Cross-seasonal essentials in 4 season climate

I really loved Angie's blog post on essentials yesterday. For years I have been thinking about this on a season by season basis -- because I have four (or maybe 6) distinct seasons and honestly, what's absolutely crucial in the sense of keeping me alive in one season (the puffer coat) is blessedly forgotten in another!! So I had struggled a bit with the concept. 

Angie's post yesterday was a lightbulb for me because her list struck me as quite different from most I've seen, which are either too granular or irrelevant to my lifestyle or climate. I liked that she included categories of item (this makes sense to me) but also specified a bit within categories. So -- trendy jeans, but not all trendy jeans, some being more statement-like.

And I liked that she identified her essential footwear by colour vs. style. This was a lightbulb moment for me. It's impossible for me to go by style because, well, in my climate I need so many different styles! But I can identify the colour of footwear that is a necessity in my closet. Bingo! 

The idea of categories helped me to see what it is I wear and need to make outfits work across all seasons. I still have a few questions, though, which I'll append at the bottom. 

My list looks similar i some ways to Angie's, no surprise there. It includes:

Accessories:

  • Silver watch
  • Wedding ring/ chunky ring
  • Silver stud earrings 
  • Belt (for wearing with denim)

(Sorry, don't have Finds for all of these, but you get the idea.) 

Pewter/ silver/ grey footwear with about a 2 inch heel (or lower).

Whether sandal or bootie or shoe, a must-have in any season as it bookends hair and blends well with blue denim.  

Ink/ navy blazer

I don’t wear it every day or even every week, but it's absolutely crucial in my closet. 

Trendy jeans

My jeans capsule is really important. I like to incorporate trendy styles. My statement versions right now are flares, culottes, and plaid ones. 

My essentials at the moment are slim straight crops and slim BF crops. 

Ink/ navy turtleneck/ slashneck/ crew tops, in all seasons.

White or light crewneck or slashneck tops, in all seasons.

These come into their own more in summer for me. I don't wear white as often in winter. 

So, a few questions: 

Here are items I considered but did not put into my list of essentials, even though they are backbone items. 

Striped Mariner sweater/ top. I wear one of these several times a week in spring/ summer/ early fall. But never in winter. Then, I tend to revert to a brightly coloured cashmere tee, which serves a similar purpose. Not "statement" exactly -- but "interest" in an outfit. So is it essential, or not? 

Denim jacket -- falls into same category as above. Essential in spring/ summer but not other times. 

White footwear: This is becoming an absolute need in warmer weather. LOVE my white sneakers. But I haven't worn my gorgeous white booties. Weather forbids it, honestly. So...Not an essential, right? 

Silk blouse/ shirt: I don't wear one every week, but without a silk top I am utterly at a loss at certain times -- it is a fallback feel great item that makes me feel more dressed up in denim and that I use in every season. Essential, or not? 

Sheath dress: this is a "special occasion" essential. 

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.

31 Comments

  • harmonica replied 1 year ago

    There you go! I just added in my post that seasons play a part in finding your essentials. I'll have to come back and read your post properly later. Have to run now.

  • replied 1 year ago

    I think you've nailed your categories, and I might add the mariner stripe and the cashmere bright to your essentials list.  I don't think we have to get hung up on something being essential across all seasons. I was able to wrap my head around this by imagining capsules and essentials for 4 distinct seasons/weather conditions.  

  • anchie replied 1 year ago

    Great list, I think you nailed it. 
    I would say that mariner sweater, colored top and dressy blouses are  items that add interest to your essentials. 
    Something that helps me decide if something is essential I imagine wearing it with statement blazer. If it makes the outfit then it is essential. If it competes/clashes then it is statement too.  

  • Tina replied 1 year ago

    For those who have seasonal wardrobe changes (at least partial), wouldn't it follow that your essentials would need to be adjusted? Just thinking out loud here.

  • texstyle replied 1 year ago

    Great list Suz. I think my own main change for season in terms of essentials is long sleeved versus short and fabric thickness for the most part. Colors for me stay about the same, but if I lived with a very long and gray winter I'd likely want to infuse more color during that time of year so my essential colors might change.

