Our lives change and our attitudes and aesthetics shift, and we often want our outward appearances to reflect that. While the style gurus often caution against getting stuck in a style rut, I think for most of us there are some core items that we return to season after season, in whatever form; these are the foundations of our style, and will feel Just Right for most situations. I’ve done quite a bit of experimentation in the last couple of years, but keep returning to my tried-and-true numbers. For me, those items are:
1. Black trousers. Right now my favorites are Banana Republic lightweight stretch wool in Jackson fit. They dress up, they dress down. When I’m unsure about what to wear, I can always feel good and appropriately dressed if I start with these.>
2. The Jacket. Wear it with above trousers for work or add more bijoux for dressier occasions. Wear it with jeans and a tee shirt to look casual yet pulled together. This Ann Taylor jacket is my addition for this season.
3. Knit tops/tees. As much as I love the classic look of a crisp white blouse, that look doesn’t love me. A white cotton tee, neutral 3/4 sleeve tee or a silk jersey long-sleeved top will get me through almost any situation, layered under a jacket, or on its own with a scarf.
4. Jeans. Classic styling, sans embellishment. I’m loving these NYDJ straight leg jeans this season.
5. An interesting pearl necklace.
6. A pointy-toed flat or low-heeled skimmer. My current fave is leopard haircalf, but black leather would work just as well.
7. Black leather ankle boots. My Stuart Weitzman pair is heading into winter #5, and I’ve added these Fluevogs as a more casual choice.
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Not boring at all, very chic and functional!
I love how you call it the “goldilocks closet”!
I am a freak in that I have not worn black trousers in about 2 years. My go-to are either denim or faux-denim trousers.
boring? no! a thought provoking list for one who is looking to establish her own ‘goldilocks’ look. thanks.
Basics are only boring if the person wearing them adds no life or interest- not you, that’s for sure! Love your advice to build your own.
I’m up here in cold Canada: cashmere fitted low v-necks (Eric Bompard, Brora). Scarves/shawls (Hermes and Indian jamavars.) A fabulous chain and gem studs.
Goldilocks principle: item must go with at least 5 complementary pieces.
Your list is suprisingly close to mine! Pants and jackets, classic easy style. I hardly ever wear blouses anymore. I love my Stuart Weitzman boots, and I just bought a pair of Fluvog pumps that I’m sure will be worn often.
My black Cambio pants met an unfortunate accident with some white paint on the way to the cleaners last season, so I definitely need a replacement.
And I could upgrade the cardigan/silk T collection with one of those cashmere ruffle cardigans. Mmmm, lovely!
To add individual style and character I’m trying to wear an accessory (or two) more often, your blog and Duchesse’s have been so helpful.
I agree with everything on your list, except I’ve never been able to wear cardigans for some reason. Maye it’s the lack of structure. But they do make a great basic for those who can wear them. I would go with a shawl instead.
I can’t live without a black sleeveless sheath dress. I wear it all year — in warmer weather, just by itself, or with a little cardi if I’m headed for an air-conditioned space — in winter with a slip, tights, and a jacket or cashmere sweater and scarf.
The current occupant of that slot is a great one — unlined machine-washable ponte knit, just below the knee, vertical (princess) darts, and a slightly a-line skirt. The bonus is that it can be reversed to wear with either a v-neck or scoop neck.
I got it at TravelSmith (current catalogue) for $79. Highly recommended (Hint: Pseu, you may want to find room for it in your Paris bag.)
Odd, I don’t find that pencil skirt boring at all. I don’t wear pencil skirts not only because my hips are wide (though evidently some can look good on fuller hips than waist) but mainly because I ride my bicycle everywhere, except in the dead of winter, so my basic is a gored black skirt made by a local designer (Fluide). I have three identical ones, as the second and third were bought on clearance sale.
With your magnificent Paris obsession, you can well do to imagine the not-very-large but beautifully furnished flat you are living in when your career takes you to Paris. And you may not even have built-in cupboards, just armoires. Lovely, but limited space. You don’t have to pare down quite that much, but it is always an image to keep in mind.
Are the Fluevogs as comfy as they look?
Need a damned winter coat up here in this frozen waste, and it is so hard to find one that is both warm and attractive. And that will be too warm to winter travel to Europe, where the cold is damp and penetrating but not as frigid.
Completely on the page with you. To that list, at any time, depending on what is happening in the fashion magazines, one can add a)metallic something b)animal print something c)wide or narrow belts d)a completely weird piece of clothing like a bolero or a cape or gaucho pants.
Imogen (Inside Out Style) has a two-part story on purging the closet and filling the ensuing holes. It intersects well with your post.
I keep trying to expand my horizons, actually! :-O
I find your list thought through, not boring! To cut my list short: 1) studs( amethyst or diamond in white gold, 2) lingerie-Lise Charmel, 3) jeans–Diesel, 4)top,sweater or cardigan-cashmere, 4) shoes-Prada boots, 5) coat- Moncler down coat -4th fall.. 6) bag- YSL/ croc. Naturally I could have gone on and on. This was fun!
For my minimal lifestyle, I think your list is the tops – none of this “you need a great trench” business. It rains maybe once a year around here. I’m loving my pearl studs these days.
Aren’t those Fluevog ankle boots the cat’s pajamas? I’ve got them in two colors and ADORE them.
