Your Wardrobe Essentials Shopping List

If your closet is overflowing but you have nothing to wear, it's time to focus on making sure you have your wardrobe essentials.


If you read my last post, Closet Cleaning 101, then chances are—maybe?—you've attacked your closet and gotten rid of what you don't need or no longer wear. I have semi-attacked mine, stopping short when the difficulty of parting with certain so-called "important" items became too distressing.

Insert echoes of "But it might come back into style!!!" here.

I should know better.

And, should you be a fan of Marie Kondo's book, the life-changing magic of tidying up, I'm glad it worked for you. I ran out to buy a hard copy after loading it onto my Kindle. That's how excited I was about it. But alas, the book neither changed my life nor helped me tidy up. Not to say it doesn't work wonders for some.

But cleaning out your closet does have an upside, I suppose: You subtract, but then, you get to add things back in—things that actually matter—aka things you will actually wear. 

Again and again.

Having a wardrobe that is practical and functional can sure take the stress out of getting dressed every day. And hopefully, help avoid the "But I have nothing to wear!" mantra.


Carol Davidson, who contributed her great ideas to my last post, was generous enough to share some sage advice on how to simplify the process. The fact that I love clothes—but hate to shop—makes this particularly valuable to someone like me. Maybe to you, too? (Hey, maybe we should go shopping together.)

1. Two or three dark neutral bottoms

These can range from a straight skirt to a wide-leg trouser and can easily be dressed up or down. What's important: the precision of the fit and the quality of the fabric. Don't skimp on either. One brand Carol recommends: Lafayette 148. "Their bottoms are well made, and they have a fit that flatters just about everyone."

2. Two long-sleeved white shirts

Since white doesn't stay white for very long, Carol says, you'll want to own more than one white shirt. A long sleeve will help make it easier to transition through the seasons—and it's also good for year-round use. The white blouse, whether worn with a pair of jeans or a pencil skirt, is a "wardrobe workhorse," says Carol, whose favorite personal brand is Anne Fontaine.

3. Two neutral-colored blazers or cardigans

This "third piece" automatically elevates anything you pair it with and gives you an air of authority. Opt for well-fitted here to avoid excess visual bulk. (I personally love the look of well-worn jeans and a simple white T-shirt, topped with a black blazer. Oh, and some sleek black comfortable pumps or boots makes it an even better look. It's still going strong and has stood up to so many washings.)

4. High-quality T-shirts and tanks

These can be worn either on their own or as layering pieces and should be purchased in multiples, since they'll be laundered after each wear. Look for shirts that are thin, with a finished trim. "Ironically, some of my best T-shirts and tanks were from Target's Marino and Mossimo brands." (I, too, have a favorite T-shirt I picked up at a Target while on vacation in Arizona years back that's still going strong after standing up to a zillion washings.)

5. A healthy handful of tops

I can never have too many tops, although it always seems like I never have any. So, I'll try to take Carol's advice to have five to 10 tops in my most flattering colors, in at least two patterns to add a bit of variety to the mostly solid wardrobe that I have.

6. An LBD (little black dress)
Opt for at least one—but it doesn't have to be black. Rather, it should be in your best neutral color. (I just bought a cream-colored one for my friend's son's wedding in April. I decided black is not my best color—or non-color, as it were.) Even if you don't normally wear dresses, some occasion always pops up that calls for one. "Trust me, you can't minimize the ease of one and done," Carol says.

7. A trench coat with a removable lining

This protects both you and your clothing—with the added plus of looking chic in bad weather. Consider it an investment, so buy one with classic styling and of the highest quality you can afford. Every year, I tell myself I'm going to invest in a Burberry, but every year the price turns me off. Maybe I should listen to Carol, who says, "Although pricey, Burberry is worth the splurge, as the quality is superb and the styling is classically chic."

8. A three-quarter–length cloth coat

It's that Goldilocks dilemma: short coats are difficult to dress up, but long coats can appear too formal. What to do? A three-quarter–length coat can go either way. Cloth, rather than down, will make it more useful for many occasions.

9. Ultra-thin down jacket

On its own, it makes a great transitional item, and it works equally well layered underneath a three-quarter–length coat. (I do this all the time with the vest I purchased at Uniqlo). "You can't beat the brand for price, quality and range of colors at Uniqlo," says Carol.

10. Great foundation garments

Is it what's underneath that counts? Well, yes, especially while wearing some clothing, which can be super-clingy in the "wrong" spots and made more flattering with what I like to call "crowd control." "Make sure you have the right undergarments for everything in your wardrobe, and replace them every six to nine months," Carol says.

Here's another piece I wrote for, when I had a blast cleaning out my closet with the help of another super-stylist, Susan Sommers.

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