A survey of wardrobe staples:

As chosen by several search results on Google.

THE WHITE BUTTON-DOWN (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista) –check! One full-sleeve, one half-sleeve.
THE CHIFFON BLOUSE (iVillage) –I wouldn’t call this a staple, exactly, but I have a very sixties blue chiffon blouse. I just don’t know which side faces front. They both work.
THE (DRAPEY) WHITE TEE (Shine, Harper’s) –More like the drapey white tank, but oh, what a tank it is. I have a plain white tee in three-quarter sleeves that goes with everything. I also have a funky, faux-Victorian “blouse” tee with puffy sleeves and a gathered hem.
THE TEE IN GENERAL (Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –In colors I wear: gray, purple, brown, black. Some fun and funky. My personality lets me pair funky with sober and get away with it; this is how I caught the Tasty Beloved’s eye.
THE UPSCALE SWEATSHIRT (Shine) –I cannot stand the sweatshirt look. I’m sorry. I just don’t rock it.
THE (GIANT) CARDIGAN (Shine, Dummies, iVillage) –In spades. Not only in black, but in brown, purple, camel, and orange.
THE CAMISOLE/TANK (Chic Fashionista) –Yes! I have one in white, one in beige (with lacy straps), several in blue, and have misplaced the black one. Boo.
THE V-NECK/SCOOP-NECK SWEATER (Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Okay, now we’ve hit pretty much every possible top. I’ve got thin ones, thick ones, and weights in between.
SPECIFICALLY, THE BLACK OR GRAY WOOL V-NECK SWEATER (Wardrobe Oxygen) –I have a hard time finding these, to be honest. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places.
THE TURTLENECK (Chic Fashionista) –For women who don’t have vivid memories of hands around their neck, excellent idea.
A SHINY FUN TOP (Wardrobe Oxygen) –This can even be your chiffon blouse. It’s a top you could wear to a club and then to a nice restaurant after, and by “nice restaurant” I do not mean Hooters.

THE (DARK) TROUSER (Shine, Dummies, Harper’s, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Pinstriped, which means I need to wear fairly neutral shirts with it, but I do not find trousers very often in my size, even accounting for tailoring. I also have one in ivory with blue and purple pinstripes.
THE PERFECT JEAN (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista, iVillage, Wardrobe Oxygen) –When I found it, I bought it three times over, in a couple of washes. I also own the perfect jegging. Wardrobe Oxygen says “flattering” and “dressy” can be two different jeans; I’m efficient about my clothes, so a) they’re probably the same jean in my wardrobe and b) dressy jean? On me? YMMV, is what I’m sayin’.
…THE WHITE JEAN? (Harper’s) –This is where I’m going to disagree entirely. I don’t think white jeans are ever a good idea. No, not even on Iman or Heidi or whoever we’re holding up as the Skinny of the Month.
THE LEGGING (Shine, Chic Fashionista) –Two in black capri, bought in the kids’ department.
THE CROPPED PANT (iVillage) –Be very, very careful. I cannot wear certain types of cropped pant because I will look as short as I really am.
THE FORMAL SHORT (Shine) –BZZT. Another look I will always despise. The closest I come is a pair of charcoal capris. I have stump issues, all right? And formal shorts on me put people in mind of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

THE (KNEE-LENGTH) (PENCIL) SKIRT (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –I have three. Two pinch. This is because I have gained ten pounds of gorgeous flesh. I am looking for the next perfect pencil skirt, but if I don’t find it, I can live with just the one. I guess. Chic Fashionista actually separates this out into an office skirt and a day-to-night skirt; I’ve combined the two and am happy with that choice. So is my wallet.
THE DENIM SKIRT (Chic Fashionista) –I have a couple of these, but they’re short and decidedly playful. I pair them with those capri leggings I love so well, unless it’s ungodly hot out, in which case I guess my legs will just have to be on display. Oh, what a hardship.