I also love the “goldilocks” concept – what a great way to apply logic to potential purchases!
My list is changing! I’m in my early 30s and in the past year, I’ve been laid off, started freelancing, and had my first child. I’m freelancing from home while caring for the baby, and the work wardrobe from my casual-to-business-casual old workplace…doesn’t work for my life now (I always dressed on the business side of the line), but much of it is too casual for other applications.
Right now, my go-to list is:
1) dark bootcut jeans
2) casual mary janes or slip-on sneakers
3) jersey skirts in neutral colors
4) nursing tops that don’t look tragic (this last one is harder than you might think….)
Great list/concept. I think many of us are increasingly flummoxed by the paradox of choice. Last year, I wore nice jeans with a neat jacket (often Chanelesque tweed) or a neat sweater. Ballet flats or boots.
This year,jeans have become miserably uncomfortable, so I have switched to E Fisher stretch crepe pants (one straight, 1 almost legging-like) and ponte knit jeans-looking very slim pants from Chico’s. Much more comfy. Rest of outfit will stay the same.
Question: what is the life span of those Eileen Fisher silk knits? They are sooooo tempting.
More and more, my mix includes a cardigan, something that really wasn’t the case, say, 10-15 years ago. Can’t take the time to tease out my list right now, but I’ll take your question away to think about my own Goldilocks’ Closet — and while I’m thinking, I’m glad to hear that someone else finds that ubiquitously-recommended “crisp white shirt” works in theory but not in practice.
I think I need more ‘just right’ items, I have too many things that don’t seem to fit together
I completely agree! I think retailers hold the threat of “boring” over our heads to get us to buy new/more stuff. Give me a 3/4 sleeve neutral top and a pair of black pants (slim or full-cut) or a pencil skirt, and I’m good to go. I’m concentrating on more interesting shoes and bags instead– Chie Mihara is my favorite line of shoes, but I adore those fluevogs! And of course, scarves! Bracelets! Rings! (I have become addicted to Etsy.com as of late.)
Shar – thanks! I don’t think it’s freakish to not have worn black trousers. As I said on your blog, it they don’t work for you, take a pass.
metscan – those are all great style foundations!
downthegardenpath – thanks so much!
Tessa-Scoffs – so true! I haven’t felt the need to wear a trench in *ages*!
Sal – I adore these boots! I can hardly wait for the weather to cool down enough to wear them.
Duchesse – thank you. Matching with 5 other items is a good litmus test.
northmoon – great minds think alike! I love that ruffled cardigan and have in three colors! They get a lot of wear during the cooler months. I don’t think you’d regret the purchase.
Rita – I never used to wear cardigans much either, but these days find them a nice alternative to jackets. But shawls are a nice choice too.
Rubiatonta – thanks! I’ve been eyeing that dress, and now that I have a recommendation may have to try it.
lagatta – yes, these Fluevogs are quite comfortable! I’ve had the “Paris armoire” image in my head more than once when trying to purge the wardrobe a bit. I’m afraid I can’t help much with the winter coat. We have so little call for those here, I usually just end up wearing my ski parka.
Frugal Scholar – I agree that too many choices can be crippling. I read somewhere that most people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. I’d love to achieve more of an 80/80 ratio, which means more pruning needs to be done.
LPC – those are great additions which would keep any core wardrobe looking current.
WendyB – and you continue to inspire us all!
Leanne – yes, accessories can really make the outfit. I’m not familiar with that shoe designer but will definitely check those out.
Sher – thanks! I just hope they never stop making black trousers!
Laura V – I think it makes sense for the list to change when our life circumstances change. I hear ya about the nursing tops! I remember just wearing big ol’ t-shirts when my son was nursing.
materfamilias – and you knit such lovely cardigans!
Miss Madeline – it really helps to have a good “core” wardrobe. The first place you might want to start is to pick a neutral (black, brown, navy, grey), invest in a few of those pieces, and build the rest of your wardrobe out from there.
Replacing tried and true staples in your wardrobe is always smart. And you have a beautiful collection accessories to reflect your style of the day 🙂
Frugal Scholar – missed answering your question yesterday about the EF knit silk tops. I wash mine in the machine on the gentle cycle/cold water and hang to dry, and they seem to hold up well. They dry overnight on a hanger! If you get a spot on them (and spots do show, something about the texture of the fabric) put a dollop of Palmolive dish soap on the spot and wash as normal. If the spot still remains, repeat and wash in lukewarm water. I’ve never had a stain that wouldn’t come out that way. What I love most about these shirts is the fit…they skim but don’t cling. Wish they came in a v-neck version!
I really like your list (and blog)! I used to spend so much time and money finding those statement pieces and outfits that made me look richer or more avant-garde than I really am. This year I bought my entire fall/winter wardrobe at Target (minus my Jag jeans, a necessity). I spent about $200 on a dozen or so pieces that I knew how to wear and knew I could machine wash. I spent my spare cash on a good haircut, some nice, complementary jewelry, and a few nice bags. I’ve never gotten more complements on my wardrobe than I have in the last few weeks. I think I had started to believe that the clothes make the gal, but a few well-fitting pieces that you are comfortable and familiar with wearing, plus well-placed accessories and neat presentation, are really all you need. – Sarah