How Many Basics Do We Really Need?

It’s amazing what we can discover about our wardrobes when we take a step back from shopping all the time and instead focus on what we currently have.  For years, I was always looking outside of my closet, pondering the multitude of new items I could add to my already burgeoning wardrobe.  In the meantime, many of the pieces I had were scarcely worn.  This year, armed with my new item limit, I’ve cut way back on how much I’m bringing in, which has forced me to look at what I have with new eyes.

In today’s post, I share one of the insights I’ve learned in recent months as I’ve been shopping in my closet more than at the stores.  Yes, I’m probably still buying more new pieces than many of you (over 20 so far this year…), but my current garment inflow represents a sharp reduction over years past.  What I’ve learned has turned a few of my prior notions about smart shopping and workable wardrobes on their side.  After I share my new knowledge, you may either nod in agreement or think I’m crazy, but I just might get you to consider a new perspective along the way.

Conventional Wisdom – Buy Lots of “Basics”

Wardrobe basics

Do you have lots of plain, basic, solid pieces in your closet?

For as long as I can remember, I thought it was a good idea to buy lots of what have been termed “basics” by fashion experts and retailers.  Such basics include solid-colored tops, plain cardigans, dark-wash jeans, black pants, and other essentially non-descript garments that don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves.  The reasoning behind “basics” is that they are more versatile and can easily be worn often and re-mixed in a variety of different ways.   We’re told that we can layer these items and pile on various accessories in order to jazz them up.  We can use scarves, necklaces, jackets, belts, and all sorts of other pieces to give life to our closet basics.

That all sounds good, right?  But do we actually do it?  What I’ve found is that many of my basic pieces end up becoming closet “benchwarmers” instead of wardrobe workhorses.  While some are worn regularly, the bulk of them end up collecting dust on their hangers rather than being used in my ensembles.  The largest culprits are my solid-colored t-shirts and tank tops.  I thought I’d wear them frequently because I love the colors.  I visualized the possible outfits I would create with them and the seemingly endless mix and match possibilities.  I thought it was a wise choice to buy “multiples” of these basic tops because they are classic styles that likely won’t go out of fashion anytime soon.  So why not buy a few of them, I thought.

Here are some examples of my “basic” tops that were good in theory but not so much in actual practice.

Basic knit tops

I find I don’t wear my basic knit tops like these very often…

A Discrepancy with My Basics…

What’s interesting is that I have some shorter-length tank tops that I wear with skirts that get a lot more use than the tops above.  After pondering the “why question” for a few moments, I realize why some of my basic tops get worn more often than the others.  Put simply, my skirts are a lot more exciting than my pants, so I don’t mind topping them with more sedate tops.  I like at least one garment in my outfits to have some visual appeal, even though I also enjoy wearing interesting jewelry and other accessories.

My pants are a whole different story than my skirts.  Anyone who has seen my outfit photos can attest to the fact that my pants are all pretty boring.  They are the epitome of basic and pretty much “snoozeville” in appearance.  Part of the reason for that relates to my difficulty in finding well-fitting pants in long lengths for my extremely long legs, but I also tend toward boring pants because I don’t like to draw attention to my bottom half.  Whatever my reasoning, the bottom line (no pun intended…) is that my pants aren’t very interesting, so I want the tops I wear with them to have a bit more “oomph.”

My pants vs. my skirts

My skirts are a lot more interesting than my pants and look better with my plain tees.

Problem Identified – Too Many Basics!

As I look at my wardrobe, I realize that I have too many basics.  I’ve peeled away most of the ill-fitting and poor quality garments I purchased during my unconscious shopping binges of yesteryear, and I’m left with an overabundance of basic garments that just aren’t all that exciting or compelling to me.  When I look inside my closet for something to wear, those plain tees just don’t conjure up any enthusiasm in my soul, so they sit there on their hangers week after week and month after month. When they do get worn, it’s usually out of a feeling of guilt or obligation and it’s typically when I’m just working from home.  My more exciting tops are usually the ones I reach for when I venture out of my apartment these days.

I’m not saying I want to shy away from solids and wear prints all the time, but I do want my solid pieces to be a bit more interesting than the ones in the picture above.   I actually don’t think it’s bad to have some very plain tops in one’s closet.  I just have too many of them overall.  Sure, there are different colors, necklines, and sleeve lengths among my solid-colored tops, but I just don’t want to wear that many plain tees.  That’s the bottom line for me, I’ve learned.

I’m about to do another closet audit (I think it’s good to do this at least twice a year) and I’m guessing that many of my plain tees won’t make the cut. They’ll either get downgraded to lounge/workout wear or be tossed into my donation bag.  As I continue to cultivate a workable wardrobe, I want to love more of my clothes. I want a larger percentage of what I own to be clothes that make me smile.  I no longer want to have such a high proportion of my clothing be “serviceable” but little more.  I want to be excited about the garments I put on my body, perhaps not all of them (those pants still need some work…), but most of them.

Too Few Basics Can Also be Problematic

Of course, I understand that one can go too far in the other direction as well.  It’s possible to have too many clothes with “bells and whistles” and struggle to make them work with each other.  With the recent trend toward pattern mixing, that’s less of a problem these days.  But eventually that fad will become passé, plus many people feel uncomfortable wearing that much “look” even now.  We definitely need some basic items to use as a canvas for our star pieces, unless we have a streak of Lady Gaga avant garde within us.

What is a “Just Right” Number of Basics?

So that brings me to an interesting question… How many basics do we really need?  What percentage of our wardrobes should be comprised of the types of garments that pull outfits together but aren’t all that exciting on their own?   I’m sure there isn’t one empirically correct answer to this question, as there are a variety of fashion personas which we can embody.  Those with a very classic persona probably feel more comfortable wearing a lot of basics than those who aim toward an artistic or edgy flair.

My Style Evolution and the Basics Question

I think my style aesthetic is evolving rapidly as I work to heal my long-standing compulsive shopping problem.  I find myself wanting to return more to the creative and quirky style I embraced in my twenties and thirties, albeit in a much different way (more fitted and figure-flattering).  I also want to add a touch of “edginess” to the way I dress and move away from the safe types of ensembles I’ve been wearing in recent years.

Edgy style

I’d like to be a bit edgier, but maybe not this much! (image: Stitch-Fix)

I’m not entirely sure what this will look like, as it’s still in the thought phase, but I do know that change is in the air for me style-wise.  In light of that, I think the percentage of basics I’ll need to retain will decrease as time goes by.  I’m guessing the percentage will go down to around 20% from its currently much higher level of around 40%.  Again, I’m not necessarily talking about solids versus patterns here.  I will likely have more than 20% solid pieces in my ideal wardrobe, but many of those items will have some “special” features to them, such as asymmetry, interesting necklines, ruffles, sequins, or even just a nice quality fabrication.  The goal is to have a higher percentage of “standalone” garments that do not need a lot of layering or accessorizing to look good. I still plan to layer and accessorize, of course, but I don’t want to have to do it!

I plan to do a style evolution post soon in which I’ll share thoughts and photos of how my style has evolved over the years (similar to what Sally did on “Already Pretty”).  Of course, I need to swallow a bit of pride in order to do this, as some of the visual evidence is quite incriminating, to say the least!  But I’ve never shied away from honesty and openness here thus far, so why start now?  In the interest of personal growth and helping others, I’ll lay it all bare for you to see (and probably chuckle at…).  The important thing is where we are now and where we are headed, rather than where we’ve been.  So stay tuned…

Your Thoughts on Wardrobe Basics?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how basic pieces factor into your ideal wardrobe equation.  Do you like to have a lot of basic t-shirts, cardigans, plain pants and jeans, and other such items in your closet?  Or is your wardrobe mostly comprised of more “special” pieces with interesting details, as well as prints and patterns?  What do you feel is the appropriate percentage of basics for you?   I invite you to share your thoughts with me and your fellow readers.  If you’re reading this via email or through a feed reader, please click here to comment.

154 thoughts on “How Many Basics Do We Really Need?

  1. I am excited to see you experiment with a more edgy side to your style and see how your style evolves! I doubt very much that I will be chuckling at either your past or your future outfits — it is interesting to see how people’s preferences change and fascinating to hear about the intentions behind new outfits. Thoughtfulness is never laughable, in my opinion.

    This is a really thought-provoking post, and I’m puzzling over exactly what is the definition of a “basic.” Today I’m wearing a cable-knit, shawl collar cardigan in a camel color. I’ve worn it three times this month and twice last month, so it’s clearly a staple. Is it a basic? It’s a neutral color and doesn’t have any asymmetry or embellishment. But ruffles/embellishment/etc. are not really my style these days — instead I like layering different colors and incorporating subtle texture (the cabling on the cardigan and perhaps also the shawl collar reflect that). So it is a basic that also incorporates the kind of details that I like to use to add interest to my outfits.

    (Thinking about it more, maybe one way to put it is that my style these days is rather subtle and layered, so my items tend to be more in the middle of the spectrum between “plain basic” and “statement piece” rather than at either end. I can think of many items in my closet that might function as a basic background in some outfits, and a point of interest in others.)

    What I know that I don’t need are other people’s basics. Blazers, pencil skirts, chino pants, solid button-up shirts. Don’t own any, don’t need any, but believe me, it’s taken a lot of trial and error to realize that!

    • Yes, the definition of “basic” is the tricky part, Sarah. I agree that one person’s basic may be completely unnecessary for another. Your cable-knit cardigan sounds very nice and fits what I’m aiming for in that it has some special details like the texture and the collar. Many of my cardigans I consider “boring” because they have little texture and are quite plain. Like you, I don’t see much of a need for the basics on many must-have lists (and like you, it’s taken me a while to learn that!).

    • I love the term “staple” as it shows a well-loved, USED, mixable item in our wardrobes, rather than a plain old boring basic! I’m going to steal that and use it! Maybe we all should!

      • I agree that “staple” is a good term. It sounds better than “basic” as it implies that it is critical toward one’s individual wardrobe. I like it!

  2. When I did my closet audit a month or so ago, I was SHOCKED to find that I had 14 solid colored v-neck or crew neck t-shirts. Who needs that?!? My plan is to keep and pack them for a trip next month, and then, since most of them are on the downward slide towards the toss pile, toss them to make room for souvenirs!

    I definitely agree there is a things as “too many basics” and I have that thing! Thanks to a closet audit, it’s a thing I am aware of, and can avoid in the future.

    • I think I have at least 14 solid colored t-shirts, Melissa. There’s not really anything wrong with those tees, but there are just too many of them! Now that I’m working toward having a smaller and more functional wardrobe, I need to minimize the plain t-shirt part of my wardrobe to make room for other types of tops. Yes, a closet audit can help to increase our awareness of many things!

  3. In defense of basics: (1) If you travel, basics let you leverage the few pieces you can fit into your (hopefully) small, minimal luggage, (2) if you collect scarves and other cool accessories, they provide a canvas to show off your “wearable art”, and (3) if you have other priorities, it liberates you from having to rethink your wardrobe strategy every day. President Obama, when asked about his ubiquitous blue suits, replied that when bombs were flying and world leaders were talking war, he really didn’t want to have to think about which tie went with which shirt! That said, your article helped me and other readers “curate” our current wardrobes and let go of duplicates and old ideas that no longer serve us. THANK YOU!

    • Your points about basics are very valid, Hollis. I would never advise anyone to have NO basics at all. I like the President Obama quote and I remember him saying that. I think that I always tell myself I’m going to wear cool scarves and necklaces with all of my plain tees, but then I don’t do it all that often. I think I could easily get by with half of the plain, solid t-shirts that I have. Everyone’s mileage will vary, but it’s good for us to look at the role that basics play in our current wardrobe, as well as in our ideal wardrobe.

  4. I love this post. Very thought provoking. I have come to realize that my basic tee must be either bateau neck or crew neck. It must also be hip length with sleeve length also to the hip. It took me so long to realize this and I think that is part of every woman’s style evolution. This discovery helped me edit and toss a lot of unnecessary basics. Honing my style specifics helped me to shop less and clear out my existing closet of pieces I simply don’t wear.

    • Congrats on the powerful discovery you made, Marianne. I think that we all need to define the types of basics that work best for us. I think I thought my ideal basic tee was a solid, knit scoop-neck, but that’s not really what I prefer now. The scoop is often too low and I find myself fussing with it too often. I think I will be refining my top collection a lot in the coming months and I hope to get as specific about my preferences as you have!

  5. Timely and very relevant post Debbie it really speaks to me. I’ve spent the last two months auditing my wardrobe and can not believe how hard it has been. Basics galore but nothing as you say that was special in itself. However I know I am definitely a basics woman but through much trial and error realise that it’s not so much about print or pattern but cut quality and fabric that does it for me. Gradually I am replacing my basic bland wardrobe with a wardrobe of basics that are cut better feel better to wear and made of better quality fabric. This less but better approach is finally helping my heart to sing! By the way I purchased your e book today I love it and I will use it to refer to and track previous blogs. Keep doing what you’re doing for us!
    ..

