My Wardrobe Basics

I am thinking-aloud by keyboard here, so forgive my ramble-ness. It’s my blog.

As per yesterday’s post, the idea here is that your basic wardrobe is something that is replaced as needed, without counting toward a total number of items for the year.  My list turned into a slightly more fleshed-out wardrobe than the examples I’ve seen online. I think those are constructed more as “these items are the glue that holds together my fun clothes,” but aside from a few printed blouses I don’t buy a lot of fun clothes. 90% of my clothes are super-duper boring, and I’m okay with that. Maybe that’s what comes of being ten years (or more) older that the average person who discusses fashion online. That’s why, also, my list is somewhat longer. I know what I use and wear and would miss when it’s gone. (And in some cases have worn out and replaced multiples.)

With that preface, here’s my idea of wardrobe basics, not including my scruffy park/chores clothes:


Solid tank tops for layering.  I prefer wool for the ultimate summer–>winter wearability. Whatever color is flattering. I have a lot of these; more than I need. (Probably double digits, mostly leftover from our cold climate.) For the sheer sake of counting, I’ll say four would be a good minimum.

T-shirts. My perfect T-shirt is the Ibex “Sol” model, which they release in an irritatingly limited number every year. (I missed them this year, dammit.) Again, whatever colors are flattering. I don’t like black/white/grey t-shirts. When I inevitably have to darn the front, where my pants rub, they get rotated down to park/exercise clothes. I find that three “nice” t-shirts is plenty. I could probably get by on two.

Long Sleeve T’s are my winter layer of choice (and often winter shirt of choice). I have three now, which is adequate, plus one dressier.

Button up shirts for layering. My default for winter (ours are mild) and summer (brutally sunny) is a long sleeved shirt as a layer. A little vestige of the 90s that I cling to. Most frequently worn: chambray blue, white linen, and a subtle grey check. I have a few others, but I would say three (one winter weight, one summer weight, one between) is my minimum. I’m more comfortable with five or six, but you have to draw the line.

Navy cardigan. My most recent iteration of this is, sadly, on its way out. I’ve worn two of these to near-rags during the last ten years, which makes it a definite staple. Otherwise, I don’t buy sweaters; I knit them myself and really don’t need them in this climate.

My current employment status (I’m in an office 1-2 times a week) means I don’t need a huge stash of dressier shirts. Again, I’m feeling like three is the magic number here. Most worn: an emerald shell, a navy silk sleeveless, and a grey silk long sleeved.

I get significant wear from my black blazer, after I finally found a cut that didn’t make me look like I was playing dress up. If I ever see a non-black that I like as well, I’m snapping it up.

I feel like tops are the most likely place to expend “non-staple” purchasing dollars. My most beloved clothing item right now is a mint green embroidered blouse that fits in exactly zero of the categories above. With that in mind, these numbers could probably be trimmed a bit.

Tally up:

4 tanks

3 short-sleeve t-shirts

3 long-sleeve t-shirts

4 button up shirts

1 cardigan

3 dress shirts

1 blazer

Skirts and Dresses

I wear these more than pants, in part because whenever I gain/lose weight my pants stop fitting pretty rapidly. Pants are, therefore, a bad investment.

I keep two casual neutral-colored lightweight A-line skirts that go with 90% or more of my summer tops. I’m still working last year’s grey/navy pair. A few years ago I did black/petrol. No-thinking summer clothes. I would *like* to find a 4-seasons version next time I replace these (i.e., something that won’t look weird with tights), but I’ve not managed it so far.

Work skirts: I wear a pale grey wool flannel A-line and a black pencil year round. The wool flannel is probably dicey for summer, but I can’t be bothered. If it weren’t so flamingly hot here, I could probably combine these skirt categories, but I can’t.

Because dresses don’t have to go with anything in particular, mine are less boring than the rest of my clothes. I’ll call two per season staples (two serious summer sundresses, two fall/winter/office), but in practice I keep more. Too many more, usually.


2 casual skirts

2 dress skirts

4 dresses

Shorts and Pants

I don’t know. Last summer I bought two pairs of shorts. I wore them a lot, but it was literally the first time I’d owned shorts in the last ten years. Hardly makes them a staple. I’ve never liked jeans, even though I’ve always owned at least a pair or two, but the current trends are hilariously unflattering for me. I’d like to find a good non-denim replacement.

What I DO love is non-jeans pants with wide/wider legs. Current favorites: chambray blue, cream, black silk. Black silk doubles as work pants. Let’s say three pairs of pants, including that mythical denim replacement, because I don’t plan to replace the cream pair when they’re gone.


3 pair non-jean pants (This will go up if my office time increases.)


I don’t keep a lot of shoes, and need fewer than I have. A few years ago I realized I could own half the shoes if I just stopped buying brown clothes, which isn’t a good color on me anyway. Things I wear all the time: My totally boring black mid-heel pumps, a pair of pale leather wedge sandals, Birkenstocks (I know, I know. But it is so hot, and I need to walk, and these were the cutest flat sandals I could find without something between my toes.), summer weight/light colored ballet flats, winter-weight ballet flats, and black tall boots. Hiking boots, tennis shoes, and my bike shoes do not count.


6 pair.


Right now, I don’t need a lot. Raincoat, lightweight wool winter coat, and whatever heavy coat is still in my closet for traveling.


3. I could combine my raincoat and my lightweight coat into one trench, but they’re both really nice and I already own them.


Final number: 39. 

It’s vaguely tempting to box everything else up and see what happens.


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