Creating Your Core Closet

Creating Your Core Closet

WhatIWore: Once upon a time I wrote a style book on how to make the most of your wardrobe and maximize the possibilities of your closet.  The foundation of this advice is creating a core closet of pieces that you wear often and in many different ways. I believe in spending more money on the pieces you wear frequently, or at least buying the best quality you can afford. For example, I’d tell most women to spend more money on a pair of jeans than a little black dress, especially if she’s running errands with little kiddos day in, day out! If she’s a career girl in an office, then I’d say put that money into a classic pencil skirt that looks good with 10 different blouses.  You get the idea, right?

I’m a work-at-home-mom, so my wardrobe skews to the casual side of things. The following pieces are basics that I wear the most - with each other and with my secondary (read: fun, funky and colorful) clothes. 

Here’s what I have in my Core Closet. 

Easy Outfit Idea, Casual Outfit Idea

Chambray Button Down 

When it comes to versatility, the chambray button down can work with almost everything else in my closet. I’ll style it with jeans or skirts, dressed up or dressed down. It layers well under other core pieces or on it’s own in warmer weather. If you only have one, aim for a medium tone (not too dark or too washed out) in a soft fabric.  My favorites have always been from J.Crew or J.Crew Factory. 

Striped Tee

I like striped tee shirts because they are a tad more special than a solid gray, black or white alternative but still function like a neutral. I probably have a bajillion in my closet (or maybe.. 20?). They look great with everything from a skirt to jeans. You can find them at every price point and I think my inexpensive ones are just as nice as the more expensive ones. Old Navy, Target and J.Crew Factory are all good places to find them in different cuts and colors.

Gamine Outfit, Parisian Outfit Idea

Jean Jacket

For spring and fall you cannot go wrong with a jean jacket. It instantly makes any outfit more casual or provides a final layer when needed for warmth. I like to pair mine with skirts, dark or colored bottoms. I’ve found cute options at Old Navy, and J.Crew. If you’re looking for a lighter wash, I highly suggest looking at your local second hand store!

Chambray Outfit, How to wear a Jean Jacket

Olive Green Army Jacket

A moment of truth: I have at least four olive green army jackets that I can think of off the top of my head. That’s probably 3 too many, but they vary between a rain coat, light weight spring jacket, heavier winter version and a sleeveless style. This is a good alternative to a jean jacket and can be worn year round. Above, from ModCloth. I also like this cropped style at Nordstrom.

Medium or Dark Wash Denim

Whether you’re in an office all week or at home with your kids (or somewhere in between) I think most women have the occasion to wear a pair of jeans. I’ve always advocated for buying the best quality you can afford and if it’s just one pair, I’d recommend a medium to dark wash skinny/slim style (whatever is most flattering for your bod). These look best when they hit right at the ankle and you can style them with flats, heels or tucked into boots. 

My favorite brands are: J.Brand, J.Crew, rag + bone, and recently, Frame Denim.

Black Pants

In addition to a great pair of blue jeans, a classic pair of black pants are a great foundation piece.  You can wear them year round with either sandals or heels or tucked into boots. My current favorites are a high waisted pair of black jeans from J.Crew

Black Skirt

If I could only have two core bottom pieces, I’d pick jeans and a black skirt. I really like a full circle skirt, but a pencil or short flared version might work best for you. This is a great piece to dress up or down for work or play. 

My favorite circle skirt is from ModCloth (pictured above) and I bought my favorite short flare skirt at Target. 

Cool way to wear a black full skirt, modern full skirt

Black or Brown Boots (for cooler weather)

Depending on whether you wear more black or brown, I’d also suggest a well make pair of leather boots in that color. If I could only pick one pair, I’d say my rag + bone Newbury booties have been my all time best buy in this category because they look cute with jeans, tights, skirts and dresses. Shoes are the most important place to spend your money because they absolutely get the most wear and tear. Plus a good pair of leather boots can be maintained and worn for years. 

Other brands I recommend are Frye, and Ariat.

Cognac Leather Sandals (for warm weather)

In the past year and a half I’ve slowly transitioned from high heels into more practical playground friendly alternatives. I like a good pair of leather sandals in a cognac brown for spring, summer and early fall. Depending on your skin tone (or tan!) they can function as a leg lengthening neutral. If you’re more fair or dark, I’d suggest looking for a leather that blends with your coloring. Above, a style from Clark’s. 

Classic Sunglasses 

Nothing makes me feel instantly cool and glamorous like a pair of sunglasses. I have my favorite pair in two colors and they up the ante on a even the most basic playground tee and pair of jean shorts.  I used to turn my nose up at designer shades, but I’ve since changed my tune and have invested in a few pair that I love. I still keep my cheapies in rotations, but there does seem to be a difference in the weight and clarity of the lens. Spend a lot or spend a little - as long as it’s a pair that makes you feel like a million bucks! A Few Other Things To Keep In Mind:

Watch for Sales, especially those X% off everything in store (J.Crew and Old Navy run these often)

Buy Off Season Boots are cheaper in spring and sandals in fall. If it’s a classic style, it could be worth it to buy them at the end of season and save them for next year. 

Take Care of Your Clothes! Nothing lasts forever, even when it’s a well made piece, if you don’t take care of it. And those cheapies stay nicer longer when you treat them like expensive items. 

Next we’ll talk about adding on secondary color schemes by season, what makes a unique piece worth the buy!