    • You made a really good point, Andrea. I think we all need SOME basics, for sure, but we need to define what our best basics are. I think I need to focus on better cuts and fabrics for my basic tops moving forward. As I pare down my wardrobe, I am becoming more and more selective. Those boring knit tees I have just don’t do it for me anymore. They really never did, but when I had a huge wardrobe, I only wore things a few times at most per year. My standards are much higher now… Thanks for buying my book and I hope you really enjoy it!

  6. Basics, but not “boring” basics are essential in creating a beautiful wardrobe.
    My own definition of basic–
    1) the highest quality and construction
    2) perfectly tailored, form fitting and flattering
    3) durable and practical
    4) in a key neutral or accent color that works with a good percentage of one’s wardrobe
    5) serves an important function (for example, cool in the summer or cozy in the winter or perhaps suitable for office wear or afternoons walking the dog)
    6) comfortable to wear –easy to move in, not binding, perhaps stretchy or soft

    Basics do not have to be boring (they can and I believe, should, have style and pizzaz) but they are the glue in our wardrobes. Basics are the items that make all the rest of our clothes “stick together” visually. Having the “very best quality that we can afford” basics in our wardrobe is what makes us stylish. The most fabulous leather jacket in our very best neutral color, a perfectly tailored grey wool trouser, a skinny jean that flatters our shape, a flow-y curve hugging knit blouse in a flattering color. Every one of these can have unique and special details or shaping that works with our own personal unique and special details and shapes! You can certainly build a gorgeous wardrobe out of basics only.

    • I love your definition of basics, Happy Forgiver. I think that if I focused more on the facets you mention, especially #1 and #2, I wouldn’t feel so ho-hum about my tees. You’re right that basics don’t have to be boring, particularly if we buy the best quality we can afford and define and aim for the special details that work best for us. I haven’t done that in the past, so that’s why I’m bored with many of my current basics. I hope to find some better basics in the future, but I’ll probably release a lot of what I have before too long.

      • I agree with Happy Forgiver, and disagree with your statement that “basics” are “essentially non-descript garments that don’t draw a lot of attention to themselves.” I spend more time (or have in the past, less so these days because I have my “basics”) shopping for basics than other clothing because I invest more $$ into basics and because I look for clothes with a “certain something” that fits my personal style. These are building blocks for any wardrobe, and depending on your needs, could be 3 garments (pants, skirt, dress or jacket) or 10 or whatever. A basic garment is not just a solid color garment; it is a solid (or nearly solid) garment that is well-constructed out of the best fabric that one can afford. It should fit extremely well and be designed for some longevity, e.g., not a “fad” piece of clothing. But that doesn’t mean that a basic is nondescript or boring or fading into the background. I have a black cashmere cardigan that is a basic — longer length, 3/4 sleeves, dramatic large single button, deep v-neck, beautiful cashmere. The black color and versatile design make is “basic” but it certainly draws attention and a lot of compliments especially because it’s not a standard crew-neck, multi-button cardigan. I look terrible in that kind of “basic” sweater (I also think they are predictable and boring because I can’t figure out how to make them work for me and my accessories but I see other people rock this kind of sweater). My “black” suit is actually a classically cut black suit with a red chalk (pin) stripe. It’s not solid color but “reads” that way. However, the red stripe sets up the possibility of matching with a lot of red — and a lot of icy blue — as well as white, black, and light gray. It’s a lot harder to find “basic” clothing — solid or nearly solid — with a lot of pizzazz. However, there is a need for a least a few pieces of solid-color clothing to showcase the other clothes we wear and our accessories. I think you’ve figured out how pattern, which clearly makes you happy, and color works best for you (solid color tops with patterned skirts, solid pants with patterned tops). These seem to be your “basics”: shorter, solid tops for skirts, and solid pants for patterned tops. You don’t need to buy or keep a bunch of “basic” tees that don’t fit your needs and should focus on buying tees and other tops that work with your pants and skirts. Here’s a link to Real Simple’s exploration of a “basic” white shirt — only a few are “classic” button front blouses: http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/sweaters-tops/classic-white-shirt-00100000094906/page3.html

      • I actually don’t think all basics are non-descript garments, Dottie, but I think many of mine fit that description. Your black cashmere cardigan and black suit both seem to have the type of interesting details (different cut, quality fabric, red pinstripes) that I want my staple garments (someone above suggested using “staple” instead of “basic” and I like that) to have. I think that quality is really key and I know you adhere to that precept. I think that many of my tees just aren’t high enough quality for my new standards, plus I would like them to have at least one “interesting” aspect to them, be in fabrication, texture, or some type of detail.

        I agree with your assessment of my staples and I also agree that those should be my focus. And I really need to go for QUALITY over QUANTITY. I know that now, but I’m still “paying” for the mistakes of my past. I know it takes a while to build a workable wardrobe, though, so I just need to be patient and take the time to do it right.

  7. I just wanted to say that this post is great! I just did a major basic tee purge last month! I realized I LOVE print and only feel warm about solids. So I purged all my long sleeve and short sleeve tees with the exception of a couple of favorites (in white, navy, pink, gray, and yellow) – I love wearing print and print-mixing and I just couldn’t justify keeping all these boring tops that were going unworn!

    Also, I came to the realization that I don’t like crew neck tops and got rid of every last one! I favor looser fitting v-necks, and that’s all I kept!

    …however, I am a tank top hoarder. I feel like, in Florida especially, you can never have too many – basic or otherwise! 🙂

    • Good for you on the t-shirt purge, Chelsea! That’s what I need to do… I think it’s great that you’ve identified what works best for you (v-necks and tanks over crew necks) and are going with that. I have quite a few tank tops, too. It’s not as warm in San Diego as in Florida, but tank tops are staple items for many of us here. I think the important thing with all of our clothes is that we love and wear them. If you wear your vast tank top collection regularly, it’s probably not a problem 🙂

    • I have 5 s/s deep v-neck or scoop neck tees: white, black, gray, medium blue, and icy pink. I have two print tank tops – black/blue and red “bandana” print. I have 2 pairs of shorts (black and denim) and two capri-length pants (dark cambray blue and a dressy black pair). These clothes get me through a 5-month “summer” with ease, and I’m not bored because they mix and match well and because I can jazz them up with accessories. I also don’t look good in crew necks — something I discovered decades ago — and I prefer scoop neck tees. I looked for years for an icy pink scoop neck tee and when I found it (the only one in the store) I grabbed it up. Therefor, I am very careful with this tee. The white v-neck tee is replaced every few years with, sadly, usually a tee or inferior fabric.

      • Sounds like a good number of tees, Dottie, and the numbers for the other types of garments sound good, too. Some of us, like Chelsea and me, just have (or had in Chelsea’s case) TOO many such garments and it’s either overwhelming or leads to outfits that feel boring. I agree with you about inferior fabric. It’s sad that even when we find things we love (and sometimes pay quite a bit of money for them), they just don’t last as long as they used to!

      • A crew neck that allows the points of my collar bone to show is sort of OK, but theses are hard to find. Lots of cheap tees cut like a man’s undershirt out there — but with cheesy fabric.

      • Those are the types of crew necks I like, too, Dottie. If they are cut too high, they don’t work for me. But if I can find one cut a bit lower, I actually prefer it to many scoop-necks (which often end up being too low-cut on me). I like v-necks, too, but also have to be careful that they are not too low-cut. I think the length between my shoulder and underarm is just really short despite my tall height. I have to shorten the straps on all of my tank tops, and I’m not overly modest, either.

  8. I am not buying more tanks at the moment because I have too many. I have a thin chest and like to layer almost every top I wear with a tank. My problem is that the ones in the colors that I love most are several years old and they’re too short for many of my pants that fit lower on my waist. When you buy multiples you run the risk that some style change down the road -lower waists on pants, an unexpected weight gain- will blow a hole in your wardrobe suddenly. I think it’s better to acquire just a few basics each season so you pick up style and size changes gradually.

    Buying t-shirts at Target has been an issue for me in the past. I’d go there and see a cute shirt, throw it into my cart and then a few months later discover I had multiple shirts in a similar color that I hardly wore. After a couple of rounds of giveaways where Target t-shirts figured prominently I made a personal policy to resist the urge.

    • Your point about styles changing is a really good one, Ginger. We often think that certain basics will work for us forever, but that’s usually not the case. Either styles change or our preferences change. Case in point, I don’t love scoop-neck tees as much as I used to. I used to dislike crew-necks, but now I’m finding that I like those more (as long as they’re not cut too high). I agree with you that acquiring just a few basics each season (and wearing them into the ground) is the best way to go.

      • It’s a trick of the fashion industry to sell us on classics so we can “invest” in them, and then they proceed to change every 3-5 years.

      • So true, Ginger! They always seem to change some detail of a “classic” to try to push us to buy new, whether it’s a neckline, collar, sleeve length, or whatever. Very tricky, those fashion industry “powers that be” are!

  9. Hi Debbie,

    Congratulations on your new book! You have great insights to share and your work should be a great success.

    The comments that have already been posted are so thoughtful and dead-on that I have little to contribute. But I’ll add a few impressions. My first thought when looking at the 12 basics was this: “what’s the organizing principle behind these 12 items?” Other than the fact that they are variations of the basic t-shirt, I couldn’t see one: not color, or cut, or that elusive concept “style.” As previous posters have so eloquently said, what makes something a “basic” is that it serves as a touchstone for one’s own particular wardrobe, body, etc. Clearly, the tank top is that for you. But before collecting more solid color tanks, consider. What is it about the one or two you adore that make them work for you? The flattering color? The silhouette it creates? The versatility for layering? Use the answer to those questions as a guiding idea for other decisions about clothes to keep, to discard, or maybe, to buy.

    And re the 12 items above: I would guess that each item conservatively cost around $20-30. That’s around $240. Next time, consider taking that amount to apply to the guiding idea you come up with. So for example, if you decide that idea is color, look at your current bottoms and consider adding these varied kinds of tops in various shades of that color, e.g., a long-sleeved linen blouse to wear alone or with your tanks, a silk sleeveless T to add a touch of lux to plain jeans but remain simple enough to layer or accessorize, an unconstructed unlined “utility jacket” as a piece to pull other random pieces together into an outfit. . . All with your flattering color as a touchstone. That’s just three pieces, but a lot of mileage.

    Or, select just one favorite tank you already own and upgrade that item, live with it, see if you like it, see how versatile it is.

    Did I say I’d be brief? Sorry 😉

    All the best to you and looking forward to your next post!

    • Thanks so much for your excellent feedback, Amy. You made some really good points and I appreciate them. You’re right that there was little organizing principle behind my basic tees (and I have more than just the 12 pictured…). They were all bought at different times and because I thought I’d get a lot of wear out of such a (seemingly) versatile item. And you’re correct that all of those tops were in the 20-30 dollar range. I would have been better off buying FEWER tops and focusing more on higher quality and some special details (including better fabric). I like your final suggestion to upgrade one favorite. I think that’s the best way for me to go, as I will learn what works best for me without buying too many things.

  10. I think most of us have a lot of basic bottoms, especially pants. I have a couple of basic skirts as well (denim, black jersey) but a few statement skirts as well. My tops used to be very basic – I would go and buy a bunch of tshirts in different colors, in v-neck and crew. But after a while I felt like I was wearing the same thing every day, especially because I was pairing them with very basic jeans. I’m trying to mix things up these days, adding some different shapes, prints, something special. I like having a little variety. I’m still having trouble buying “special” pieces – I have trouble finding fancy tops with nice details that are my style. I think we overbuy basics because they are easy. I’m learning that I need less of everything, so if I’m going to only have 10 tops, I don’t want them to all be variations on the same theme.

    • I can tell you really “get” where I’m coming from, Joanna. I also felt like I was wearing the same thing every day with my plain tees, plain pants, and plain cardigans. I definitely need to mix things up more and have been doing so lately, but the plain tops just aren’t getting worn. Like you, I need (and want) less of everything and I really don’t want my items within a given category to just be variations on the same theme. Not much fun in that! As you mentioned, finding “special” items can be tricky as well. I struggle with that, too, especially since I’m trying to dial back my stripes “addiction.” I’ll just focus on one special top at a time and be thrilled when I find it…

  11. I’m old enough that I have had many different types of wardrobes over the years, and at the beginning of each new decade I notice that my style preferences begin to change and evolve. When I was in my mid to late forties I felt very much as you are feeling now Debbie, with too many basics. Also, I had begun to realize that I don’t like to wear lots of accessories, and plain tees without something to jazz it up just didn’t conjure up any enthusiasm in my soul either. I wanted my clothing to have a little bit of an edge and to reflect a bit more of my personality, and the so-called “must have basics” were not taking me where I wanted to go. So for almost 10 years I was very happy with my newly created wardrobe that sounds like it might have been similar to what you are now aiming for.

