Essentials vs. statements -- why bother categorizing?

In Rachy's what is a statement thread, catty asked: 

"At the risk of being provocative, what are people hoping to achieve from this exercise? It seems like there's a lot of confusion and even angst around putting a label on the clothes that are already in our closets. So you decide your khakis are essentials and your scarves are statements, then what?"

It's a great question. One reason I can see for spending some time thinking about this is that (in my case, at least) it helped me conceptualize my closet across varied seasons. Knowing your essentials can help you hone in on a signature style, if that is something that matters to you.

Angie's blog post itself offers another excellent reason: 

  • They are fabulous items to duplicate in the same or different colours.
This is important for those people who tend to duplicate a lot and find themselves confused about why sometimes this strategy has worked for them and sometimes the second item has languished in the closet. Ink and navy merino and cashmere crew neck and boat neck tops (in winter) and linen tees (in summer) are essentials for me. It makes a lot of sense for me to duplicate ink and navy tops in my closet and to get them in fabric weights, because I will wear a navy top as an essential in all seasons. Note -- not just any navy/ ink tops. Only those with certain necklines make the grade. This is important. 

In other words, to be effective defining your essentials requires a broad overview of the closet as well as a kind of granular analysis. If I ignored the neckline issue I might find myself with a lot of barely worn U-neck navy tops, and a feeling of frustration about my lack of ability to create satisfying outfits.  

Still another reason? People's closets tend to be off kilter in one of two ways. Either they tend to over-purchase essentials so that everything is a bit dull...or they tend to over-purchase statements and nothing works together and they wonder why the heck that is. If the first crowd could identify their statement items and within that class, which ones they truly wear and love, they might make smarter purchases of new statements (with less guilt about it). If the second group could identify their essentials, they might buy a few and bring their wardrobes into working order. 

Also, for some people, the analysis is just plain fun. Not an occasion for angst but an absorbing puzzle. 

I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't thought of -- can anyone offer some? 

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.

51 Comments

  • harmonica replied 11 months ago

    Thanks for raising the question, Rachy, catty and Suz!

    I think of it as a fun (but difficult) exercise that can lead to better understanding of my wardrobe, which again can help with better shopping desicions. And I think that good desicions can make both shopping and getting dressed more fun.

    But I might be fooling myself, because my shopping is a bit all over the place. I adore well made items, it's like art and is a kind of sensory experience.

  • replied 11 months ago

    Thanks for bringing it up in a topic, Suz. I'll be reading the responses with interest!

  • Elizabeth P replied 11 months ago

    Great analysis Suz.

    Another reason to have a handle on this is to know when it's worth "investing" in a piece, ie spending a bit more.  Or duplicating.

    For example, one of my winter work essentials is a long sleeved black knit top, with a specific neckline (two actually, one vee and one round) to wear under cardigans, jackets and vests.  So when I find a knit with the wrong neckline, even if it's a good one for me, I know it's not going to fill that hole (doesn't mean it's not useful, it's just not an essential piece, and I'll evaluate it's place a bit differently).  When I found one that was perfect made by EF, I could justify the price as I knew it would wash well, keep its colour, and get lots of wear.  I've totally regretted not duplicating the perfect v-neck shirt I got a few years ago from BR, as it's a total workhorse.  I'm nervous about it wearing out.   So if and when I next see something to fit this checkbox, I may buy two.

  • Janet replied 11 months ago

    I get the concept well enough and understand why some people are into the exercise of this, but this is one of those activities (like making spreadsheets and calculating CPW) that would not increase my joy with my wardrobe, despite my analytical nature.

    For those who enjoy the process and get something out of it, I think it's great. :-)

  • Joy replied 11 months ago

    What Elizabeth said. I think this exercise has opened my eyes to a better understanding of how my closet works. I tend to try to pick up essentials on sale but now see that that it is ok to make them investment pieces., but that I do need them in a variety of fabrics that will take me through the seasons and other variations like both long and short tops for wearing with pants and skirts.

