12 Essential Pieces to Make Getting Dressed a Snap

12 Essential Pieces to Make Getting Dressed a Snap

Fashion gurus share their must-have wardrobe staples every closet needs.

By Heather Chaet

It’s a place that I don’t like to go. It’s a confusing place. It gives me mega anxiety every time I have to go near it.

Of course, I’m talking about my closet.

Amid the chaos of motherhood, work changes, and just plain Life with a capital L, my closet has totally morphed into a vortex of ill-fitting pieces, clothes that I haven’t worn in years, and empty hangers. When it comes to getting dressed in the morning, I return to the same jeans and top combo. Every. Single. Day. I’m yawning just thinking about how boring my style has become.

I know I need to buy some new items, but I’m overwhelmed. What do I buy? Where do I start? Like most moms, my family is on a budget, so I want to be sure the new clothes I buy work for a variety of occasions, look good, and, well, make my life easier. To figure it out, I tapped the expertise of a few fashion gurus, who shared their top essentials every woman should have in her closet.

1. A pair of dark jeans - Fashion experts point to this wardrobe staple as the no. 1 key to getting dressed in a snap. “I think dark jeans in your most flattering cut are the most versatile thing in your wardrobe,” says wardrobe stylist Carmen Adriana. “You can wear them every single day, and are appropriate for almost every occasion, save a black tie affair and a funeral. Take the time and spend the money on several pairs of your favorite fit.”

Stylist and wardrobe consultant Allie Brandwein agrees, emphasizing women should choose a dark wash denim. “The reason I like a dark denim jean as opposed to mid to light is that dark denim can be worn casual and refined,” she explains. “This gives your jean multiple uses! The shoe will determine which way your look leans.”

2. A great pair of black pants - Matched with a tee or a fitted sweater, having this neutral pant relieves you from that “What to wear?” worry. “Sleek and well-fitted, these pants will be your go-to pant when you need to look put together but don’t have the time to think about your outfit,” notes Brandwein. “Without question, pairing this item with a simple blouse and a heel will immediately up your game.”

3. Basic white T-shirts - One would think you could only pair this with the aforementioned jeans, but there are so many uses of the T-shirt that you need to stock up. “A simple white V-neck T-shirt is all you need,” says Brandwein. “Have a few washed and ready to go at all times. You can wear it with your classic black pant or denim, but I also love pairing a casual white tee with something cool, like a leather pencil skirt.”

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4. A cashmere pullover sweater - Another timeless basic, this top goes everywhere and is never out of style. “Cashmere is the perfect yarn that can be worn both casual and refined,” Brandwein says. “In the dead of winter, when you have somewhere to be but you just can’t get warm, pair your cashmere sweater, dark denim, and your black pump. Voila! You have a perfect look for a casual dinner with the girls. Match it with a pencil skirt, and you are ready for a fancier occasion.”

5. The crisp white button-down shirt - It’s the upscale cousin of the basic white T-shirt. As the perfect top with those black pants, or as a bathing suit cover-up, it will be the workhorse of your wardrobe. “You must have this simple, classic, crisp shirt,” notes Brandwein. “It can be worn on a casual level with jeans and a sneaker, or dressed up with your black pant and classic pump. Either way, you will feel ultimately pulled together without even batting an eye.”

6. A go-to blazer - “Adding a crisp blazer to any outfit instantly amps up your look,” says Brandwein. “Just adding a third piece solidifies that you look completely polished. You can throw this over your little black dress, or create a casual chic look with jeans, a white T-shirt, and a nude pump.”

7. A knee-length skirt - Having a skirt in your closet increases your outfit choices exponentially. “A knee-length, A-line skirt could be even more versatile than jeans,” says Adriana. “It goes with a T-shirt, a sequin tank, or a white button-down. You can wear it to a party or a funeral.” What color should the skirt be? “Navy works just as well as black, but has a little more fashion punch,” says Adriana.


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Brandwein agrees there’s a chic power in the classic skirt: “You might be thinking, ‘Pencil skirts are too classic for me and that’s not the look I’m going for.’ Well, you can make this look cool by opting for one with a twist, such as made in leather or in a textured fabric. This skirt is easy to wear with a simple shell or, of course, with your white V-neck T-shirt. Style with a nude patent pump, and you’re ready to go.”

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8. The LBD (aka the little black dress) - The little black dress is the quintessential wardrobe must-have, as it can work for so many occasions for years and years and, yes, years. “Every woman should have that perfect little black dress,” says Brandwein. “I say opt for one that is simple yet has some sort of fun detail that breaks it apart from other dresses, so you stand out in the crowd.”

9. A large, neutral tote - We have so many things to carry around, so having a bag that works on a daily basis is key to making life easier. “There’s nothing worse then lugging around multiple different bags all day long,” says Brandwein. “Find a simple leather tote that has one large inside pocket to fit all your must-have items for the day. If you want some interest, then I suggest finding one with a textured feel so you won't get bored carrying it all the time.”

“One of the executives I work with recently showed up at an appointment with a gorgeous and huge tote,” says Adriana. “Besides being a statement bag, the thing was big enough to carry everything she needed, plus chic enough to be carried in the poshest of restaurants. Putting everything into one bag certainly simplifies your life!”

10. The perfect clutch - When you are heading out to date night with your husband or a fun lunch with your girlfriends, you want to leave that everyday tote at home. But what do you carry instead? Say hello to the clutch, but be sure it works for your needs. “Your clutch should be big enough to hold your essentials, yet not too big that it becomes a burden,” says Brandwein. “I would pick a metallic leather clutch. It’s noticeable enough so it doubles as an accessory, but neutral enough that it won’t clash with what you’re wearing.”

11. A comfy yet chic sneaker - “Everyone knows you are wearing flats for comfort,” says Adriana. “While there are certainly chic-looking choices in ballet flats, nothing is better for running around than sneakers. The trick is to keep your gym shoes at the gym, and treat these like your good shoes.” How to work them into your wardrobe? “You can wear them with everything from a cute dress to jeans and a T-shirt,” suggests Adriana.

12. Classic pump with a rounded or pointy toe - As much as we love to live in those ballet flats and slip-ons, there are occasions when you need to have something a bit dressier on your feet. “Withstanding the test of time, you can never go wrong with a classic pump,” says Brandwein.

But what color is best? “We all know everyone needs a black pump, because it pretty much matches most looks,” she notes. “I also add a nude pump to my list of essentials. Many of my clients want a brown shoe, but the brown pumps out there tend to look drab and not chic. What is chic is the perfect nude pump in patent leather.”

Which wardrobe essentials do you need?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/skynesher

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