9 Wardrobe Essentials for a Successful Wardrobe

Getting dressed should be easy and enjoyable. But if you stand in front of your full closet and struggle to put an outfit together, the chances are you’re missing some essential basics. These staples are the backbone of a well-curated wardrobe that makes it easier to get dressed and saves you money and in the long run.

They’re the workhorses you reach for again and again because they’re versatile and always look stylish. Each woman’s lifestyle will determine the essentials she needs in her wardrobe, and these nine are a great start.

A wardrobe essential should:

  1. go with everything in your wardrobe
  2. be the best quality you can afford so it lasts for years
  3. look great on you
  4. be a timeless style


Dark Wash Jeans

Whether skinny, bootcut, wide-legged, straight, or pull-on, a dark wash jean is a powerful player in a casual wardrobe. These are the jeans that make your butt look fabulous, are comfortable (think stretch), and you feel fantastic when you wear them. Zipper closure is dressier than button-up, and pull-on is more casual.

Pullover Sweater

This can be cotton, cashmere, silk, wool, or any fabric that is thin and smooth. V-necks are universally flattering, but any neckline works here. It’s a smooth knit that slips under a blazer or denim jacket. It looks great with a skirt, jeans, or pants. Neutrals like black, gray, navy, cream, brown, taupe are the most versatile.

Black Pants

A slim black pant to dress up or down. The shape will depend on your silhouette and the fabric will depend on your lifestyle. I’m a huge fan of ponte knit or the crepe knit from Eileen Fisher. It’s the one garment that goes in my suitcase every time I travel…unless it’s already on my body. They don’t wrinkle and come out of the dryer looking brand new. A versatile black pant will take you from day to evening with a quick change of accessories and always look polished. If black is not your color, navy, charcoal, or deep gray will work just as beautifully.

Casual Blazer

Depending on your lifestyle, this could be a classic blazer or denim jacket. A blazer is the perfect completer piece to polish a simple outfit. Knit blazers have more give and can be more comfortable but still give the same look.

A Classic Flat

Depending on your style, these could be simple ballet flats, classic loafers, or driving mocs. The options are endless, and the point is to have a totally comfortable (non-athletic) shoe that will take you everywhere, in comfort.

Perfect White Tee

White tees are available at all price points but there is a difference in quality. The one thing to know is that no matter what you pay, a white tee that is yellowing around the neck or underarms needs to be replaced. An upscale tee, dark denim, and a blazer is a classic look that’ll take you anywhere. Choose the most flattering neckline for your silhouette and if you find the holy grail of white tees, stock up.

White button-down shirt

A crisp white shirt is invaluable. Worn open over a bathing suit, tucked into jeans, over skinny pants or tied at the waist over a dress, the options are endless. You can’t go wrong with a classic white shirt.

FYI- Five wardrobe essentials you may not need in your wardrobe.

Little Black Dress

If black isn’t your thing, any deep neutral will work. Red will even work if that’s a signature color for you. The point is this dress is a chameleon in your wardrobe. It’s neither dressy or casual and changes with the accessories you add. Here again, ponte or a flat knit is a great option. Pair this with white tennis shoes and a denim jacket, or with heels and pearls. Versatility is vital here so get one with minimum details.

Quality handbag

In back, brown, red, navy…your wardrobe needs a quality handbag that works with everything you own. This is the bag that can dress up a casual look up because the leather is just that nice, or the style is just that classy. Few of us can afford a bag to match every outfit, (and who wants to switch them out all the time?) so invest in one that will go with everything.


Do you have the quality basics you need for your wardrobe?

What’s missing?

Thanks for reading and remember to wear what makes you feel confident.




  1. I always find these lists interesting and I seem to have most of the items, but with a twist since my style is classic with a dramatic flare. The one thing I’ve never purchased is a white tee! Maybe this is the year.
    Another item I would add to the list is a good classic wool/cashmere coat – one that can be worn day into evening over any length dress/skirt pant.

  2. I always buy 3/4 or long sleeve tees because I don’t wear a tee without a third layer. Too busty. I don’t like being able to see where the short sleeve tee shirt sleeve ends under a thin sweater or jacket.
    One essential I find now that I’m older is a long cardigan. I absolutely love them. I like deep pockets on them too. I know you are not doing coats etc but I just wanted to mention how useful they are for those of us who live a casual lifestyle.
    Hey, maybe a post on third layers?

