Yet another wardrobe essentials list

On the heels of Claire's fascinating 10 item wardrobe thread, I have been doing more sleuthing and more thinking. In my travels I came up with this link to an older Harper's Bazaar list that might be more do-able for some of us inclined in this direction, and at least seems a little less arbitrary in some ways....i.e. there are reasons why she specifies four jeans.

On balance I prefer Angie's highly personalized approach (after all, if you don't wear jeans, why the heck would you want 4 pair?) but this list is also more adaptable and flexible and in some ways realistic than most I have seen.

Would love your thoughts!

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.


  • Transcona Shannon replied 10 years ago

    Fascinating! And when you read through it a couple of times (like I just did), I can see that this would make a perfectly functional wardrobe. You have everything you need to be dressed for every occasion (although I would add shorts as another "bottom" item for the warm weather months and a category for blazers). And if these items were all excellent quality, you'd always be well dressed.

    I'm tempted to go count my items and see by how much I'm over that list...a fun challenge might be culling my closet to those numbers with my favourite pieces in each category, putting the "spares" into another closet and see what it feels like to wear that type of minimum wardrobe...hmmmm...I need to ponder that idea...I'm going to pop back in to this thread later to read other responses.

  • krishnidoux replied 10 years ago

    It's a good list. I realize I have far more weekend items than workworthy ones.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Yes, I liked the way she actually MENTIONED casual wear, which some lists do not, apart from denim.

    Shannon, I have been doing some counting and calculating of my own. It's been quite interesting. I'm actually not terribly far from the 10 item list if you divide into 4 seasons (with some overlap, of course). But I have more than that, and possibly fewer than this.

  • qfbrenda replied 10 years ago

    What's the difference between a "dress" coat and a "day-to-night" coat? Just curious.

    I will probably never need a cocktail dress, and I definitely don't need both a cocktail AND a formal dress... but overall, it's a decent list. It is nice that it's more open ended than most. And according to that list, I have more than enough clothes. :P

  • Caro in Oz replied 10 years ago

    I agree Suz I have the book & found it very helpful, much more realistic for someone who is retired. It was the catalyst that helped me keep just one suit.

    It is another "list" though & needs to be adapted for each person & as you say Angie's way is better because you actually look at your own life & preferences.

    Always fun to see another way of looking at this - thanks:)

  • qfbrenda replied 10 years ago

    FWIW, my favorite list is the Lucky book... Guide to something... too lazy to go look at the exact title. :P Many of us could cross things off of their list, but it's so thorough you probably wouldn't need something they didn't mention. So while I wouldn't need everything they list, at least it's on the list for me to consider if it's needed. And they include EVERYTHING including underwear and swimsuits.

    But I suppose that thorough of a list would overwhelm others. And so we're back to the customized list again. :)

  • Raisin replied 10 years ago

    Great post Suz. I agree, that list is much more functional than some I've seen. I have a mental feeling of what I need in my wardrobe, and I think that list probably comes very close. One day when I get close to having exactly what I need, I'll have to actually count it up and see what pieces I have and how many....just for fun :)

    Note: by mental feeling I mean I have an idea in my head of what I need....not a crazy feeling...hehe...just re-reading and realized that sounded weird.

  • replied 10 years ago

    I like this list. 2 tops for each bottoms...makes sense to me. I think the categories and general enough to apply to whatever type of clothing you wear. A bottom is a bottom whether it's jeans or business skirts.

  • Gaylene replied 10 years ago

    it's an interesting list, but where would you put those "third-layer" jackets? And, for those of us who prefer to wear separates instead of dresses, does that mean we get an additional 5 tops and 5 more skirts, which would end up with a lot of tops and skirts hanging in our closets, I'd think. And only 4 coats and jackets in a 4-season climate is pretty minimal.

    But I think you're right in saying that even the most flexible and adaptable list is probably only useful as a rough guide. Ultimately, even if it's harder, I think that there are few short cuts to the actual process of figuring out what you want from your clothes and what fits your lifestyle. That's why this forum, and Angie, are so useful in helping me think through all the options so I can decide for myself what ought to go into my closet.

  • deb replied 10 years ago

    I like this list and agree with Shannon. I am going to go through my closet and see how I can incorporate this wardrobe list with Angie's philosophy.

  • bj1111 replied 10 years ago

    ya know...between all the lists, i'm up to 100 pieces already, plus 3 dressing gown which are extra...

    excuse me, gotta fluff the boa on the bedroom slippers.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Yes, I absolutely agree, it's not perfect....and no list, probably, is, at least not for all women.

