Everybody talks about the basics in a work wardrobe.  But what are they?  Tim Gunn has a list of 10 wardrobe essentials (LBD, trench, dress pants, classic shirt, jeans, any occasion top, skirt, day dress, jacket, sweatsuit alternative).  This is a nice list, but I think the foundations of a work wardrobe need more than just 10 items.  Joyce Lau of Yummy Mommy Makeovers has a list of basic work wardrobe items, that she reviews in her workshops.  Each item goes with at least 3 other items and  can be made in 30 outfits. 

But before we get to the list. Why do you need basics?  I work at home several days a week, then work at a client's location 3 days a week. I attend meetings. I attend fashion events for this blog. And I have lunch/coffee with all sort of former peers and new mentors.    Having a good basic work wardrobe makes it really easy to dress to show people just how darn awesome I want them to think I am.   

Joyce's list:

  • Suit
  • 3 work tops
  • 3 jackets
  • 1 layering piecee - a wrap or cardigan
  • 2 pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 1 Jeans - dark wash or dressier cut
  • 1 good outerwear jacket
  • staple handbag
  • 1 pair of dress shoes
  • basic accessories

Of course you can probably make more than 30 outfits with just a switch of jewelry, accessories and shoes. But I digress.  I took a peak in my closet to see what my basic work wardrobe looked like...

  • Black pencil skirt and blazer suit (KS Selection)
  • Red knit top (Anthropolgie), blue knit top (cable & gauge via Winners), black ruffled blouse (Fred David via Winners)
  • 1 Denim blazer (Ann Taylor Loft)  & 1 Blue grey blazer (Jacqueline Conoir)
  • Animal print cardigan (Ann Taylor) and here I cheat and added a red shell not on the list (Plum)
  • 1 black and 1 grey pin stripe pants (both Banana Republic)
  • 1 blue/grey tweed straight skirt and 1 black pin stripe a-line skirt (both Banana Republic)
  • Trouser jeans (Ann Taylor)
  • Denim trench - not pictured (Banana Republic)
  • Vintage carpet bag handbag
  • Fluevogs
  • Grey "pearls" (Joe Fresh), matching earrings (unknown), cocktail ring (Stella & Dot), black & white scarf - not pictured and black belt - not pictured (The Bay).

My learnings from this exercise. 

  1. My colour palette seems rather black and grey.  But I have a number of favourite pieces in teal, orange and purple that I add to this basic list (especially when I start adding dresses).   So I think I'm okay for colour for now. But I need to keep colour in mind when I'm replacing any of my basics. 
  2. My black pants are on their last legs.  Add classic black pants to list for spring shopping.  Or I might look at doing navy blue pants instead. They would certainly match a lot in my closet.
  3. It might be worth listening to Tim Gunn and adding a classic shirt to my wardrobe.  I have a hard time finding ones that fit over the "girls".  But it should go on the list for future consideration.
  4. A year ago when I started my new style journey a lot of these items were not in my closet.  I think I've done a great job of purging old things and bringing in cohesive and winning items into the closet (and I don't mean Charlie Sheen)
  5. As I purge the rest of my closet this spring, work items need to work with this basic wardrobe. Or with at least 3 other items in my closet.
  6. These basics are the items to invest your time and money in. 

How about you?  Do you have a cohesive work wardrobe in your closet?   What are your gaps?  How will you budget for the items you need?