THE (LITTLE) BLACK DRESS (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –The Tasty Beloved is my lucky charm when it comes to shopping sprees. My LBD was a gift from him; we do clothes, except we didn’t this year because we danced at a Monster Ball instead. 🙂 Anyway, the LBD in question has a cowl neck (v. flattering on small-busted me) and an actual waist. It was half-off. I do not know why. I merely give thanks.
THE SHIFT DRESS (Harper’s, Chic Fashionista) –I have a few. I wear them. Life is good.
THE SHIRT DRESS (iVillage) –I have one that looks totally forties on me and I love it! The material is kind of delicate, which is good on me, but necessitates a slip.
…THE TUXEDO?! (Harper’s) –Okay, maybe this is a list for rich people on whom androgyny really works. I’m way too femme to rock a tux. I have curls, for crap’s sake, darling little curls, and at 4’11”, I’d only look like a small boy.
THE (BLACK) SUIT (Wardrobe Oxygen) –This makes more sense, honestly. It’s good for most professional office settings. Wardrobe Oxygen specifies pants, but I’ll go out on a limb and say skirts aren’t a sin either.

THE BELT (Shine, Chic Fashionista) –The little skinny made-it-for-five-bucks belt? The belt that has saved three pieces from doom so far? Check.
THE WIDE BELT (Chic Fashionista) –Also check, but I’m using it mainly with one big black knit jacket, because that’s where it works best.
…THE BRIGHT BELT? (iVillage) –I am unsure. If you have a wardrobe full of neutrals, sure, try this, but my closet is full of colors. I’d need a rainbow’s worth of belts. Until I decide to make them, this item is on hold.
THE BIG/EVERYDAY BAG (Shine, Dummies, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Black slouchy “leather”. Brown is still not quite on my radar, alas. Any suggestions?
THE SCARF (Shine, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –I have been doing scarves since my aunt started sending them… when I was eleven. Silk, wool, gauze, bright, dark, you name it, I’ve put it to some good use.
THE HAT (Shine) –Both of my favorite “bad hair day” hats are made by Her Gayleness. One is lavender and the other a brilliant blue.
THE EVENING BAG/CLUTCH (Shine, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –One in black, one in brownish.
THE (AVIATOR?) SUNGLASSES (Shine, Wardrobe Oxygen) –I never did take well to contacts. If I want sunglasses, I need a pair that will go with everything. This was something I failed to consider when I bought my last pair. Oops.
THE PEARLS (Dummies, Chic Fashionista) –Necklace and two kinds of earrings (studs and danglies).
THE “DIAMONDS” (Dummies, Chic Fashionista) –A neat little pair of cubic zirconia studs. I don’t approve of CZ in lovers’ rings, but in jewelry that needs to look flash without costing an arm and a leg, bring the suckers on. I also have a simple CZ pendant.
THE HOOP EARRINGS (Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –I keep having hoops and I keep misplacing hoops. You know what? Maybe it’s a sign that hoops aren’t for me.
THE GOLD/SILVER BRACELET (Chic Fashionista) –It’s silver-colored, anyway. I made it out of chainmail, believe it or not.
THE METAL DRESS WATCH (Chic Fashionista) –Which is also my everyday watch and looks, from afar, like a pretty bracelet. Thank goodness, because my wrists just weren’t built for bracelets.
THE GIANT TOTE (Chic Fashionista) –When I still had a brick-and-mortar campus, I relied on a green canvas messenger bag. These days, I mostly just carry things in grocery sacks.
THE CROSS-BODY PURSE (Chic Fashionista) –Jesus, how many purses does a woman need? Oy. No, none of my smaller bags cross my body, but you know what? They just don’t have to.
WHATEVER YOUR SIGNATURE ACCESSORY IS (Wardrobe Oxygen) –Now we’re getting the point.

SHEER NEUTRAL HOSE (Chic Fashionista) –My aunt sends these really lovely expensive ones, but I’ll also wear the dollar-a-pair drugstore kind. I have them in nude and black.
TIGHTS (Chic Fashionista, iVillage) –Chic Fashionista specifies “black wool”, but I’m going to say as long as it’s heavier than hose, you’re good. I have these in black, oatmeal, and bright fucking purple. Come on, I have a little of everything in purple. 🙂

