The key to building a great wardrobe is to have a strong foundation. That’s where the “essentials” come in. The white button-up shirt, a great pair of medium wash blue jeans, black pumps, etc. – you see where this is going? They can be worn time and time again with other items to create different looks. Personally, I am a fan of classic pieces and investment pieces; but, I don’t wear labels all the time – it’s not my life. I shop at stores like Forever 21, Zara, and ASOS the most whether I’m looking for the perfect little black cocktail dress or a trendy top. The key to shopping at “fast fashion” stores is to focus on quality, not quantity. With a little patience and a great eye, you can find your wardrobe essentials – at a price you can afford. So, let’s start shopping!
Essential #1: Basic Tees
T-shirts are the one wardrobe essential that won’t cost you a lot to stock up on. My go-to place for all of my basic tees is H&M. You can find every neutral color (and striped tees too) in both long and short sleeves on their racks for about $10 per shirt. The shirt I’m wearing was a great find from there. Striped tees are a great basic to own when you don’t feel like wearing a solid tee. The outfit possibilities are endless. I like to pair my striped tees with a statement piece such as a leopard infinity scarf to make my outfit stand out – and mixing patterns is fun. Forever 21 also makes decent tees for between $4 and $7 per shirt but sometimes it can be difficult to find your size in the color and style you want. If you’re looking for a tee that looks like it costs $50 but you only spent about half of that, go to Express. Plus, they almost always have some kind of promotion going on so that you can stock up while feeling less guilt about all the money you spent on tees.
Essential #2: Jeans
I LOVE jeans. It pains me to admit that I have a pair of jeans in a light wash, medium wash, and a dark wash in every style of jean. But they’re a neutral and I wear them almost daily so it’s fine. I am also a bit of a jean snob. I am very picky about inseams – maybe being only 5’2″ has something to do with it – so I’m constantly searching for brands that make “short” length and ankle length jeans. Brands that seem to sympathize with my short girl problems and have great fit are Forever 21, Hudson, and DSTLD. I don’t always like to have to pay (and wait) for my jeans to be altered and the expense can really add up when you have as many pairs as I do. But I will say that spending the money to have them altered so that they look right is worth it to me. Fit is the most important criterion when it comes to jeans but length is a very close second in my book. Taking the time and spending an extra $20 on a pair of $200 jeans to make sure they fit you properly is money well spent. When everything fits you perfectly, you feel more confident in your appearance and it shows in the way you carry yourself. And confidence is the best accessory anyone can wear.
Essential #3: Pumps
Whether they be round toe or pointy toe, kitten heel or stiletto, every woman should own a pair of black pumps. They go with everything – even jeans and a tee! These are also an investment piece and will be worn a lot so take your time finding the right pair. A great starter pair would be black leather. They can be dressed up or worn casual. Suede is also a great choice but they’re a little high maintenance when it comes to shoe care. Patent leather is also good but they tend to look more dressy. Heel height is a matter of comfort. I only wear stiletto heels because that’s what I’m comfortable in (and I’m short). If you can’t walk in them, don’t buy them! They’re just going to sit in your closet unworn and that’s a waste of money. Kitten heels can be just as beautiful on you as a pair of sky high stilettos. Shoes are just a pedestal. It’s the power of the woman who wears them that’s most interesting.
Essential #4: Trench Coat
Did you know that the trench coat was originally created for the British military? And we have none other than Burberry to thank for it. Trench coats are known for being waterproof but they are so much more than mere rain coats. They are perfect during those transitional months where it’s too warm for a wool coat but not warm enough to go without a coat altogether. Burberry is the “gold standard” for trench coats but not everyone has $1500+ to spend on a coat. I have always wanted a Burberry trench coat so I saved my hard earned pennies and bought one a few months ago. If you don’t feel like you can save that much or you can’t fathom spending that amount on a coat, Banana Republic makes great trench coats too. Theirs will set you back about $200. But again, it’s another investment piece that you’ll have for years to come so I urge you to consider splurging a little. The length and fit of the coat is totally up to you. I tend to wear mine to the office a lot with my knee-length dresses and skirts so I opted for the “long” length which hits a few inches above the knee. In addition, I got the “slim fit” because I like the tapered torso to give me more of a defined waistline when the coat is unbuttoned.
Essential #5: Top Handle Bag
Satchels aka top handle bags are definitely a wardrobe essential. They’re large enough to hold all of your everyday items and a few extras. In addition, most top handles come with a crossbody strap so that you can wear them as shoulder bags or as a crossbody – 3 bags in 1! I carry mine sans strap (to make it look more dressy) to the office and I add the strap on days where I’m running errands and could benefit for having both hands free. I scored this like-new YSL top handle from Fashionphile at a fraction of the retail price. Consignment stores are a great way to get luxury designer and luxury designer vintage handbags when you’re on a budget. Some offer layaway plans too if you can’t afford the full price of the bag in one lump sum. But make sure the consignment shop authenticates all of the items that they sell before you purchase so that you don’t end up spending all of you hard earned money on a fake bag. What Goes Around Comes Around and Opulent Habits are other great consignors that I’ve purchased from before. If a luxury designer bag just isn’t your cup of tea, Michael Kors, Coach, and Kate Spade are great mid-luxury brands ($250 – $500). Stores such as Zara and Aldo and brands such as Topshop and River Island make exquisite bags that look expensive but are less than $100.
I hope that you enjoyed my first blog post. Going forward, I want to use Cocoa Butter Diaries as not only a personal style blog where I take photos around town in my perfect outfits and write about them but as a platform to inspire and help others to look and feel their absolute best every single day. Thanks for reading!
Outfit Details: Celine sunglasses, Burberry “Sandringham” mid-length trench coat (here), H&M striped top (old), DSTLD skinny jeans (here), Christian Louboutin “So Kate” pumps (old but these are great too), and Saint Laurent/YSL “Ligne” satchel (here)