Above: earrings | cardigan | necklace | tee | bag | bracelet | boots
In last week’s post about updated denim styles, I spoke of jeans as being my clothing version of a soulmate. It got me thinking about the other “soulmates” in my wardrobe…those pieces that always seem to feel right, work with my lifestyle, and feel like a true expression of my style. They’re often the pieces that are “wardrobe glue,” and really help pull everything else together. They may or may not be basics, but they are essential to creating personal style. I’ve come to realize that whether refreshing or rebuilding our wardrobes, these soulmate items are where it often makes sense to invest rather than scrimp.
Here are a few of my wardrobe soulmates:
Jeans, Of Course
Ever since my teen years, jeans have consistently been the one type of clothing I feel most myself in. For many of us, they were relegated to very casual wear only, but have become mainstream in the last couple of decades, and their popularity shows no sign of waning. Jeans also feel like my ultimate Anti-Frump weapon. Slim-leg styles that show a little ankle (whether cuffed or cropped) are what feel most modern and wearable this season.
Ankle boots with a low-to-mid heel have been my favorite cool-weather footwear for years. They’ve become a year-round footwear option and I’m on board! Yes, even during the summer in all but the hottest, muggiest weather. For warmer seasons, go with lighter colors and look for styles with cut-outs or perforations, or even peep-toes. (Or wear with an athletic, moisture-wicking ankle sock.) My favorite Paul Green summer shoes are sort of an ankle boot/sandal hybrid, and just seem to go with everything.
A Longer Outer Layer
I love the drama that a long outer layer creates. But it has to have some softness and movement. I’m a fan of the duster-length cardigans that Eileen Fisher has done the last few seasons, and am always on the lookout for longer, softly structured jackets. The latter are not always easy to find, so when I do I hang onto them! Airy linen knit long cardigans are my go-to summer toppers over a tank or tee.
Because I tend to wear solids and simple styles of clothing, I rely on accessories to add some punch, texture and focal points to my outfits. I find that a few pieces of bold, unique jewelry, like my favorite French Kande medallion necklaces do exactly that.
A Classic Bag
It doesn’t have to be Hermes, Chanel, or even “designer,” but a quality leather bag in a clean and classic shape will be an instant “upgrade” to a simple or casual outfit. I prefer top handle bags with an optional cross-body strap. But flap bags, hobos, doctor bags, saddle bags, totes are all good options…whatever suits your needs and style. Look for good quality leather, and eschew a lot of hardware and extraneous details that will “date” a bag. That said, many styles that were initially trendy have become classics, so if you really love something, wear it and don’t worry about whether it’s In or Out according to someone else.
What pieces are your wardrobe “soulmates?”
My wardrobe soul mates are my skinny jeans, structured Sydney satchels from Fossil (thankfully, I bought 3 colors before they discontinued the style), and blazers. I always feel smart and ready for anything in a blazer. Hot weather or cold, I just switch up the styling. I love your bold jewelry and admire you being able to carry it off. I feel bold jewelry overpowers me, but I will admit to my diamond studs as my jewelry soulmates. =) Another excellent post, Susan!
I love this post, but as I read it with my morning coffee, I realized I love all your posts. I will have to give some serious thoughts on my wardrobe soul mates and chime in later but wanted to agree how difficult it is to find a longer jacket/ blazer. I had the perfect black crepe from Talbots 10 years ago and wore it to death, finally had to discard it. Worked in any season over a dress/skirt, with jeans or dress pants, hit between my lower thigh and knee…covered all I wanted covered.
Jeans — I must have too many of them, because that’s almost all I wear anymore.
Blazers — I love light ones, heavy ones, short ones, long ones, in all fabrics, and especially black ones.
Shirts — I love collared, buttoned, long-sleevved shirts, even in summer. Brooks Brothers’ shirts are my faves — they’re lightweight, don’t wrinkle, and last forever.
Scarves — I enjoy beautiful scarves, too, but often fumble at tying them so they look unstudied.
Jewelry — the older I get, the less jewelry I wear. I prefer braclets and rings to necklaces, which feel like “a piece too far” for me.
Shoes are my bugaboo — I have nearly 50 pairs, but am often having to make do with a pair that doesn’t seem quite right. I attribute this situation to a modest clothing budget that discourages me from spending $300+ on a pair of shoes.
Purses — although I have multiple styles, my favorite style is a crossover bag with a long strap that lets the bag rest near my hip. That style is functional and not too showy.
It seems my inclination toward understated fashion is at war with my yearning for statement pieces.
Firstly, I love reading your blog. I don’t often comment as I’m usually reading as I have my morning coffee. My wardrobe soulmates are a unique white shirt – I remember the first one I bought back in the 70’s at a boutique in Yorkville (Toronto, Canada) and have worn many versions over the years with black pants or a pencil skirt. Next would be a cuff bracelet – I have many I’ve collected and never seem to be without one on. Lastly would be a stylish coat or jacket – Canadian weather calls for many different weights and lengths of coats/jackets to keep warm and dry and look great!
