Essentials revisited: a few discoveries

Angie, thank you so much for breaking your essentials down by category. This was really instructive for me. I've always thought I had a pretty good grasp of my essentials (at least for the past four years or so) but breaking it down this way led to further insights and an actual shopping list!

Here's my post from last year and you will see that many of the categories and specific items remain exactly the same. 

But this year, I've made a few changes and updates.  

First, the usual -- navy tops for a variety of seasons.   I feel pretty well set for these. I include versions from the uber-casual to the more refined, because they provide the "glue" for outfits at various levels of dressiness. (ETA -- I took out the denim because on reflection they don't serve exactly the same function. They might need their own category, though -- because if not "essentials" they are certainly "workhorses.) 

Next, white tops for various seasons. You will see there is a patterned top mixed in here -- that is because I wear it as a white top, pattern mixing at will, and wear it a LOT.  This makes me realize that a plain silk shirt in white would be useful to me. Currently, I don't own one. 

Blue outerwear. Surprise, surprise -- I need more of this! It's my goal to own a capsule more similar to Angie's. I really want a navy trenchcoat, a long navy military style coat, and a better pea coat. (The one I own is boiled wool, from consignment and while I love it and find it perfect for my climate, it does show its age a bit.) 

Highly current jeans: Like Angie, I feel best in slightly "trendy" denim (assuming I like the trend). Here, again, I can see holes. I need a pair of higher rise white wide legs for this spring/ summer, and maybe another pair of white. I still have a couple of older pair of mid-rise white jeans hanging around for use in a pinch, but it's time to start shopping seriously for white jeans that will work. I will also be on the lookout for another pair of higher rise looser straight blue jeans. These are a bit of a HEWI for me due to my leg shape (straights often fit me more snugly than ideal) but I will look. A higher rise BF style might be a better bet for me -- I just bought the Emerson's to see if they will work. 

Blue striped tops: no surprises here. I could use a lighter weight version for summer wear. 

Silver, grey, and white footwear: I don't own as much of this as a person might expect. It turns out that I often let my footwear make the statement, and prefer things that way. Some would even consider silver a de facto statement, but because it bookends my hair, for me it is less "flashy" -- or so I tell myself. :)  Anyway -- the blue striped sandals feel more "statement-like" even though they are blue. My EF sandals will be on their third season and are looking the worse for wear and quite worn down at the heel, so I am on the lookout for a suitable replacement. I will also keep eyes open for navy sneakers or sandals and white sandals. As well as for silver sneakers. 

Here is a surprise category, for me: SHORT seasonally appropriate toppers, blue or white predominating.  In the past, I'd have said "blue blazer" and left it at that. But my beloved blue blazer happens to be a longer jacket, and with the higher waists now current, I reach more often for a shorter jacket. My blazers are actually patterned, not plain -- but I wear them as faux plains. The denim jackets are great for about 6 months a year in my temperate climate and I still prefer the cropped versions (even though Angie tried to get me to go for an oversized one in Seattle -- I wasn't ready.) 

Silver watch and jewellery are another essential and signature category, but I don't have most of those items in Finds. 

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.


  • suntiger replied 3 years ago

    Wow, your essentials are so much like Angie's! I'd call your striped sandals more statementy than the silver too.

  • Synne replied 3 years ago

    Very inspirational!

  • Jenn replied 3 years ago

    This is a great glimpse into your closet, Suz. I can see how these form the base of your outfits and it's so interesting how seeing the list written out illuminated some holes.

  • Angie replied 3 years ago


    FABULOUS, Suz! You put in the effort, and over and over again - reap the reward. You too, Jenn. 

    FWIW, I think your style is LESS essential-rich than it used to be. Brighter silvers, more red, and more patterns too! Loving the evolution!

    I think the blue sandals pass for an essential. They are QUIET. The silver booties and accordion tee are veering into statement territory ......although we will give it to you ;)

    Very happy to hear that you''ll be refreshing some essentials. We will be doing the white jeans component together. I have these on order:

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    These were my faves last year: 

  • Helena replied 3 years ago

    Essential twin high five!! :D

    The shorter jackets makes total sense ...given the climate you are in especially, a shift here seems very appropriate. And a silky white blouse would be lovely added to the mix, and add a beautiful touch of softness.

