I have been dressing myself for many years now, and the best advice I have ever gotten regarding my wardrobe is this: invest your money in chic basics, and you will always have something to wear. Sure, it's fun to blow a little cash on a watercolor-print top or magenta high heels every now and then, but if you really want to look pulled-together on a budget, seek out high-quality versions of these ten items.
1. A pencil skirt.
Pencil skirts are like the subway tile of clothes: they never really go out of style. They're elegant, feminine, a little bit badass. Wear one to an interview (with a sensible top). Wear one to a wedding (with a flirty top). Find one you like, get it tailored to fit you just right, and you'll find yourself reaching for it again and again.
2. Black pumps.
Everyone should own at least one pair of really beautiful black pumps. Buy a classic shape and you'll keep them forever.
3. Jeans that make your butt look awesome.
Look for a dark rinse, so you can dress them up or down.
4. A big slouchy-luxe bag you can carry every day.
Your purse is pretty much the only thing in your wardrobe that you 'wear' every single day, so it's worth splurging on a little. I look for a bag that's high-quality but doesn't scream 'fancy' (for versatility) and one that has a little slouch to it (so I can stuff a few extra things in my purse without it looking like it's going to explode).
Sunglasses are the only accessory you wear on your face, and they are kind of important. They're one of the first things other people will see, and a nice pair of sunglasses will instantly elevate any outfit. Look for a pair that's not too trendy and that complements your face shape. And don't leave them on the seat of your car and then sit on them, like I do.
6. A white button-up shirt.
The ultimate wardrobe staple. Goes with basically everything. Another thing that's worth getting tailored, because you will keep it forever.
7. A white tank top.
White tank top? I hear you saying, skeptically. Trust me: if you can find the right white tank top, you will wear it all the time. The trick is to get one in an upscale fabric, like silk, so the shape says casual but the execution looks like a million bucks. You can wear said tank top to get beers with your friends at the ice house (it's a tank top!) or to that fancy new restaurant everyone's been wanting to try (it's made of silk!). Also looks great under a blazer.
8. The right black pants.
Perfect for any occasion where you don't want to wear a skirt, but jeans just won't quite do.
9. A little black dress.
But of course.
10. A statement-y necklace that goes with everything.
I know a necklace might seem like a not-so-basic thing, but hear me out: jewelry makes any ensemble look more finished. It says: "I do not just get dressed. I wear Outfits." If you can find a necklace that you love to wear, and that goes with everything, that one piece can give your whole wardrobe about 15% more oomph. Worth it.
What are the wardrobe staples you can't live without?
- Re-edited from a post originally published 9.04.2014 - CM