Good morning! Is everyone getting back to school and work today? I was asked by a few of you to write a post on timeless closet basics that won’t go out of style, and I thought that was a great idea so here we are!
This post was UPDATED as of 1/2/20. ENJOY!!!
At first I was tempted to say that everything goes out of style eventually — even trends that come back around in 10 years will be tweaked JUST ENOUGH that the old ones don’t quite work the 2nd time around. I’m sure it’s a ploy by the fashion industry to keep us buying new things!
But as I thought about it, I do have a few classic pieces in my closet that I love and have had for many years and have no intention of getting rid of. And I can think of a few things I did get rid of and now wish I still had. Also, as I’m getting older and more confident in my personal style, and I’m selectively making a few high quality purchases each season that I hope to have for a very long time.
Please note, this is not a “must have list.” Rather, it’s a list of things that I believe are worth investing in if you do choose to purchase them, because they should last you a long time. As always, be sure to take into account your lifestyle, personal style, climate, etc. when making purchasing decisions, and calculate cost per wear when deciding what to budget for each item.
Because we’re talking about timeless closet basics, I included some of the iconic designer styles that made some of these wardrobe pieces classics, but I’m not telling you to go out and invest in super expensive designer items for each of these categories. You can find timeless closet basics to suit any budget if you’re discerning and patient, and I tried to find examples at several different price points.
This is actually the best time of year to invest in quality basics because so many are on sale! I’ll do my best to find you some good deals as I make my product recommendations below.
11 Closet Basics That Should Stand The Test Of Time
#1. cashmere sweater
I often say that I think every woman should have at least one classic cashmere sweater in her closet. Nothing feels and looks quite the same. (If you’re allergic, a sweater made of cotton or other fabrics can serve the same purpose, but it may not last as long.)
Above you can see 5 outfits with one camel cashmere sweater, and they aren’t even that creative. You can also layer it over a button-down shirt, under a blazer or denim jacket for work, with a skirt or dress pants… the possibilities are virtually endless.
The good news is, these days you don’t have to break the bank for cashmere. Like anything else, you get what you pay for, and there are definitely different levels of quality, but even a “cheaper” cashmere sweater will still feel and look wonderful for a time. Most cashmere pills eventually, but better quality cashmere should last longer, so it really comes down to cost per wear and what your priorities are.
For a higher quality cashmere that is thicker and denser and generally lasts longer, I like Nordstrom Signature, Theory, Vince, Equipment, and Naadam. I often find good deals on some of these brands at Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth — you can filter by designer.
For this purchase, I would go for a neutral that is super versatile like camel, grey, or black. I would also choose a classic style like a turtleneck, crewneck, or v-neck with clean lines, and of course make sure the fit is on point.
CASHMERE CARE TIP: A sweater stone reduces pilling and helps prolong the life of your sweaters.
Shop cashmere sweaters:
#2. suede or leather pumps
I’ve had a pair of Stuart Weitzman pumps for well over 10 years, and I still look forward to pulling them out of their box every winter. If you buy a quality, classic style, a good pair of pumps will be on trend for a good many years.
I realize not every woman has a need for pumps in her wardrobe, but they’re definitely a great piece to have if you work in a professional environment or have events to attend with any regularity. (They make some great looking lower heeled styles now too!)
Jimmy Choos and Louboutins are the stuff dreams are made of, but I’m a huge fan of Stuart Weitzman for a designer pump that isn’t quite as pricey and provides the perfect marriage of style and comfort. Good mid-price brands include Sam Edelman (LOVE their Hazel pumps), Nine West, and Michael Kors.
I wear pumps with everything from skirts and dresses to jeans and… okay I don’t wear them with shorts, but you can if you have the personality to pull it off!
For this purchase, I recommend investing in nude and/or black first, and if you wear pumps a lot, it’s nice to have a leopard pair and some fun colors as well.
Shop classic pumps:
#3. ballet flats or loafers
Ballet flats and loafers are both timeless, and I would make a case for having some of each. I’ve loved a good ballet flat for as long as I can remember. They’re classy, feminine, and practical. Thank you, Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn, for making them chic.
Right now loafers are having a moment, and I’m getting on board with this more tailored, menswear-inspired look as well. Both are classics that have stood the test of time, and it’s worth investing in a good pair (or two or three) if you wear them often.
Gucci loafers are a huge trend right now, and Channel ballet flats are an iconic wardrobe piece if you’re a collector, but you can find good quality styles for much less. I definitely recommend buying leather, no matter what your budget.
Here are some of my favorites:
#4. classic trench
Worn by British Army Officers in World War I and made popular by Hollywood’s hottest leading men in the 40s and 50s, the trench coat has become an iconic wardrobe staple for both men and women.
The easiest way to elevate a simple outfit is to throw a classic trench on top. In fact, I don’t do this often enough.
When choosing a trench coat, don’t rule out single breasted styles. The traditional double breasted style with bulky epaulets isn’t flattering on a lot of women, but there are some really pretty options if you look around.
Camel and black are the traditional colors, but don’t rule out grey or brown or even a fun color. I love a bright red trench coat in springtime!
Of course a Burberry trench is iconic, but there are a lot of more budget-friendly options so I’ll include a range.
Shop classic trench coats:
#5. denim jacket
A jean jacket is a rugged all-American classic, inspired more by working America than the streets of Paris or a Hollywood icon, but it’s a wardrobe classic nonetheless. The Levi’s trucker jacket made it famous, and many have since copied it. Since the trucker style denim jacket doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, I decided to include it in this post.
