Curated Neutral Basics

A sustainable style includes a curated wardrobe meant to last for years rather than a few months. Merriam-Webster’s definition of curated: carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized or presented.

One of my all-time favorite summer shirts is the Portofino here. I have been wearing my collection of these shirts in a variety of colors for about five years.

Denim is essential to most of my daily looks. I wear black and dark blue wash jeans in winter and on rainy days, white and light to medium blue washes on sunny days, and in summer. Ankle-length is perfect for me since I have short legs. Ankle-length pants should stop a couple of inches above your ankle bone. Pants that end at the broadest part of the calf or puddle over the tops of shoes will never make us look our best. A straight slim fit is best for me since I have no hips or behind and thick calves. Try on several different cuts to find the best one for your shape.

I look for jeans with no more than 2% elastane or lycra for comfort and a sleek fit. I dry them on low heat for only a few minutes to get the significant wrinkles out, then smooth and shape them with my hands before hanging them on pant hangers to air dry. The most versatile jeans are medium blue with no strange fading, holes, or rips. The 100% cotton jeans pictured above are here.

When I buy a button up the front shirt, I go up in size so that the buttons don’t gap at the bust. I rarely layer over a button-up shirt, but I may wear a camisole under a sheer one. The Talbot’s Perfect Shirt shown above is here.

Those super comfortable, sleek white leather sneakers are here. My cropped navy cardigan is here. My favorite layering pieces include scoop neck Microfiber tanks here and long sleeve tops here or V-neck camisoles here.

Jean jackets and faux leather moto style jackets, and other fabric types are also basics for me. My favorite black jeans are here. I often wear black jeans with boots or loafers, so I like them in the full-length. Full-length jeans should barely touch the top of your foot.

I often get questions about classic neutral basics. “What are they?” “Which pieces do I need?” “How many basics are there?” “Why do I need these pieces?”

Your body shape, lifestyle, and climate will determine which pieces are the best basics for you. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. I’m showing you an example of my choices to help you visualize the possibilities.

Cotton 3/4 Sleeve Shirt

Dressing in classic neutral pieces without accessories or statement items would get boring for most of us. Think of them as the clean canvas on which you can create endless unique looks. The basics themselves may not be exciting, but we can mix and match them to make all the other pieces in our wardrobe more wearable. Great basics in shapes and colors that flatter you and are comfortable for the weather will give you something to wear with all the statement pieces in your wardrobe. You’ll never again say, “I have nothing to wear.”

Cotton Relaxed Fit Long Sleeve Shirt

That beautiful Teddy Blake bag is here. Please note that you have the option of different leather types.

Polyester (Almost Sheer) Long Sleeve Blouse

I hope this post helps you determine which basics will serve your needs.

The elements of my looks are rarely new, so I share highlighted links to similar current items. The shopping links in my posts may result in a small commission for me at no additional cost to you.

  1. Dear Susan
    I have followed you for a long time, and I am so pleased with all the things you are sharing – you are very inspiring so thank you very much.
    I live in Denmark, so unfortunately I am not able to buy some of your very nice itims.
    My best regards

  2. You inspire me to try different color and style combinations and I really do it! Today I will wear pearl gray with black coated moto, which I have never done. I keyed in to your tan sneakers with white laces and would like to know the brand. Thank you!

  3. Good morning, Susan!

    I love each of these outfits, they are stylish, and classy!

    Thanks for all the tips, and links. I look forward to every post!

  4. Susan,
    Good morning to you and thank you for encouraging women of our decade, or any decade for that matter, to embrace an age appropriate, classic style, that will ultimately enhance their beauty and everyday appearance!

    We both share a love for the neutrals that can be worn and styled for a formal elegant look or a casual classic outfit. And since my teen years, I have loved a beautiful scarf, belt, or jewelry to complete an outfit. (Maybe here I should mention that I have been known to buy the gorgeous pair of shoes first and then make up the outfits!) As you have mentioned before and noted in this post, our look should be adapted to compliment our uniqueness and in consideration of our lifestyle and climate. My curated neutral basics include shades of tan, greens, and coral (very complimentary to my skin coloring) along with my essential denims and, of course, classic white shirts. And, since I live in warm and humid Florida, climate is a very important factor!

    I do have a question for you. I also wash and dry my jeans as you do, by drying for only a few minutes and then hanging for complete drying and for my dark jeans, I use detergent for dark colors to prevent fading as much as possible. All that being considered, it works nicely for my dark blue jeans but my black jeans still seem to fade quickly and I now send them to the cleaners. How do you care for your black jeans to prevent fading?

    Loving and living in Classics,

    1. I turn my black jeans inside out and wash all of my clothes in cold water. The black jeans may fade a little more than other colors. Thank you for your kind comment and question.

