket has the same anti-aging properties that the tank has – it can take anything in your wardrobe and make it younger, fresher, cooler. Try tossing one on over a tank and a full, feminine skirt, or slip on thong sandals and a denim jacket over a little black dress to create a great daytime look. Make sure it fits properly, is a little snug but not tight, has clean classic lines, a mid-blue wash, and no embellishments for maximum versatility.
3. The White Jeans: Nothing says easy summer style like a great pair of sleek white jeans. Slip them on with almost any top in your wardrobe and you look crisp and classic. They’re a little dressier than blue denim, and nearly as versatile. They look great with brights, pastels, and metallics. Oh, and if you get a snug pair, cut out the front pockets so they don’t show through!
4. The Metallic Shoe: I remember a time when wearing a neutral shoe meant a choice between black and bone – both equally uninspired options. Now, there’s a much more stylish solution – the metallic shoe. In the summertime, nothing, and I mean nothing, is more versatile than a simple, elegant thong sandal in gold or silver. Year round, choose a pair of high-heeled strappy sandals, or ballet flats, or an elegant pump, in your favorite metallic. It’s so much fresher and less predictable than wearing a weighty black shoe with everything, and a metallic shoe literally matches every single thing in your wardrobe. Go dull or shiny, warm or cool – either way, you’ll wonder how you got dressed without them.
5. The wide brown belt: I have never been a belt person. Frankly, I never really knew what to do with them. But one day last fall, on a shopping trip with my mom and sister, I spontaneously bought a wide Obi-style brown belt from Zara, and my closet has never been the same. Now I use it to cinch the waist of a slightly-slouchy black jersey dress, or to add shape to a peasant style dress, or to make an ordinary top and jeans look special. It’s so versatile and so flattering, and I’ve found, even though I’ve always been a black shoe/bag kind of girl (as opposed to a brown shoe/bag kind of girl), that a brown belt is even more useful than a black one.