I wear my denim jacket over t-shirts with black jeans and sneakers for casual daytime looks, over silk shells with white jeans and pumps for church, and even over dresses and skirt outfits. You can see many of my denim jacket looks in this post: How to Wear a Denim Jacket.
My two favorites are the Kut from the Kloth Helena and this Two by Vince Camuto jean jacket. I have the Helena in white and a dark wash shown, and I have the Camuto one in a medium wash that is probably the most versatile of the three. A denim jacket will be in style for many years, and I can attest to how well these fit and hold up over time. You can find more budget-friendly options at Old Navy and Kohl’s.
Shop denim jackets:
#6. wool peacoat or car coat
Another military-inspired wardrobe classic, a wool peacoat in a traditional fit, will never be out of style. The original peacoats were worn by British naval officers, but where the name is derived seems to be up for debate. Nevertheless, it’s a wardrobe staple worn by both men and women. While navy is the original color and still the most classic, they come in every color under the sun.
A similar style is the car coat, and both are classics that never truly go out of style. Car coats were designed to keep drivers warm from the wind while driving old-fashioned open cars. They’re usually thigh-length and button up the front, although they sometimes zip.
A 100% wool coat will always be the warmest and best quality, but there are many wool blends that are great quality at much lower price points.
A word about peacoats (as with trench coats above) — be cautious with double breasted styles when you’re bosomy on top, as they can add visual weight. Sometimes they’re okay, but it depends on the lapels and how they’re designed. I usually opt for a single breasted style, as I find them more slimming.
Shop wool coats:
#7. quality leather tote or satchel
There are basically two kinds of women in the world — those who appreciate a quality handbag, and those who don’t. Ha! I’m sure you know which camp I’m in!
The nice thing about a quality handbag is you can gain weight, lose weight, or even get pregnant and have a baby, and it always fits. Plus, when you buy a quality bag and take good care of it, it really does last. And if you get tired of your old bags and want to sell a few to fund your next purchase, it’s pretty easy to do so on Poshmark or Ebay.
I always advise buying handbags on sale, unless of course you’re going for an iconic designer bag that never goes on sale, and even then, there’s a huge market for pre-owned designer bags if you’re open to that.
This could easily be a post unto itself, in fact, I did a Splurge/Spend/Save posts for handbags not too long ago. Feel free to reference that if you’d like! I also have a Fight the Frump post all about handbags that is a good read.
While there is no need to spend a fortune on a bag to be stylish and classy, a woman’s handbag does say a lot about her, so make sure whatever bag you carry is in good condition.
If you’re making a big purchase that you intend to carry with everything, I recommend sticking with cognac, grey, or taupe because they’re the most versatile. Of course, black is good to have as well, but I’d make that one secondary to a lighter neutral. And a red bag is always fun to have!
Shop leather carryalls:
#8. leather crossbody or clutch
While totes and satchels make great carryalls, there are times when it’s more appropriate to carry a smaller bag. A crossbody or convertible clutch (a clutch with an optional shoulder strap) are also essential wardrobe pieces, and many styles are timeless.
A Chanel Boy or Classic Flap are the most coveted among collectors, and right now the Gucci Marmont bags are having a moment. Then of course there are lots of contemporary options at more affordable price points. The Rebecca Minkoff Love crossbody is a good quality bag, and it reminds me of the Chanel Boy. Tory Burch does a nice camera bag, a style that is trending right now, and Coach has one too.
Shop leather crossbody bags:
#9. Little Black Dress
A classic black dress will serve you well for years. The trick is not to gain or lose any weight. Ha! If you don’t like to wear black, navy is a good alternative.
A sheath or A-line are both timeless styles. I prefer a dress without much embellishment, and then I can add accessories to achieve the look I’m going for each time I wear it.
I’ve worn the dress pictured above to church, to a funeral, and on a date with my husband. It’s so flattering and versatile, AND it is still available as of January 2020!!!
Even though my three looks are fairly similar, I could also add a leather jacket for an edgier look, a blazer for a professional look, or a trench for a classy event. I will link mine along with some other good options below.
#10. seasonless black pants
Even though the silhouette that is trending may evolve over time, a pair of 4-season black trousers is certainly a timeless closet essential. For a truly classic pair, look for a “4-season” or “seasonless” wool blend that is designed to work for you all year-round.
Ankle-length slim pants are all the rage right now, but don’t rule out a traditional trouser style either. I featured some of both below.
Shop seasonless pants:
11. pearl or diamond studs
If budget limitations don’t allow for the real deal, there are some nice imitations out there. I wore this pair of faux pearl earrings several times a week for a year or so and finally decided I could justify splurging on a real pair. I stalked the Bloomingdale’s website until this 11mm pair was 60% off, and that’s when I snagged them.
Shop diamonds and pearls:
In conclusion . . .
I decided to cap this list at 11, but I definitely could go on. Certainly a quality wool or cashmere scarf is a wardrobe piece that can stand the test of time, as are leather gloves and aviator sunglasses. Then there is a leather jacket and a classic black blazer.
I didn’t include jeans because denim trends change too quickly to be considered a classic, and I recommend updating your denim regularly. Still, I have jeans I’ve worn for 3 or 4 years, so it all depends on what you consider timeless.
Again, this isn’t a list of wardrobe essentials, but rather items that stand the test of time, so it’s worth investing in quality pieces.
I hope this post was helpful, or at least a fun post to read. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!
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