    2. Dear Bonnie and Susan,
      Both my spouse and I have black pants and were plagued by fading and even some what appears to be abrading as well. So my recourse was dry cleaning. The problem I’m having with dry cleaners is they brutally press and crease the pant leg. Even after resorting to using the lingerie cycle, with cold, and woolite for darks, I’m seeing fading. Denim seems to be the worst but a few pairs of my pull on Chico’s are suffering the same fate. I’ve read that using vinegar (yuck) in the rinse helps. One thing I can say with certainty is that we have a very strong chlorine content to our municipal water. It has a very strong smell. I often wonder if it contributes to fading. I’ve also read that powdered detergents can be abrasive. I only use either Tide free pods or Woolite pods. I’m a fan of nice perfume — my current fav is Idôle from Lancôme. I’m not big on artificial scents from fab softeners or detergents but there are articles out there that seem to indicate fab softening helps with piling and fading. That doesn’t make much sense though … the wash cycle seems to be the longest. Maybe someone has an idea how to save our pants.
      — Liane

  5. First, are you safe from the terrible effects of the tornado that just hit Tennessee? My heart goes out to those who have lost family.

    All of the above looks suit you perfectly. At 5’4”, long waisted & shorter legs, I grapple with wearing shorter jackets, jean jackets in particular. I have a straight figure and would appreciate any advice on how to wear/style short jackets. Many kind thanks, Susan!

    1. I live a few hours away from the area that was struck by those horrible storms.

      Shorter jackets and tops will help us to look taller since they don’t hide any of our leg length. You may find it more comfortable to layer them over a top which is a bit longer. That is called horizontal layering and it creates more of an illusion of a waistline as well as making our legs look longer.

  6. Love you’re style and how you are not afraid to change it to meet the challenges of our ever changing bodies at this stage of life ! You inspire and encoring!

  7. Thanks again Susan! Your blog is always informative and helpful for me!
    I do wonder “how to do” the blouse or shirt ‘tuck into the waistband of my pants” thing?
    When I do it it seems to always appear contrived or un-natural. I see when you do it it seems
    to look effortless.
    Any secrets to partial tucking of shirts???
    Sharon Coolidge

  8. Your jeans are perfect — and I love that you “refuse” to fall for the trend of ripped jeans with holes in them. I have jeans that are ripped — not on purpose — that I only wear for yard work or painting or crafting. I think it’s totally silly for a woman of ANY age to pay good money for ripped clothing, jeans or anything else. And I don’t think the look is attractive on anyone, regardless of age. I’ve seen mature women wearing ripped jeans out to dinner, and to parties, and I have to wonder: “What were they thinking?”. I follow trends, and I love interesting fashion, but there’s something silly — and adolescent — about wearing torn clothing just because everyone else is. 🙂 Thanks for showing us how to dress like a grown-up, with class and style!

  9. I’ve read some blogs that call this “Slow” fashion but I prefer your term…”Curated”
    Thanks for taking the time to explain some of the little details that will help us develop and maintain our wardrobes

  10. Any tips on converting size charts to US sizes? I’m specifically referring to the denim jeans you linked to Everlane. I’m not sure what “number” size I am. Are those numbers referring mostly to waist measurements? Thanks.

  11. Hi Susan, Thank you for all your tips and information. I think I need to reorganize my closet and see what I wear and like the most. I just ordered a white shirt on sale, I just felt I needed one this year. So nice to hear you talk about it. When a new doctor took me off of a pill I was taking for 12 years I ended up losing 20 lbs.! All you said about meds is so true, I feel more like myself and I can wear normal clothes again. I think it is one reason why I wanted a white shirt and it looks so nice with my white hair. I also like seeing where you travel. Up north we still have cold and snow. Thank you, Marilyn

  12. I think you have very on target suggestions about proportion. The not layering over button-up shirts is something I hadn’t considered. I’m not busty, but I’m going to apply that guideline and see how it goes. A button-up shirt usually has a buttoned sleeve, and if you layer then you have to get the sleeve to look right. I have some really nice button-ups in my closet, maybe that new design axiom will breath more life into them. Thanks!

  13. I am definitely a Talbots shopper but I encourage you to try the no iron LLBean blouse. I think it is superior to Talbots.

      1. Amen to that, Susan! I absolutely detest pockets over the bust (which look awful on big-busted ladies).

  14. Love your website. I am a 2P. Could you include items that also come in Petite. This size is becoming more difficult to find

  15. My daughter and I were looking at this article nd she said. Mm… Oh she has your wardrobe. Seriously…I am a few years older, wear my hair long, so I can pin it up or not…I am ls 6 ft. Basics work for everyone. Love ya.

  16. To address color fading of clothes. If you wash brights and darks the first time without detergent and 1 Cup white vinegar the colors will be set and with little to no fading in the future. Particularly for natural fibers, cotton, linen, etc. Dark wash denim is more resistant and it’s helpful to do this for next two or three washings. Polyesters are much more colorfast so don’t need the vinegar wash. And there is no vinegar smell left on your clothes plus vinegar also works as a softener.
    It’s the same premise as dying Easter eggs. You dip eggs in vinegar after dying to set the dye.
    This is very old school and it works! I love the helpful tips I receive from Susan’s blog readers and from Susan to help us look our best!

    1. Another way I use white vinegar is to mix about 1/4 cup with a half-gallon of distilled water and rinse your hair with it at the end of your shower for a great shine.

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.