  • Staysfit replied 11 months ago

    I recently discovered, that the thought exercise about essentials was particularly helpful for me when packing. I have recently traveled to both a warm climate (Florida) and a cold climate (Michigan). I had no problem putting together a very small suitcase of items for a trip to a winter climate. The items I pulled first were essentials. Two cashmere crew neck pullover sweaters, one blue, one grey. Some high rise skinny jeans. A pair of weatherproof booties. Then I pulled some basic tees in different colors to wear underneath the sweaters (white and grey). Then I packed a lot of Statement scarves, earrings, necklaces, etc. which would enable me to change up my look each day. I added an essential down puffer. At the last moment, I learned I would have a more formal occasion so I grabbed a solid grey cashmere sweater dress with a crew neckline and a pair of merino wool tights that would go with the booties. It might be an essential because it is like an oversized crew neck sweater. In any case, I included some gear, and pj's, necessary items and was good to go. It took me 15 minutes to pack. I had enough for a week.

    For Florida, I struggled. I couldn't figure out what to bring. It wasn't a matter of not knowing what to wear for the temperature as much as most of my summer items are Statement pieces, and trying to come up with something that would work for travel was a struggle. I ended up with many more items than I wanted, and it was a good learning experience. I'm not going to list everything I took, because that would make this too long, but I know I need to work on my summer essentials for my warm weather travel capsule!

  • bonnie replied 11 months ago

    I think defining essentials is important for someone like me who is in the process of building a wardrobe. I looked at the list I made for Angie and saw that I had no cold weather essential coat/jackets - I only had statements. No wonder I have such a hard time figuring out what to wear in winter. Winter is not long where I live, but it does get cold. This may seem like wardrobe 101 to most of you because you intuitively understand the basics, but as someone drawn to statements, it was a revelation. 

  • JAileen replied 11 months ago

    I wondered too, but I figured it would help when I wanted another pair of grey boots, "But they're essentials, honey!"

  • Marilyn replied 11 months ago

    This is great food for thought, Suz.  I've never been one for closet analysis but I'm starting to come around and I see the merit in it.

    After unexpectedly dropping a couple sizes a year ago I'm ALMOST done my closet purge (it's been hard to let some things go).  My wardrobe rebuild is going well and I'm trying very hard to make smart choices without excess.  So, yes.....now that things are more under control some serious analysis is in order.

  • replied 11 months ago

    Regarding "investment." Although I do see the point, I would be equally if not more inclined to invest in statement pieces because those are the items where higher quality really stands out (think a fabulously embroidered jacket, or the difference between printed silk and printed rayon). I'm thinking of Sharon Stone who famously wore budget "essentials" like a Gap turtleneck and Brooks Brothers shirt to the Oscars with exquisite skirts. I don't think the effect would have been the same if she'd worn really high quality basic tops and $20 statement skirts.

    (I'm not saying fabrication and tailoring don't make a difference in the essentials, but they also make a difference in the statements.)

    Maybe where the exercise is useful in terms of allocating one's budget is not so much in differentiating between statements and essentials, but identifying the items that are neither statements nor essentials? And those are the ones to not spend as much time or money on--perhaps even cull?

  • Jenn replied 11 months ago

    I'm a former English major and I've always loved digging deep into a text. For me, learning an author's influences, decoding allusions, and unwrapping historical context all increase my appreciation of a book. Some might ask, can't you just enjoy the story? And the answer is yes, of course! But it's fun and interesting for me to dig deeper.

    This is human nature, and we all have our own geekdoms. I have a board game designer friend who does the same thing with games, analyzing the underlying mechanics. My husband, a programmer, has been known to purchase apps just because he's intrigued by the user interface.

    Wardrobe building (moreso than "fashion") is a hobby for me, and I enjoy thinking about it and analyzing how it works. In addition to all the practical applications Suz mentioned, applying Angie's analysis to my own wardrobe is an exercise in understanding a topic I'm interested in. Asking questions isn't so much "angst" as a desire to learn.

    I fully realize, though, that not everyone is going to feel that way! I don't need to think deeply about the rules mechanics to enjoy playing Carcassonne, and I'm really, really happy if my iPhone just works. So, if your wardrobe is working for you, and you don't enjoy the analysis...awesome! On the other hand, if something feels off-kilter, or you're just interested in the nuts and bolts of wardrobe-building, it's a pretty illuminating exercise.

  • Style Fan replied 11 months ago

    I find doing exercises like this help me plan my wardrobe purchases.  I also feel like I am honing my style more and that I will make wiser decision about what to buy and what to pack for travel. 
    I love charts, diagrams, organizing and clothing.  So the real reason I am doing this is that it is incredibly enjoyable.  And no one in my life would ever understand that except you guys.  :)

  • Marilyn replied 11 months ago

    Love Jenn's comment!  That's an excellent way of thinking about this and other things that do or don't interest us.