I’m totally with you on the jeans, girlfriend! My mantra my entire life has been, “everything goes with jeans” and they’re the one item of clothing that I’m totally comfortable in. As I get older and, ahem, my body changes, my holy grail, however, is the quest for the “perfect pair”…..
Now that you make me think of it, I’ve been a jeans-and-t-shirt girl for over forty years. Over time, the jeans style has changed (and I’ve added black to the blue), and I’ve long since given up graphic tees for plain 3/4 sleeved ones, but essentially what I wear hasn’t changed all that much since high school. A blazer or open cardigan, scarves, a vest — all of these update or upgrade my look when necessary but it really boils down to denim and a tee. Or a sweater. But I can’t decide whether my jewelry soul-mates are my silver and turquoise earrings, or my simple pearl studs.
I’m with you on the jeans! I still look for the ‘perfect’ pair but I love the flared cropped style on me. I also have a wide legged gaucho jean that is really cute. I love the long duster sweaters. I recently bought a long vest so that I can wear it this summer.
I usually tend to stick with classic purses. I have a patent black Kate Spade bag that is classic. Right now I’m using a light weight KS summer bag.
Love your blog! Thanks for including plus size items.
So interesting to read the comments here! I have 3 levels of dressing, so soulmates are different at each level. Top, killer dress and standout 2 inch heels, mid, ankle boots/slipon “sneakers, graphic tee, “good” jeans, bottom, straight-leg jeans, plainer tee and decent sneakers. Chandelier earrings for dress, nice posts for most casual.
Hi Susan. I also love long, loose cardigans as a third layer when a proper or heavier jacket isn’t necessary. Sometimes, I feel like belting the cardigan. When I’m outdoors and its a little windy, I feel a belt might make the cardigan stay put and give a little more coverage. None of the belts in my closet seem right–too thin, too thick, too decorated, too fussy. Can you suggest some belts that would work without adding too much bulk? Something “throw on easy”, versatile, and not crazy expensive would be great. Thanks!
Like you, I have come to love ankle boots and have several pairs of Aquatalia which are so comfortable. I’ve paid full price for one pair, and have purchased 5 other pair on sale at Nordstrom. I recently purchased the Paul Green summer shoes in the gorgeous smoke metallic after seeing them on your site. I know that these will be wonderful for travel. Most of my soul mates are the same as yours – jeans, ankle boots, longer outer layers, statement jewelry, great bags. I would also add statement jackets and classic jackets and cardigans.
I live in skinny jeans, narrow slacks, a tunic white blouse, ballet flats, and long cardigans…and my own hand knit sweaters.
Well, if one likes to look just like everyone else, Eileen Fisher can do “no wrong”. But sameness is boring, a uniform is just that, and perhaps people have become more vocal lately, just to distinguish oneself from the crowd. The few pictures you took of French women show how one can be a chic original and jeans did not play a big part. It’s mostly an American convenience and most women “d’un certain age” do not look good in jeans!! Perhaps the cardigan is to hide the jeans!
On the other hand, if you just need to get to the grocery store jeans and a cardigan to cover the “derrière ” will do! But not in Paris!!
Daniella, I don’t know where in Paris you live, but I always see plenty of Parisian women of a certain age wearing jeans when I visit. Usually slim or bootcut styles.
I agree, Susan. I’ve been living in Paris for over 20 years and there are loads of femmes d’un certain age in jeans. Usually black or dark indigo, no destroyed effects, and slim.
Yes, it depends on the neighborhood, just like in NY CITY, where the West side is in jeans and none to be seen on the East side! In Paris though, the women wearing jeans are mostly slim! Just the way it should be!
I’ll have to disagree that only slim women should wear jeans. It’s all about proper fit, and I’ve seen some curvy women who look fabulous in them.
Jeans are my go-to as well, and what I feel most comfortable in. And, I love a “third piece,” and have many in various lengths, styles and fabrics. My challenge is that I live in SW Florida and can dress this way only 6 months of the year. When it’s hot and humid, obviously, jeans are a no-go, and so I struggle.
My soulmates are slim pants or jeans, a longer knit top (cardigan and shell or pullover) and sneakers. My doctor told me that I must take very good care of my feet or face difficult foot surgery in the future. I know he’s right, but was devastated at first. Fortunately New Balance makes a style of sneaker that works perfectly with my feet. Rather than become depressed, I decided to adjust and to be thankful that I can still walk. Now I enjoy coordinating super comfortable sneakers in different colors with my outfits. I even get compliments from time to time.
Susan, thank you for yet another interesting and useful post!
Wear jeans less and less nowadays, often feels too sloppy now ! I prefer a slim plain pant , but agree about that longer layer !
Have you ever done a post on building a French Kande wardrobe? I hadn’t heard of them before your blog, and I am overwhelmed by the number of fabulous necklaces on their website. Would love your thoughts on which lengths and styles are most versatile!
Nancy, I haven’t yet, but it’s a great idea and I’ll add it to my posting calendar!