Have you ever seen or even searched for a “wardrobe essentials” checklist? They’re published under lots of different names, from “Wardrobe Basics Every Stylish Woman Must Own” to “Year Round Capsule Wardrobe Essentials”. You get the idea.
And I understand the appeal, I really do. How much easier is it to plan out your wardrobe and pull together a complete shopping list than letting someone else do all the guesswork and hand you a pre-made list? These cheat sheets make designing a capsule wardrobe or shopping for the season seem a whole lot simpler.
But… you know I’m about to burst your bubble. Because I don’t think like everyone else. And I actually believe these lists are a huge waste of time for you. In this episode, I’m going to share WHY and I’ll hand over the ultimate wardrobe essentials checklist that no one else is sharing with you.
Defining the staple item
Before we dive in, let’s get crystal clear on what makes something a “staple” item.
The characteristics I would give to a “wardrobe staple” or a “closet essential” is:
- That it’s vital to the functionality of your closet
- It never goes out of style
- And it easily pairs with other pieces
Now, here’s where I want to challenge your beliefs a bit. Despite what you’ve been told, a wardrobe staple is NOT…
- The same for everyone —There isn’t a SINGLE item every woman MUST have in her wardrobe. (Read that sentence again.) I’ve seen many a well-curated closet without the quintessential white t-shirt, LBD (little black dress), or even the perfect pair of jeans. I grant you full permission to chuck ALL the generic wardrobe staple checklists into the waste bin, my friend. Instead, we’re going to figure out what your individual needs truly are.
- Only neutral in color —I know, I know. We all love a safe neutral. But there’s room in your wardrobe for plenty of COLORFUL staples (and even a few prints). The best way to breathe life and variety into your closet is by investing in items that are in or relate well with your personal color palette. You’ll find these colors mix and match as seamlessly as a sea of black, white, gray, and beige, I guarantee.
- Necessarily plain —While I agree trends and fads don’t fall into the timeless “staple” category, your essential pieces can still be decorative and embellished to suit your taste. If you have a feminine style, your staple tees can have a ruffled sleeve or sewn-on pearl detailing. Dramatic personalities can opt for the electric blue, classic style pump instead of choosing basic black. As long as you can still pair them effortlessly with other pieces in your wardrobe, feel free to branch out and play. Your staples don’t have to be snooze-worthy.
Now that we’ve established the parameters, how do you figure out which pieces you actually need in your closet each season? I want to help you cut through the noise and figure out what’s going to work for YOU and your unique set of circumstances, including different factors like your lifestyle, your preferences, your body, your budget, and so on.
So I want to help you figure out the answer for yourself. And I’m going to walk you through the process of creating your OWN Closet Essentials Checklist. And this is something no one out there is going to share with you, because you’re going to take this on and personalize it for yourself!
You might already know I’m a huge fan of Pinterest as a fun (and free!) resource for wardrobe planning.
Whether you have your own style inspiration board started over there or not, I want you to go ahead and curate one for each season. Start two new Pinterest boards, one for fall/winter and one for spring/summer. Pin seasonally appropriate looks you love to each board, saving only outfits you’d actually wear in your day-to-day life.
Once you’re satisfied with your seasonal style boards, take a closer look at the recurring themes. If you see a dozen winter outfits layered with a long, camel colored topcoat, this might be a worthy staple investment for your wardrobe. If several of your spring/summer pins feature a lace-trimmed, silk camisole tucked into ripped denim shorts, A-line skirts, and paper bag pants, you’re probably going to want to stock up on a couple of high quality camis to recreate those ensembles.
Jot down a list of the basic pieces, shoes, and accessories that show up repeatedly on your Pinterest boards to get a solid idea of what’s going to give you the most traction and versatility in your real life closet. This is the start of your very own Closet Essentials Checklist.
Consider what you frequently reach and wish for
Similarly to the Pinterest exercise, start paying attention to which pieces you reach for over and over in your closet AND the items you always wish you had on hand. Can’t get enough of your super soft Madewell tees? Do you feel like a plain white pair of sneakers would complete your shoe arsenal? Those sound like your staples to me!
Rather than defaulting to a blanket closet checklist, use these (often free) resources as a way to gather options and then think about the demands and preferences you have on the daily. For example, as mom to a rough and tumble toddler, the LAST thing I need is a crisp, white
stain magnet button down shirt. Focus instead on rounding out your current wardrobe with more useful items YOU need and crave.
Cover your bases
Depending on the climate where you live and the activities on your calendar, try to space out your budget for seasonal staples accordingly. If the temps drop significantly in winter months, allocate extra funds to cozy cardigans, a warm pair of leather gloves, fuzzy socks, or whatever you need to layer up with confidence and joy. Be intentional about curating each category of your closet (ie: not simply satisfying your shoe addiction) so you have the right staples for all occasions.
Check your list ─twice
Santa’s no rookie. And just like jolly old Saint Nick, I want you to check your list ─twice.
Once you’ve gathered all your inspiration and compiled a nice, long list of closet essentials, do a final edit before you start your next shopping spree.
First, compare your list with your calendar. How are you realistically spending your time in the months ahead? Think about your upcoming social outings, active time, leisure hours, work schedule, and family commitments. How do your staples stack up?
If you stick with this list as-is, will you have everything you need to get dressed effortlessly on a day-to-day basis? If not, go back and add any items you may have missed to make getting ready in the morning a total breeze.
Remember finishing pieces like shoes, handbags, jewelry, and accessories to kick your outfits up a notch and fully reflect your signature style through your staples.
Let your essentials evolve
Finally, view your closet essentials checklist as an ongoing evolution of your style rather than a finished masterpiece. What works for you today might not be appropriate in another year or decade. Be prepared to reevaluate your personal style, best colors, ideal fits, day-to-day needs, and outfit preferences often.
Our lives fluctuate and when our wardrobes don’t follow suit, that’s when we feel stuck in a rut or finding ourselves with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I don’t want this to happen to you, my dear. So start with this solid list of staples ─ you worked hard on it! ─ and add or remove items at the start of each season to ensure you always have a wardrobe that feels fresh and is well-stocked with exactly what you need.