  • Marilyn replied 1 year ago

    This is good, Suz.  We live in the same climate so this is food for thought for me.  Looking forward to Angie's response as my questions are much the same as yours.

    We definitely have to have seasonal essentials.  For example, a few pairs of black booties are essential for me during fall/winter.  During the warmer months essential footwear would be black and nude to me block heeled sandals.

  • Lisa replied 1 year ago

    This is a great and comprehensive list.  For myself, jeans, boots, blazers, and my stainless steel watch are constants in my closet year after year after year.

  • Elizabeth P replied 1 year ago

    I also think we need essentials to be seasonal. I honestly can't think of more than a handful of items that I wear in high summer, that I might also wear in winter.  If my essential category was "black footwear" or "bottoms" I could cross seasons, but then the categories get so broad that it's not useful to really hone in on what is ESSENTIAL.

    Also looking forward to Angie's thoughts.

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    WELL DONE. (Can I clone you?)

    You totally get it Suz, and nailed it. (Of course you did - I expected nothing less). Agree with Lisa - separate the seasons for a full list. No need for the essentials to be multi purpose. 

    Happy to hear that the way I identify and categorize my own war drobe essentials made sense. 

    Onto your questions: 

    • YES. Striped Top is a Suz mild weather essential (wave to Inge).
    • YES. Cashmere tee is a Suz cold weather essential. 
    • YES, to the denim jacket. You wear one EVERY year and many times.
    • No to the sheath dress - it's a statement for your style.
    • No to the silky blouses - they are statements for your style. 
    • Not to the light footwear - worn too infrequently, but that might change when you move to the West Coast. 

    How about silver sandals? I think of those as Summer Suz Essentials. (I'll think of more after another cuppa). 

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thanks, all! 

    Good points and interesting that many of us in 4 seasons struggle with the concept. No surprise, I guess. 

    Angie, the silver sandals are already on the list (and in the Finds). They are part of the silver/ pewter/ grey footwear with block heel (or low wedge, I guess). 

    And I will add the denim jacket..

    And maybe the Mariner. Another way to look at this, of course, is to say that a bright or patterned sweater or top is an essential. I think it is. In any season. It's also a statement, though. See Finds below. 1. (cashmere tee in a bright) is winter. 2. (striped Mariner) is spring/ summer/ early fall. 3.  (bright linen tee) is high summer.

    These are interchangeable items, in a way, in my different seasons, with one taking the place of another as temperature changes.  Does that make sense? Hmmm. 

    Another thought I had -- in summer, denim/navy shorts and tube skirt take the place of denim jeans (which are too hot) and white shorts replace white jeans. 

    So I am confused about the silk tops vs. denim jackets. I actually wear some species of silk top much more often than I wear a denim jacket, and have done so many years (more than I've worn denim jackets -- although those are absolutely a summer staple!)  Some examples of the tops...

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    (Yup, I needed more tea. See the silver sandals in your list. Oopsie). 

    Put the particular species of silk top on your Summer essentials list - a Summer version of the Cashmere tee. Same goes for the shorts. 

    WARNING: Don't make your essentials list too long, Suz. You'll lack the interest and drama you like to add to your outfits through statement pieces. 

  • La Pedestrienne replied 1 year ago

    In a four-season climate, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything I can wear happily and comfortably year-round. Jeans and boots are F/W/Sp, t-shirts are Sp/Su/F, flannel is F/W, chambray and oxford shirts are S/S/F, linen pants and jackets are S/S, bretons are S/S. Even things like hats, socks, loungewear -- I have warm weather and cold weather versions, and while extenuating circumstances (laundry bottlenecks, I'm looking at you!) may force me to wear things out of season, I really don't enjoy it and try to avoid it. 

    I do wear the same sunglasses year round! That's about it. And because they're fully trans-seasonal, they have to be replaced/repaired quite often. 

  • Jenn replied 1 year ago

    Angie's post was a lightbulb moment for me, too, and your list definitely helped me clarify further. Even just defining colors and necklines on essential items helps.

    I agree that the striped tops are an essential element of your style. What about refined totes for foot-commuting? I feel like that's a piece I associate with your outfits.