    Jump cut to my late 50s. I began to feel my style evolving and changing once again. It was perfect timing because this was also when I began to crave a much smaller wardrobe of clothes, filled only with the things I loved and was happy wearing regularly. I released much of what I had been wearing the decade before, and what I’ve discovered is that now that I’m much older I’m back to basics again, but with a twist. What I love to wear best in cool (but not cold) weather is an E.F. silk jersey top in solid colors, with perfect details that are not dull. I can change out my earrings, and wear my hair down or pulled back. Add my most-wonderful-in-the world E.F. scarf, and/or one of my three favorite toppers, or a knit jacket that are also basic colors, but with details that screams fun. Add two pair of fabulous jeans, ballet flats and a pair of boots, and I can travel for a full week with a small carry-on bag that fits under my airline seat, and I have the complete confidence of knowing that I will look great and pulled together every day. “Warm weather” dressing is even easier. I have a small collection of fabulous skirts (stripes and patterns) and they require basic color tops and toppers, and two great black dresses that can work for day, or evening with a change of shoes and earrings. It makes getting dressed to go out, or packing for travel fun and easy. But in the past my wardrobe was far more complicated! Which made my life complicated!

    What I know for sure is that once a woman finds “her” style, and decides on the size of wardrobe she wants to maintain, the rest comes together easily. But we must also stay open to the idea that over the years our style may continue to evolve and change. This is one of the reasons I no longer want to own a ton of clothes. Some day when my 70th birthday is nearing I want the freedom to begin moving in whatever style direction that is calling to me.

    • I just wrote a really long reply to you, Terra, and I lost it. I may have to re-create it as a blog post, as I gained some great realizations through what you wrote. Thank you for helping me to gain clarity through your insightful comment!

      Your current wardrobe sounds wonderful and I think I would be happy with it. I think my problem is that my focus on “quantity over quality” for so long has come back to bite me in the you know what. I look in my closet and feel like a lot of my clothes look “cheap.” Of course, there are lot of things out there today that are far more inexpensive and “fast fashion” than what I have, but I find myself craving the “rich” (for lack of a better word) sort of wardrobe that you describe. It may have to do with my age or it may just be part of my recovery. I find myself wanting to throw everything out and start over sometimes, but I’m going to do my best to work with what I have and gradually work on up-leveling my wardrobe to something that will make my heart sing more.

      I think that if my basic tops were the EF jersey tops you describe, I would be far more happy with them. Of course, I do want some tops with special details, too, but the quality is a key factor in all of this, I think. And it may have to do with my being in my late forties, especially since you mentioned going through something similar.

      I agree that having a smaller wardrobe is the way to go, especially if our style is in a state of flux. I have a feeling that my style will be in transition for a while, so all the more reason to dial things back, buy less, and think more about what I ultimately want (not just with my wardrobe but also in my life). Thanks for helping me to gain some powerful insights!

  12. I think that there are only 4 items in my entire wardrobe that AREN’T basic – but they’re really out there in terms of style and color (think harem pants and a 50’s style full skirt)

    My preference is to wear mostly basic silhouettes with lots of color. My winter coat is bright purple, my favorite flats lime green and my favorite pencil skirt is light purple. This approach works for me because it’s both fun and not fussy. Basic doesn’t have to mean boring 🙂

    • Actually, harem pants and a 50’s style full skirt don’t sound basic at all to me, Sara. Maybe they are in a solid color, but they are a lot different from the type of basics in my closet that I find boring. I think that I was aiming to just have excitement and variety in color and that wasn’t enough for me (or at least it isn’t anymore). I definitely don’t think basics have to be boring, and I also think that what’s considered basic varies from person to person. I think that if we take the time to define what our ideal basics are and work to only acquire those things, we won’t be bored and will instead be happy with our wardrobes. Of course, some of us will want to add more prints and patterns than others, but the clothes you describe don’t sound boring to me at all. I have a bright purple coat, too (among other colors), and I love it!

      • Haha, wait!! I meant those as two examples of my not basics! I don’t think of them as basics either 🙂 My point being that I have a closet of 95 percent basics (but colorful ones) and 5 percent true statement pieces. I don’t do the middle ground.

      • I actually was wondering if that’s what you meant, but I also know that some people dress in a very avant garde way and their idea of “basics” is very different from what most people would place in that category. It does seem that you don’t do middle ground, but the important thing is that you are happy with your wardrobe and it sounds like you are. I really do feel that there is no one right proportion of basics vs. statement pieces. We all have to figure out what works best for us. I’m still working on that…

  13. I probably have too many basics… Like you, my pants are boring~ jeans (dark blue, black & white), black slacks, 1 left-over pair of khakis & 1 pair mint green summer slacks. I really don’t wear skirts much, as I prefer pants, or capris in summer. My dresses~ all black, 1 with a flowered print! I have lots of basic t-shirts in short & long sleeve, basic tanks (which I wear under everything).

    Most of my shirts are navy, grey, black or white. I have added some striped t-shirts, both long & short sleeve, which I really like. I have a few dressier tops in brighter colors with different cuts, which I wear for special trips or evenings out.

    I’m mostly okay with wearing a “uniform” of t-shirt & jeans or capris for daily life. Everything works together, but it can get a bit boring. It’s less problem in winter, when I can layer a cardigan and/or a scarf for color & interest. It’s too hot here for much use of scarves during the summer, though I usually carry a cardigan if we’ll be inside because I get cold easily.

    The only gap I have to fill in my wardrobe is more interesting tops. I guess I’m looking for more details, like you are, because I know I won’t be wearing prints or flowered tops. It would be a waste to buy them, because it’s just not me. I would like to find a solid color dress that I enjoy, that is NOT black~ LOL!

    So I guess it’s possible to have too many basics, but I’m really pretty satisfied with what I have, basic as it is. When I find something different that I like I will buy it, but I’m not seriously searching, as I’m trying to cut back on clothing expenses & wear what I have~ which is way more than enough. I do miss shopping, but if I stay out of stores I’m less likely to buy!

    I look forward to seeing the changes in your style~ Maybe I’ll be inspired!

    • It sounds like we’re in a similar situation, Diane, except I like to wear skirts instead of capris in the summer. I agree that the “uniform” we’ve adopted can be much more challenging in warm weather, when we may not want to wear a scarf or it’s too hot to wear cardigans. I feel “unfinished” in a plain top with a plain pair of pants, whereas I feel quite happy wearing a more “interesting” top with my plain pants. Whereas I’d like to find a pair or two of more interesting pants, that’s actually not a big priority for me. I’d much rather add the interesting tops to my wardrobe (I have some but they are more for cooler weather), so that’s going to be an area of focus for the targeted shopping I’ll be doing.

      I agree with you about staying out of the stores. Every time I go into one, I start to think of everything I “need” when I really just want things because I see them. When I shop these days, it’s VERY focused. That keeps me out of trouble…

  14. I seem to have more flashy pants than skirts, interestingly, so I am okay with somewhat more basic tops for them. Think black and white ikat skinnies, red moto jeans, purple cords, etc. I will say most of my knit tops vary and have either an interesting drape or are a unique color.
    As for the overbuying of any one trend (basic or not) at a time: I told myself a few years ago to dip my toe in by buying one light neutral, one dark neutral, and one color or pattern in any one new ‘thing’ for me. The first year I applied this was ballet flats. Then skinny pants. You get the idea. And come to 3 or 4 years later and I’ve purged one cream flat (light neutral) and debating purging the color (red) leaving just the black (dark neutral) ones. This formula seems to work in both letting me enjoy a new trend, but not overwhelming my closet with a style I might move on from, leaving a gaping hole.

    • Your strategy for trends is really good, Mo. I think I’m “paying” now for going overboard on a few styles that I liked. For awhile, I loved the open cardigans, but now I rarely wear the ones I have and will likely purge a few from my closet. If I had only purchased two or three, I’d be in a much better place now. I think I will adopt your formula moving forward. That way, I won’t feel so bored with having a too homogenous wardrobe.

  15. Once again Debbie, what an interesting way of analyzing things! I’ve never thought to look at my wardrobe in terms of basics vs. non-basics. And as always I’m learning a lot from the comments too. I’m very much looking forward to seeing your style evolution!
    When I was working in an office, my formula was interesting skirt & shoes + basic top, and as such I had mountains of basic (mostly black) knits tops, tank tops and cardigans. Of course I only wore a small percentage of these basic tops, but that didn’t stop me from buying more and more. I was also guilty of buying multiples in different colours, but only wearing one of them. Now as a stay at home/work at home mum, I have a simple formula of basic jeans/pants (trying not to draw attention to my ample hips and thighs!) + interesting top. I like this formula because most of my tops match most of my bottoms, which makes it easy to get dressed and helps to prevent overbuying. I’m relatively satisfied with my summer wardrobe, but my winter wardrobe is problematic because most of my tops are basic and uninspiring. Next winter I hope to work on either finding more interesting but warm tops (the interesting ones always seem to have high percentage of man-made fibres…) or tweaking my formula in some way to make my basic items work better for me.

    • I’m glad you found this post thought-provoking, Kayla! I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s bought too many basic knit tops and cardigans… Your current outfit formula of basic pants with an interesting top resonates well with me and it’s what I’m moving more towards. It was pretty much what I did on my recent trip (I did pack two plain tops and wore them, but found myself wishing I had two other “interesting” tops instead) and I was happy with it. I like my summer wardrobe better, too, and I’m happy the weather is warming up where I live and I can start wearing it!

  16. Thank you Debbie for another great article and the comments they inspire. I agree that my basics can’t be totally plain but must have some small detail or great fabric, yet will still function in the roll of a basic that can be mixed and matched.
    Developing ones own list of “must haves”/ basics comes slowly through learning our own preferences and what best suits our shape. Through trial and error we find what is best for us learning much along the way. I’m very grateful to learn though your honest accounting and example, it really makes me think as I apply them to my wardrobe.
    Just wondering… have you thought of adding your edgy/quirky/creativeness to your hair style?

    • I love the comments that my post inspired, too, Annette! They really add so much to my thought process and I may even end up writing a follow-up post as a result. Interesting you should ask about my hair because that’s been something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I am definitely in a hair rut, but I don’t know what to do about it. Every time I change my hair, I end up not liking it, so I get “gun shy.” Do you have any ideas for hair styles for me? I am open to suggestions and may write a post about hair (mine and others) soon. Hair definitely is a big part of our personal style statement, but I think many of us forget that or just get comfortable with keeping our hair styles the same. Lots of food for thought on the topic of hair!

      • Hair is certainly an interesting topic. I have fine, thinning hair that used to be stick straight but now has a slight wave in it. I’ve worn my hair in a single length bob without bangs for waaaaaaaay too many years but really that’s about all my hair will do. Thus I can do my hair in 5-8 minutes tops. I don’t do bangs because I have a very short/small forehead and wear glasses. I think it just looks weird. The only way I vary it is by length, sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. About 3 months ago I let my hair stylist cut in a few long layers, still long enough for a ponytail. I was very gun shy about it because the last time I had layers they were hideous! He did a fantastic job and it’s enough of a change to make me happy. In the last few years I’ve started seeing some grey/white hair. I call them my “highlights.” I made the decision not to color my (dark brown) hair and just enjoy my natural hair. Such an individual choice, isn’t it? I think you have very lovely dark hair. It looks like it’s in great condition!

      • Thanks for sharing some of your hair journey, Kim, and thanks for your kind words on my hair. Actually, my hair is not in as good condition as it used to be. I’ve had to cut layers because it was breaking off. I recently found out I have a thyroid problem, which is probably what is to blame for my hair thinning and breaking. So perhaps there’s hope I can restore it to its previous condition. I tend to dislike the changes I make to my hair. Like you, I can’t really do bangs due to a low forehead (they always get in my eyes and I end up clipping them up and growing them out). Most of my hair changes have been in terms of color and length variations (but keeping the length on the long side). Sometimes I think I’d like to do something extreme with my hair, but I get scared. It’s a bigger commitment than changing clothes, as it takes so long to grow out! I am probably going to do a post on hair soon, as it’s an important part of our style…

      • Hi Debbie, I hope you don’t mind my suggesting that you would look amazing with a long, slightly angled bob with a side part. Very chic, a touch dramatic but completely safe and easy to change at the same time, and complementary to your features imho.

