I came across a great article in Who What Wear in which Michael Kors said that the reason most women don’t have anything to wear is because they have a wardrobe that is out of balance. I’ll allow him to explain:
“70 percent of the clothes you own should be meat and potatoes. 30 percent should be icing and fluff—that’s color, pattern, shine, and accessories. Too many women get the proportions the other way round, then can’t figure out why they can’t get dressed.”
I was going to say the exact same thing. Only, you know, differently.
And that’s why I feel so strongly about my Capsule Wardrobe, the 11 items that I believe every well-dressed woman should own. Regardless of lifestyle. (Simply make the pieces more or less dressy, depending on your needs). But I will warn you: Essentials are boring. Recently, a gorgeous client of mine took one look at a board of well-edited essentials and said just that. These aren’t the pieces we get excited about, and that’s why, for years, I never bought them. Why would I spend my money on a boring black tank when there was a hot pink sequined one right next to it? I always went for the glam, the glitter, the girly. And, in spite of being a frequent shopper at stores that specialized in those three G’s, I never had anything to wear. Because it turns out you need something to wear with pink sequins besides, well, more pink sequins. The eye needs a place to rest. Even for me.
Is your wardrobe out of balance, and crammed with so many of-the-moment bargain buys and memorable statement pieces that there is no room for anything of substance?
All wow pieces and very few workhorses?
All razzle dazzle and no real?
All… you get the idea. A common problem, and an easy one to fix. The key is to invite a few good quality essentials to the party. They mix and mingle really well with funky tops, sparkly cocktail dresses, patterned skirts and the like. They play well with others, and don’t always feel the need to draw attention to themselves. Unlike some clothes we know. Allow me to introduce them to you, in no particular order.
(Note: For your shopping convenience – ahem- simply click on the image of the item and it will take you straight to the site where it can be purchased.)
Another note: Black is not the only option for the dark neutral in your capsule. Depending on your Color Code, you might want to choose navy, chocolate, or charcoal.
1. The Jacket
Even if you are not a jacket girl — like me — you need a black blazer. Select a very simple 1-2 button style that hits at the waist or slightly below, with a slim fit and simple, classic lapels. I will show you how to wear it, and you will wear it. I promise. And if you really and truly believe a black blazer has no room in your closet, I’ll give you permission to substitute a casual jacket, like a denim jacket, a moto jacket, a bomber or a military-style jacket, in a neutral. You won’t regret it.
2. The Tank (in black and white)
Sleek and simple, this is an essential layering piece. I prefer ribbed styles because they are slim and don’t create extra lumps when layering, but if you prefer a smooth finish, or even a silky tank, go for it. You need one in black and one in white. Get more tips on tanks by reading this.
3. The Tee (in black and white)
A simple tee is just the top to wear when nothing else will do. It works with flouncy skirts and boyfriend jeans and makes everything look a little less contrived. Which is a good thing. Try to strike the balance between oversized and skintight. It should fit slim, but not tight, like the ones below. Find more tee tips right here.
4. The Button-Down
You may think you don’t need this, and of all the items on this list, it’s one of the most controversial, but there is no denying the versatility of a button down. A classic white button-down with a classic fit is so elegant, but also high maintenance, so consider black or even chambray as an alternative. (If you are busty, unfortunately, tailoring is almost always required. Buy a shirt the next size up and have it taken in, or try one of the new button downs with knit panels on the side, from brands like James Perse. ) It shouldn’t be boring or masculine, but it should be simple enough to be versatile. Read more about this essential right here.
5. The Black Pants
Again, the key here is to look for something stylish and feminine yet still simple enough to dress up or down. A slim leg looks the most contemporary without being too trendy, and is flattering on most body types. For business casual, a tailored style, in either a woven or a heavier ponte knit, works well, but a more casual style in a ponte knit is great for a stay at home mom or mom on the go. For more on finding the perfect pair of black pants for your capsule wardrobe, click here.
6. The Black Shorts
A well-made pair of shorts in a neutral like black can be one of the most versatile things in your wardrobe. The most universally flattering pair is sleek and simple, with minimal detail and hardware, in a nice sturdy woven material. For more information on finding a flattering pair of shorts (admittedly, not always an easy feat!), check out my post on How to Wear Shorts.
7. The Black Dress
A black dress is a wardrobe staple, of course, but the key here is to find one that is truly versatile — comfortable enough to take you through a long day, but elegant enough to dress up with heels. Look for quality fabric and a simple design for maximum versatility. A thick knit, jersey, or a woven with stretch offer the best combination of comfort and style. Click here for more pointers on finding the perfect black dress for your capsule wardrobe.
8. The Black Skirt
An A-line black skirt in a substantial knit or a seasonless crepe is an essential item that flatters every body and suits every lifestyle. At a classic length, it goes effortless from office to date night, or choose a trendy midi or casual maxi style.
9. Dark Jeans
What was once considered trendy is now a wardrobe classic, and still the most versatile pair you can buy. Before investing in a trendy boyfriend or flare style, make sure you have a solid pair of dark skinny jeans in your closet. Dress them up with heels and a blouse or slip on a sweater and ballet flats for a comfy-chic everyday look. A skinny is a great choice for every body type, but if you don’t love skinnies, choose a bootcut (Style Dial 1), straight (Style Dial 2) or graduated flare (Style Dial 3). Another hint: If you’re on a budget, a dark even wash is your best bet. Save the fancy fraying and fading for the premium brands.
And there’s your list! Taken individually, these pieces aren’t particularly exciting, but when combined with the statement pieces we will covering tomorrow, they form the backbone for a chic, versatile wardrobe that will forever end the “nothing to wear” dilemma. And don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Now that you’ve assembled some great basics, follow these links to:
Add Color (pick your favorite shade!)
Add Accessories (this is where it gets fun!)
Shop Your Closet (with a little help from Caitlin Skidmore)
Get Answers to Your Most Pressing Fashion Questions!
Fashion Essentials Pinterest board
Well that explains a lot!!
Nada Manley says
Thanks so much Joules! I am loving your new red hair! It’s gorgeous!
Joules (from Pocketful of Joules) says
These are some great suggestions for starter wardrobe pieces. =)