  • Elizabeth P replied 11 months ago

    Staysfit, your point about traveling is SO on point.  I tend to have a wardrobe of a lot of statements, esp for summer when I am wearing less clothes, so like them to be interesting.  Packing a small wardrobe is always a struggle, and it always seems so silly.

    I love to play around with travel capsules, even when I'm not going anywhere, and am always surprised how difficult it can be.  My favourite travel pants aren't the right silhouette for my favourite travel tops, or don't go with the best all day walking shoes, that sort of thing.

  • UmmLila replied 11 months ago

    Agreeing completely with Janet here.

  • Angie replied 11 months ago

    THANK YOU, Suz. I really appreciate that you started this thread, and am in 100% agreement with what you wrote. 

    Knowing what your wardrobe essentials are - and making sure they are current and suited to your needs - makes the outfit creation process a whole lot easier. They can also be the back bone of a signature style, the route to a fast fall back outfit, and are a way to refresh your wardrobe without zoning in on statement pieces. All of this impacts your future shopping plan. 

    A wardrobe that is overflowing with statement pieces in fun to look at - but hard to create complete outfits with UNLESS there are essentials in place to stick them all together. 

    A wardrobe that's overflowing with essentials is easy to create outfits with, but might lack the pizazz, verve and drama you're looking for. 

    Some styles are VERY "essentials heavy" - like Greyscale's list. Some are much lighter, like bonnie's list. My own essentials list used to be much longer - but I scaled it back a lot because I wanted to simplify what I wore with my non-essentias and statement pieces. In a way I strengthened my signature style by wearing fewer essentials more frequently. 

    Janet, if I came over to your home, played around in your closet, and began pulling out your essentials - you'd probably enjoy the process! I can think of your essentials list quite easily. It's something that has worked for you quite intuitively over time. And every so often, you post about an essential that you're looking for on the forum - like a simple V-neck pullover or tee to pull some statement items together. You're just not formalizing the list and process like others are - but you do have a set of wardrobe essentials. 

  • unfrumped replied 11 months ago

    I also have struggled with whether it matters to me. This most recent round with Angie's list and others was most helpful.

    Defining them in a more generic way-
    " 3/4 sleeve tops ( also neckline) I can wear UNtucked with.... ( pants vs skirts or both).

    Ditto Angie in, yes I may duplicate but it's more important that each essential be a really good version and then I'm sure to enjoy wearing more often, and avoid splitting wears too much. Like others, the generic essential may be a STYLE, but I need in different weights( warm/cool), so would shift fabrics with season and get variety that way, rather than have too many in one weight of fabric.
    Like Staysfit, recent travel is bringing it all home. I have an increased need for rapid packing which also reminds me I need my essentials to coordinate well, not my whole closet but at least several robust capsules.

  • Xtabay replied 11 months ago

    I was wondering about this myself, Suz, so thanks for bringing clarity to why this process is important.  I'm going to give it more thought to see what I can come up with.  I have a feeling I'm too heavy on the statement pieces and too light on the essentials right now, so this exercise will help to balance things out.

  • anchie replied 11 months ago

    Having list of essentials is very important to me when planning my shopping. I always have to have essentials from the list in my wardrobe to avoid 'nothing to wear' syndrome. And if they need replacement or upgrade, they get priority. It is not really exacting to shop for essentials, but for me it is crucial. This spring/summer I need to replace my white summer essentials, and I am not really looking forward to it. But I need my white summer weight crew neck sweater, white pants and white blazer. If I have them then I will be able to wear all the other more exciting, colorful pieces that I really want to shop for.  

  • RobinF replied 11 months ago

    I also find this discussion interesting and fun. It makes me think about my own wardrobe in a new way and anything that might make dressing easier is a positive! I have a note pad on my desk and jot down things that occur to me as I'm working - I find it easier to come up with ideas when I'm not trying too hard.

