Savvy shoppers know that well-rounded wardrobes begin with a core set of basics that easily ride the fickle fashion waves from season to season. These investment pieces help to create a strong foundation upon which seasonal trendy items can be mixed in for a fresh update.
In these tough economic times, having a timeless wardrobe you can count on is more important than ever. This means investing in quality fabrics, flattering cuts and simple, yet stylish, silhouettes that will last for years. And when it comes to your core wardrobe, think quality rather than quantity; just a few well-chosen pieces are all that’s necessary.
Here’s our list of basics that should be in every well-dressed woman’s wardrobe. Missing something? With the multitude of sales this time of year, it’s the ideal time to round out your closet. Check back over the next few days as we offer some well-priced suggestions to get you started.
A coat is an investment piece so don’t shy away from a higher price tag. You want a well made, good quality trench that is tough enough for a downpour and stylish enough to wear with a dress for a dinner date or suit for an interview. Look for a trench that has a hem that hits somewhere between mid-thigh and knee, you’ll be able to wear it with more in your wardrobe.
A trench with a removable liner is even better since you’ll be able to wear it during the colder months. Avoid all the bells and whistles of a trench that may have too many zippers, buttons or a bright pattern. A belted style is far more flattering. Though we love all the patterned options available, a good trench in a neutral or classic color will have more longevity, lasting for 3 years or more.
Coated Linen/Cotton Trench Coat, $98 (sale) at maxstudio.com
Odds are you’re already familiar with the magic of a great-fitting, figure flattering pair of black pants. A true wardrobe workhorse, black pants are right for almost every occasion and never go out of style. Such an essential piece is worth the initial investment and a trip to the tailor to insure the perfect fit.
Shop for a pair that can fluidly move between work and play. A leg opening that isn’t too flared or too skinny will ensure that your pants won’t look outdated in a year or two. Select a length that works with a 3 inch heel for optimum versatility (unless you only wear flats or 5 inch heels, of course!) Also, be sure that the pockets lay flat on your body for a slim look.
Five-pocket stretch cotton pant, $79 at bananarepublic.com
Dark denim is far more sophisticated and timeless than lighter or specialty washes and can be worn during the day with a t-shirt or dressed up for evening with a dressy top and heels.
For most women, a low rise or mid rise style is best along with back pockets that are centered on your rear and not patch pockets which can add bulk. Generally, a slight boot cut style is the most flattering silhouette. When looking for a classic style, avoid jeans with additional stitching details or bright threads.
Our advice? Try on as many pairs as necessary until you find the best fit for your figure.
J Brand Mid Rise Flare in Lightweight in Ink, $158 at revolveclothing.com
The ultimate layering piece, a cardigan can replace a jacket when worn with a dress or provide an added layer to beat the chill. Unbelievably versatile, the cardigan is always in fashion, whether your style is sophisticated and refined or urban and edgy. Wear the cardigan alone with a scarf or layer it with a t-shirt or button down; add a wide or skinny belt at your waist over the cardigan to define your waist and add a pop of personality – the possibilities are many for this wardrobe essential.
To get the most from your cardigan, look for cotton or lightweight wool or cashmere in a length that hits somewhere mid-hip.
Merino crewneck cardigan, $78 at jcrew.com
Versatile Day Dress
Everyone simply must have one of these in their wardrobe: a versatile jersey or silk dress that can be worn year round, day or night, work or weekend. Whether it’s colorful or neutral, printed or solid, the important thing is that it fits you well and can adapt to the occasion.
Ideas: wear it to work with a cardigan and pumps, on a date with statement jewelry and sexy heels, to Sunday brunch with flats and a lightweight scarf, in the winter with tights and knee high boots, in the summer with sandals…
Sleeveless pleated dress, $150 at bananarepublic.com
(Little) Black Dress
The little black dress has been synonymous with style since Coco Chanel made it famous 80 years ago. And Audrey Hepburn helped make it a classic with her choices in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Still relevant today, the little black dress is your wardrobe’s secret weapon – the one you pull out when you need to look sophisticated, sexy, elegant, chic… Choose one that works for a multitude of occasions with a strategic change of accessories.
Silk taffeta strapless sanglé dress, $225 at jcrew.com
Knee Length Skirt
The pencil skirt doesn’t work for every body shape, but when you find one that fits, it can be seductive, sexy and sophisticated. And of course, a classic. Scour the racks for a style that fits your waist properly and gives enough room around your hips without bunching lines across your thighs.
An alternative to the pencil skirt is a knee length style with a slight A-line silhouette. Universally, this is the best shape for most women. It defines the waist and easily hides a myriad of problem areas (ahem, butt, hips and thighs) by giving a little extra fabric to cover those areas.
Pink Tartan Women’s “Prince of Whales” Pencil Skirt, $225 at bloomingdales.com
A Good Suit
A suit may not work for everyone’s lifestyle, but it’s a good idea to have at least one in your wardrobe so you’re ready for the unexpected job interview or other conservative affair.
While everyone may not have a reason to wear a full suit often, you can easily wear the pieces as separates. A suit jacket can add polish and sophistication to a button down shirt and jeans and it can replace a jean jacket when you want a piece that has more elegance. You have endless options to pair with the jacket, pants or worn all together whether it be button down shirts, ultra-feminine tops, camisoles, sweaters even t-shirts.
Look for a classic neutral color in an all-season fabric. Bring it to your tailor to ensure the perfect fit. And always remember to launder both pieces together to ensure that one doesn’t fade faster than the other.
Tahari by ASL One-Button Cindy Jacket & Pant Suit, $196 at macys.com
Not the obvious choice for a list of basics, until you consider the many possibilities of a pretty feminine blouse. Whether printed or plain, a pretty top is ideal for layering under a suit or cardigan, pairing with jeans or a skirt, or even layering over a thin turtleneck. Have at least one in your wardrobe to add an instant feminine touch to any look.
Elie Tahari ‘Tamryn’ Blouse & Camisole, $147 (sale) at nordstrom.com
24 Hour Handbag
It’s hard to limit the number of shoes you own, but it is possible to have just one primary handbag. The 24 hour handbag must be chic (of course), timeless and versatile. Invest in the right one and it will be part of your wardrobe for years. Neutrals are the obvious choice, but don’t discount a great red, purple or even mustard yellow bag. Select a size that holds all your necessities in a style that you can carry to the office, out to dinner and shopping on weekends.
Since the goal is to invest in a bag you’ll use for years, be sure to avoid any super-trendy details like studs, ruffles or excessive hardware.
Olive Leaf Bag, $228 at anthropologie.com
Some more basics to round out your core wardrobe: flattering t-shirts, tank tops to layer with everything, white button down shirts, comfortable ballet flats, classic black pumps. Think we missed something? Let us know what your can’t-live-without basics are by commenting below.