    Brenda, I wondered the same thing....I was trying to think what the difference between dressy and day-into-night might be. Maybe day-into-night would be simpler, and dressy would be more luxe.

    Gaylene, I mention of that third layer or accessories....I guess EVERYBODY except us considers the third layer "extra" !!!

    Huh...the listmakers don't live in Canada or they would also understand that 4 coats barely keeps the wind off.

    I thought the 2 tops for each bottom was useful, and the mention of casual as a need.

    I should check out the Lucky book, too. Sounds useful.

  • Jaime replied 10 years ago

    I like the two tops for every bottom thought too, but of course there should be some overlap there right? I think though I prefer to think of finding the best item in every category I actually wear and let the chips fall where they may. In my case that would be 10-each in a category of its own -pairs of oxfords and counting.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Bj, you are too funny!!!!!

  • Glory replied 10 years ago

    Great thread and Suz - I think for Canadians we need a list just for coats and jackets!

  • Tina.b replied 10 years ago

    The concept of two tops for every bottom is intriguing. While I well exceed the limits proposed, I don't have two perfect tops that suit each bottom. Instead I have a multitude of tops that look great with skinny jeans. I'm going to challenge myself to find pieces that work for my more difficult to match bottoms.

  • Joy replied 10 years ago

    This list seems reasonable and one that could be adapted to climate or lifestyle. This is a great list for anyone needing to build a wardrobe from scratch. Thank you for sharing it. I found I was happiest with a small wardrobe. It may be tempting to try to whittle the clothes down to this list, putting the rest into another closet, just to see if one could do it and how it felt. Actually this reminds me of Angie's capsules.

  • Mellllls replied 10 years ago

    interesting list.

  • ashley2011 replied 10 years ago

    Worth to read your post. I get fashion ideas. Thanks

  • ManidipaM replied 10 years ago

    Brenda, is this the book you meant?

    As to this list, 50-ish seems an eminently doable number for any given season to me, especially as we're again given a pass on innerwear, loungewear, activewear, sports gear etc, as well as shoes, scarves, bags, umbrellas and such. To those wondering what happened to the 'third piece' of the separates, I daresay adding 4 of those jackets to complete your 8 bottoms (skirts and pants) should do the trick? It really seems the only oversight, but climates do matter. I know my tropical summer & monsoon wardrobes call for more than 4 pairs of pants because the humidity kills with a single wear and don't even get me started on the grime... and I definitely need at least two raincoats/rain jackets/anoraks. But I think save for somewhat extreme climates (including mine), this basic list should be good for most.

    I also found I thought of 'dressy coat' as something luxurious that would NOT come to office or playground with me, or even get worn on the airplane. Opera material, if you will? I just have to think of it in terms of a coat that would work with a silk brocade---be it a gown or a saree--and I can immediately see that it wouldn't ideally be a day-to-nighter, which is more a middle ground between workaday trench and this luxurious animal. Though I suppose depending on lifestyle one could just pick a silk trench as the day-to-night and cross one off the list! Warmth is the other factor though---to me, day-to-night suggests something warmer than a trench, in winter.

    Similar thoughts on cocktail vs formal. I imagine the 'formal' dress as a longer, sit-down one, while the cocktail could take you dancing too, say.

    Possibly what is most impressive to me is the non-specificity of this list, which the blogger notes too---a shirt to suit each bottom, as opposed to 1 white buttondown, 1 blue buttondown, 1 grey T-shirt, 1 black turtleneck etc. That's why it seems so likely to work for most people. It's accommodating of tastes and lifestyles. Good find, Suz!

  • goldenpig replied 10 years ago

    I don't like externally generated "must-have" lists, but I agree this one seems pretty reasonable as a starting point. I don't think I could limit myself to that number though. Maybe for a travel capsule, haha. I think if I had this list when I was starting out I would find it more useful, but now that I have a huge wardrobe it would pain me to whittle it down to that suggested number! Or if I was only wearing maternity clothes I might be able to do that, but since I'm incorporating a lot of my pre-preg wardrobe I'm still over the limit.

  • MNsara replied 10 years ago

    I really enjoy the simplicity of this list. The idea of two tops (1 dressy, 1 casual) for every pant and skirt is good to consider - for buying as well as for culling.

    It's got me tempted to reduce my closet to these contents WITH 8 beloved jackets (four for the pants and skirts, two for dresses, and two for jeans, for an arbitrary start), putting the excess(a.k.a. less favored) items into another room. Then see how long before I notice gaps, needs, boredom, or how better quality would make the item more workable.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    So...Sara....would this be it for ALL your seasons, or would your rotate by season? This is something I have been mulling over. I'm trying to work out how much actual seasonal cross-over I have. I DO have *some* -- but it's surprising how few things are truly season spanning in my climate...perhaps because I don't have air conditioning in summer, and you know, walk a lot in my very cold winters.

