Whether you want to choose where to focus your clothing budget or simply want to streamline your wardrobe, maximizing the flexibility of your wardrobe is all about choosing the most versatile basics possible. When you stock your closet with long-wearing, high-quality basics that offer superior versatility, you can be sure that you are ready for anything, sartorially speaking. And since, on most occasions, knowing what to wear is half of relaxing and having a good time, let's talk about the most versatile outfits and basics you can choose for your wardrobe.
You might see this and think, "That old saw!" but yes, jeans are actually more versatile than they have ever been before. Our society grows more casual, and our jeans dressier, with each passing year. If you select a great-fitting pair of women's jeans in a dark wash, you truly can wear them almost anywhere. Consider straight leg or trouser-cut jeans if you want to lean into dressier looks; they're an unexpected choice with a lot of flexibility. Flattering jeans look great with crisp white canvas sneakers and a Breton tee, and then equally fabulous with heels and a cashmere sweater. It's that kind of adaptability that make good jeans a smart wardrobe basic.
Jeans as a clothing item have grown into a role of being nearly everything to everyone. Farmers wear them, rock stars wear them, supermodels wear them, Midwestern moms wear them—well-made denim jeans can be as utilitarian or as fashionable as you like. When you select a pair that is the right weight, wash and cut for your life, jeans really can take you almost anywhere you want to go.
A blazer is much, much more versatile than most people realize, and we are here to help you see the huge potential your blazers hold! You know to pair a blazer with dress pants or a skirt for the office, but when was the last time you threw a blazer on as a light topper on a chilly day? Or added a blazer to an outfit of skinny jeans and a sequined top for girls' night out? You probably wouldn't think to because many people consider blazers workwear and not much else, but a well-fitting blazer can fit into almost any area of your wardrobe.
A navy blazer over a white T-shirt is magically crisp and can be matched with bottoms ranging from your most distressed jeans to your sleekest pencil skirt. The blazer will be the piece that elevates and polishes your outfit, no matter what the outfit is. Further, you'll find that you are appropriate to nearly any occasion when you wear a blazer. Unexpected work meeting? Add a blazer to whatever you're wearing and you instantly look pulled together. At home wearing leggings and an old band T-shirt when you realize you need milk? Tossing on a blazer instead of a hoodie makes your decrepit Duran Duran tee seem like a cool vintage piece, not a middle school relic! Blazers are unsung heroes of any flexible wardrobe, and we hope to open your eyes to their place among the five most versatile wardrobe basics.
For many people, tees are everyday wear. Whether it's printed with a funny graphic or a simple base for the rest of your outfit, T-shirts are a must-have item for pretty much everyone. However, we want to point you to the most flexible pieces possible, so consider some specific attributes of the tees you select for your wardrobe.
Women's wear has offered up delicate, tissue-paper thin tees for several years now, and while those might make specific outfits pop, they are not the versatile basics you can build a wardrobe around. Shop for a women's T-shirt, not a "unisex" item, which is to say, men's. You need a tee that fits your frame and figure. Look for a medium weight piece that you could use to layer in cooler weather or wear on its own in warmer weather. Consider your figure and face shape and choose the right neckline for your body. Personally, I look like a potato in a crew-neck tee and a woman in a V-neck tee. It's almost unnerving that such a small detail can make such a big difference, so be sure you're choosing your personal best neckline. If you don't know what's best for you, ask someone you trust for their opinion.
This is the T-shirt that is the most versatile wardrobe basic you can get. This is the kind of tee you can pair with jeans on the weekends, wear under a blazer at work, slip on with a women's flannel shirt for cozy evenings, or top with a cardigan for a polished casual look. White is always a good choice for flexibility, but heather grey, rose quartz pink, and black are extremely versatile, too!
A scarf you really love can be worn dozens of different ways, and even stand in for several different accessories. We recommend silk twill for its strength and durability, and if you select a scarf in a pattern and colors that complement most of your wardrobe, you will have an extremely flexible add-on that will help make the most of your clothing.
We know that infinity scarves are on-trend right now but think about the simple square scarf—the 24"x24" silk scarves you may remember from your mom's high school photos or your grandma's wardrobe. This accessory piece can be worn as a ponytail tie or kerchief, a neck scarf knotted around your neck or a cravat tucked into your blouse. If you are willing to go a little further, you could use it as a poofy, feminine pocket square, tie it on your handbag for a little flair, or, with the proper fold, actually wear it as a bracelet. If you shy away from the small square, a long rectangle scarf can be tied around your neck in myriad styles, fill in for a belt or sash, or be used as a hair accessory in several ways. A big, shawl-sized scarf can go so far as to be tied into a shirt or work as a beach cover up. The possibilities for scarves are nearly endless, and we urge you to add a scarf to your regular clothing rotation to discover what a truly versatile wardrobe basic they can be!
The humble cardigan! The very garment grandmas everywhere wanted you to take along no matter where you were going! As a grown-up yourself, you probably see perfectly, now, the wisdom of having a women's cardigan sweater available all the time as a light topper, but have you really thought about the role a cardigan plays in a well-planned and functional wardrobe? Cardigans offer amazing flexibility in a wardrobe basic, especially if you choose carefully for maximum versatility.
Cashmere wears well for three seasons of the year and can look good for a lifetime if well cared-for, but fine gauge cotton is beautiful, too, and might be worn on cool summer evenings as well. You can choose the fabric and knit that is right for you based on your climate or lifestyle. If, like me, you really need a V-neck to frame your face or balance your figure, it's easy to cheat a jewel-neck cardigan into service simply by never buttoning the top button or two, so don't let that prevent you from choosing the color or knit you like the best.
Maximizing the versatility of a fantastic cardigan is as simple as considering new ways to wear it. You have surely worn a cardigan as a light topper, over a blouse or tee at the office or a social occasion, and over a versatile dress to extend its use into cooler weather. However, have you ever buttoned up your cardi and worn it as a stand-alone sweater? Have you ever worn your buttoned-up cardigan as a scarf? Tied properly, there's nothing "80s tennis club" about it! Have you pushed the sleeves up to change the silhouette? A great cardigan can go Coco Chanel or punk rock—it's all in how you wear it. Explore the versatility of this classic wardrobe basic, and we think you'll be hooked.
Choosing the most versatile wardrobe basics can make sense in so many areas of our lives. Not only can you focus your clothing budget on quality pieces that will last a long time, but you can streamline your purchases down to what you will actually wear and love. It is both financially and ecologically responsible to buy wisely. We all need certain pieces in our wardrobe for specific occasions or functions, but what if your every-day options were not a tangle of fast-fashion blunders but rather a thoughtfully curated collection that would end the every-morning sartorial crises? They can be! Build a wardrobe around these five most versatile wardrobe basics to get the most out of your wardrobe, your clothing budget, and your styling creativity.