  • Emily K replied 1 year ago

    Thinking about a whole category of items as a wardrobe essential sparked some new thought for me.  I know there have been a lot of discussions in which a signature piece was tentatively speculated to be a wardrobe essential.  The way I'm viewing the definition, now, is more like "uniform component".  I think that definition could really work for me.  I'll be back to re-read later. :-)

  • Caro in Oz replied 1 year ago

    Fantastic list Suz, I love your choices :) Angie's responses to my questions about essentials/statements were really helpful as is your list.

    Angie's responses made me realise I prefer certain categories to be mostly (if not entirely) statements e.g. my winter knits & summer sandals. Your list has enabled me to understand that because I feel stylistically restless I'm not able to clearly articulate my current essentials.

  • smittie replied 1 year ago

    It is interesting to think about which pieces could work in the different seasons, because THAT is what is what marries your winter and summer styles together.

    Otherwise you could be post-apocalyptic warrior in the winter and preppy princess in the summer. There must be common threads!

  • shedev replied 1 year ago

    Great essentials list, Suz. I've never tried to break it down to seasons. I'll have to think on it a while.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thanks, all! I'm going to continue to think on this. 

    Another way of dealing with the top situation might be: 

    A bright or patterned top (seasonally appropriate). These are not necessarily the same in each season -- it might be woven cotton in summer or sleeveless silk check; it might be lilac cashmere tee in winter; it might be striped mariner in spring. Hmmm. 

    Or -- and this is getting really crazy -- maybe one statement item per outfit is an essential? ! :) 

    Good point about a refined tote, Jenn. Thank you. I do think a big bag is pretty much a need!! 

    Caro, most of my jackets are statements, I think. Not the denim jackets or the blue blazer, but pretty much everything else. A lot of my shoes are statements, too, but the category of grey/ silver/ pewter is so ubiquitous that even if one individual shoe within that group makes a statement, having silver shoes is essential. 

  • Emily K replied 1 year ago

    Suz--so, would you not say that "statement blazer/jacket" is a wardrobe essential?  If you often build around that formula element?

  • unfrumped replied 1 year ago

    I lined your categories. I do think it's hard to cover all seasons unless you say just " tops" !

  • lpr200 replied 1 year ago

    This has been helpful for me to see how you break it down!

  • Gaylene replied 1 year ago

    I'm probably totally off target here, but, if it helps, here's how I sort out my "essentials" from my "statements":

    Test #1.
    If I had to pack lightly for a three-month trip (I'm assuming a 4-season climate here), and I knew I would be shopping for some special wardrobe pieces along the way (unlimited credit card, of course, but only for special pieces!), what pieces would I pack to make sure I could wear those special pieces during the trip?

    Example for late winter/early spring:
    dark, straight-leg denim;
    leather sneakers,
    neutral-tone cashmere sweater;
    dark-colored raincoat
    slim black pants
    black turtleneck
    black T
    white silk shirt
    black boots

    Test #2
    Would I be happy to repeat above items in a different color for different season?
    For example: Late Spring/early summer
    white, straight-leg denim
    white sneakers
    light-neutral cotton sweater
    cotton or denim jacket
    slim khaki pants
    mariner
    white T-shirt
    white cotton shirt
    tan sandals

    My essentials are pretty apparent from these lists. No matter what I bought on my fictitious trip, I could use the above pieces to create outfits which would showcase my new statements. If necessary, my essentials could create outfits by themselves, but those outfits wouldn't be very memorable or exciting--they'd just be functional ways to dress for the day.

    I could re-create my lists over and over again in different neutrals for every season. These pieces are my glue, my core, my essentials.

  • Joy replied 1 year ago

    Suz, this was brilliant. I like thinking of versions of essentials to cross seasons. Many of mine are on your list, like silver/pewter/grey footwear and striped pullovers. I have a striped lightweight sweater to extend the season from tees and am considering adding a cashmere striped sweater for a cold weather version.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thanks all! 

    Gaylene, that's a brilliant way to look at it seasonally, too. I like that. It's the way I was trying to look at it before Angie's more recent post. 

    The list would be pretty similar, I guess (similar items to yours, too, but slightly different neutrals). Spring would have a striped mariner, winter would have a cashmere tee (probably in a bright), summer would have a sleeveless woven top in one of my neutrals, etc. 