THE BALLET FLAT (Shine, Chic Fashionista) –Worn almost to pieces. Customized when I figured out that I have sensitive heels; enter one stitched-on patch of black fleece.
THE BLACK PUMP (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Still looking for the highest sort of heel, but I have enough sandal-type black heels to compensate. Daytime pumps I have got, both comfortable and decorative.
…THE PEEP-TOE? (iVillage) –This may be a Fashion 201 kind of shoe, to be honest. I own a pair in white, and I wear them only with things that won’t harken back to Dallas. What is this eighties revival crap?
THE CLASSIC (HEELED) BOOT (Shine, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Prairie-style, hits me mid-calf, low heel. I was so distraught when my first pair busted that I went online to buy the same pair…because the store wouldn’t let me un-take it back to them.
THE WHITE SNEAKER (Chic Fashionista) –If you are a nurse. Maybe. Or terribly talented at this fashion stuff. Otherwise, be careful.
FUCKING SEXY LITTLE SHOES (Wardrobe Oxygen) –Because strappy has its place on a shoe rack.

THE TRENCH (Shine, Dummies, Harper’s, Chic Fashionista) –I have one! Somewhere! I should dust it off this spring.
THE BLAZER (Shine, Dummies, Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –I have a good black one, a less-good black one, and a somewhat unfortunate gray one with black trim.
…THE BOUCLE JACKET? (Harper’s) –Not for me, but then, I don’t wear jackets often enough. My mum might be able to use one; she wears jackets. I just… don’t.
THE CAMEL OVERCOAT? (Harper’s) –My, we’re getting specific. Look, you’re probably okay with a plain overcoat. I know I’ve been. Mine is black and does perfectly for most occasions.
THE OVERCOAT (Chic Fashionista, Wardrobe Oxygen) –Excellent for a cold climate. I love mine. I love it, I love it, I love it.
THE LEATHER JACKET (Chic Fashionista) –Fake, but yes. Mine is black because I wear a lot of black. If I find myself wanting to pair “leather” with brown, I’ll look for one in brown.
THE DENIM JACKET? (Chic Fashionista) –I hesitate. On oh-so-many women, they look too eighties or too Midwestern to be stylish.
THE PARKA (Chic Fashionista) –Obviously the Chic Fashionista lives in a cold climate. I don’t have one, but my mother does. I just layer under my overcoat.
THE CROPPED JACKET? (iVillage) –Oh, come on. That is totally not a staple. That is icing on a giant wardrobe cupcake.

Of the lists I found online, one of the longest was at Chic Fashionista and sounded more like a basic “if you have no clothes anymore, buy this stuff” guide. It was also very general, aiming, I’d guess, at your average career woman. The list at Harper’s assumed wealth or fame, likely both–a tuxedo is not something I’ve found in the average woman’s wardrobe. Shine leaned trendy and iVillage confused staples with trends, but Dummies kept it sensible.

I was surprised not to find underwear basics on many lists. Chic Fashionista touched on hosiery, but nobody seemed to think that a slip might be required underneath a dress, and I have seen some of these dresses. Trust me, the slip is not a relic of bygone days. Neither is the bra, and a good bra is perhaps the biggest staple of all. It doesn’t matter what kind of bra you call “good”, just… a bra that likes your breasts. Because a lot of us do sag and flop. It’s kind of natural. And underwear! Have we forgotten about VPL?

Wardrobe Oxygen chose to tackle the question of the staple from an angle I can appreciate: which of these are really necessary? Allie nixes the white shirt, the black pencil skirt, the ballet flats, the classic trench, the pearls, the black cashmere turtleneck (which isn’t actually on that many lists), the knee-high boots (YES), the great watch, and the khakis/chinos (also kind of rare). She reminds the reader that these items don’t necessarily fit and flatter all of us. I may be lucky enough to look smashing in most of those items, but khakis on me are a disaster, and my mother would look absurd in ballet flats. Allie does include underthings, and in general, her list made the most sense to me. It covered the classics without targeting any one age group or trend.

In the end, no one list of staples can tell you what you’ll consider necessary. You kind of have to work that one out for yourself as you learn who you are, fashion-wise. I am a little boho, a little academic, and definitely loving my new curves; as it happens, fashion has been catering to me lately. (Except with the maxi dresses. They are as long as I am tall. This is problematic.)

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2 thoughts on “A survey of wardrobe staples:

  1. Pingback: 2.1. Updating an old list « Amazing Things

  2. Pingback: updating the update of an old list | Refuge in Audacity

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