Loved Clothes Last: 15 Essential Items Worth Investing In
Fashion Revolution week is all about changing the model, material, and the mindset of how we interact with fashion.
(This framework was developed by researchers Rebecca Earley and Kate Goldsworthy. You can learn more about it here.)
As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago.
Yet we’re wearing only about 20% of what’s packed in our closets. The increase in our consumption patterns has had a massive impact on the people who make our clothes, our shared environment and equal opportunity for prosperity for all of us.
But there is a solution!
And it starts with our mindset. If we’re wearing only 20% of our clothing, why buy the other 80%? By having a better understanding of what you love to wear and why, you’ll end up buying fewer, quality items, wear them more, and make an effort to keep them in great shape. Especially, when you only buy what you really love. #lovedclotheslast
Here are the 15 essential items in my wardrobe.
I like items that are easy to wear, easy to maintain, and have classic silhouettes (with just a bit of a modern edge). I hate things that are scratchy, so I’m always looking at fabric labels and often opt for more natural fibers. I love fashion, but I actually hate shopping, so I want my clothing options to be versatile for all seasons and occasions.
My 15 essential items are basically a mix of my daily uniform: pants, shirt, jacket, and boots. In the summer, I swap boots for tennis shoes and pants for shorts.
1. Black Supima/Pima Tank-Top.
A quality black tank top, preferable with wide bands, is a perfect anchor piece in any wardrobe. Think of it as a canvas that can be built upon. A neutral piece that allows something else to pop.
I love my black tank top because I can easily layer a sweater or scarf in cooler months, or wear it by itself in the summer. For weddings, I add a brightly colored skirt, heels, and necklace. I can wear the same top and throw on a scarf and/or a jacket and it’s the perfect option for a veggie burger and fries.
I opt for pima cotton or supima —the trademark used to promote American-Grown pima cotton — because the fibers are longer and softer so the fabric lays well, longer.
2. White button-up or Collared Shirt.
Everyone looks great in a white collared shirt or button-up. I love a slightly more casual cotton and a longer cut, so I can tie it at my waist, tuck it in, or let it hang loose. I love that you can also adjust the neckline by how it’s buttoned.
It’s also easy to layer and great for a variety of seasons and occasions.
I haven’t found a pima cotton button-up that I’ve loved, so I opt for one that is 100% cotton because it’s more breathable than polyester blends and a lot less scratchy.
3. Long-Sleeve Silk Shirt
Mixing casual and dressy items together is one of my favorite looks and a long-sleeve silk shirt with jean shorts is my perfect summer option.
Silk shirts are breathable in hot, sticky weather and insulating on cooler days. They’re also great for layering as they wick away moisture. Silk shirts are also super easy to pack because they’re so lightweight.
If you’re willing to hunt, they can often be found at thrift stores for much less than the traditional retail price. (I paid $14.00 for the one pictured.)
I love striped shirts and it seems that everyone else does too. I’ve yet to find a season when a striped shirt wasn’t for sale. Your classic blue and white, boat neck, horizontal striped shirt will probably never go out of style, but I like to switch things up with vertical stripes. I also like a little bolder hues, red and white or yellow and white are my favorite combinations.
Fun fact: the striped shirt was made famous by Coco Chanel, but the look originated from the Russian Navy Uniform.
5. Crew-Neck Sweater. (Preferably, Merino Wool, or Cashmere)
I run pretty cold, so I find myself wearing sweaters year round. And a soft, cozy sweater in the winter, is equally as inviting on a spring walk around your neighborhood.
Cashmere, crewneck sweaters are my favorite, because the higher neck keeps you warm, you can easily layer a collared shirt underneath or layer a jacket over it. They are also so soft.
My favorite is actually a men’s recycled cashmere sweater. I’ve worn it camping in Bishop, California, to a fancy Christmas party, on hikes in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and countless times in between. Literally, countless times.
Wool is naturally odor resistant, it holds it’s shape well, is a perfect insulator, and easily wicks away moisture. It’s literally one amazing fabric and well worth paying a few extra dollars for.