  • Chris987 replied 11 months ago

    I really appreciate this thread and everything in it. I KNOW this will useful for me when I get to it. I have been tracking what I wore almost daily since last June as part of rebuilding my wardrobe. I recently did some analysis of the data, which I love doing - as Suz described it, it's an absorbing puzzle and because it's about clothes it's FUN for me. One thing that jumped out at me was that about 1/3 of items in several categories were worn either never or only once since last June. I haven't done the analysis yet to see if they are essentials or statements (or maybe something else) but am looking forward to it because it will help me move toward my goal of shrinking the number of items in my closet that I don't want to wear. 

  • Janet replied 11 months ago

    Exactly, Angie! Maybe my essentials just feel so obvious that I don't feel the need to dive too deeply into analyzing them (jeans in a couple of key styles, solid tees and lightweight knits for layering, booties for winter, a good neutral tote, etc). I feel like the balance in my wardrobe between essentials and statements is pretty good -- I rarely lack for the right piece to complete an outfit.

    For me, essentials are usually items that I actually wear out before I tire of them. ;-)

  • replied 11 months ago

    I find it interesting and helpful to catagorize and analyze my wardrobe. I know my husband thinks it's a bit crazy, but then again his essentials are levis jeans, black under armor shirt, black fleece, tennis shoes .... repeat daily!

    This year I am focusing on trying to only buy for my real life,

  • Style Fan replied 11 months ago

    Love what Jenn said.  I research about the author, etc when I read a book.  Same with movies, art, music.  Loved my English courses.  Great analogy. 

  • Barbara Diane replied 11 months ago

    Responding to Angie's article about essentials, reading others' posts about essentials, and responding to Runcarla's post on happiness, have been eye opening for me. I continue to process the information and my reactions. 

    I had felt that there was something wrong that I didn't love much of my wardrobe. Items were fine, they worked, but ...I wondered if I needed to upgrade them, find other styles, etc. And I wouldn't mind finding essentials with special details. Not sure they would still be essentials, and I might love them more. But now I realize that I love the accessory details-scarves, bangles, earrings, special tops, etc. And I don't want to spend the money to replace all my essentials as long as they work when put together into outfits.

    It is a relief to understand my style better. 

  • replied 11 months ago

    I'm a bit inbetween  in terms of finding usefulness in the exercise.  I think about my wardrobe a fair bit -more than I would ever admit to - but I get the aha moments and information I need from reading bits and pieces here and on other blogs.  I often wonder what it says about a person (cough, me) who doesn't analyze things  and prefers to analyze human behaviour.  

  • rachylou replied 11 months ago

    I love thought exercises. Anyone want to discuss how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Haha! My problem is I get too Jesuitical about it and don't know which way is up.

    HOWEVER, when I just run with Angie's observations and this advice: "Knowing what your wardrobe essentials are - and making sure they are current and suited to your needs - makes the outfit creation process a whole lot easier. They can also be the back bone of a signature style, the route to a fast fall back outfit, and are a way to refresh your wardrobe without zoning in on statement pieces. All of this impacts your future shopping plan."

    ... this is extremely helpful. I am the sort whose shopping ends up a lot with individual cool pieces and one-off outfits, but not necessarily a functional wardrobe that I can count on every day. Essentials tell me where to invest and, for example, that I really do need to buy new sneakers regularly and not stockpile cute flats.

    Now, I may be wrong about this part... but I'm thinking this year, the thing about MY Essentials, is that they may not always be quiet neutrals. Like I own black leggings and I wear leggings a lot, but black leggings rarely make anything happen for me. These are in general not key to my style nor my ability to function.

    And that my statement items are really out there, thusly...like my owl tiara.

  • Staysfit replied 11 months ago

    Lisap, my workday is spent analyzing the behavior of people. My recreation is analyzing things! :-)

  • Sal replied 11 months ago

    For me it is fun, but also useful to allow me to quickly build outfits.  I am drawn to statement pieces but deliberately have built my essentials over the last couple of years to allow a slightly smaller wardrobe but with a little more mix and matching.

    If you were building a corporate wardrobe having a good handle on this is helpful.

    Coming into winter I know I need some simple sweaters to wear under coats and with scarves.  Pretty much essentials but in a modern fit.  For next summer I know I need a new black knit tank - my current one has done two seasons and is getting a little worn, but I would have struggled to get by a week without it this year as it goes so well with all my outfits.  It has been the wardrobe glue this year.

  • Style Fan replied 11 months ago

    What Staysfit said.  This is my fun.  My work (which I love and consider myself very fortunate to do what I love) is analyzing human behaviour.