      • I can offer some general tips that worked for me and hopefully for you also. I suggest that you take small steps toward a potential new style and refine it with future cuts/trims. I told my stylist I wanted something that was suited to my hairs texture etc., suggested a range of length, a bit of lift at the crown… do what would be best for my hair along these lines. (We have made small changes since the initial cut to suit my needs/ wants.) I really like my hair style and I find it easy to maintain.
        What do you want your hair to say about you? Edgy? Creative? Quirky? How might those descriptions be expressed in a hair style? If you show your stylist some pictures of what you think you might like it would be helpful. Let your hair show some of your personality. 🙂

      • Thanks for sharing these tips, Annette! I really need to think about what I want my hair to say about me. I think that I’ve been fighting against my hair’s natural texture (which is wavy and frizzy) for so long that I’ve thought a lot more about what I don’t want than what I do want. I like the way my hair looks some of the time, but if I get in too much humidity, not so much. You gave me some great food for thought!

        Tia, I like the type of style you mentioned and it might look good on me, but my hair is not naturally straight. It’s actually naturally wavy (and not a uniform wavy) and frizzy (more so as I get older). I flat-iron it to get it straight and don’t do much with it except leave it down or put it in a pony-tail. I’d love to look more chic and dramatic, though. I know that it’s always recommended that we work with our hair’s natural texture, but I just don’t like wavy hair on me (and I absolutely hate frizz!). The perfectionist in me wants perfectly straight Jennifer Aniston hair, but even HER hair isn’t naturally straight!

  17. Interesting post, Debbie!

    I have 14 black Eileen Fisher dresses — 14! Some are short, some are long. Some are heavy weight and some are light weight. Some have sleeves and some are sleeveless. Yes, black dresses are my “basic.” I wear them 4 of 5 work days — with cardigans or flowing Citron silk tunics. Black dresses are a canvas I can decorate elegantly or with a bohemian flair. They’re versatile and they save me from trying to find pants that fit well or are long enough. Even so, I admit that 14 may be too many.

    Maybe. 😉

    PS. I don’t own a single tee shirt. Your post makes me want to buy some. LOL!

    • I’m sure all of your black Eileen Fisher dresses are lovely, Bette. My hairdresser also wears almost all black (but not always dresses) and she collects Bette Page dresses. It seems like you are happy with your wardrobe overall, but maybe 14 black dresses might be too much. Only you can know that. What about an Eileen Fisher dress in another color? I have one in cobalt blue and I love it, and I look forward to buying another EF dress this summer perhaps.

      I’m shocked that you have no t-shirts. If you do end up buying some, try not to go overboard or you’ll end up like me! I can’t believe how many t-shirts I still have, but writing this post may have helped me to turn a corner…

    • I love hearing that someone has chosen a totally different basic wardrobe than what is “normal” and that it works so well! I don’t have any button-down shirts or blouses at all, and seeing that they’re a fundamental basic to most other people makes me question myself. But it’s been years since I found any that suited me and my wardrobe. -Shrug-
      No tshirts though?! wow! Not even for exercise, leisure or yard work? Even as I type that I realize that we all have our own context and lifestyle and that my life is probably completely different from yours, and that is totally OK!
      14 similar dresses is not necessarily too many if you rotate through and wear them all during the year. I imagine that they last a long time wearing them that way and they obviously meet different needs. Or maybe most of them do! 😉

      • I love seeing the different types of wardrobes people have, too, Joanna. There is definitely no “one size fits all” when it comes to wardrobe types (or clothes, for that matter). I don’t have any button-down shirts, either. I try them on, but they never fit me right and they just don’t feel like “me.” As you’ve seen, though, I have TONS of t-shirts! I have a hard time imagining having none at all, too, but I know that others have lives that are completely different from mine. The important thing for all of us is to learn what works for us and then gear our wardrobes around that. Easier said than done, though!

  18. How many basics do we need? There’s no “right” number, but here’s one that may serve as a guide rail.

    In the 1930s, when American women were among the best dressed anywhere, the average woman had nine outfits in her closet. A total of nine outfits – usually dresses.

    So nine of anything should be more than enough, especially if one has many other styles of clothing in their closet.

    • The Great Depression also occurred in the 1930s, which may have impacted the number of garments. However, judging by family photos, movies, and so forth, these dresses — mostly solid colors — had an abundance of interesting details — amazing buttons or pockets or sleeves or collars or belts. And because every one but Katherine Hepburn wore a dress, these details really helped a dress stand out and helped express the woman’s personal style. Better fabrics and construction, too. I still have a few dresses of my mother’s from this period, include a lovely long black lace dress that is as stylish today as when it was made. I doubt that any of my clothes today will be so regarded if the survive another 70-80 years. 😦

    • I’ve seen this statistic, Nutrivore, and I was amazed by it. We have moved much too far in the other direction in recent years and we are not the better for it. I’m sure those 9 outfits were of far superior quality than what women wear today, as Dottie mentioned. I agree that 9 should probably be more than enough for any category. Perhaps I will choose the best 9 of my solid tees and move on. Stay tuned 🙂

  19. What a timely post! I inadvertently stumbled across the idea of a 10-piece wardrobe today, where things like t-shirts are not counted as part of the 10. That struck me as odd, since if I have a t-shirt, I, well, wear it as a shirt! I used to have lots and lots of tees, in different colors, sleeve lengths, and neck openings, and purged most of them last year. I think I even kept too many, as I don’t think I wore each one this past winter, which is usually my heavy basics season (layers!). Even now, I’m not reaching for basic tees as shirts. I’m much more fond of my “interesting” tops. I think I’ve just discovered today that I’m just not really into “basics” anymore, the way I once was.

    • We are on a similar wavelength, Cristina. I think I used to like plain tees more than I do now, but I also used to be more into wearing scarves, which worked well with the plain tops. I’ve seen quite a bit about the 10-item wardrobe and it strikes me as weird, too, that t-shirts aren’t counted. I think it ends up being more like Project 333 once the “extras” are added in, which is difficult but not nearly as challenging as dressing with only 10 items!

  20. Very interesting Debbie! By choice my bottoms are all basic. They are almost all denim and black and when I want to get really wild I have a pair of charcoal grey leggings, a pair of white shorts, and a pair of white denim capri pants. I also have 4 black dresses, black and grey cardigans, black and grey v neck cashmere sweaters so I guess all of those count as basics.
    As far as tops like the ones that you showed above, I only have a few in black,white, and grey and I rarely wear them except for layering. It’s not so much that I think they’re boring, but they look terrible on me. I have a petite frame with very narrow shoulders while being somewhat overweight-all in my stomach. If I get a top to fit my shoulders it highlights my muffintop (not the look I’m going for) and if I get something that doesn’t cling the shoulder seams are halfway down my arms. I now buy mostly dolman sleeve or peasant tops, often with an elastic on the bottom and that seems to solve my problem and be the most flattering on me.
    I have several of those tops in neutral colors so I guess they are my basics. I think I have achieved what you’re talking about, basics with special details, without having really thought too much about it. You are right though, I can throw on one of those tops with a pair of jeans and I don’t feel like I have to add anything to it. Since my bottoms are so plain I have a number of prints that I enjoy wearing too.
    I think when all is said and done the best way to figure out what kind of clothing you need is to look at what you do wear. It’s different for everyone. Lists of must have items and fashion expert tips can all be helpful if you’re at a loss, but I don’t believe there is a one size that fits all. Some of the above commenters have mentioned fun items like purple coats, lime green flats, and ikat or red pants. I can picture it in my head and it makes me smile because I imagine people having fun with their clothes and being themselves. While I don’t think overshopping and spending too much money and time on clothing is the answer anymore, I am a fan of loving what I wear and feeling very me in it.

    • Your pants are more exciting than mine, Tonya, and would you believe that I don’t even have any shorts? Well, it doesn’t get that hot where I live… It sounds like you have a good number of “basics” for your life and your preferences. I think mine work for my life, but my preferences have changed. Now I really want those tops with the interesting details, especially to wear with my more “boring” pants. I definitely like being able to put on a top and a pair of pants and not have to worry too much about adding anything in order to look put together. Of course, I still wear jewelry and I like my jewelry collection, but I’m not as into scarves as I used to be. You’re right that we have to love what we wear and feel like ourselves in it. That’s really the bottom line.

  21. It’s interesting to hear that, by buying less, you focus more on what you already have and whether it is adequate to your needs and preferences. I agree that if you need to purchase a lot of “interesting” toppers or scarves to liven up you basic tees, then maybe the basics are indeed the problem. Within my own wardrobe, I consider that an item that would require more purchases, or only goes with one other item, is ill-adapted and should go.

    Personally, if you consider plain tops, even colourful, to be basics, then I think my wardrobe has almost only basics 🙂 But that’s a question of style preferences, I didn’t buy them “because they are basics and I should have that many”, but because I prefer to have a rather simple outfit, with a more colourful scarf and jewelry with mineral stones for example.

    • You make some good points, Kali. I definitely don’t want to have to buy new clothes to make what I have work, especially since I have so much already. And if I don’t even love the item in question, all the more reason not to buy more to make it work! I think I will always want to have some plain tops, but the type I would want has shifted. I now would rather have better quality tops in nicer fabric rather than a whole bunch of lightweight tees of only mediocre quality. It’s amazing how much I’ve changed in a less than a year and a half!

    • I have only a few scarves and a limited # of pieces of jewelry, but because all of my stuff is within a limited color palette, the scarves work with the tees and vice versa. So I don’t need a lot of accessories, and the stuff I have really have to work with a number of garments and for a number of occasions.

      • I think the limited color palette is key, Dottie, as well as having a defined sense of style.

  22. I just did a reply to this post on my blog (http://theyogasticshoppingplanner.blogspot.dk/2014/05/do-i-wear-my-basics.html). It’s about how big a portion of my wardrobe are basics and how often I use them compared to the non-basic. I started writing it in the comments here, but since it started showing signs of being useful to me, I put it in a post instead so I can find it again. I would have guessed my distribution to be 20% basics and 80% non-basic, but I got quite a surprise!

    But apart from that, I look so much forward to following your style evolution! Let me know if you need a coach for that 🙂

    • Mette, I loved you post and made a comment over there. I’m always honored when one of my posts sparks a post for another blogger 🙂 I think I will do the statistics like you did and maybe do a follow up post soon. So maybe you are sparking a post for me! As for my style evolution, I need all the help I can get, so if you’re willing to coach me, I’m game…

  23. I too (like someone who commented earlier) look bad in basic T-shirts. I am only 5’4″ and have a 31″ pants inseam. Anyone know what this means? Yeah, I have long legs for my height, and almost no space between boobs and waist. Ok fine, I have maybe 2 inches. So my fat collects there, above the waistband of whatever (low rise look best) pants I am wearing. I do wear some fitted T’s, but mostly a more flowy blouse or shirt is way more flattering. So that’s what I have, and none of them could be classified as basic. I do wear some fitted shirts, but they all have detailing of some sort making them non-basic. I don’t own a single pair of denim jeans in any color, though I do have basic black, grey, white, navy and green pants ranging from baby boot cut to boyfriend cuffed to cropped to capri. And print shorts. But other than two pair of black paints, I don’t count any of these as basic. I have a few tanks I wear under other clothes, though any tanks I wear alone have interesting detailing or cut. I did have some uber-casual plain t-shirts on hand, but I downgraded those to sleepwear a while back. I’d guess I have in the neighborhood of 8 tops which would qualify as basic, mostly long sleeve t-shirts I wear with interesting scarves, etc. in the temperate months, and under sweaters or blazers when it is absolutely frigid and also a few tanks for under other toppers. I have no plain cardigans or sweaters. I recently completed a closet inventory and have 230 pieces of clothing I wear out of the house in a visible way (that means, no bras or underwear were counted, but leggings were, etc.) divided between the three distinct climatic seasons of winter, summer and spring/fall. So my 10 basic items comes to around 4% of the total. If I cut my wardrobe back to 175 this next year, and I still have 10 basics that is stll only 6%. I guess I’m not a basics kind of girl.

    On the other hand if I were to count print blouses as basics? That is a scary number.

    • Thanks for sharing your wardrobe numbers and philosophy, Holly. I think that 8 basic tops would probably be a good number for me, especially since I like the more detailed and interesting tops more like you do. In regards to basics, someone above said that perhaps a better word is “staples,” so maybe print blouses are a wardrobe staple for you personally. That’s why I never like those “must have” lists from fashion experts because they assume we all have similar lives, bodies, and preferences. While some women love button-down tops and pencil skirts, other love printed blouses. As many have quite astutely pointed out in the comments of this post, it’s all about knowing ourselves and what works best for us. I’m still figuring that out, or rather re-figuring it out after years of overshopping and not giving enough thought to what I really like best. As for you, if 6% basics works for you, who is anyone else to criticize it? 🙂

      • I cannot imagine why anyone would criticize the construct of my wardrobe as it is highly personal. I was commenting on my low number of basics because you asked how many people have. And I too am still figuring things out, like that I don’t actually need plain T’s for the most part, so there is no need to snap them up when I see them on sale.

