My essentials

My wardrobe has always been essentials heavy. I find them the easiest items to buy and to identify. It interests me that so many people have trouble with this concept and I wonder why. I suspect it comes more easily for those with a style that leans heavily classic? It might be more difficult if you are an eclectic dresser. 

Anyway, here is my list for 2019 in the hope it might help someone else.
One way I think of this is -- it is a very rare outfit that does not include at least one of these elements.  The ones I pull into play most frequently vary with the seasons --- the white sneakers are a summer essential; the  navy booties, a winter essential, and so on. But if you look back over your WIWs, which items or elements get repeated again and again in different outfit combinations? Which items do you miss when they are in the laundry? Which do you reach for in those "ugh! What shall I wear??" moments? That should offer clues. 

1. Navy crewneck or turtleneck knitwear (for different seasons). (High five, Angie!)

2. Blue and white striped knitwear, or white and blue (for various seasons). (Ditto!)

3. Navy blazer

4. Slim high waisted jeans in blue and in white. (I have and enjoy other jeans but these are the essentials).

5. Long grey cardigan.

6. Denim jackets (esp. in summer — not really in winter at all.)

7. Classic navy blue outerwear. (High five, again, Angie!!) Oh, and I desperately want a military coat like yours. On my list of HEWIs. As well as an upgrade of the consignment pea coat, which is working really well for now but is not "the one." 

8. Silver or soft grey footwear across all seasons. Must have a dressy bootie, a casual bootie, a sneaker, a sandal.

9. White footwear (summer); navy or ink footwear (winter).

10. Silver watch and earrings. Belt with silver hardware.

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.


  • Jules replied 1 year ago

    On the other end of the spectrum from eclectic dressers, maybe people who are essentially ‘uniform’ dressers using simple formulas just have wardrobes full of essentials and won’t find the concept useful?
    I mean for me in the winter, I wear:
    -skinny jeans
    -long sleeved tops that work with skinny jeans (for me this largely means long & loose enough to cover my hips)
    - boots that work with skinny jeans and snow/slush conditions
    I don’t love layering toppers under my winter coat, or needing multiple layers just to cover my arms, so very few blazers or cardigan/shell combos.
    So skinnies and associated tops and boots are essentials and anything else (like say a dress I can wear over the skinnies, or a topper for meetings where I might want to dress up a bit) are just a nice bonuses which I have a few of and might happen upon shopping, but don’t need to get dressed.
    Essentials are just... what I wear :)

  • Angie replied 1 year ago


    As always, Suz. You put in the thought and effort, and reap the reward. 

    High fiving you on:

    • dark blue knitwear
    • dark blue outerwear
    • denim jackets (in warm weather only)
    • high waisted jeans in blue and white 
    • striped blue and white tops
    • white footwear

    Because of my peals, watch and white footwear, I wear essentials EVERY DAY. 

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Yup, I hear you, Jules. WINTER!!!!! 

    And that's a really good point -- uniform dressers possibly have nothing but essentials. 

    Although I can envision a uniform that involved a statement piece, i.e. column of plain neutrals with a statement coat (different coat for each day of the week) for instance. Or plain outfit with statement bag or shoes. 

  • Angie replied 1 year ago

    YES, Jules. Uniform Dressers tend to have a wardrobe rich in essentials. 

  • Christina F. replied 1 year ago

    I just posted mine, and unsurprisngly, we have some crossover :P

  • nemosmom replied 1 year ago

    "But if you look back over your WIWs, which items or elements get
    repeated again and again in different outfit combinations? Which items
    do you miss when they are in the laundry? Which do you reach for in
    those "ugh! What shall I wear??" moments? That should offer clues."

    A-HA! I was obviously overthinking the whole category v. item part in today's blog post... Thank you for these questions, Suz!! That helps a TON.  Ok, back to the drawing board....

  • bonnie replied 1 year ago

    I love your blue, white, and gray palette. Blue is my color of the year and I plan to add more blue items to my wardrobe. 

  • lisa p replied 1 year ago

    Every year we have this talk, and every year I feel like banging my head on my desk.  I struggle SO much with essentials, and here's why:

    1. I am not drawn to them at all when I'm in a store.  I go straight to the statement pieces.  
    2. Many essentials/classic items  (especially knit tops ) make me feel dowdy and plain.  Kiss of death for me.  
    3. I cannot find what I want at retail, or on-line for that matter, so I invariably buy place-holders, which are inexpensive, ill-fitting and generally unsatisfactory.  

    I really wish I had the answer to this.  Suz, when you lay out your finds as you've done above, it's so clear and obvious why your wardrobe is a success. You've found the essentials that work for your body and your lifestyle.  If I throw you my credit card, will you have a go at my closet?

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Better throw that card at Angie, LisaP! She's the expert. 

    But here is my guess at a couple of your essentials: 

    1. Dark (maybe black) silky tops for different seasons. (These could vary in formality from tees to actual silk blouses. 

    2. Slim black pants for different seasons. 

    3. Light (e.g. white or cream) silky tops for various seasons. 

    4. Gold toned necklaces and bracelets and earrings. 

    5. Black sneakers. 

    6. Black booties. 

    7. Black dressier shoe. 

    8. Grey sweater of some kind. 

    There might be others but that is a start. Your jackets tend to be more statements; ditto your coats, but you could add an essential in either category pretty easily. A black puffer might be an essential. Certainly some kind of puffer is an essential for your weather! 

    You might substitute navy for black in some of these -- I'm not sure. You could also do any/all of these in chocolate brown if they were available at retail. 