  3. A beautiful scarf ! I love silk and it need not be expensive it can also be vintage. I love wearing mine.

  4. I have tried and tried to find a white tee that looks good on me. I need 3/4 sleeves and a v neck. It can’t be thin or it emphasizes my midriff. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!! If Zi ever find one, Uveill stock up.

  5. Great post. I think all of the basics that you stated are essentials for travel that can be mixed and matched as well. A well tailored blazer in a basic colour(s) is an invaluable layering staple while on a trip, especially if you can wear it on the plane without packing it in your luggage and taking up too much space.

  6. Great post! Looking forward to your investigative reporting on white T-shirts!?. My wardrobes needs have changed so much but still want to look classy and in style when taking the grandkids to and from school and events. Love changing the look with jewelry and headwraps, hats, scarfs also.

  7. Great post! Need to invest in new white tees in more flattering fit and in a long sleeve or quarter sleeve white shirt! Chicos? Talbots?

  8. I can’t wear dresses. I don’t own a LBD, never have. I understand the versatility, but why to “must have” lists always include one?

  9. Great advice/guidelines Jennifer!

    Even though you are not focusing on jewelry; something I did invest in not all that long ago which has proven invaluable is a 6mm, 28″ long (vintage) SS metal rope-chain necklace (purchased on Etsy). Absolutely love it as it can be knotted up to shorten slightly, doubled up to create two shorter ones, worn full length as is or even longer with a ‘ 3½” necklace extender’ that I made for it, perfect thickness to add a chunky pendant to it and/or just worn plain with other necklaces. Long story short; I just find it so versatile as can go from classy to casual to bohemian, depending upon how it is worn. -Brenda-

    P.S.: It works with all the pieces you mentioned … ☺.

  10. I spent a whole afternoon looking at white tees at the mall last summer. I am very fussy about cut and fabric. I ended up with an armload of Eddie Bauer Favorite T-Shirts. I am between a small and medium size and size up for a body skimming, not sausage fit. The length is not too long, not too short. 100% cotton and hallelujah, cut and sewn straight. The long sleeve v-neck is currently $21 on line and comes in 16 colors.

  11. Great post with good ideas Jennifer. I sometimes look into my closest and wonder what I might wear today. I mostly stay at home because of a health issues, but I enjoy wearing my good clothes
    and wear makeup. You never know who is visiting. I am looking for a very good tee so I look forward to your views on this. I am also wearing the same watch (Opra’s favourite things) and it goes with everything.

  12. Great idea for a post. I always have a LBD in my wardrobe. Simple design, excellent fit, go anywhere dress.
    You just reminded me that I’m missing a white tee in my wardrobe. How…when did that happen? I’ll wait for your recommendations.

    1. Yes, they’re very nice. I prefer v necks and for some reason they make more crew and boatneck styles. Hopefully this season they’ll have more variety.

  13. This is probably more of an “accessory” essential than a “wardrobe” essential, but for me, a timeless wristwatch that goes with an evening dress just as well as with jeans and a white t-shirt, is an essential.

    1. For me too! I’m wearing the same classic watch my husband gave me 25 years ago. This list didn’t include accessories like scarves, jewelry, hats, coats but they’re certainly essential for many women.

  14. For the more casual lifestyle I live in retirement, the front zipper hoodie in a variety of colors and weights has become one of my fashion staples.

  15. Love, love, love this post! It is just what I needed. I second Kristina’s question. Which brand of white tees are the best?

    1. I will start my hunt for you. I do love Eileen Fisher, Ann Taylor and Gap. I used to wear tees from Target but found they yellowed too quickly. I’ll report back.

      1. How to find your perfect white tee seems like a post in the making :). I’ll put one together and shop for some quality ones. Stay tuned.

    1. I’ve bought many and always look for ones that are opaque. Ann Taylor usually has a nice thick one and Gap is pretty reliable. Eileen Fisher makes both opaque and non opaque which are very nice. As the weather warms up I’ll be on my hunt and will share what I find.

  16. Terrific post, Jennifer. Just what I needed to get my wardrobe organized for 2020. I’m going to search out each of your suggested essentials. Thanks much for your detailed inspirational.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *