By Beth Zollars

4 Minute Read


When you find that perfect white T-shirt, that one sharp blazer, and that perfect LBD you can break out for any and every occasion, you never have to worry about “not having anything to wear.”

That’s why the concept of a wardrobe staple is so enduring: A closet built on a streamlined selection of items makes day-to-day dressing infinitely easier.

The 10 styles in the gallery ahead are those you can mix and match to your heart’s delight—whether you’re getting dressed for work, for brunch, or for anything that might come up in between.

It’s almost Spring cleaning – I can’t stress enough, by streamlining and swooning over your key pieces, it will result in much easier stress free time getting dressed

Sometimes, you literally have to get rid of everything and just start fresh.

Ok, I’m not suggesting getting rid of everything…However, a heavy clean out will assist in creating your essential wardrobe base and the perfect place to start.

Below are my top picks for 10 essentials -followed by my list of 10 secondary pieces.

Plain White Tee

Is there anything more versatile? Whether you style that perfect T-shirt with a pair of jeans, a fancy skirt, or a slip dress, no closet is complete without one. I would go budget here. Even when I spend $200 on a white-t they either somehow end up with mustard or a hole, it doesn’t matter, they are seasonal items. I would put my fashion bucks elsewhere.

Ballet Flats

There’s a reason everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Alexa Chung loves a good pair of ballet flats: They’re equal parts chic and comfortable. Use them to dress up your jeans and button-down combination, then seamlessly transition that same pair to a cocktail dress for night. Your outfits (and feet!) will thank you. I would start with plain black and classic.

I would not go budget here, I would buy the best you can afford. These are your work horse shoes and can carry you many miles if it is a high quality shoe.


A blazer just elevates the whole look. Throw a campy t-shirt underneath or an elegant pussy-bow blouse the look will take you from morning to night. A blazer says Cali Cool, or NYC Boardroom. I would not skimp here. Your hard earn fashion bucks should be spent on one good blazer a season.

My personal vintage favorite, a navy boucle Chanel with a small gold chain hem stitch. Oh la la, every time I wear it I become Catherine Deneuve walking along the Seine. My more modern fav, anything by Veronica Beard.

Slip On Sneakers

Slip-on sneakers have hit critical mass (thanks, Phoebe Philo!), solidifying its place on the wardrobe-essentials list. Comfortable enough to walk miles in, but way more sleek than traditional running shoes, these shoes give any outfit an extra dose of cool.

I would definitely go budget here, unless they become something worn everyday. In warmer months they do become my go-to and I love these Vince classics in grey suede. Keep in mind, they can get beat up pretty easily and may be more of a trendy item than classic.

Striped Shirt

A classic Breton stripe top looks just as good with slouchy denim as it does with a pencil skirt. Mix it with solids, florals, plaids, or other striped separates—we’ve never come across a piece it couldn’t complement.

Again for length of season, I may go budget here. Even though a classic, I usually have to replaced mine every other season.


Black Trousers

I love a flattering black trouser. I typically look for a silhouette that will cheat the seasons. A bit high waisted, with a slim fit through the hips and a wide leg. Comfy for travel and sophisticated for cocktails.

A stretch lightweight wool can also be your favorite travel pant. I also would consider a trouser instead of your tried and true leggings (gasp). I know, you live in your leggings, but so does every middle school/high school girl on the planet. Bump your look up a few notches and go with a trouser.

I would not go budget here, a piece like this can be worn for years.

The Black Pump

If I looked in my closet circa 1985, I would have had a black pump. What does that tell you? Have a good black pump, the best you can afford. It will pay you back for years. I have had my black pumps re-soled and heels repaired – I love them that much. Don’t skimp here ladies.

Dark Wash Jeans

Wow, when I owned my retail store, there were probably 50 styles of jeans within a short period of time that were “on trend”. Skinny, super skinny, wide-leg, ankle, cropped, boyfriend and more.

I used to suggest to women when shopping for jeans, take a whole day (or at least not be rushed) it can be a very frustrating experience. Find the cut that works best for you, and stick with it. You can make most denim work with whatever todays current styles resonate. Wear it with confidence and be comfortable.

If you can do a skinnier silhouette do it, if not substitute with a wider leg.

Button up Shirt

Borrowed from the boys but in better prints and colors, the button-up shirt always strikes a balance between looking casual and polished. Wear it with jeans or a pencil skirt depending on where you need to be. I’d spend what you can, they last through several seasons.

Take your button-up up a notch by choosing one in a luxe material like viscose, Tencel or silk.


A Little Black Dress – No item is more of a blank slate for accessorizing and styling—and yet completely stunning on its own—than the LBD. It’s gotten us through some tough times, and serves as a touchstone for any wardrobe.

I would invest in the best here, it will take you from cocktails to serious business meetings. For warmer months, I may opt for a slip dress as well, two options below.

Black Halo Marissa Sheath $345
Vince slip dress $295

Additional Secondary Pieces to Consider

  • Brown ankle boot
  • Jean Jacket
  • Cashmere Wrap – Neutral
  • Camel Cardigan
  • Knee -Length black skirt
  • Black leather jacket
  • Strappy nude sandals
  • White Jeans/Pants
  • Belted Trench Coat
  • Black turtleneck

Every season, take a look at these staples, get rid of the ones not working for you, and replace with new pieces if needed.

The above items can mix and match for a multitude of basic go- to outfits and also start as your building base for your entire wardrobe.

As you look in your closet, asses what you wear, and build on color/fabric theme within the same silhouette (ex. buy the beige pumps if you are wearing the heck out of your black ones – or the grey slip-dress if you find yourself wearing a lot of dresses.) Stick with shapes that work for your body type and donate/sell anything not being worn.

Keep it simple.

Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth by the Sea! What are your favorite go-to essentials? Comment below!