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Whoo, thanks for enabling, TG! :) 

    Angie, those items now in my collections, and thank you! I think the wide legs look like a great bet. I will get on it all pronto! 

    You're right of course about the tee. Snuck it in there because -- weirdly -- like silver shoes, although it does make a statement, I often need to put it on as "glue." I think that suggests I need a silky short sleeved white top (plain) as well as a longer sleeved one, since that's the "glue" function that tee tends to fill. I was thinking of it as essential when I am wearing a topper over it -- not when I wear it on its own, when it becomes more statement because the silver is visible. 

    I really need some less casual white sandals this year if I can find....

  • Christina F. replied 3 years ago

    Brava! Interesting how the groupings helped you. I will think of that next time I do a review. I'm mostly sorted on my essentials, though I have a couple of wishlist items. I have too many statements, if anything...

    I had my eye on those Boden jeans and will be interested to know if you and Angie have a review.

  • Roxanna replied 3 years ago

    Great list Suz!

    Striped tops might be good to find thrifting or in consignment.

    One caution from my experience- I always think I want a cream or white silk blouse but the light colored silk is so delicate that I never wear it. It stains more easily than colored silk (microscopic coffee splashes, dirty cuffs etc ) and I don’t wear it while walking because I don’t want sweat stains. So it never ends up being as practical as I thought.

  • Cardiff girl replied 3 years ago

    Very thoughtful analysis,l can totally see why a cropped jacket is appealing more than oversized to you at present.l think that with high waisted and cropped jeans ,a cropped jacket looks more in proportion ,to my eye anyway.

  • Jaime replied 3 years ago

    What a fun post! Gobble, gobble. I had many thoughts but one in particular: I have learned through experience with many styles of second hand denim that boyfriend styles can be tweaked to fit like straight legs. My problem is my waist is disproportionate with my legs and a good fit on the waist means a baggy leg. Which I sometimes like, but my essential is a slimmer legged jean. In short, I have bf jeans that are sized down from my usual that fit like straight legs. Hope that made sense. Lesson simply that you are the master of the fit, not the title of the jeans. 

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Shevia, yes! I am trying to learn this. I have the opposite thing going on -- my legs are wider (proportionately) than my waist and so straights often fit like skinnies on me. BF can work better on me, but if the rise is lowe, I won't get the look I am after and sometimes I don't really want the taper (though it tends to flatter me) so.... it all depends. I am planning to try a few styles on to see what I can discover. 

  • karen13 replied 3 years ago

    Very thorough and thoughtful analysis. I am traveling and will have to re#read again when home to consider how I may learn from your approach. And I just have to say I have lusted after those blue earth sandals ever since you first posted them! I stalked them but convinced myself I need only buy true wide width sandals. I still long for them.

  • rachylou replied 3 years ago

    Yes. You are helping me refine and articulate questions re essentials, Suz. About an essential across seasons and situations and so forth. Does a person want the same essential essentially but with variations for conditions or will literally one item do? Why or why not? Or in other words, why do I have so many white jumpers? Lol, but I’m serious. I have a zillion white sweaters and only one long puffy. Does this make sense? I don’t wear the white sweaters nearly as much as the coat - I
    mean in terms of cost per wear, I’m earning money on the thing...

  • RobinF replied 3 years ago

    Great list, seeing these helps me to think through what my essentials actually are. I can see that a shorter topper would work with the higher rise jeans.

  • nemosmom replied 3 years ago

    Love your breakout, Suz! No wonder your wardrobe works so well for you.  I've always tried hard NOT to buy too many items that were similar, but it makes complete sense that essentials is exactly where i should be doing that. Color or design in different pieces across different seasons would make it SO easy to get dressed!  You've given me some great, workable ideas...  (Thank you!)

  • SarahD8 replied 3 years ago

    Nice! I like how you have grouped together items that aren’t exactly the same but serve the same function in your wardrobe. I’ve been thinking about my own essentials in a similar way. (Like: my v-neck tank with narrow Breton stripes is actually the same thing as my boatneck cropped sweater with wider Breton stripes.)

