The 12 Essential Pieces Every Wardrobe Needs
Jul 18, 2012
Monday’s conversation about nude tanks got me thinking about wardrobe basics. When this blog started (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), there was a short-lived column called “D.C. Essentials” that highlighted the foundation pieces of a professional wardrobe. And since we’re preparing to enter a new season, I thought it might be a good time to highlight the essentials.
If you’re a professional, working woman, the first thing you need is a good suit. I recommend black, some people prefer navy. I also recommend buying the skirt and the pants, but if you can only choose one, buy the one you will wear most often. I’m a skirt person, so for me that’s the pencil skirt.
My favorite mid-priced suit brand is J.Crew’s Super 120s line. They’re well-made basics and I can replace the pieces if they wear out or get lost at the dry cleaner.
So a good suit is foundation piece number one, but a woman cannot live by suits alone. So here are the other 11 pieces that make up the Professional Dashing Dozen.
1. Astley Clarke Pendant ($95) // 2. The Icon Shirt ($145) // 3. Love Quotes Linen Scarf ($90) // 4. Madewell Leopard Skimmer ($135) // 5. Beltrami Fish Scale Skirt ($160) // 6. London Fog Trench ($99) // 7. Citizens Amber Bootcut ($189) // 8. Kevia Rococo Ring (sold out, similar here) // 9. 3.1 Philip Lim Pashli Satchel ($900) // 10. Colette Sleeveless Shell ($196) // 11. Vivienne Westwood Audrey Dress ($825)
One. A delicate gold pendant is the perfect necklace. It adds a hint of lustre to your neckline without being overwhelming. I love this pendant from Astley Clarke for its sweet and simple sensibilities. Want something less expensive? Try this Gorjana Feather Pendant at $25.
I love The Shirt from Rochelle Behrens because it has a button design that keeps it gaping at the bust. But if $145 is more than you’re willing to pay, I like the Tailored Non-Iron Shirt from Banana Republic for $59.
Three. During the colder months, I wear my ivory and metallic scarf three to four times per week. I also wear it on the airplane and in my chilly, air-conditioned office. It’s a great basic that livens up an outfit and keeps you warm. Need help styling a scarf, head over to my Pinterest page for 40 scarf-tying ideas.
Four. I love flats, but few things irritate me more than women who only own boring black flats. Ick. Spice it up with leopard print, or a pattern, or a color, don’t settle for basic black. Plus, the great thing about leopard is that it goes with everything. If you’re looking to keep your shoe purchase under-$100, these Steve Madden’s leopard flats are $89.
Five. Since my business suit came with a black pencil skirt, I don’t need to include a neutral pencil in this set. So let’s jazz it up with a trendy colored pencil. You can pair it with a simple blouse or a crewneck sweater (another great basic). I just love the textured fish scales on this skirt.
Six. Every woman needs a trench coat, especially if you live in a moderate climate. This London Fog trench is a great piece for under-$100, but if you want to reach for the stars, Burberry is the gold standard.
Seven. Dark, bootcut denim is a casual Friday essential. The Amber from Citizens of Humanity has a dark rinse, a light bootcut and a mid-rise. They’re the perfect year-round office jean.
Eight. Every woman needs a statement ring, a substantial bauble to spruce up any outfit. This Kevia ring is sadly sold out, but this pearl ring from Max & Chloe is also fantastic.
Nine. I want a 3.1 Philip Lim Pashli Satchel so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever coveted an item of clothing like this in my life. But I just can.not.spend a week’s pay on a bag. It feels kind of wrong…but still, so right. Regardless, a structured satchel is a work-attire must-have. This Urban Expressions satchel is a similar style and just $90.
Ten. A sleeveless silk shell is the perfect piece to layer under suit jackets and cardigans (another great basic) for work, or wear with a fun pencil skirt for dinner and drinks. I love this nude blouse, but if you prefer to wear color, go for it. A jewel-toned shell, like this $44 option from The Loft, would be lovely too.
Eleven. A simple, black sheath is the ultimate work/after-work dress. It can be glitzed up or dressed down. Sadly, this Vivienne Westwood is hostile to my budget, but this Ralph Lauren Asymmetric Sheath is much friendlier at $130. And if you need sleeves, this gorgeous Les Copains sheath is $460.
P.S. Upon futher consideration, I should have included a basic pump. Nude-to-you or black, dealer’s choice. Make sure it’s comfortable and that the heel height is at or under 4″. These d’orsay heels from Nine West are stylish and, with a Dr. Scholl’s insole, comfortable. They also come in a variety of colors.