    Emily, I think a blazer is a backbone item in my wardrobe, but not a statement one -- at least according to Angie's definition.  The statement one makes the statement. :) 

  • krishnidoux replied 1 year ago

    Oh, Suz, I'm so with you about essentials specific to 4 (or 6) separate seasons. It's so funny how seasons dictates our style. I note I have specific accessories that rotate throughout the year, from storage plastic bins to most accessible closet to some more remote drawer before going back in the bin again.

    A summer essential accessory is a perfect white cap that looks good on my head and protects me from the sun. From June to September, it faithfully follows me everywhere I go, blending with all outfits, and if not on my head, never far from my grasp. Come the first sharp chills of fall though and in the bins it decamps. In its place, the gloves, glorious gloves come out: first the thin, soft, elegant leather ones I so enjoy. Since I am a sucker for anything buttery leather-like, I own pairs of different colors and length: red, black, brown... They all look so new too, and the reason is because they only last 3 weeks max before frost and more serious cold force me to replace them with the bulkier, -30 resistant waterproof lined ones, warm indeed, but oh so impractical with keys, zippers and phones. Not to mention less stylish (ex. elephantine fingers). Yet they will be a crucial part of my attire from roughly November to March.

    For this reason, winter purses must be large enough to accommodate them – along with my hat/tuque and sometimes even scarf. These pieces, vital outside, must be removed as soon as I step in any inside public space. Carrying them in my hands becomes impractical, hence the bigger purse. So I notice all my bigger purses tend to match my winter coats whereas my smaller ones are of various shades, shape and material. Ah! Spring and summer! Such worry-free times!

    Another climate-directed essential: bottoms. In the summer,
    anything goes. Except heavy leather! And wool, of course. But during
    mid-seasons and winter, bottoms need to fit into or work with boots. In the winter, workhorse pieces are opaque cotton tights to be worn with any dress or skirt. Nylon is simply too light for most activities / settings. I may get away with wearing nylon in an office, but not in most open public places such as classrooms, libraries, malls, restaurants, etc. And if nylons are worn (say, for a special event where I will be called to wear finer heels), then going to/coming back, I will have to wear wool socks over them inside my heavy winter boots (the feeling of boiling feet and freezing knees…Ugh!). And like many of my fellow Canadians, I also make ample use of skinny jeans and tailored leggings.  For this reason comes summer and I crave maxi silhouettes, flow-y skirts, bell-bottom denim…!

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Krish, you get it! Yes, my outfits are so different between the seasons. Oh for spring and summer and the glorious freedom, soon to be ours again....

  • Beth Ann replied 1 year ago

    I'm holding on for dear life over here -- in one of those life stages where you just try to get dressed in the morning, but I realize that I would do well to give some time to essentials, instead of just relying on outfit formulas.  I loved reading this thread -- your original and revised comments, and the wisdom of Angie and the crew!

  • shevia replied 1 year ago

    A wealth of information here I am still processing because I am stuck thinking about those white booties :) !

  • JAileen replied 1 year ago

    Your list is so well thought out. I also love seeing the actually items at the bottom of the post. I love your color scheme and style, too.

  • Sal replied 1 year ago

    I keep mis-reading your heading as Cross-Dressing essentials LOL!

    I think you have got it, and of course there is a bit of a grey area in the middle for some pieces.  I am wearing a navy/ink silky tee, the front and back are different fabrics.  There is a keyhole in the back.  Worn with a jacket it is a simple navy silky tee, worn alone it is a small statement...  I also have a black pussy bow blouse with texture,  Worn alone with a contrasting tank under (or just a black bra, which I have only done once on holiday in Sydney a few years back) it is a statement, worn with a black tank and a jacket and it is an essential.

    I actually love these pieces that are "almost essentials" because they are versatile but have a bit of interest.  I see your footwear falling into this category, in the summer/spring especially.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Sally, those are wise observations. I agree with you, too. I really like the "essential" item with extra interest, as you've termed it. I don't have enough of these, but footwear does often fall into that role. 

    Laughing about the cross-dressing essentials. It's pretty much good for that if I were x-dressing as a man -- most of my essentials being a bit masculine! :) 

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