        I do think there are some semantics to deal with. One person’s basic is another person’s staple. And then there are mainstays. I have all three and I think my tops are mainstays vs. basics. I have counts by category though and I have no cateogry for basics, though I do have one for staples. And mainstays. 🙂

        Thanks for your blog. It has been helpful to me as I’ve tackled my wardrobe in earnest this year.

      • You’re right about the semantics, Holly. I think that’s a big reason why this post has generated so many comments… I like the idea of using different terms, but I wonder whether people would agree on those as well. If you see this and care to comment, please let me know what you view as the distinction between staples and mainstays. I’m intrigued by the concept… Glad you like the blog and have found it helpful!

    • Holly – sounds like you and I are cut from the same mold. I’ve taken advantage of the low-rise pant trend – they hit me right at my navel. I’ve always thought someone could make a lot of money designing to our types. I see “us” everywhere. Thanks for your post!

      • In general, I think designers should pay more attention to the variations in women’s body types, Sheryl. I can almost never find pants that fit me at both the hips and the waist. Almost all of my pants (when I can find any that are long enough – another story…) have to be taken in about 2 or more inches at the waist. Aren’t there a lot of women out there with smaller waists in proportion to our hips? I thought so, but the pants selection says otherwise.

  24. Oops, no time to read all the comments, so I may be duplicating. Like Terra, I pretty much only wear basics now–plain, solid, mostly black and gray. I have learned to feel comfortable in a scarf–to add some color. Interestingly, my 23 y.o. daughter also confines herself mostly to basics. She is good with accessories, but doesn’t really need them–and often skips them–because her main accessory is her height and her long flaming red (dyed) hair. I think it is the “whole” effect that counts–and Debbie, you too are lucky to have height and great hair also.

    Also–and this is my frugal side–I would hesitate to get rid of all those basic tees. They are in great colors, tees wear out and get shabby. Why not pack yours away and bring them out as their “twins” wear out? That will save you the time and money of replacement.

    • Storing the excess is a good idea if there is house room for them — because, if the current trend continues, in a few years if/when you want to replace them with new the fabric will be like cheesecloth — cheap and see-through!

    • I agree with all of you on the declining fabric quality. It’s a really big problem, even in more expensive brands that we used to be able to count on. I think it’s a good idea to store some of my basic tees, Frugalscholar, especially if they fit well. A few of them have questionable fit, though, so those might go. I think I am not against “basic” tees, but I have too many and some aren’t high enough quality. Reading the comments here has helped me to clarify the issue.

  25. This is a great post,love the comments too! About 75% of my clothes are basics! I’m aiming for 50%. For the past year, I have been replacing tissue tees,deep v necks that require layering & ordinary tops with higher quality basics and “special” tops. Most of my pants are basic cigarette style in my core colors of black,gray,navy & white. I also have linen pants,blue jeans & white jeans. I currently have 8 pairs of white jeans in a variety of styles & lengths. I live in Florida at the beach so I can easily wear them year round. I’ve invested in quality belts,bags & sandals/ flats & boots that I pair with pants. Occasionally I’ll add a simple scarf. Lately my go to outfit is white jeans & basic tops. I love the simplicity of this look. I feel polished and pulled together. I also wear monochromatic outfits in white, black, & gray. However, when I wear blue jeans with a basic top I feel ordinary and a bit dull. I realized I need to wear “special” tops with blue jeans to feel pulled together.
    I hope to donate more items by the end of summer. I’m content with my style for now. Finding the right pieces is the most difficult part.
    Debbie, you may want to give white jeans a try. It would give you a break from the dark pants. I think with your long legs you would look fantastic in them! Plus , living in San Diego you could wear them year round.
    Looking forward to your next post, thanks.

    • Yes, aren’t the comments great, Jan? I’m happy when my posts generate so much thought and commentary, as I learn a great deal from all of the readers’ contributions. I am trying to do the same thing as you and replace my “ordinary” tops with ones of higher quality and/or special details. I also think I need more variation in my pants and white pants/jeans would be a nice addition. I struggle a lot with pants fit, though, and the fact that I need long/tall lengths exacerbates that. But if I can find a pair of white pants or jeans that fit well, I agree that they would be a nice addition to my wardrobe. I will keep my eyes open for new options to try. Thanks for the suggestion!

  26. Debbie, I couldn’t agree more that there’s a sweet spot. That’s a concept that I find really hits home when I do shopping at certain big box stores (like I did this January when I was frustrated with my “leftover” capsule wardrobe options). I end up with items which might be more or less appealing on their own, but add up to a terribly-bland “set” and then I get frustrated because I feel like I look like a (not-very inspiring) ad for that store. Alternatively, for P333, I find I want to pick more special items, but then rely too heavily on the one or two basic tops I allow for layering, which gets frustrating in its own right. For my part, if we define “capsule wardrobe” not as a P333-sort-of “complete” wardrobe, but instead as the core basic around which we work, I think I could get by with:

    5 “boring” basic tops, maybe 2 white 1 gray 1 color 1 black.
    2 simply-cut, basic skirts.
    3 simply-cut, basic pants.
    1 simply-cut, basic dress.
    3 basic cardigans: one that works well with a black base, one for brown base, and a color.
    5 “essential” pairs of shoes: black and brown ballet flats, black and brown heels, brown tall boots.

    Everything else is “flavor”. All told, that’s 19, so for a Project 333, that leaves 14 spots for things like a fun necklace, great scarf, patterned top, bottom, dress, or topper, 3-4 great bags (go-to purse and work bag, and a couple more “fun” options for different uses), and a couple belts and fun or brightly-colored pair of shoes to get to 33, and have infinite combos. For my part, too, when I do feel inclined to pair basics (white tee, basic cardi, plain pants), having a statement belt or pair of shoes or scarf can take the outfit from sad to sophisticated.

    I’m actually really glad for this post and exercise. Without meaning to, I think I might have defined the right-size core wardrobe. I suspect I’ll keep a lot of the rest in there as “spice” until I get my basics wardrobe to a better place (I’m struggling with a few extra pounds/fit issues and worn/not-quite-right items right now, but balancing emotions/desires against a promise to be more frugal and mindful in purchasing). So THANKS!

    • I love what you outlined as a capsule wardrobe, Rebecca. I think that selection would work well for me, too. I don’t know if I will ever include accessories in a Project 333 capsule, but I think that 14 spots for interesting garments and shoes would be a nice number. I need to add some more belts to my wardrobe, I think. I do well with scarves and jewelry, but am a bit “belt-impaired.” That could be an area of growth for me, as well as getting higher quality basics and narrowing down my color palette (have done some, need to do more…). I’m glad you found this post helpful and took it a step further by doing the exercise you did. I’m sure your comment will be useful to many!

  27. Hi again Debbie, and congrats on finishing your book! I’ve been thinking a lot about basics lately as well. I’ve noticed that the “wow” factor we look for can still be present in a good basic, but often it’s in the form of fabric content (organic cotton, silk) or texture (tiny cables or pleats), or silhouette (fitted rather than relaxed), while still remaining very “mixable.” I’ve really noticed your style evolving over time, especially what patterns and silhouettes you like, and I think focusing on textures might be important for your next step! I have a similar issue with comfort that you do (I have sensory integration problems, and can’t stand tags or certain textures), and while that makes it more difficult to incorporate certain things, it’s not impossible! I keep a list of brands which have printed tags rather than sewn in ones, or shoe brands that don’t rub my feet wrong. Pinterest has been really great in helping me streamline what I like and then have more focus while hunting for that style element. For example, I love moto style jackets, but not stiffness, so after a long search I was able to find a knit moto jacket that added some edginess with it’s cut, while retaining comfort with its stretchiness.

    Also, I’m wondering why you are still downgrading clothes you don’t really like to be workout wear? Part of my incentive to workout is wearing clothes I like and feel good about my body in. I know you have commented on wanting your wardrobe to only include items you love, so why is workout/lounge wear being excluded from that? I think you should still feel good about yourself when lounging around.

    • Your comments were very insightful, Sarah. I agree that focusing on new textures would be a good area for me to focus on moving forward. Thanks for noticing my style evolution. I look forward to doing a post on that, although it will be a time-consuming one to do since I’ll have to find good photos to use. Sometime this month, though…

      I love the idea of using Pinterest more for refining my style. I know it can be a good tool, but I stayed away for a while because I felt a lot of pull to buy things. But I have more control over that now.

      As for your question on downgrading clothes, I mostly just downgrade things I still like but aren’t in as fabulous condition. When I mentioned wearing those tops at home, it was more of a “test” to see how I feel about them. I’m on the fence about many of them, mostly because I feel the neckline is too low on the scoop necks (fine at home but not good when I’m out, as I get self-conscious that my bra or too much cleavage – not that I have a whole lot… – will show). I agree that we should love our workout/lounge wear, too. I wrote a post about that last year (https://recoveringshopaholic.com/neglected-wardrobe-areas/) and have been upgrading that area of my wardrobe ever since.

      • Yeah that makes a lot of sense. I guess I just found myself “saving” pretty worn items for lounging around and working out in and noticed it would always make me feel yucky. Now I only save one yucky shirt for if I have paint or use bleach or something. I’ve also reduced my wardrobe size by having my workout/lounge/PJs/basics overlap quite a bit. I work in a casual environment, so I’ll usually wear a plain t-shirt layered with a sweater and then keep that t-shirt on to workout later, for example. My basic tanks are undershirts, sleepwear, and loungewear. I have been trying to get some more prints in there since I wear these items so many different ways, but I’m so picky! My hair is also a very vibrant auburn so I feel like my clothes often need to be a little less loud.

        I have such trouble finding cute workout wear that also doesn’t bother me (seams, feeling of fabrics, breathability, or cut too short). Why is it so hard to find shorts that don’t ride up?!

        And I agree Pinterest can be a black hole for your time and money if you’re not careful! I have to set time limits for myself.

        Oh and as an aside… I’d love to see a post on jewelry and accessories if you’re planning that! I bet it would be a great discussion in the comments as well.

      • I’m picky, too, Sarah… I think it’s great that you are multi-tasking some of your garments. I need to do that more. I’ve been easing into that by wearing my “regular” clothes at home more often and I’ve enjoyed the change. I like that I’m dressed nicer at home and getting more wear out of my clothes. I have a hard time with workout clothes, too. Sometimes I buy clothes for workout that aren’t specifically designed for that purpose. Most of the tops I wear to workout are “regular” tee shirts but I designate them for working out. I like natural fibers more and most workout wear tends to be synthetic or at least a blend.

        As for a post on jewelry and accessories, I am planning to do one soon. I did one on my jewelry inventory in the past, so check that out if you haven’t seen it already: https://recoveringshopaholic.com/jewelry-inventory/ I’m going to do a follow-up on that soon and will likely delve into more about jewelry and accessories soon. If you have specific suggestions about what you’d like me to cover, please send them my way (or comment here). I am always open to suggestions and some of my best posts were as a result of a comment or a suggestion from a reader.

      • For a while I tried to have jewelry to match nearly every item of clothing I had. I tend to prefer necklaces to scarves so I’ve got quite a few “statement” necklaces/pendants. Now that I want to be more minimalistic, I am paring down my collection. Most of it is going to my sister and niece as they are still in a working environment and I am not. I found I have one simple white gold necklace that works with almost all of my tops and I always get compliments on it. I think our taste in jewelry fluctuates throughout our life, at least mine has. Good idea for a future post, that’s for sure!

    • Thanks, Amy! I continue to be concerned about actually doing a “real” Project 333 (I’ve never included bags or jewelry, and kicked outerwear out quickly, too), but I like the idea of “shopping my closet” for those core items, then focusing my buying on any missing pieces first, then carefully evaluating the rest. After a couple of years of culling, I’ve gotten to a mix of basics I wear the heck out of, and special things that I may love, which fit at one end of a 5-10-pound spectrum, but not the other, or which are highly seasonal, or just a little to fancy to want to wear on the regular, and I’m currently trying to figure out what to do with those. I’m not sure I need them to number in the triple digits, but getting rid of lovely clothing that suits me really sometimes doesn’t jive with my concerns about disposable wardrobes, either. Closet stuff is kinda hard. And that’s BEFORE the psychological stuff about what we think we “should” look like or wear, or whatever. Sigh. 🙂

      • Yes, closet stuff is very hard! I never knew that so many other women wrestled with the kinds of issues that I do, but there are many of us out there! It’s interesting what you wrote about weight fluctuations. I struggle with those, too, and I’d really like to find more clothes that I can wear within a bigger range. Since I tend to gain weight in my lower half, I find that many of my pants feel too tight after even a minor weight gain. I bought a couple pairs of stretchier pants, but need to find more options so I don’t feel so horrible about myself with the hormonal weight gain I tend to get every single month these days. I always seem to get back to “normal,” but I swear I must gain 5 pounds with the hormonal stuff (I almost never weigh myself due to my eating disordered past). Why does women’s clothing have to be so unforgiving? Men have it much easier, it seems.