6. Leather/Pleather Jacket
Finding a quality jacket that you love adds dimension, sheen, and maybe most importantly warmth. Given my daily uniform, I’ve got quite a few jackets, but my old standby is a side-zip, black, pleather jacket. When mine finally wore out, I ended up getting a light pink version, and have been loving it.
7. High-waisted, Black (or Super Dark Denim) Skinny Jeans.
When you put on a pair of jeans that fit, you feel and look great. I love my high-rise black jeans because they work all day long. There is basically never a time that a pair of black jeans wouldn’t be appropriate, and they’re just so comfy.
8. A brightly colored skirt.
I wear a lot of neutrals, but I love wearing a brightly colored skirt, especially if it has a pattern. Maybe it makes me feel party-ready, or maybe I love the drastic change from my standard uniform. Regardless, whenever I wear it, I feel great, and I seem to get tons of compliments on it.
9. A great pair of jean shorts.
I basically live in jean shorts in the summer. They are so easy to wear. They’re perfect for biking, picnics, farmers markets, kayaks, and beers in the back yard. I can mow my lawn, or do a few chores around the house. Add boots and a silk shirt and you’ve got a the perfect date-night outfit.
To be honest, I think that LBD’s are over-rated, because I want people to dress more creatively. So, if you know me well, you’d probably be surprised that they made my list. So for the record, LBD’s are over-rated...I think.
I keep one classic knee-length shift dress in my closet in case of emergencies.
Emergencies like, I’m not sure what to wear to an event and then an LBD comes to save the day. Office work party? LBD. Wedding that could be casual, but based on the invite might actually be more formal? LBD. Unexpected funeral? LBD. Work presentation in a room that never has air-conditioning? LBD. Long-vacation that you’re not sure what/where the week will take you? LBD.
So while I hate to admit it, LBD’s often come and save the day. They’re basically a long, black tank top that is the perfect canvas to create any look with. While I often opt for natural fabrics, for an LBD, I recommend looking for one that isn’t 100% cotton, so the color won’t fade over time.
11. Pair of boots.
Investing in a pair of quality boots that you can wear year-round is worth every cent. The big issue is you have to absolutely love them. So before you shell over the big- bucks for a pair of high-quality boots. Make sure you know EXACTLY what you’re looking for, how you plan to wear them and if those first two qualifications actually align with your day-to-day life. There’s no sense in investing in a really expensive pair of boots if you only wear them once a year.
I love my Frye boots, because I can wear them all year long, they can be re-soled when the heels wear out and with just a little bit of TLC and a new set of laces, they look brand new, but are actually perfectly molded to my feet.
12. Tennis Shoes.
Tennis shoes are sooo versatile. You can walk 20 miles around Paris without your feet aching, hop on a long bike ride, or run around the block with your nephew and his dog.
I love the look of white tennis shoes, but didn’t want the pain of keeping them clean, so I opted for navy.
13. Canvas or Leather Carry-All.
You’re always going to have stuff you need to carry and a quality leather or canvas backpack or tote is the way to go. I have a black tote that I use for work and a brown backpack that I use for errands around town, travel, and bike rides.
14. A big scarf.
Again, I run cold. A scarf comes in handy for adding a little warmth, a pop of color, and a little dimension to an otherwise basic look. My favorite scarf is made of wool and silk. It’s black and white mini-checks, and because of the material it’s made out of it’s lightweight, durable, and oh-so-warm-and-soft. It also always reminds me of a fun trip to Peru I took with my Dad, where I got it.
15. A pair of studs.
I love statement earrings, but sometimes they get too heavy for a full day of wear. My favorite pair of earrings were gifted to me by a friend. They’re brass studs with a rectangular shape, and are my go-to for all occasions.
With the items mentioned, I can create 30+ different outfits. That’s a month worth of classic, versatile looks that I love.
Need help selecting your 15 essential items? Check out 4 Tips for Selecting Your 15 Essential Items.