*This has been one of our most popular posts, so I've just updated it with all-new selections from my favorite "Wardrobe Investments Worth Making." Many items are on sale! Scroll through this post to shop my all-new picks for a classic wardrobe. Shop now because many items won't last!*
A wardrobe is like a pantry. You've got to keep those non-perishable staples on hand like White Lily flour, EVOO, and a good bottle of red wine. And then somehow you end up with seasonal trashy snacks (bought the last time you shopped hungry) like candy corn and Peeps.
You'll need a black blazer.
A well-edited wardrobe needs to consist primarily of a few staples without an expiration date, plus a healthy dose of trends with a short shelf life.
What are these well-edited wardrobe heroes, the wardrobe builders? These are the classic go-to pieces you can pull out of the closet time and time again, year after year, and pair with another old faithful to great effect, or reinvent them with something new and fresh. (To see my fall fashion must-haves, click here, and to shop them inside your Style Vault, click here.)
And here's what's on my list. (To be transparent, my list of classic wardrobe investments is actually a little longer than this and includes shoes and other accessories, so I'll have to do a "Part 2" segment to add to this list but for now, this is the BARE BONES list.)
1. Black Blazer
A black blazer looks as sophisticated with jeans as it does over a cocktail dress. You know when you need a good pull yourself together pep talk? Just grab your black blazer. But you've got to know how to wear it in a non-professional way for it to make you cool.
The great thing about a black blazer is that it can stand in for a cocktail topper if necessary. I've said this before, but I like to keep reminding us so that you don't feel bad at your next swanky event when I tell you that you can't wear your parka even though "no one will see it." I don't care. You still can't. Wear a black blazer.
It's also important that your blazer have some texture. This is so you can mix and match it with other pieces in your wardrobe without its looking like you tried to match the black fabrics and failed. So you can mix a black lace jacket for example with black wool trousers just fine. You'll also be glad if you buy a year-round fabric so you can take this blazer on your summer trips. I've found a couple fabulous black blazers you can shop inside our new Wardrobe Investments Worth Making collection.
2. Leather Jacket
A leather jacket keeps your wardrobe sophisticated without being stuffy.
My first choice for you is always caramel, cognac or chocolate brown. You've heard this from me, too, but every year I am so maddened by the lack of good brown leather jackets. Black leather can be harsh next to your face (unlike a lot of other black fabrics), plus brown is easier to pair with primary colors than black is.
Many of these below come in multiple colors, and I did include a black one if that's what you must have. The first Tahari is not sold out at time of publication.
I do, however, love a good classy black moto jacket. I completely stole this look from a Ralph Lauren ad from 2003 and I've been on the hunt for one ever since.
I finally scored one in 2014. I came close a few times but it was either too expensive or "too moto" or not the perfect size (and it's difficult to alter leather). It's also great over an LBD (which is on this list, keep reading). I wish this kind of patience translated over to other areas of my life. But lucky for you, we're professional shoppers with superpowers whose hunting skills pay off - you can shop my best collection of these Wardrobe Investments inside Your Style Vault (both Complete Vault and Vault Insiders have access; if you'd like to try it out, click here for the free trial).
3. Cashmere (or Cashmere-like Viscose)
A cashmere sweater is the epitome of casual luxury.
The Cucinelli sweater below is just to show you what they run...and whoah. I don't recommend spending that on a sweater, ICYMI.
There is nothing more glamorous than wearing soft-like-a-persian kitten, cozy, gorgeous cashmere on your body. There are different grades of cashmere: remember that Christmas everyone got cashmere sweaters under the tree? Yeah, that was the year Costco sold them. Not a very high grade cashmere. But how can you tell the good from the bad?
Touch it (should feel soft not scratchy or sticky). Smell it (should be odorless, not full of chemical dyes). Read the label: 2-ply cashmere is better and stronger than single ply. After that, with ply, it's kind of like the 200 thread count vs. 1000 thread count sheets debate. Higher does not mean better.
If the sweater is tightly knit and doesn't feel limp or lose its shape when you stretch it out, it is high quality and should pill less. When dyes are added to the yarn, that can weaken the fibers. So cashmere in natural colors is stronger.
Who makes the best cashmere? Right now, Brunello Cucinelli probably holds that honor. Even the Robb Report doled out a Best of the Best award to him. A sweater will set you back a couple thousand dollars. Gulp. And yikes. And please is there another brand that can make us feel just as glamorous and elegant and cozy? Yes. I'm always hunting and scouring for the best of the best at the most sensible prices. Like the ones you can shop above.
4. Dressy Long-Sleeve Top
One of the hardest pieces in a wardrobe to find is the dressy long sleeve top. Why does it elude us? Because there are so, so, so many poor choices out there that finding the good ones can be an experiment in luck or good hunting skills, and in my case, both.
You need a very good, very versatile, long-sleeve (preferably, but if must have short-sleeve, that's ok) top that is not an overly fancy blouse so that you can, you guess it, dress it up or down, any time of year, to any kind of function.
Mine is, naturally, in ivory, and that's because I collect white (and white-ish) clothes and I want to be able to wear this with primary colors as easily with other neutrals.
If a top in a light color worries you, you simply need one with an asymmetrical neckline or cut on the bias to create a softer line and in a fabric that doesn't grip your curves (or, just as bad, engulf them), but skims them. A white button down blouse is one the rockstars of my wardrobe, and I wear mine all the time, but a non-collared top that has some interest but isn't too memorable is what I was after. I waited and waited for this top to go on sale. Then it did and I pounced. And then I returned it because I thought later, I had still overpaid for it. So I released it back into the universe, AND IT CAME BACK TO ME even more on sale. The shopping gods are always with us, dolls. Our clients can testify.
5. Black Dress, LBD
Who doesn't have a Little Black Dress on her best wardrobe heroes list? Everyone from Madonna to Jacki O does, and it's time you got one you really and truly LOVE. Even if clothes don't excite you that much, you must love this dress because you will keep it forEVER (trust me, we see twenty year-old LBD's in closets every day that were just worn last week) and you will wear it on important occasions where your photograph will be taken. Funerals, weddings, celebrations and parties, awards shows, graduations, dedications (probably not the baby kind), dinners with friends, and maybe even on a (another) first date.
A little black dress is the queen of many wardrobes. Save up for the best and pass by other pretenders to the throne.
It's important to buy in a fabric that could go black tie or black flip flops. So probably not a cotton or a jersey. But a silk or seasonless wool.
6. Statement Accessory
Every outfit needs to be finished with that elusive 3rd piece. A blazer, a necklace, pair of earrings, a belt, or how about a scarf. Scarves are everywhere this season, so now's your chance to find one you would actually wear and not feel like your grandmother wearing it.
I had one of the happiest moments a girl who loves beautiful things can have this summer. You know it's either going to be a blue box or an orange box... My dear friends who spent their birthdays in Paris last spring, presented me with the famous orange box and inside was a dream. It was this scarf.
For your accessories, you're going to have plenty of opportunities to pick up fun, trendy jewelry and handbags here and there. But your real prize will the important accessories you wear for years and years and your children or nieces fight over when you're gone. An Hermès scarf is one such item. Do not buy a fake. Wait for the right one to come to you, or save up for one on the second hand market. Same is true for a great watch, a fabulous belt, a signature pair of earrings or a wonderful fur stole. Just make it one you want to make memories in, and be remembered for.
You may not be a scarf girl. No biggie! A statement pair of earrings or a handbag can just as easily be your signature.
Thanks for reading!