How to Build a Well-Rounded Wardrobe

I was meandering around Nordstrom, my left arm getting heavy from being used as a rack for hanging more clothes than it could handle, when I got the message. My friend, who’s been toying with the idea of hiving her wardrobe a complete facelift, texted me with a pressing question. “Mari, what are some classic timeless pieces that every woman needs in her wardrobe?” she wrote. I tapped the white space at the bottom of my chat window and —foolishly thinking, I’ve got this — began typing. And then, just a few sentences in, I paused. Oh boy. It’s going to take more than a text. So I asked: “What’s your email?”

When culling ideas for this closet cheat sheet of sorts, I knew straight away I wanted to turn it into a blog post. And yes, I know, I know, there are so many guides out there, but this is something I whipped up based on my own personal experience. Adopt it, if you will. (And if you do, don’t forget to shoot me an email and tell me if it’s any good).

Before you get started, I strongly encourage you to weed out all blah items from your closet. You know, that t-shirt your ex gifted you in high school, that college hoodie that’s so ripped to shreds it makes you look like a bear attack survivor, and your weight-loss-goal pants you bought in 1995. I’ve found that Marie Kondo’s method of throwing everything into a pile on your bed and only keeping the things that “spark joy” to be super useful. And tut-tut-tut…before you say: “Oh, I’ve got the space, and I can afford to keep everything,” here’s what I’d love everyone to know: It’s not about the space. It’s never about the space. (OK, sometimes, it’s about the space). It’s about creating a closet that’s distraction-free, easily accessible and organized. In other words, you want to be able to see, in one roll of an eyeball, what you own and be able to get to it. Once you sieve your wardrobe into a collection of things you love and need, you can refer to this guide for the next step.

Bottoms

The Closet-Hero Jeans

A loyal pair of jeans is a quintessential tool (and a total workhorse) in any clothing repertoire. If you have to narrow it down to two pairs, opt for a lighter wash and a darker wash. But pick ’em wisely. Don’t just swing for a pair that you kinda like. The pulling on and the zipping up should be an easy affair, and most importantly, your jeans should feel true to you. I would suggest going with a skinny leg and a more relaxed, straight silhouette— just for variety. 


The Dark-Horse Black Pants

Here’s the truth: An elegant pair of black pants with a flattering fit never goes out of style. Whether you’re jaunting off to the mall or heading to the office, black pants are sort of a tried-and-true ingredient in a slew of outfit recipes. They can be dressed up or down (Up with a pair of high-heeled booties or pumps, or down with a pair of white sneakers, for example).


The It-Goes-With-Everything Black Skirt

Just like the black pants, a black skirt is a wardrobe staple. Choose a length you’re comfortable with here. The cut matters, too. There’s a-line, high-waisted flouncy, body-conscious mini, pencil…I mean, you name it. Get to know your body type, and do a little bit of research. Whatever skirt you land on, make sure it’s easily pair-able with the tops mentioned below.


The Fun-Slash-Bold Skirt

A fun-and-bright midi skirt is always a great addition to any closet. Experiment with stripes, florals and bold-patterns. Here’s your chance to get your creative juices flowing. To complete your look, tuck a white tee or turtleneck into your skirt — don’t forget to cinch the waist with a belt! — for an instant, no-thought-required outfit that’s sure to hog any passerby’s attention.


Tops

A Handful of Go-To Tees

A good-quality tee can work wonders when it comes to pulling a casual, but sophisticated outfit together. You can go v-neck, scoop-neck or crew neck. The choice is yours. Choose neutral colors you can pair with anything, and pick a brand that boasts high-quality fabrics. A t-shirt works hard in your closet, so make sure it still looks brand spankin’ new after frequent washing. T-shirts can also pull double-duty as layers when the weather gets brrrrr. 


The Statement Blouse

Fact: Blouses are not limited to button-ups and wrap-style tops. There’s so much room for creativity when you’re on the lookout for a blouse you can wear at the workplace or even take out on a spin around the block. Play around with asymmetrical tops and keep an eye out for details that’ll prompt questions like: Hey, where’d ya get this? Think: Sequins! Lace! Ruffles! Really, the Miranda-Priestly
cerulean sky is the limit.


The Power Blazer

The past year saw an uptick in the number of fashion enthusiasts donning blazers on Instagram — and for good reason. Blazers can be so versatile, so timeless, and despite what most people think, they’re not just reserved for your 9-5. It’s really a powerful piece of clothing. Layer it with jeans and a tee, or throw it on top of a white button-up, and you’re all set. (For a look that’s very much in vogue, opt for an over-sized blazer with shoulder pads).


The Girl-Next-Door Denim Jacket

Trust me: A denim jacket will be your hero piece during the spring and fall. Why? For starters, it’s great for unfussy layering, and it never, ever goes out of style. (Really, you can fact-check me on that one). Not to mention, it has the power to mellow out any dress you wear it with. If this is the first denim jacket you’ll be introducing to your rotation, go for a classic blue.


Dresses

The Perfect Midi Dress

Tea-length dresses are such versatile pieces and will definitely give you more options than, say, an ankle-length dress (which, most of the time, is reserved for fancy-pants events). Dress it up with a white or black blazer, sparkly jewelry and a pair of heels or down with white sneakers and a denim jacket.


The Wow-Factor Dress

(Warning: This takes most girls yearrrrrs to find.) This is the dress you whip out for an anniversary or a wedding. You know, it’s your Rose-walking-down-the-staircase-moment dress. You wear it proudly and with more confidence than you know what to do with. Don’t fret if you don’t spot it on your first — or 12th — shopping spree since your major wardrobe overhaul. It’ll show up when you’re not looking for it. You know, like a good relationship.