  • Suz replied 11 months ago

    Thank you all for your amazing responses! I'll be back a bit later on to converse -- we are having a major snowstorm and some family issues here (no one hurt, but things are a bit haywire at the moment...oy...). Back soon. 

  • Xtabay replied 11 months ago

    Suz, be safe and warm in that crazy storm. 

  • Jenava replied 11 months ago

    Yeah, for me it's like what Angie says...if it's an essential and I find "another one" I know that snapping it up will help grease the wheels of my closet as opposed to clogging it up with more orphans or items I need to figure out how to wear.

  • Sterling replied 11 months ago

    I am so glad you brought this subject up, Suz.  

  • Kate replied 11 months ago

    I can answer catty's question because it was an eye opening exercise for me. I realized I'm drawn to statement garments and tend to overbuy them. But if I indulge in that way, I'm going to be wearing a dramatic coat and cool shoes and be butt naked beneath. So, in summer, basically naked. Pinpointing my essentials allows me to dress without getting arrested and helps me budget. When an essential gets worn out it gets replaced ahead of my throwing money at some statement top or whatever garment has caught my eye. I am really grateful to have done this exercise--and many thanks to Angie for explaining the difference between the two categories so clearly--because it helped me understand why I buy the things I do.

  • Irina replied 11 months ago

    OK, here is my thought process. Let's take the winter attire. I have my essentials figured out - plain cashmere sweaters in black and grey, wool straight pants in black, dark navy and grey. It works for me but winter is long and I get bored with my clothes. So, I thought that adding color would help. I have now a pair of brown/black wool pants, one deep purple turtle neck and one light blue cashmere sweaters. I consider them my "occasionall" wear. Not something special but rather a reflection of a frequency of wear. These are not statement pieces. I now reconsidered, I don't really enjoy wearing color and would like to find black or grey tops in more interesting shapes. Once found, these will hopefully become my essentials. They will have to ib my base colors and work with all my pants. So, what about the statement clothes? Are they from the category of the "special occasion" clothes?

  • Jenava replied 11 months ago

    Irina, I think those new interesting shapes wouldn't be essentials.  The pants you wear with them, or the cardigan you wear over them, or the black boots you wear with them, would be the essentials.

  • Penny replied 11 months ago

    This is such a terrific thread, and I love all the reasons outlined above about the value of categorizing statements and essentials. I think this exercise helped me realize for future planning that generally, I prefer my dresses to be essentials rather than statements so I can have more fun with accessories, handbags, and footwear, and so I feel comfortable repeating dresses regularly. Although I think my wardrobe was evolving that way unconsciously while analyzing my outfits and style goals, reading Angie's terrific posts on this topic and the comments of members have helped me understand why this works and better refine my approach.

  • Greyscale replied 11 months ago

    I agree with Staysfit and others that this will be really helpful for packing. In fact, I unwittingly did a bit of essentials analysis before my conference last week, and ended up with a great travel capsule that felt more versatile and successful than my usual packing efforts.

    It also helped reassure me about something. Like Angie said, I realized that my wardrobe is very heavy on essentials, with only a few statements and no eclectic set of add-ons like a lot of you use to add excitement. In the past I've worried that my wardrobe is too basic. But this exercise made me realize that it's not basic. Instead, my statement style is made up of carefully chosen essentials. There are a lot of specific details in what makes it into my essentials collection, and the overall effect is something I'm really excited about. I feel more confident that I'm achieving a distinctive look that works for me. And it'll be easier to judge new purchases against that standard.

  • Suz replied 11 months ago

    Wow, thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. It's been really interesting to read this. Family crisis averted, by the way, but storm still ongoing!! 

    So...let me see if I can respond to some of these wise thoughts and interesting questions. 

    Greyscale, I would say you have a strong signature style. Choosing an almost monochromatic wardrobe is in itself a statement. Also, I am with you and Staysfit on believing that this exercise can help with packing. 

    Penny, I think this approach can be especially helpful for people who tend to wear essentials as their core pieces with statement add ons. But as Greyscale illustrates, it can also be useful for someone with a very different type of closet. 

    Irina, I think Jeneva's right in answer to your question, if I am understanding it all correctly. I also have made the mistake of buying essential items in colours outside my core neutrals and (apart from pullovers, in some cases) they did not become the fun, frequently worn statements I had hoped. I like my statements to be different from my essential items. 

