Wardrobe Essentials: 20 Must Have Pieces You Need In Your Closet

collage of a black woman wearing nine different casual outfits

I’ve been feeling a bit meh about my wardrobe for some time now. Simply uninspired and bored. Yet, I’m also being more fiscally responsible and budget more and spend less.

My goal is to shop my closet and if I do decide to purchase an item then it’s gotta make sense and be a timeless (more sustainable) piece.

I wanted to start shopping my closet by going back to basics and finding the wardrobe essentials first and then take it from there. For this process I turned to my best friend, Google, and did some research to see what items of clothing should make the “wardrobe essentials list” in my own closet. Although there are lots of great options out there to choose from in terms of wardrobe must-haves lists, one of my faves is from the from Signe of the Use Less Blog.

In thinking of my own must-have wardrobe list as a woman over 40, I want to build one based on my previous experience as a personal shopper and styling my work colleagues. These are items I feel are essential foundation pieces to have in your wardrobe and that work for those of us in an older demographic but are still pretty timeless that they work for younger women as well.

black woman wearing dark wash blue skinny jeans, black heels, a black blazer and white t-shirt

A Word on Investment Pieces & Trends

As an aside, I don’t own “investment” designer pieces so you’ll not find LV wallets or Gucci belts here (I do own a pair Chanel sunglasses that are about 12 years old). With that said, the low budget clothes I’ve bought have still lasted for years because I tend to shop for classics while avoiding fades. As I’m aging, I’m thinking more mindfully about how I shop and looking at now incorporating more sustainable clothing into my wardrobe overtime.

Also, I don’t own too many fashion trends. I bought a really puffy sleeved stripped shirt last year that I wore once, it not only had puffy sleeves shoulders but it buttoned-up in the back so putting it on was not fun. I’ve since donated because I really don’t know what was thinking when I bought that (I probably wasn’t really thinking too much!)

Each season, however, I do like to add a new piece to keep my wardrobe current. For example, I might update my fall wardrobe with a new sweater or add a floral print dress for spring.

I love shoes but boy do I hate the pain

Who was it that said beauty if painful? They weren’t kidding! Shoes. This is where I get a failing grade in the style department. Please don’t judge me! lol I love pretty shoes, I do, I even went to see the Manolo Blahnik exhibit in Toronto when it was here! I do have a deep appreciation for the craftsmanship, design and beauty of footwear. But, the thing is, I like them on display in the store store (and in magazines and museums), and not necessarily on my feet.

I’ll try on shoes and think, oh these are cute and feel comfy and then end up giving them to my niece or donating them to charity because eventually I find out they are uncomfortable. Flat feet and bunions are the likely culprit and lower back pain that can come with wearing heels. Not to be discouraged I’ve simple opted for a decent pair of black flats, a menswear inspired pair of lace-ups and white or neutral sneakers for my go-to footwear.

It may not be as adventurous or stylish but these kinds of options can work for most outfits and have you looking effortless stylish while being super comfortable an on trend.

My Pick for Top 20 Items to Have in Your Wardrobe

Here is my list of 20 curated items to every woman should have in their closet as a foundation for their Wardrobe Essentials along with a bonus list of accessories and what I think is important for my Canadian sisters who have to deal with the harsh winters but still want to look cute.

1. White t-shirt

2. Striped tee

3. Black pants

4. Black dress

5. Wrap dress

6. Knee-length skirt

7. Denim in a dark wash

8. Blouse

9. White Button-down skirt

10. Denim button-down skirt

11. Trench Coat

12. Denim Jacket

13. Blazer

14. Cardigan

15. Knit sweater

16. Ankle boots

17. Pumps

18. Flats

19. Rain boots

20. Sneakers

A Few Additional Essential Wardrobe Items to consider include:

Must have Accessories: Tote, Scarf, Sunglasses and Watch.

Of course if you live in a place like Canada, you need to add the following essential items to your wardrobe:

A super warm winter coats – winter coats have come a long way in warmth and style. Invest in one that’s functional, fits well, is a classic style that’s made to last you years.

A great pair boots that can handle at least -25C temps. I will never understand winter boots with heels. I just don’t get it but to each their stylish own!

Gloves – ones that can keep your hands from freezing but still look stylish (I have more than one pair because like umbrellas, you tend to lose them on buses, trains and in restaurants)

Warm chunky knit sweater in black, grey, or beige that you can pair with anything

That’s it! if you have these items in your closet you should be able to have a versatile enough basic wardrobe to be able to keep the outfit combos coming for quite some time. Of course, adding a new item each season also helps to keep you on trend and looking current. While, making sure to replace faded, washed out, stained items as needed to keep you looking chic and on point, all the time.

Black woman wearing white blazer an cropped denim


Cassandra McD.

About cassandra mcd.

World's coolest aunt (so I've been told). I'm all about personal growth and living a healthy lifestyle that prioritizes self-care and mental wellness. I want to embrace aging with swagger (and less gray hair), living life more mindfully and filled with an abundance of gratitude.
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