    Christina, surprise, surprise!! :) 

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    ETA on COST, I don't think an essential item has to be high cost. Ideally it will be decent quality because you will be wearing it a lot and it might wear out. But my essentials include very inexpensive pieces like Gap jeans, Old Navy denim jacket, Zara t-shirt, Banana Republic and LL Bean knitted tops, etc. The only expensive items in my Finds are the Vince boatneck tees (bought on sale and still going strong after 6 years, though admittedly not often worn most years); the parka (a climate necessity in Kingston); the Aquatalia booties (also bought on sale) and the Citizens jeans (ditto). Oh, and the Eileen Fisher sandals. Everything else is box-store. 

  • Joy replied 1 year ago

    Suz, I am an eclectic dresser and have problems with essentials because I rebut them when they are not needed. Right now I have two pairs of summer shoes to return because they are very similar in style and color to some I own and have another season of wear in them
    Your list is great and makes sense

  • FashIntern replied 1 year ago

    Isn't "stuff I'm not drawn to but need to have" a way of defining "essentials"? Statement pieces are the fun part, but an outfit of all statement pieces would be a cacophony of them shouting over each other. Essentials are like the choir doing harmony while the lead singer does theatrics with their voice. Most people sing the lead part--unless they're my sister, who I heard singing "dadun dun dun dun" over & over. She was singing Roxanne--the essential instrumental part. Honestly, what would just Sting's part sound like alone?

    Suz, I love the way your Snow queen and plaid suit and other stars stand out against your very well organized canvas of essentials. 

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Thanks, Fashintern

    It depends on what kind of dresser or what kind of style you have, I think...I am actually drawn more to essentials than to statement items as a rule. I gravitate towards them in a store and have to tell myself to stop purchasing them, whereas I have to give myself "permission" to buy statements, which get so much less wear in my closet and therefore seem self-indulgent to me. 

    Joy, that is interesting. You mean you forget you have these items and over-purchase them? 

  • FashIntern replied 1 year ago

    I totally get overbuying essentials! You get a new sweater and think "to go with this, I really need a navy mock T" or whatever. There happens to be a rack of them right near the sweaters, so you pick one up, try it on, and get home to put it away--and tada! There are two more mock Ts in your closet!  I almost think that might be another way of defining essentials--the stuff you have too much of, and you think of it as sort of an amorphous group, "all those black tights" or whatever.

    Interesting to think about the "permission" aspect. Maybe it's just that statement pieces feel more special, whether in an "oh yes" kind of way or an "Idk, should I?" kind of way, whereas essential are good, solid sense purchases, which could feel boring or right, depending on your personality or your mood that day.

  • torontogirl replied 1 year ago

    A fabulous wardrobe on essentials alone - no wonder you always look so pulled together! An inspiration - as you probably saw from my list, I mirror you a little! (with thanks for the belt insp - my newest addition, which I credit you with!) :D

  • La Pedestrienne replied 1 year ago

    Hi five, Team Silver! Also, I am just the same when it come to essentials vs statements. My eyes go right past scads of bright and embellished items and straight to the same handful of things over and over again: breton tops, muted plaid shirts, dark jeans, black boots... It's taken a lot of very intentional wardrobe planning to get to the point where I can conceive of shopping for statement-y items like red or burgundy footwear, dramatically long toppers, and leopard print or metallic or optic-white anything.

  • lisa p replied 1 year ago

    Suz- I appreciate your feedback . Thank you !

  • Joy replied 1 year ago

    Yes, I must forget what I have, especially if I buy out of season.  I guess that means I need to edit more often.

  • Mainelady replied 1 year ago

    Suz, yours is a great list and you really make it sound so easy to identify your essentials. I am probably spending way too much time and brainwaves on my list. I think the suggestion to look back at WIWs is a great one!

  • Jessikams replied 1 year ago

    I notice I wear fewer and fewer essentials. The proportion of statements in my daily outfits is rising. Now I need to translate this to my buying habits! I keep buying essentials when I see them on sale, thinking “everybody needs....” black leggings, whatever. But they go unworn and unloved! I have too many plain sweaters and plain leggings for my needs. I never reach for them, preferring even my underlayer to have some interesting design element.

  • Suz replied 1 year ago

    Jessikams, I think design elements can be interesting in essentials. I'm a classic dresser so my own are fairly straightforward. If I could afford really top quality, I'll bet many would have more interesting designs.

  • Gigi replied 1 year ago

    Great list and very instructive. I like seeing the different renditions in each category.

    I am big on buying essentials too. I think it's because by nature, they go with everything. So it seems like such a practical purchase.

  • Sal replied 1 year ago

    Very nice!!

    You have it sorted at the moment - enjoy:)  We share some of the same needs/likes so it does give me ideas....

  • Cardiff girl replied 1 year ago

    You have obviously got your essentials sorted.l do so agree that eclectic dressers have a harder time with this but essentials are still needed to pull a look together they are just so boring to buy!(lol)

  • shevia replied 1 year ago

    Clarity of thought and expression and gorgeous style! A pleasure to read, Suz.

  • suntiger replied 1 year ago

    Nailed it :) And I love that the silver shoes are wardrobe essentials!

  • lyn67 replied 1 year ago

    Wow, loved the post with all the visuals, and the comments, too!

    Your navy is my black, your silver is  my taupe (or grey) and your stripes may be my moody florals- recently (I love stripes&always have some, and silver too, but use only for events). White is  a must!

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