  28. I’m excited to hear that you seem to be getting closer to what you really like and appreciate!

    Basics are good if your personal style is minimalist – it sounds like yours is not.
    I’ve gotten closer to what I think is my core style and at the moment I’ve almost completely gotten rid of pattern in my wardrobe. I love a restricted palette (the drama of white worn with two shades of off white). I used to have a wardrobe full of color – I felt exhausted by it. Now I spend most my days in neutrals and use color as a treat. It has started feeling special again!

    Mindlessly buying piles of t shirts and sweaters in a rainbow of colors simply to have more choice does not make sense. I think the key to a satisfying wardrobe is to have enough (but not too many) options that you genuinely like and feel great in.

    • FrugalFashionista, I feel the same way! I’ve exhausted myself by having too many colors and too many patterns in my wardrobe, and too many special pieces. Currently I prefer to stick with a few basic color combinations (black, gray, charcoal, navy, denim, and three accent colors) and I find that everything works well with other pieces to create a variety of options.

      But I still have lots of patterns that I have tired of wearing, yet they are in perfect condition, and like Debbie mentioned about her wardrobe, I can’t toss everything out and begin anew. I will need to continue to wear these items, but when they wear out I won’t replace them.

      These days I wear all of my colored cotton t-shirts (a rainbow of variety of colors purchased in past years) at home, or on days like today – to the auto parts stores, to the nursery for garden supplies, for walks along the harbor at night with a jacket on top, or for a quick trip to Trader Joe’s, even. But when I get dressed to leave the house for everything else I dress up a bit more, or a lot more, and I prefer basic neutrals, and use color and pattern and special items as a treat. And yes, it has started feeling special again! But now I know that I need to keep the variety of choices to a minimum because I’m happiest currently with a personal style that is (moderately) minimalist.

      • Hi Terra, thanks for your comment! It’s lovely to hear that by restricting your choices, you are able to enjoy your clothes again! I too have some unwanted bright tees. I got rid of the sweaters by donating them to someone close to me (they were very good quality items and she wears them all the time). I still have too many bright tee shirts, and I’m thinking of using them as nightwear, pairing them with pyjama bottoms and hoping that frequent washing will wear them out soon…

        Another tip would be to take one or two patterned item out of the closet every month (or every week) and then work it into your combinations whenever you feel like it. I’ve currently two such items – a pair of capris and a dress – and they break the monotony of neutrals and make my outfits more varied.

        Debbie, I wanted to clarify that I’m referring to minimalist style (as in Calvin Klein, Halston, Jil Sander, Raf Simons, COS clothes…) as opposed to minimalist lifestyle. Someone can be a ruffle-loving bohemian and still adhere to a minimalist lifestyle! So I’m not saying you will not be able to minimize your wardrobe – rather, it seems that you are drawn to clothes that have some pattern, detail and visual interest, and for this reason, basics may not be your thing. (I’m drawn to minimalist design – I love clean lines and lack of detail in clothes, and very simple basics are definitely my go-tos.). Another thing that I have learned is that for a visual minimalist, top-notch materials are a must. As there is so little going on visually, the material has to be high quality. Not limp tees from H&M and Old Navy 🙂

    • I’m restricting my palette these days, too! I find it really refreshing. I love layered tones – grays, browns, whites and creams. I find that, colorwise, if it’s not a flattering red (rust or raspberry, but rarely a true red) or a muted blue (all of them!), it’s not great for me. Letting go of the other colors helps focus your wardrobe and style.

    • This is a really great discussion here! There’s lots of variation in terms of what works best for us style-wise. We just need to discover what’s right for us, as it sounds like the three of you have. I’m still working on it… I DO like minimalist style sometimes, Frugal Fashionista. I think I just don’t like it with lower quality and for lack of a better word, flimsy, pieces like what some of mine are. I like monochromatic outfits with scarves and interesting shoes and jewelry like what is show on The Vivienne Files sometimes. I do like color and pattern, but I also like some neutrals, too. I’m paring down my color palette like Rebecca is and that’s helping a lot. I find that my style preferences are shifting a lot as I’m shopping less, so it’s good that I’m restricting how much I can buy. Who knows where things will settle out, but I’m happy to be gaining more clarity. I really pay attention to how I feel in my clothes and let that guide what I decide to keep around and what I decide to buy. I really want to love more of what I wear and would prefer to have fewer things than a closet full of the mediocre.

  29. Debbie: After reading these posts again, I started to wonder how people make a decision to buy a piece of clothing. Not the impulse that leads one to go to the store to begin with, but the decision to buy garment A or accessory B. I make my decisions based on a annual wardrobe plan and these days I’m mostly replacing older clothes and updating my wardrobe via accessories. So I decide to buy something based on a careful plan — knowing how it will fit my body, lifestyle, and personal style and how it will work with my wardrobe. But I figured this all out decades ago and I’m only slightly influenced by trends (mostly I’m negatively impacted by the lack of availability of specific colors in a season). But I spend very little ($240 annually) on my clothes — not a typical clothing consumer! So what drives the decision-making process for other folks? Why DO people buy “basic” tees or ballet flats or skinny jeans or whatever? Why do we buy what we do? Cues on current trends from magazines? Nudges from our shopping pal who says, “You’ve GOT to get that? What??? And, why???

    • Dottie, speaking solely for myself, I decide to buy when I find something that fits and is flattering. That’s rare enough that I don’t purchase much of anything. For example, you’ll see from my response, above, that I own zero tee shirts — b/c they look horrible on me. I never go to malls, don’t follow fashion trends, and never, ever read fashion magazines (which strike me as 90% advertising). I only shop online — if I see an item that even comes close to being something I think I’d love, I buy it. I am disciplined enough (after years of effort) to force myself to immediately return anything that isn’t perfect. In this way, I slowly build a wardrobe based solely on what looks good on me and what I love, with very little to no external pressures.

    • I think that those who plan carefully tend to shop more wisely, Dottie. I can’t speak for all shopaholics, but I know that I shopped more based upon emotions than intellect and that led to a lot of poor purchases. I mitigated a lot of the damage through returns, but as you’ve seen, many of my shopping mistakes stuck around and I made some of the same types of mistakes many times over. I think I could write a whole post to answer your question (and I might…), but I think some of the factors you mentioned DO come into play – friends, magazines, store displays, etc.

      I think women often just buy what’s in the stores and that’s often quite homogenous, as I’ve written about previously. I think that many women buy things because they like the color and then don’t take into consideration the other aspects of the item in question. When I was doing the closet audits with clients in my previous business, I would often ask them why they bought something that they have never worn. “I liked the color” was a common answer, as was “because it was in style” or “because the saleswoman told me it looked good on me.” When we carefully plan our purchases and hold out for what truly meets our standards and things we love, we fare much better. Going for impeccable fit and figure-flattery, as Bette does, is also a recipe for success. Shopping alone and not yielding to pressure from others are also the right way to go. I could write a lot more, but this is good for now. I just might write a post on this, though, as it’s a very “meaty” topic!

  30. About basics: For my work wardrobe, basics are the workhorses. I keep two basic tees and one or two basic cardigans in each of my three neutrals, three basic colors and two accent colors.

    I like hearing others have landed on restricting their color palettes. Until recently, I owned all the colors in “my” seasonal palette, not conscious of what I was doing. I had already culled out design lines and fabrications that were not right for me, but still I didn’t love, love, love my clothes. I felt so frustrated and confused and shopped endlessly trying to fill in the holes and figure it all out.

    Many paths to the same answer. For me, it was Imogen Lamport’s post about contrast long with the Zyla method of identifying the colors that are truly mine. I spent a day culling out pastels and high contrasts and was left with the rich low-contrast midtones that speak to my soul. I love these colors so much that I find I can’t tolerate bringing in a piece that doesn’t harmonize. My seasonal wardrobe occupies a single closet rod with room for the garments to breathe.

    This is all very recent – three weeks or so. Even though I’m not wearing new clothes, friends and colleagues notice and comment on the change – most just say “you look so…you.” That is the highest compliment, I’d say. To be seen and known for who you are. And as I settle into me, I find, at least for now, that I spend my time other ways than shopping.

    Thanks so much, Debbie, for this blog. As I live with the fact of my own overspending, it is important to me that you and this community shed light on this path.

    • Sheryl I did the same about six months ago! I had a seasonal color palette of brights prepared for me by a color consultant, but then I got really severe facial eczema. I couldn’t wear the bright reds and greens and pinks on my palette – they made my raw face look even worse. Soft off whites looked much better. I paired them with taupes and soft blues that I already had in my wardrobe and suddenly I had neutrals that were my neutrals, not someone else’s. I’ve recently read Zyla’s book and funnily enough, I found that I had come up with his theory on my own! My eye color (deep olive), the color of my veins (smoky blues and deep purple), the color of my flushed cheeks, all the tones in my hair (taupes, creams, beiges) and the soft ivory color of my teeth are tones that feel natural and effortless on me. I occasionally wear stronger color for parties or working out, but after having found my neutrals, I feel that my wardrobe is so much more ‘me’.

      I think you are in the process of discovering really important things about yourself! I started this process about a year ago and while overhopping is not an easy habit to curb – there have been many setbacks and relapses – I think I’ve learned a lot about myself and feel much more satisfied and fulfilled than I did before. My aim this year – to stay away from the summer sales!

      • So Mette – here’s my tip. I ended up taking an eye-selfie and enlarged it in order to find the colors there. I’m in my late 50’s and never really knew what color eyes I had. Mom said they were hazel…that’s all I knew. Turns out…there’s a lot of color in those irises! My daughter walked in as I was trying to aim and click. She just cracked up laughing. But now she’s got her own selfie’s. Have fun!

      • That’s a good tip, Sheryl! My eyes are ‘hazel’ as well, but I had my daugter describe the darkest vs. lightest color in them yesterday and she said the darkest was brown and the lightest was a blue/grey 🙂

      • Re the Zyla book — I guess I’m one of the few who didn’t find it helpful. For starters, my eyes are very very dark brown, almost black– there is no other color, eliminating one of Zyla’s postulates. Second, I found his categories of types and styles overwhelming and unclear. Third, without a single photograph or illustration, a book on color and style is going to fall flat. Perhaps if I personally met w/ Zyla and spent an hour or two learning his theories and then he actually helped me shop and dress, I’d get it!

      • I’m another person with hazel eyes! I guess that’s why the traditional color theory doesn’t work super well on me – my skintone is cool (Summer), but I have warm olive green eyes (Spring, Autumn) with a rusty brown center and cool gray outer ring (to truly follow the theory, my eyes should be blue or gray). The color palette a seasonal color consultant prepared for me only included cool jade greens that clashed with my eye color! I’ve realized that my natural coloring does not really follow a warm-cool divide.

        I have to say I’m not 100% sold on Zyla either. I mean, he looks like this:

        My first impression would be that he is color blind 😉 I would really like to see more examples of his system in practice! But using my personal coloring as a broad guideline, I’ve ended with a color palette that seems easier to wear and more coherent than any Summer or Spring palette I have tried. I guess that it is because my personal coloring is fairly nuanced (lots of different colors to choose from) but quite muted. And the ‘universal neutrals’ (black, brown, gray) really don’t look flattering on me – my best neutrals are denim blues, taupes and soft whites. For me, the overall level of contrast in clothing is super important. High contrast clothes wash me out. My personal version of black and white is oatmeal and steel gray…

      • Thanks for sharing your story, FrugalFashionista! First, your colors sound gorgeous and your intuition spot on. Hope the exzema is healing. Been there.

      • Thanks Sheryl! The eye photo is a brilliant idea, do experiment with the new colors you found – they might become new favorites! I’ve found that my main eye color (olive green) is very flattering and superb for winter coats. The fantastic thing about hazel eyes is that they change color depending on your outfit and eye makeup.

        My face has healed and in the process I learned that I have to dramatically simplify my skincare routines. These days, it’s micellar water, black African soap and mineral makeup – I used to be a makeup maximalist but I’m in the process of using up everything and downsizing dramatically….

    • This is such a great thread! I really appreciate Sheryl and Frugal Fashionista sharing their sucess stories in terms of refining a color palette. I think that can really go a long way in helping us to cultivate a workable wardrobe. I used to aim for almost every color in the rainbow, but the preponderance of choice only served to overwhelm me and had me dressing WORSE as a result! I’m still refining my colors now, but I’m already feeling much better about what I have. It seems the fewer clothes I have (within reason, of course), the happier I am with my wardrobe. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I continue to feel compelled to pare down further.