    And a hearty yes to what you and Shevia are saying about jeans: the marketing description is not always a good guide to achieving the fit/style that one wants! I think this has been a big part of my difficulty in adding straight leg bottoms to my wardrobe.

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Sarah, yes -- this is especially true for items with a classic pattern -- they add subtle interest and often a light element to a darker outfit without calling attention to themselves too much (esp. under a topper) so that it their role. On reflection, I don't think it's true that my denim shirts fill the same function as the knits -- they are a blue top, but I wear them in different situations. So either they get their own category, or I'll have to remove them. :)  It's all a process of refinement. But this kind of analysis really does help me think about what moving parts I actually need for the outfits I prefer to wear. 

    Nemosmom -- Once you've determined a few silhouettes that you most enjoy wearing, then similar items in your core neutrals makes sense. Note, I almost never duplicate exactly. Most of the items that look similar have subtle differences. For instance, one of the blue pullovers is cashmere (for coldest days). Two are merino (one is almost worn out, and will be going soon). One is cotton. One is modal and has a more "dressy" feeling neckline. So each top serves different weather conditions and levels of dressiness. 

    I do sometimes duplicate in a different colour...I have four pairs of identical Blondo boots in different colours! (Not all are essentials). And two LL Bean mariners (which are both essentials.) 

    Rachy, you need more puffers!! I'm serious. Go get yourself a bunch!! 
    I do think a lot of white tops makes sense, too -- or it could. Each one works in a different way...but to fill the same basic function. 

    Karen, thank you -- maybe you will get a chance to try on some from that maker some day to see if they could work. I am not sure if they make them in widths. 

    Robin, yes, the concept of essentials seems more intuitive to people who wear a lot of neutrals and/or who tend to wear a kind of "uniform" of separates, but it's really helpful for building a working closet. 

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Roxanna, good info. I seem to wear the silk top quite easily (and hand wash) but maybe the pattern helps -- I can imagine it might. 

    Cardiff Girl -- yes, the shorter jackets just feel easier to throw on with the higher waists. I do sometimes wear the longer jackets but not as often. 

  • Elizabeth P replied 3 years ago

    Always love reading your wardrobe analyses, Suz.  And I always gain some insight into something.

    I really struggle with this whole essentials thing, and really should do the work.  I find it so hard to distinguish sometimes... is it "glue" when without it, I'd be naked?

  • gryffin replied 3 years ago

    Suz - such a beautiful wardrobe and fab essentials!  Awesome!  Just chiming in because I have the COH Emerson slim BF jeans but in the blue ridge wash.  I have to tell you these are my favorite jeans probably ever.  There's something ineffably cool about them.  The blue ridge run large.  My smaller jean size is a 27 and to fit properly I took a 26.  But I also kept the 27 which are like the best BF jeans ever - although they do require a belt.  I did try two other washes.  They fit TTS and had less stretch but they did not give the same "cool" vibe.  If you have the chance to try on the blue ridge wash I would highly recommend them.  See all the stellar reviews.  Sorry I can't do finds from this computer.  

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    Thanks, Gryffin -- I will check it out! I actually sized UP in the wash I got because I'm long in the rise and while my regular size fit, it wasn't as relaxed as I prefer. That is great information about the Blue Ridge. I might end up trying them. If they have them in stock in Vancouver I'll give it a go! 

    Elizabeth...just on a guess....haven't seen your style for a while now (come back, post photos, sob sob!!!) -- some essentials for you might be -- wide crop jean or pant in blue or black; current denim in blue and white; striped top (not as sure about that), and some type of topper but I'm not really sure what your essential might be -- is it a duster or moto or...???  

    For footwear, I'm guessing it would be a sneaker and a bootie in black or navy....(citron is your statement.) 

  • Cee replied 3 years ago

    You're rockin' it, Suz' :)

  • CarolS replied 3 years ago

    Seeing your wonderful essentials collection really helps me see the holes in my own. 

    I love your collection of jeans and striped tops in particular. I don't get to wear jeans very often, but I really do need a great slim but not super skinny pair of jeans that can work with my thick waist and much thinner legs. 

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