While everyone will have their own personal style, I truly believe every wardrobe should have a few basics. The essentials if you will, to easily create stylish outfits all year round. Pieces that you can effortlessly mix and match, and can be the backbone of your closet for many years. When I look at my closet and see the items that have stood the test of time, it’s always the quality basics that survive the trends, the wear and tear and my own personal evolving style. It’s basically like a capsule wardrobe, honestly.
To me, this means that these essentials should be high quality and I’m willing to spend a little more money on them as well. But that’s not necessarily always required. However, it can be a good excuse to splurge on that great basic you know you’ll have for years to come. My number one tip for all of these basics in today’s checklist, is to avoid any super trendy details or shapes. Here’s my ultimate wardrobe basics checklist for a closet you can easily style and feel put-together in with ease.
Wardrobe Basics Checklist
You just can’t go wrong with a good white tee. My closet has several styles so that I can mix and match them with outfits. A more fitted white tee to pair with looser pieces or fuller skirts. And more relaxed ones to pair with skinny jeans or tuck into shorts for summer. They are great layering pieces and I think every closet should have a few white tees and even tanks to have on hand. This includes white tanks, white long sleeves, and of course a classic short sleeve. You can even check out my white tee blog post here.
Solid Color Tees
I’m a big fan of a simple white cotton tee. But I also have several different color basic tees in a few different necklines. They are truly the backbone of my wardrobe. Find a fit and neckline that you like and choose a few colors to have that works with your personal style. For me, that’s typically more earthy and muted tones. And then some good basics like white, black and grey. Or even opt for a stripe, classic print or graphic. I think these really do stand the test of time and make for really easy and effortless outfits. Jeans, tee and your utility jacket, done. Perfect outfit. They work for each and every season too.
From crew neck to turtleneck, to lightweight and heavier ones, a few quality sweaters you can rely on are wardrobe staples. Depending on where you live will dictate what types of sweaters you may invest in. I keep my heavier ones to a minimum, and instead really like thinner ones that I can layer on colder days since we don’t have a lot of them here in the south.
Versatile White Poplin Shirt
Whether you wear it to the office with dress pants or pencil skirts, or just with some straight leg jeans and sneakers or sandals for a laid-back look. A good poplin shirt will last you years. I prefer this over a silk or linen one. But if you wear these often, I’d add in some other fabric options too.
Little Black Dresses
Sticking to silhouettes that never go out of style is key. I like a classic a-line dress that can really do it all from weddings to the office, or a black lace one for more cocktail parties and night outs are great options. I still have a beautiful midi lace black dress that has put in the work over the years. Avoid overly trendy details or silhouettes so that you can get the most out of this closet basic.
Little White Dresses
For summer, little white dresses are just so easy and classic. You’ll have them for years and you never have to worry about the color being in or out. White is always in! Stick to quality breathable fabrics like cotton and linen to ensure these little white summer dresses won’t make you sweat. A white cotton shirt dress is great, or a white maxi, and I really love a good white button-down front dress. All great options that I find myself reaching for every single summer.
Denim Or Utility Jackets
I think you either love one or the other, or hey if you’re like me, both. But both of these can be great basics to have as easy light layers for spring, summer and fall. Layer them over dresses, or loungewear, style with your favorite work pants to dress them down. Stick to denim that is a mid to dark wash, not too light not too ripped or distressed, this will ensure it lasts you years. As for utility jacket, stick to neutrals like cream, olive or brown.
Denim Jeans You Love
Whatever denim you love and feel your absolute best in, that’s your denim wardrobe essential. I feel like we’re all stumbling to figure out the latest denim trend, but really, you just need to embrace the pairs that you love and wear the most. Honestly, so many denim trends are in style now that you really can’t go wrong. I’d stick to the same rule as the denim jackets in leaning into mid to darker washes and nothing with any major distressing or that makes it feel super trendy. A simple pair of skinny dark wash jeans will go with everything, truly. And a flare or bootcut is also a classic. These have been around for years and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
A few classic skirts to keep in your closet could be a floral or printed midi and a good pencil skirt for the office. These are both pieces you will wear for years to come. Floral midi skirts are great and you can choose a silhouette that works for you. Personally, I love a more fitted one that is more of a slip skirt. But if you like something that’s more full and voluminous, go for it. Pair these with your everyday tees and denim jackets for easy looks that will last you years. And you can’t go wrong with a good pencil skirt for the office. They’re great to pair with a cardigan, a blouse or a blazer.
No spring wardrobe is complete without a trench coat. A true classic that never goes out of style. They’re the ideal light layer for those in-between weeks of weird weather too for winter to spring, or summer to fall. I think a mid-length trench is the most flattering and timeless. I have had longer ones and shorter ones over the years, but the mid-length always seems to work year after year without fail.
A Comfortable Flat
Depending on your personal style, a great comfortable flat that can be worn to the office, or to dress up jeans, are ideal. For some of you, that may mean classic leather ballet flats. But for others, it may mean more of a loafer or oxford. Just be sure to have something you can confidently grab for business meetings and also to dress up jeans for business casual.
Classic White Sneaker
A white sneaker is something you can wear with so much. From summer dresses, to just your favorite jeans and a white tee, or even dressing down some work pants. I’d choose two though. One that’s leather and one that’s canvas. So this might be a Veja or Reebok leather sneaker, and then a Keds, Converse or Vans for something lighter. This allows you to have something all year round. Avoid any major trendy details so that they last for years. I’m still wearing my platform Converse that I bought YEARS ago. I actually think I’ve replaced them at least once because I’ve worn them that much. And for my go-to leather sneaker, I love a Veja. They’re slim, sleek and really work with dresses and skirts which makes them super versatile.
A simple pair of black pants can help round out your wardrobe. Whether they’re a work pant that you can wear to the office, or a pair of black trousers that you can dress up or down, it’s a must for your closet. I really love these M.M. LaFleur pants which are a bit of a splurge, but worth it if you wear dress pants often.
Having a few belts can help really complete your outfits. If I had to pick two belts in my closet to keep forever and never buy anymore again, it would be a brown leather belt and a woven rattan one for summer. Nothing too big or flashy, just something that can fit into standard belt loops is perfect. If you wear a lot of black, I’d maybe add a black belt too. Belts really help to complete outfits and make them feel a bit more polished. Plus, they’re great for adding over dresses to define your waist.
Everyone’s choice will vary, but a good work tote that can be used to not only wear to the office, but also on the weekend and even travel with will be essential. I personally love my Madewell tote for this (full review here and lots of colors to choose from). And then a great crossbody that’s a bit smaller. A camera bag style is classic and one I would choose to have in my wardrobe essentials list over any other style.
While all of the above are essential for getting dressed and completing outfits, I think we oftentimes forget about the undergarments that are essential. From good fitting bras that work with your closet, and shapewear that helps you feel your best, these are all must-haves for a complete wardrobe. There are a few things I think are crucial to have. Good fitting bras are a no-brainer and you should have one that is lined and unlined (I prefer an unlined bra with sweaters and bulkier items) and I would not want to have a wardrobe without a good half slip. If anything is sheer or a wrap dress that may make you feel more self-conscious in, a half-slip solves many problems. I also love lightweight shapewear (read this post on all my favorites) that help to smooth and keep things from being see-through without that heavy constricting feeling of shapewear.