      I haven’t read the Zyla book yet, but I know that frequent commenter Deby swears by it. I have to admit, though, that I was taken aback that there are no photos in the book. I always LOVE fashion/style books that have lots of photos to illustrate the points. Please let us know what you think of the book, Mette, after you read it. I may take a close-up photo of my eyes to see what colors are there. I’ve had a hard time determining my “season” when reading books and taking online tests. I think it’s because many elements of my coloring are not clear-cut. My eyes are light brown but have some green in them. My skin is very pale and I think much more cool-toned. My hair is (dyed) auburn, but it had some red tones in it even before I colored it. I know I look better in jewel tone than pastels, but I would love to get a color analysis one day. I’d love to have it done by Imogen Lamport, but unless I go to Australia or she comes to San Diego (either of which could happen), I may have to go to someone else. I am pretty happy with the colors I wear, but will likely eliminate a few of the “stragglers” (colors for which I only have one garment or two) soon to streamline things a bit.

      Congrats on your great success, Sheryl and Frugal Fashionista. I love reading others’ success stories and feel very inspired by them!

      • I have to jump in on this thread since reading it after posting my comment below. I just had my color analysis done by an analyst trained in the Sci/Art system. Your hair is completely covered with neutral gray and you and the analyst both wear a neutral gray cape. Even the room is painted in neutral gray and full-spectrum lighting is used. All of this is done to remove outside influence and the focus is on seeing how the skin reacts to color. Eye color and hair color do not factor in to the result the analyst reaches. Though I was blown away by the result my analyst reached, I saw how she reached it, every step of the way, and cannot be happier! I feel as if I have finally come home.

        There is an analyst in California, if you are interested, Debbie.

        California (Sacramento area)
        Heather Noakes
        http://www.modaincolor.com

      • Another frequent commenter also had a Sci/Art color analysis done and she also had great things to say about it. It sounds quite intriguing and I’d love to do it! Sacramento is quite a distance away from me, but it’s not totally out of the question. The ringing endorsements that you and the other reader gave definitely have me wanting to give this a try!

      • I think you should definitely consider having your colors done as a treat / reward! You might be able to generate the funds by abstaining from shopping a little bit (set a monthly goal?), and might even be able to combine it with a weekend trip with your husband. I know it’s not the most glamorous area in California 😉 but travelling is always exciting and it think this might be a memorable trip for you (or find a Sci/Art consultant in another city and fly there for a weekend trip!!!). Or you could try to set up a tip jar on your page – you have a lot of loyal readers and I think quite a few of us might want to say ‘thank you’ for your amazing posts. I think all we need treats and rewarding experiences every now and then!

        Color analysis was not fully conclusive for me, but it definitely nudged me in the right direction, and helped me to figure out what really suits me. It didn’t stop my overshopping (the weeks after your analysis are dangerous ones) but with your disciplined approach it might help you to pare down further what you already have and give you more focus. So it might be useful as a starting point and Sci/Art sounds like one of the best systems around!

      • Just to give you more viable options, I had a highly individualized palette made by Color Alliance:
        http://seasonalcolor.yuku.com/topic/132/Re-BFAS-Beauty-for-All-Seasons-or-Colour-Alliance?page=-1#.U41rgyhsCGw

        Color Alliance is now available through Color Me Beautiful – they are quite big and might have consultants in your area! Their basic system is a 12-season system, but Color Alliance is further tailored and much better if you are between seasons.

      • This looks great, FrugalFashionista. It looks like Color Alliance is much more comprehensive than the previous four season systems. I think I must be between seasons, as the online quizzes were always inconclusive. I only skimmed the page you linked to, but it looks promising. I look forward to delving in further!

        As for your suggestion to set up a tip jar on my page, I think I would feel weird doing that, although I know I’ve added a lot of value through my posts. I like the idea of taking a fun trip and getting a color analysis, though. Perhaps I’ll have to make that happen…

      • Just a suggestion – if you halved your clothing budget for two or three months, you could get it done! And you’d accumulate less clothes! For me, it was worth much more than a pair of jeans or shoes or a dress that I really don’t need! Having the colors done helped me to exclude a lot of options, and my summer wardrobe seems to consist just from four colors (smoky blues, watermelon red, soft whites, taupe). I absolutely love the fuss-free simplicity of it! It really helps also with basics, I can focus on just the ones that I really will use.

        Oh and by the way, I wore an off-white sweatshirt with a pair of printed pants (a fashion-dictated impulse purchase from last year) yesterday. The pants were good quality, in the right colors, and not bad for my shape, but I felt slightly uncomfortable in them. This never happens when I wear solids – I love their restrained simplicity.
        What is so great about finding one’s personal style is that the clothes feel like a second skin. I feel I’ve now found my way of doing casual – always much harder for me than dressy and formal!

  31. Hi Debbie, I loved this post and love your entire blog, it’s all very thoughtful and well written.

    I had to comment on this one because I’m probably the queen of basics (if only by virtue of quantity!), although I think of them as ‘core’ items, fundamentals. My style is sleek, simple and tailored and my overriding criterion is silhouette – what shape will this garment give me? The right clothes can be transforming, so I try to find such things. If it’s not flattering, what’s the point? Anyhoo, this has led to a wardrobe brimming with black – as it creates the most dramatic sculpting, and with core items. To give you a more accurate visual, my favourite clothing is from Theory. My favourite style of all time is Le Smoking. But I also have a small obsession with the 70s, and thus a small collection of boho and wild print and colour. But I digress! …

    Not all basics are created equal. Often, cheaply made tanks and tees etc. are shapeless and frumpy. Not only do they do nothing for you, they actively detract from you. It took me a while to realise this, but when I finally tried quality basics, carefully cut and constructed with superior materials, well, the difference is like chalk and cheese, night and day. I promptly donated everything inferior.

    As an added bonus, once I discovered the right basics, I was able to close the door on those categories, reduce volume and give up the endless search for the perfect tank, tee etc. that took so much time, energy and money. I feel 100% satisfied in those areas, and thus the shopping urge completely ceased in those categories. One of the main drivers of my over-shopping is perfectionism (ie low self esteem + anxiety disorder) and I used to think that meant I’d never be satisfied but I’m happy to report that once I found the right things, I was genuinely satisfied. No one was more surprised by this than me!

    I can see you love core items but perhaps just not the ones you currently have? I would highly recommend trying some top quality items – it’s a revelation and a relief. As a side note, I’m an Australian, and after much trial and error, I’ve found ALL my best basics are made in the USA! I’m happy to name names, just didn’t want to appear to be spruiking any particular brands 🙂

    • Please, Tia, do name names! I’m in the US and it seems the quality of my usual brands has deteriorated. I’d love to know what brands you’ve found to be top quality. Thanks!

      • Hi KimM! Well, imho … the best tank I’ve found is the Vince favorite tank – so flattering to the décolletage and everything else, cut to perfectly cover bra straps, stretches a little with wear but doesn’t lose its shape. I wear mine almost daily and they’ve lasted 4 years so far and still look new.

        For an incredibly flattering long sleeve crew neck tee, I cannot go past the Splendid 1×1 long sleeve tee. These things are just cut so well, and the black never fades! Oh, and they are soft. If you want a close fitting scoop-neck short sleeve tee, the Splendid 1×1 is also the best in that category. Drapey tees are not so easy, I’m leaning towards Vince again but they are pricey (then again they last and don’t distort). I do love all Splendid but the 1×1 fabric is a standout.

        If you count a chambray shirt as a basic (it is a workhorse for me anyway), I have to vote with the masses and say the J Crew keeper is hands down the best (after resisting and trying so many other brands!).

        Again with J Crew, their merino wool is very good quality. I love the classic merino long cardigan as an everyday go to. Once I got one in black I donated about 5 assorted black cardigans from other brands, it made them instantly redundant! I’m going to try their merino V-necks one day, I have high hopes. I’d try the Tippi crew neck but the 3/4 sleeve makes no sense to me on a cold weather item.

        Because my work requires a suit, I think I’ve tried almost every suit brand going but I ditched them all when I found Theory. For anyone in any walk of life that requires a perfect blazer – you cannot go past the Theory Gabe. A true classic, with the most impeccable cut, and soooo flattering. Works with everything! And you can get matching pants and skirts in various cuts. Yep, Theory pants also get my vote for best tailored pants. They’re also the first suit pants I’ve had that don’t stretch out and go baggy, with year after year of pretty strenuous wear.

        Jeans-wise, I got rid of my assortment when I found Citizens of Humanity – gorgeous but soft, not restrictive like regular jeans! And I guess it’s no revelation but the Gap broken in straight khakis are fantastic and go on and on.

        I recently bought a maxi dress from 3 dots and have to give it a vote – I think they release it every year. It’s the tie waist tank maxi dress. It’s a nice weight jersey, with a very flattering layer under the bodice. Seemingly basic but incredibly flattering on.

        If I’d written this a few years ago I’d give a vote to Theory for blouses and shirts but they’re not using the solid, heavier fabrics of just 3 years ago anymore. Still beautiful but the quality isn’t the same, so I don’t know…

        I’m also a recent convert to Frye – amazing quality! I bought ankle boots and ballet flats and am blown away by how beautiful they are. And I hear they used to be even better when they were all made in the US – can’t imagine how good they must have been.

        That’s all that springs to mind right now, I hope it’s been useful to someone! I realise these brands are a bit more expensive but they really last and since I’ve discovered them I’ve stopped shopping for alternatives, so I’ve saved money. 🙂

      • Thanks for this info on your go-to clothiers. My sister and I were talking recently about some cotton knit tops she has from a famous retailer that go “limp” by mid-afternoon. Obviously inferior cotton knit fabric was used to make these tops. I told her to take them back and she’s still thinking about it…. How is the retailer to know about this cheap fabric if the consumer doesn’t speak up!?!

      • Oh dottie, the loss of quality is a real problem. What will we be wearing in 5 years? Tissue paper? This issue has caused me to hang on to some items I would otherwise have passed on, knowing I’ll never see fabric or construction like that again – and they’re only items I bought 2-3 years ago! Your sister should definitely let them know! Put it in writing, right to the top, some companies take such feedback very seriously, thankfully. Those that don’t, well, vote with your wallet.

    • Thanks for your insightful comments, Tia, and for sharing the brands that work for you in terms of wardrobe basics. Although we all have our different preferences, it’s good to be pointed in the right direction, especially since quality has taken a real nosedive as of late. You’re right that it’s the basics I have that I don’t like (at least some of them). I DO see the value of having basics, but I was so focused on having LOTS of options (too many) that I cut corners on quality. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but now I see the error of my ways. You mentioned that you scrapped 5 inferior cardigans after finding a really good one. I could see myself doing something similar. I really need to hold out for the best. Like you, I’m a perfectionist, but since I’ve also been a shopaholic, I wasn’t able to restrain myself from buying things that just didn’t cut it. I hope to find the type of genuine satisfaction with my purchases that you reported!

      • Thank you Debbie 🙂 I should have made it clearer that I was (and am) a shopaholic, and struggle with it daily. I have *gulp* 291 pieces of clothing – not including underwear and scarves 😦 I’m currently on a clothing and accessories shopping ban until the end of the year. It’s very difficult but it’s made easier by having great core items already. In fact, I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have all the right basics to allow me to feel my wardrobe is complete.

        I used to truly believe I could not feel satisfied, and as I mentioned, I was really surprised to find the drive quieten right down when I found ‘perfect’ (to me) items. And the opposite is true too, when I bought just ok items the craving for better and more increased. Such items leave me feeling dissatisfied, then I’m focussed on correcting my mistake.

        I used to settle for second best all the time, trying to convince myself I could live with the item’s shortcomings, that it was close enough. Such efforts were never successful. I did this when I couldn’t find the thing I was looking for, I’d just settle. I did this when I didn’t want to pay for the invariably more expensive but perfect item. That always led to me buying multiple cheap substitutes and I’d end up spending the same or more than the cost of the perfect item. Then I’d finally cave in and buy the perfect one anyway. I’ve learned the hard way it’s false economy to settle, and I now go straight to the item I really want. I’ve found this is especially important with basics, as they are the items that I wear every day in total or in combination with more ‘exciting’ things, and I don’t want to feel mediocre every day.

        This is the same concept as your idea of striving for 10s or as close as possible, which I’ve found extremely clarifying when I’m contemplating an item for culling or buying, thank you!

        An added bonus of this approach is a huge reduction in numbers. When you just have ONE that you truly love, you don’t need multiples. My wardrobe size is a direct result of past second best buying and I’m going to spend the next few months culling all those multiples / duplicates. I hope it’s the last time I have to devote time and energy to such a task!

