Wardrobe essentials… or are they really?

How often do you consider wardrobe essentials when you make a purchase? Is your wardrobe built around those essential items that every woman needs? (For different opinions on wardrobe staples, check here, here and here).

When I buy things do I often think about how they will fit into my wardrobe? No. My wardrobe is big enough that I know inevitably no matter what I buy, it will coordinate with something. I will make it work. And if I find my wardrobe is missing something critical, I will try to fill in the gap, thus starting a hunt for a specific item. I’m actually on the lookout for a crisp white shirt, which seems to be the most critical staple item. However, I want a vintage or vintage looking one, with lace or pintucks or something retro.

I read those lists of wardrobe essentials and suddenly my enormous wardrobe feels woefully inadequate. I then justify it by telling myself those “wardrobe staples” are aimed at an older, more professional woman than myself. Or maybe a stay at home mom. But let’s break down the above lists into one giant list:

  1. Black and colourful heels – black yes.  colourful? no
  2. The perfect pant suit – no
  3. The LBD – several, but none are perfect
  4. A cute blazer – yes
  5. Pencil skirt (preferably black) -yes
  6. White blouse – no
  7. Trendy coat – yes but needs replacing (I melted a hole in the back – it was hanging on the back of my chair too close to the heater.  Yes, sad face)
  8. Dark blue jeans – yes
  9. Purses – yes
  10. Colourful scarves – yes
  11. Lightweight cashmere cardigan – no but I have several silk
  12. Slim black trousers – yes black, but not slim
  13. Comfortable stylish flats – I’ve never found a comfortable pair of flats
  14. Cute pajamas – yes, but I probably should ditch the comfy old manky ones
  15. Spanx – no
  16. Khaki pants – I don’t live in the US
  17. Black blazer – no
  18. Beige trench coat – no
  19. Black leather bag – no
  20. Set of pearls – yes
  21. Diamond studs or cubic – close enough (small sparkly studs)

10 out of 21, and a couple were marginal yeses.  Hmm….  In most parts of the world, that is a fail.

However, in less than a year I will probably be re-joining the workforce as a professional. But how I dread the professional wardrobe. It makes me want to throw up a little bit in my mouth.  Suits?  Especially a black suit?  Where is the fun in that?

And honestly, a beige trench coat?  I’ve repeatedly heard that listed as a wardrobe essential but it still never makes me want to run out and buy one (all I think when I see a tan trench coat, no matter how cute is Columbo.  Yes, my Grandma loved that show).  I’m not really a black or beige person.  Perhaps you had you noticed from my photos?  So here is my list of wardrobe essentials:

  1. A properly fitted moulded bra in black and beige
  2. Dark blue jeans – preferably skinny but wide leg will do
  3. LBD
  4. Skinny waist belt
  5. A colourful, short cardigan
  6. Peacoat – preferably wool or partially wool
  7. Great pair of Sunglasses
  8. Quality leather handbag (either black or brown)
  9. Flat leather boots (either black or brown)
  10. A piece of vintage (anything)
  11. Cute, flattering swimsuit
  12. Chunky, boxy sweater
  13. Pencil skirt
  14. Knee or above the knee length printed dress
  15. Great pair of heels or wedges
  16. Tights

Bonus points for extras

  • A cropped leather jacket
  • Scarves
  • Black skinny jeans
  • Pendant necklace
  • Chuck taylors
  • Cute blazer
  • Cute Pajamas
  • Slim black trousers
  • Manicured nails

So how am I to manage professional wear when I haven’t had to ever before (even in my job back in the U.S. I didn’t have a dress code)?  It’s not like I’ve spent years amassing tons of professional clothes (whereas I have spent years amassing anything but!).  Well, I’m going to try grabbing a few more ‘professional looking’ yet cute, items. Especially since I have conferences coming up in Feb, and then hopefully again in Apr and May, I will get use out of new professional items. So a few more professional pieces would likely benefit my wardrobe sooner rather than later. But I’m still going to struggle. “Professional” to me means plain, boring and most of all conservative. But outfits such as the one below give me hope. Professional? Yes. Cute? Yes. It can be done (of course, that blouse is sold out in my size already. typical!)!

The picture of professional yet stylish (apart from the model's super ditsy expression, of course) - ASOS

The picture of professional yet stylish (apart from the model’s super ditsy expression, of course) – ASOS

What are your tips for dressing professional yet maintaining a sense of individualism and vibrancy in your clothes? Or do you just stick to professional during the week and save all your creative clothing style for weekends and going out?

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