    Kate, you're exactly the type of buyer I felt might be really helped by this exercise (or one kind). 

    Sterling, thanks!

    Jeneva, I agree!

    Xtbay, thank you. Inside now, thank goodness! 

    Style Fan -- I agree it is fun! 

    (to be cont'd).

  • Suz replied 11 months ago

    Harmonica — I think it can lead to better shopping decisions over time. Some people may do it all intuitively and they don’t need it.

    Elizabeth, I agree — once I really “get” my essentials I know it’s time to invest. For instance, last year I got an ink merino tee from BR. I wore it constantly both on its own and as a layering piece (under and over). This led me to believe that a cashmere version would also get worn a lot so I picked one up on sale at the end of the season for wearing this year — and bingo! Instant workhorse.

    Janet, I think you know your essentials pretty well. You have a wardrobe that works well for you.

    Joy, I wonder what you’ll discover about fabrication weights, etc. in the new home.

    Staysfit, that’s an interesting story about the packing. I definitely rely on essentials when I pack — key neutrals and the pieces that i find easy and comfortable and unfussy to wear.

    Bonnie, If you automatically gravitate to statements, I can see how this would be an amazing exercise, if frustrating at first!

    JAileen, you had me snorting with laughter. Because you are so right — all grey (and silver) footwear is an essential!

    Marilyn — a change of size always occasions reflection and when you’re building a wardrobe there’s no more important time to know your essentials!

    Anon, that’s a really interesting point. What the heck are those items that aren’t essential and aren’t statement? I liked Greyscales idea that some of them are “fringe” — they might be needed but less often, for roles we seldom inhabit.

    Or they might be dross, to get rid of.

    Jenn, what a great analogy. I agree, it’s fun to dig deep and examine the whole context if the subject is one that interests you. I think it helps a person define a clear style.

    Nodding with you, Style Fan, Marilyn, Robin, Chris, zoiechic, Barbara Diane, Sally, Rachy — it’s fun and instructive! (Rachy, you really would be a great medieval monk with the angels on pins…except you’d beat them all at their own game, methinks, and make them laugh, thus spoiling the morose meditation…)

    UmmLila — I think you get this intuitively and don’t need to think about it consciously. Also, I suspect this may be less important for women like you and Janet whose wardrobes are on the larger side. Those with really compact wardrobes have to make sense of it or go half naked. :)

    Angie, thanks for weighing in. It sounds as if you agree with the reasons I gave at first, and I also really like the distinction you made between closets that are essentials heavy and those that are statement heavy and either being great as long as the wearer knows what she’s up to and ensures she has her usual needs covered. I like what you said about strengthening a signature style by simplifying essentials. That makes sense.

    Unfrumped, a coordinated travel capsule is a huge boon!

    Xtabay, let us know what you discover!

    Anchie, you sound super organized. I also know the worry of needing essentials that you’re not sure you’ll be able to find and resenting paying for them when there are other fun things you’d like.

    LisaP — that is a very interesting distinction!! I analyze both. Or maybe I consider wardrobe analysis a kind of personal analysis…it tells me something about myself.

  • Kate replied 11 months ago

    You're right Suz, I was helped, and thank you for starting this thread. Like Style Fan remarked, it was a fun exercise. I also realized how much I've taken on board over the years from Angie and forum members experiences regarding my essentials (without actually putting a name to that category) as well as all other things wardrobe related. Without really thinking about it, I have tended to duplicate my essentials: charcoal skinny jeans, cigarette pants, and tops of particular shapes and fabrics (depending on season) in my neutrals. I'm thinking particularly of you, LIn turtleneck sweater from Aritzia! Again, many thanks to all. I have learned a lot from you.

  • deb replied 11 months ago

    I have had a bad cold for the last three days and have been thinking about these threads because i am unable to function. retiring a year ago has thrown my whole wardrobe out of whack. the wool culottes I bought last year have only had a few wearings because they seem too formal for my new casual lifestyle. I am not ready to purge just yet because I want to try and make them fit in. is this futile? walking the dog three times a day made the turtlenecks I purchased a new essential this past winter. they would have been too warm for my office days. I feel a big purge coming on.