      • Thanks for sharing more of your story, Tia. We have a lot in common, that’s for sure! Perfectionism has been a big part of my problem, too, in exactly the way you mentioned. I’m glad to see that you are turning things around (as am I). How ambitious to do a shopping fast for a year, but I know that such endeavors have been beneficial for many (including Jill Chivers of shopyourwardrobe.com, who didn’t shop for a year and created a whole program around it!). Yes, culling one’s wardrobe can be a daunting and difficult task. I’ve been taking it slow and have reduced my wardrobe by half since I started this blog. But I still want to pare down further. I love the idea of having ONE item I really love instead of a bunch of mediocre pieces. Soon…

  32. Today I read all the comments again and got motivated to go thru my closet. I tried on a lot of things and so far I’m giving 7 items to my niece. ( She is thrilled to be on the receiving end of my frequent closet purges.) The reasons that I’m parting with these pieces varies…. fit, duplicate,fussy details, print too busy, gold buttons ( I only wear white metal). I purchased 4 of the pieces this year because of their “special details”. ( They still have the tags.) I know sometimes I settle for garments that are “ok” because it can be very difficult to find “special” pieces I truly love. Maybe I need to just stick with really nice basics since I’m much better at selecting them. I have plenty of clothes to wear this summer so I may take a break from shopping until autumn. At least I don’t have a problem selecting great shoes & bags!

    • Congrats on going through your closet and letting go of 7 pieces, Jan! I’m glad the comments inspired you to do so. I think that “special” pieces can be tricky. We need to identify the types of details that we like. Like you, I only wear white metal, so I now immediately walk away from anything that has gold details. I also shy away from fussy details and other features that just aren’t “me.” Taking a break from shopping and focusing on your closet (or just shopping less like I have) can help you to better understand what you like. You’ll make fewer shopping mistakes as a result.

  33. Debbie, have certainly been there and followed the advice and ended up with too many basics. My problem was buying in too many colors so my basics covered ALL neutrals and although I had a ton of clothes I had very few that made complete outfits and so I resorted to the SAME things over and over. It didn’t make sense.

    Last year I stopped this madness by restricting my color palette and I made a rule to stop buying inexpensive cotton tops and t-shirts which never look great again after being washed. Instead I bought a few “good” cashmere, silk and cotton voile tops which look better and are instantly dressed.

    • I’ve been there with you with the color madness, Carolyn, as well as with buying the inexpensive cotton tops that didn’t wash well. No more! I know you’ve pared down your color palette considerably and that it’s been very helpful to you. I’ve done the same, but I think I need to pare down even more! I also plan to buy some higher quality tops. I love the idea of being instantly dressed!

      • Yes, I bought some tops that I hesitated over in the store but have proved to be staples in my closet and constantly in rotation. Silk tops that instantly dress up jeans.

        NOW, I have to apply the same principal to my MAKEUP and SHOE collection. There’s more than one way a shopaholic can get her kicks!!!! I am cleaning out my makeup and seeing the same pattern there of buying too many colors (so many lipsticks) and the search for the perfect foundation has been going on for a long time it would appear.

      • I hear you on the make-up and shoes… I’ve overbought in both categories before, too. My collections in both areas have been pared down, but I still have too many lipsticks. It’s very hard to find the right color!

    • I’m all for a bold statement, Stacey! I think I used to shy away from standing out too much, but I’m more okay with it now and I’m stepping into it 🙂

  34. I’m guilty of always purchasing the opposite, items with lots of details that require basics and I don’t own the basics to complete the look. This weekend I almost picked up 3 new items, and they were all prints. I walked out with none of them, but during my shopping session I was reminded on an ol’ habit, selecting all the prints before the solids. To my eye, the prints stand out faster than a solid, so I tend to reach for them first.

    • I’ve done that one, too, Lisa! I call that “buying a project.” Often, we don’t get around to completing the “project,” so the new garment we bought just hangs in our closets with the tags still attached. Congrats on not taking on any new projects this past weekend! I think that both prints and solids can be wonderful, but we have to have the right balance for us and buy with a cohesive wardrobe in mind.

  35. I have actually very few statement pieces, but I have just found I don’t feel very comfortable in them. My personal “interesting” pieces of clothing are ones with great cut and a bolder color. My “basics” are things that are needed to balance out the color: a pair of white t-shirts, jeans, black tights, a black cardigan. The amount of clothing I have is pretty good, but actually in the future I could do with a few more statement pieces. Only I never seem to find them in good materials, quality AND within my budget, so it might be I will be sticking with what I’ve already got going.

    In the past I have definitely had WAY too many basics, especially t-shirts! I love colors and I always got paranoid about “not having the right thing when I need it” and ended up buying the same t-shirt in two or three colors. No more though, nowadays I’m trying more and more to embrace the idea of “the One” – in everything.

    • I think a great cut is very important, Rellies, and I am like you in loving bold colors. Aiming for quality over quantity is helpful in all types of shopping, whether it be for basics or statement pieces. I am with you in terms of buying “multiples.” It’s a bad habit I’ve had for years! I love you idea of embracing “the one.” I think we’d all shop smarter if we did that…

  36. Great post, Debbie! I tend to think the same way as you on basics. I wear very basic pants, so I like my tops to have *something*. I think that’s why I have too many print tops. I have bought plain tops thinking that I would dress them up with accessories, and hardly ever do, so they make me feel schlumpy to be plain on the top and plain on the bottom. I wear one printed skirt which needs a plain colored top, but even then I find myself reaching for a knit top to go with it, or something with a bit of construction detail. So I think looking for a plain color with an interesting structural detail could be a win-win.

    • I really resonate with what you wrote, Sarah. I tend to feel schlumpy with too much plain, too, although I think I’d feel less so if I truly loved both of the pieces in question and they were of higher quality. I think I like to have some special details somewhere, but it doesn’t have to be a pattern. Someone mentioned that I should focus on interesting textures, so I’m going to be on the lookout for that. I don’t plan on buying anymore very plain knit tops anymore, but that doesn’t mean I won’t buy any solids.

  37. Very good post as always, Debbie, and very timely for me as well! I just had my personal color analysis done and could not be more shocked with the result: Bright Winter. As a “dirty blonde” with fair skin, I figured I would be a Spring or Summer of some sort. Looking at that blazingly saturated palette of colors initially had me cringing since I have been living in a soft, muted world. But, I could not argue with the result. I saw it myself as she draped me through the seasons; there was no other reasonable result. Once the initial shock wore off, I began to think about my preferences and how they relate to the palette. Like you, Debbie, I love tops that have some specialness about them, be it sewn detail, lux fabric, and super-flattering design. I love bright vibrant prints and high-contrast designs, too, though I never thought I could wear them. I don’t like the look of two plain solids together (feels very frumpy and boring) and struggle with building outfits using plain basic tops and tanks in my closet. I often feel like it forces me to do more layering than I would like, just to give some interest to the outfit. I think these preferences coincide with what it means to be a Bright Winter.

    • I love the story of your color analysis, Grasshopper. It sounds like a real eye-opener for you and the start of a new phase of your journey. I wonder if I am a Bright Winter, too. My coloring is very different from yours, but the other things you describe sound just like me. I love bright colors and shy away from pastels (I feel they look horrible on me), but I have never had a formal color analysis. I’ve just figured it out as I’ve gone along (and have read lots of books on fashion and style). But it would be nice to have a concrete result like what you described. I wish you the best with your new Bright Winter color palette!

    • Grasshopper, I know how you feel! I was surprised to find I’m a True Summer because I always thought I was a Winter of some sort. It’s been over a year since my PCA and I have grown to love and be comfortable in the True Summer palette. Enjoy being a Bright Winter!

  38. Lovely post and I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments!

    I don’t have very many ‘basics’. A black pant, heels, and blazer are probably it! I have a lot of ‘staples’ which are dressed up basics. A ruffled white blouse, a very tailored pair of tan pants and grey pinstriped pants, a teal sweater with chrome snaps and gathered 3/4 sleeves, a fitted black sheath with a built in belt detail. Subtle on their own but still ‘special’. Then I have several ‘statement’ pieces like beautifully printed tops, cobalt pants, etc. I prefer my staples with special details paired with a statement piece. I don’t own plain t-shirts outside of pajamas/workout/outdoor wear.

    I have a very defined style but don’t really know what to call it. It’s very tailored/fitted, classic pieces but glammed up, feminine but authoritative and appropriate. Sparkle and shine, ruffles, print, but little texture / mostly sleek fabrics. Like a ruffled top under a blazer or fitted cardigan. Or a tie-neck printed blouse with fitted ankle pants. Fitted sheath dresses in great prints or with special design features, not just a plain dress. And always a necklace and earrings, often a bracelet too.

    I’m attracted to the minimalist ideal but constantly struggle with a shopping obsession and wanting, but ESPECIALLY the fear of missing out. I’ve been reflecting on the damage I inflicted recently- I posted my May budget and really had neglected to tally up anything. I was shocked. And still processing it.

    • I actually really like your style, Meli. If I worked in an office, I’d like to dress much like you do! I would still wear many of the pieces you show on your blog, but they would likely look too dressy for my lifestyle and where I live. Story of my life… I like dressy clothes, but they don’t match my life!

      I like that most of your pieces have special details and as I wrote, that’s what I’d like to move toward. I will still have some very basic pieces, but even then, I’d like them to be special in some way, be it fabric, texture, or some other feature. Very much like what you describe about your clothes!

      Like you, I am attracted to the minimalist ideal, but I am a long way away from that even after 1.5 years of writing this blog and working to pare down my wardrobe and shop smarter. I have the fear of missing out (FOMO), too!

      I saw that you bought a lot in May, but it all looks very nice. I’m sure you new job and perhaps a combination of anxiety and excitement about it motivated your shopping. Try not to beat yourself up too much. I think you’re still doing well overall. Just keep being accountable and examining your motivations for shopping. Awareness is a big part of recovery and you’re working on that, I can see.

      • Thank you Debbie! I posted a post today reflecting on what went wrong last month. But I still need to figure out how to change my reaction (shopping) to the triggers I outlined.

      • I saw your post, Meli. While I think you did a good analysis of the situation, I also think you may have been too hard on yourself! I can be that way, too. I think that even women who are not shopaholics get stressed out and shop when they get a new job, especially one that is in a more formal environment involving customer contact. It looks like the pieces you kept will work well for your new job. If you control your shopping for the rest of the year (the monthly item limit can help with that), you can still meet your goal for the year. Since you wrote that you only had 11 items left per your limit, you may want to increase the limit a bit, unless you feel you can buy only 1 new item most months (and 2 on occasion). You don’t want to set yourself up for failure, but you do want to put some limits on your shopping. I think that many of the triggers you experienced were special and won’t recur frequently. After all, you haven’t gotten a new job for a very long time and likely won’t for a long time again. Try to forgive yourself, learn from the experience, set realistic goals, and move forward. Best of luck to you with the new job!

    • I do, too, Terra! I think this might be the most comments on a post thus far. I never know when I write them which ones will generate a lot of discussion, but I’m always happy when they do! By the way, thanks so much for posting a review of my book on Amazon. Much appreciated!

  39. I’ve just updated my basics and staples prior to calling a spending embargo (is that the word) for a year. I have several robust plain stretch vneck vests and square neck tees with half arm sleeve length, camel, navy, olive, mustard. Plus I added new basic plain chinos in wine, navy, camel. A year will be okay, as my existing overall clothes selection is still pretty vast, even after a good old cull. So the next feed weeks I will see if I can get used to using these new basics, in the mix. Started today with camel chinos and green cable Ralph Lauren jumper, it felt really good.

    • I like the term spending embargo, Fiona. Sounds very official and important… Sounds like you have some good basics that work well for you. I wish you the best with shopping your closet instead of in the stores. I’ve been doing more of that and learning a lot as a result. Good luck to you!

  40. I’m retired so don’t need an “office” wardrobe. In the winter I live in a small RV mostly in Arizona. The closet in that RV is 24″ wide. I take 6 sweetheart-neckline with 3-button detail short-sleeve t-shirts and 6 shawl-collar long-sleeve t-shirts in a variety of colors. For toppers I have a black velour hoodie and a reversible quilted jacket that is purple on one side and multicolored on the other and a light gray zip-front sweatshirt with a black printed flower on the front of it. By layering a statement color T with a basic color T or vice versa I can make my wardrobe look like much more than it is. I wear all these with jeans but bring one dressier outfit for special occasions. For six months of the year this is my entire wardrobe.

    • Your minimalist wardrobe is impressive, Linda. Thank you for sharing! It sounds like you’ve figured out a system that is ideal for your needs. It seems you have a good assortment of colors and styles and are making the most of your small wardrobe. I think we all have to determine what works best for us and plan accordingly. I’m still trying to figure that all out, so you’re a few steps ahead of me!

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