    I'm also not sure I need a casual top for every bottom because some of my bottoms are not going to be worn casually. Or vice versa.

    Plus...there is certainly crossover in tops. That is, the top that works with skirt A ALSO works with skirt B or jeans.

    In the end I think given my climate I would add more sweaters and reduce the number of regular tops, perhaps. At least for the winter capsule. I would also add jackets, as you and others have suggested. And I'd probably have more layering Ts, camis, and tanks, plus more (or different) coats for my winter weather.

  • MNsara replied 10 years ago

    With such extremely different temps, I picture needing this for fall/winter, then another one for spring/summer.

    There'd probably be 50% overlap in seasonless items that work year round: my two Halogen pencil skirts, most jeans, some layering tees, some silk blouses (but they get pretty darn hot in full summer), a couple blazers or denim jackets.

    Otherwise a summer sweater is NOT the same as a winter sweater, sleeveless tops are no help in winter, etc. I don't need shorts in winter (duh!) but sure need two denim bermudas and one dressier pair in summer.

    Plus, switching things out would give me something to look forward to -- to help with the inevitable boredom that will set in after a few months when I'm tired of the clothes AND the cold or heat.

    That super pared down, 10+-Item-Wardrobe Jennifer had was based on her being neither a trend setter nor a fashionista (like she said) PLUS her lack of drastic seasonal needs.

  • replied 10 years ago

    My library has the book that this list is from, so I've read it several times. It seems like a good list for someone who works and has a social life. I think it would be too many items for me however. I only have two regular weekly events to dress for where I see people I know. I'm afraid I'll lose this if I navigate back to the blog, but I think at the end, the blogger says that the list provides you enough clothes so that you don't wear them all out and have to replace them every season. However, I'm intrigued with exactly that: having that smaller wardrobe in which the memorable items would be refreshed each year.

    I'm seeing that clothes, even classic items, *do* have an expiration date. Me having a huge wardrobe would be the equivalent of a single person cramming their refrigerator with expensive perishables that they could not possibly eat before they all spoiled.

    Suz it's interesting that you're finding that you are close to the 10-item wardrobe for each season, and that you're determining how many weeks of each season you have. These lists make great guidelines because they can help a person remember some of the annual events in their lives that they have to dress for. Budget lists are the same way, you might not have expenses in every category, but they are great tools to jog your memory. Good stuff; keep it coming!

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    Yes, I agree, Sara. I thought this list was a bit more adapted to what a person might actually need within a seasonal climate, although obviously we still feel we'd need to make some adjustments.

    My Halogen skirt isn't wearable in summer (for me) --- too hot. I would wear it if I were going to an air conditioned space (maybe). I can't wear jeans in our full summer but like you, need the shorts. Agree about long sleeved shirts in summer; I actually switch some of mine out -- I have a couple of cotton-linen ones I only use in summer. I switch out most of my jackets, too, except the denim ones, but i find I mostly wear those in spring and fall and rarely wear in summer or winter.

  • Suz replied 10 years ago

    That's right, Claire...I'm like you in that my daily life doesn't really involve seeing a lot of people so I don't really have to worry about boring anybody but myself...yet I DO bore myself with my memorable items each season. But yes, I am not far off the 10 items (I mean, assuming one doesn't count "extras" like jackets) and actually, at the moment, have fewer items than on this list that I've linked to least if you look at it season by season (but I have more if this is an entire year's worth.)

    All in all I am finding all these lists helpful.

  • RoseandJoan replied 10 years ago

    I think the list you have posted Suz is a good list because it does account for occasion and casual wear but I do not think I could justify 16 woven tops in addition to the sweaters and the tees because they would serve the same purpose most of the time.

    I would count my strictly layering tees and camis as underwear so as not to scew the total.

  • replied 10 years ago

    You done fluffin' the boa BJ? Haha, too funny.
    Actually, this is a list I don't hate as much, at least It is not the usual "white button down, trench coat, black suit ... I yawn...

  • bj1111 replied 10 years ago

    just a sec...yup...boa fluffed...tick...

    now must attend to those dressing gowns. they won't wear themselves, dahling.

  • rachylou replied 10 years ago

    A far more understandable list. I quite like it, esp. the two tops for every bottom calculus.

    Of course, my mind is already busy trying to change it to accommodate what I think are my needs... like a host of puffy coats, a lot of sweaters, and one extra pair of pants... and the usefulness of dresses on lazy days...

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