Intentional Wardrobe Series

Choosing Your Essentials

In the last post, we talked about Defining Your Style . Today we focus on essentials. Wardrobe essentials are foundational pieces/items that make up the core of your style. They are the starting point of all your outfits and they go beyond seasons. A wardrobe with solid key pieces is the best way to dress better. How do you know if an item is an essential piece or not? Well… simply put, they make your life easier and there would be no style without it. Whether dressing to go to an interview, work or travel, they are the items that get regular wear. The essential can be adapted to a special event by adding a different color, trend or accessory. For me, my black T-shirt dress is an essential because it can be dressed up or down and it makes my life SO much easier. The right wardrobe essentials are necessary for flexible and adaptable outfits that make you feel great. If your struggle is putting outfits together, it might be because you don’t have the right essentials.


By starting with a wardrobe essentials list, we can see where the gaps in our wardrobe are. Having a list helps you to make an informed decision with your future shopping choices and your closet. My essentials may be different from your essentials, that’s why it’s good to define your style first. For my style, a white button down blouse is not an essential, but if you are going for the classic style or the minimalist style, a white button down blouse may be an essential for you. The key thing is to understand what you have and what you need. To create this list, ask yourself the following questions. If creating lists isn’t your thing click here for a PDF of a list of clothing that one could potentially find in most closets :-).


What can I never live without?

 If someone told you that you could only have thirty items in your closet, what would they be? Much like when we pack for travel, we have to narrow things down to what we can’t function without. Be brutally honest!

What pieces in my closet, currently, get worn the most?

Those pieces that you get the most wear out of are the starting point of your essentials list, whether it’s maxi skirts or t-shirts.

What base colors do I wear?

You essentials list is not only about shapes and styles, it’s about colors. You want the wardrobe essentials you buy to be versatile and to create as many outfits as possible. It’s useful to have a color palette for your essentials, but we’ll talk more about that later. For now, go with neutral colors that compliment each other and can be worn with a large range of colors. Black, white beige, khaki, tan or navy are all great options.

What occasions do I find hard to dress for?

If there are times when you struggle to find something to wear, chances are you’re missing key pieces that could cater to those occasions. Are you struggling to dress for a night out with the girls? Maybe a LBD (little black dress) or something similar would be useful to add. Never feel pulled together when it’s cold outside? Maybe a chic coat or leather jacket is something you desperately need. List out the times you struggle most and try to understand what key pieces would fix that.

What pieces do you wish you had but feel you can’t afford?

Don’t avoid including key pieces to your wardrobe essentials list just because you think you can’t afford them — a leather jacket is a great example of an expensive piece that is worth budgeting for. Also, shopping pre-owned is a great way to snag great essentials for a fraction of the cost. Some stores are even making quality faux leather now a days. You can’t rush in making a decision and remember… you’re building a wardrobe, so it’ll take time.

Here are links to some items you can add to your wardrobe essentials. I've done the work of finding a few from different price ranges, so you don't have to. To be transparent, I do get a very small commision if you purchase from any of these links. Of course my goal is to help and make things easier for you, so you're not obligated to purchase from these links, you can use them as ideas/inspiration.


Once you’ve created your list of wardrobe essentials, you should start researching/shopping for items to fill in the missing pieces. The ‘missing pieces’ are the pieces that would make your wardrobe significantly more wearable. We will go into more detail about shopping later, but for now here are a few tips:

Spend Well – essentials are an investment and will get the most wear, so they should be quality pieces.

Think Neutral – think of colors that are foundational in your wardrobe, this ensures that they can be worn for a long time and that they are versatile, even if you change your color palette.

Mix And Match – make sure that you’re buying an item that can build multiple outfits. If it doesn’t go with at least three things in your closet, don’t buy it.


How are things going so far on your journey of intention? Let me know what the biggest obstacle has been so far. Have you defined your style? Let’s hear what you’ve come up with…