Shopping your closet: Looking stylish with 10 key wardrobe pieces

Over my years of fashion and style obsession I’ve noticed key things pop up across the board, and they are what I consider stylish essentials that seem to make every outfit perfectly unruffled and effortless:

Via Vanessa Jackman

1. Sunglasses

I have one pair and I use it to death. Only when it breaks from my clumsy butt sitting on them, do I replace them.

I spend no more than $50 on a pair. Preferably less. I go for UVA/UVB 100% protection in the lens, something not very dark or shiny and under a no-name label.

I know what shape works, and I usually tote around my broken pair of sunglasses to every shop, comparing the frame to try and get the exact shape.

I’d tell you the brand of the one I am wearing now, but it’s a no name from La Cordee in Montreal I bought for $40.

2. 1 pair of dark denim jeans

I admit it, I’ve gone over to the dark side of premium denim. Why? Because NOTHING fits my too-slender shape. Everything is meant for women with actual butts, and I have a butt.. but not a big one, which means I need a specific pair of jeans that will flatter my shape.

I look for mid-rise, dark denim, 98% cotton, no-stretch, straight-legged or bootcut jeans with very small pockets in the back to try and create an illusion of some ‘junk in the trunk’ 😉

So far, I’ve found the Citizens of Humanity Amber mid-rise bootcuts to be perfect. And since they’re perfect, I only need one pair that I cherish and wash sparingly because it is so freaking expensive.

3. Scarves

I have quite a few pashminas in different colours to wear over dresses on occasion or to add colour, but I also have a few silk scarves that are beautifully printed and nice to wear over a plain outfit in lieu of a necklace.

Regardless, scarves are eternal and make any outfit look chic just by learning how to tie them in different ways.

4. Nice Leather/Vegan Leather Bag

You can have many nice bags, but having at least one medium-sized or small one is key. Preferably in a neutral colour like dark brown, charcoal or black or a very bold colour like red (although be forewarned that while I love my crimson red Samsara bag, it does not look good against my red spring coat — too matchy — or against bright colours like purple or pink.)

I’d also suggest buying good full grain leather (or vegan Mat & Nat style if you are against leather), staying away from patent, bright colours, or animal prints (like snake *shudder*) and keeping it classic.

Via Snobiety

5. Casual Tote Bag

This is the bag that you find works best with less dressy outfits. Something simple, perhaps in a pinstripe, with a nice design (or none at all) that looks great.

6. Warm layering knit sweaters

A classic sweater makes any outfit look better and feel warmer. I am a big fan of cashmere and after buying my first 5% angora sweater, I loathe angora.

Here is my public service announcement of the post:


It sheds like crazy, worse than a elephant-sized cat and is not worth the fuzzy look.


Usually a neutral colour in a v-neck sweater looks great, and you can throw it on, over any old raggedy top you have and look instantly chic.

I like colours like navy, black, or grey for this, because it’s a dark neutral that won’t show stains easily and screams: instant style.

I picked up cashmere sweaters in thrift stores for $35 (Courage my love in Kensington Market, Toronto Canada), and after a few wears and a wash, it loses that thrift-store smell.

7. Classic Knee-high boots

Boots make my world go ’round. I only have one pair of flat brown boots from Ecco (Hobart was the style name), and I paid through the nose for them (around $300), but they are worth it.

I wear them CONSTANTLY. Over tucked in pants and skirts, they look great and feel good. I also added some Birkenstock insoles to them, and they are heavenly to walk in.

Look for simple boots. Nothing with too many buckles, whistles and fancy trimmings. You want classic so that it goes with anything and doesn’t scream: fashion overkill.


8. A few dresses

A few. *snort*

I have more than a few dresses and I can tell you that I LOVE wearing them. I feel differently in them, I act differently, and people react to me differently (they seem nicer…….).

I used to hate dresses growing up as a tomboy, but there are some things you have to attend that you just cannot wear pants to.

Of course, the ubiquitous ‘little black dress’ has to make an appearance (mine is a black knee-length sheath in wool), but I also suggest dresses that are simple and casual. No need to break the bank on those, H&M has great options for $15, sometimes.


9. Stylish coat

I am of course, thinking of a leather jacket but any stylish coat works. Just one, simple one that has a few details (or none at all), that you can wear over sweatpants buttoned up, as you run for that forgotten stick of butter.

10. Blazer

A good ol’ shoulder pad-free blazer is a must on my list. In either navy or black, it really adds oomph to a simple outfit and completes others in ways you wouldn’t think possible.

You can belt blazers with a skinny belt rather than always buttoning them up, or roll up the sleeves for a new casual style.

Look for blazers that are of like a sweatshirt material and with simple cuts to them.

As a side note, I was really paying attention to what stylish girls in Europe were wearing, particularly in Stockholm and Paris.

Ta dah!

Check out the pieces here on Polyvore

I didn’t really connect with London girls’ styles, only because I found their skirts shockingly short (they wear miniskirts to the office!) and their wool coats are very short. I feel like the proportions are totally offbeat — their legs look too long for such a short upper half.

That was just my opinion though. What the heck do I know? 🙂

What are your favourite wardrobe pieces?

You can read more of the Shopping Your Closet series posts here.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.