  • shevia replied 11 months ago

    Like Jenn I enjoy thinking about clothing (and people and what clothing says about people) from all angles and find these exercises very enjoyable. Thinking about my essentials helps me understand my own style and way of dressing and reading about others helps me understand theirs. I am an intuitive thinker that loves to then analyze back and see what I can learn. So thank you for this thread Suz and hope everything is sorted out at home.

  • Jenn replied 11 months ago

    I have some of those non-statement, non-essential pieces in my wardrobe right now. Some (I'm looking at you, skinny jeans) are essentials I've mostly, but not completely, moved on from. Others (trousers, skirts, plain blazer) are pieces I'm happy to have available on the rare occasions I need them. "Fringe" is a good description!

  • Bijou replied 11 months ago

    One of the reasons I like to examine my essentials is that it often gives me clues as to how my style is subtly changing. For example, I have moved away from wearing black as often as previously and don't feel as fab when I do. So this tells me that black items may not be as essential as before and to revisit my essentials list before replacing worn out black items.

  • Isabel replied 11 months ago

    Personally, doing this ( a few years ago when I first saw Angie write about it ) , really alleviated my angst.  It made my dressing almost thoughtless while still workable and joyful. It really helped me focus on what I need daily to get dressed. What really works in my life and allows me to feel good. As a SAHM, I really didn't need a lot of diversity. And my personality is just one where I don' t need a lot of change or churn. In fact, I like just the opposite in my clothes. And I am just not much of an experimenter.  I just don't get bored. I have also found that my preference for dressing hasn't changed much since I was in high school and I see how much my mother has affected that ( for the good ).

    I don't think much about "statement" clothes.  I LOVE accessories. So I have statement earrings, statement necklaces, etc. I have a few statement scarves but most of my scarves are every day , I can't have a wardrobe without them.  

    I found YFL about 7 years ago, maybe 8. During that time, I have gone through 3 situations that left me a bit adrift sartorially.  The biggest was shifting from working in a city to being a SAHM in the country in a small town.  So I did quite a bit of experimenting and analysis. In the end, I settled on this ( after many of the Angie posts of "this or that" to help me hone my preferences ). 

    http://www.theviviennefiles.co.....drobe.html

    I have changes some of the items around and color ( like including olive instead of off white/khaki ).  This works great with all my accessories and really is my aesthetic.

    Now, for people who love statement clothing, I can see that being an essential. So in a list of things, I can see the category for tops, for example, having " 2 or 3 statement tops".   There are people that can't have a functional wardrobe without that.   ( Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert. :-) )

  • replied 11 months ago

    This whole thing is making my eyes glaze over. I know what my wardrobe needs, and I guess I don't understand the difference between statement pieces and essentials.

  • DonnaF replied 11 months ago

    I continue to struggle with this.  My purchases post-YLF tend to be statement heavy. . .but in neutral colors so I'm not left with orphans.  Plus, I like to pattern mix and throw in the kitchen sink.  Back in the day, I had a LOT of Essentials, but now I have a much larger wardrobe.  I rarely wear my various pairs of black slacks, and I gave one of my black pencil skirts to DD and kept the ponte one.  I seldom wear my plain Ts or plain pullovers, and I could go on.

    Is something Essential if it is worn less than half the time?  I will always own various styles of BLUE jeans, but at the moment my gray plaid and black cropped flares are getting more love.

    I don't wear white shirts or work shirts very often, but want them always to be in my wardrobe.

    And I will always own Dansko Pro clogs for comfort reasons despite my search for alternatives.  :(

    I think I have some weird aversion to Essentials.  Maybe I'm drawn to Statements as a reaction to not being able to do much air travel/long vacations until my MIL passes away?  We drive there so it's not hard to throw in the kitchen sink and pack multiple toppers and not have everything coordinate.

  • rachylou replied 11 months ago

    Yes! I wonder that - if something is essential when you don't wear it much, but does serve as 'essential glue' upon occasion and that's why you keep it.

  • Runcarla replied 11 months ago

    Fashion and style is hard for me. Fun, but hard. It just doesn't come naturally, though I love to be involved in it. Thinking about style, expressing myself, and having creative fun with the daily necessity of dressing up is why I care about the different blogs and threads that offer instruction and insight on how to put myself together!

    This new year I have done more 'work' understanding and sorting my style and essentials, and I feel like I am on the verge of having a collection of clothes that will support my aspirational style - rather than experimenting crazily, and not understanding why things don't quite work.

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