Start With The Basics

Your questions give me the inspiration to go more in-depth and cover specific subjects in blog posts. The following was an excellent inquiry. “I was wondering about the number of garments you have. Do you keep a fairly minimal wardrobe? For example, do you keep just one white tank, or do you have several?”

I almost always wear only solid colors and use accessories such as scarves to add vibrant prints and rich patterns to my look. White, black, navy, denim blue, and gray with occasional pops of red or royal blue serve all of my needs. With a few essential pieces, I can mix and match to create looks from very casual to dressed for a black-tie event.

Regarding color, I would recommend starting with a dark, a light, and a bright. If you look better in warm colors, your choices might be brown, cream, and olive, for example. You can pull in accent colors such as coral, turquoise, or navy, but you need to build upon various tops and a couple of bottoms with your basic pieces.

There are more tanks in my wardrobe than any other item because I wear them several times each week. I wear cotton loose-fitting casual tanks with wide straps when I am walking for exercise. I add a light windbreaker jacket, which I remove when I get warmed up. There are wrap front styles with layers that I can wear alone with a lightweight pull-on style of a pant with a wide waistband when it is sweltering during the summer. I do not show my waistline, so the loose-fitting flowing styles are the only ones I will wear alone. There are fitted scoop neck tanks such as the sleek microfiber tanks from Chico’s, which I wear to fill in a neckline, and front of an open jacket or sweater. I never remove my jacket or sweater.

I have several Covered Perfectly tops with long sleeves. They are perfect to wear with jackets and sweaters. The Simple Comfort Top is the one I am wearing here. We were on our way out to dinner, so the evening was cool. It was the perfect first layer.

I have found that if I have the correct shape of basic first layers, I can add jackets, sweaters, a vest, or a fabulous scarf draped over my shoulders to create an uncomplicated look that will take me anywhere in style and comfort. The first layer should never add any bulk. For example, I would never wear a thick cotton knit long sleeve tee under a sweater because I would look ten pounds heavier. The same sweater over a sleek-fitting tank would be a much better choice.

The red trench sweater duster I am wearing here is from Chico’s, as is the necklace. The trench comes with a matching belt, but it felt too heavy with this look, so I left it at home. When I wear this trench with a white tank and jeans, I will wear the belt either hanging loose or tied low in the back. I will never tie or buckle it in the front because of my thick waistline. The pants are from White House|Black Market last year. The short boots are from last year by Saks 5th Avenue via the Saks Off 5th Store. The clutch is about three years old by Kenneth Cole via T.J.Maxx.

  1. Another great article full of advice. When I started following your blog, I wondered how long I would stay because you always spoke of basics and minimal numbers of pieces. But you truly mix and match things in so many ways, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a 100% repeat of an outfit. And you always look classically chic.

    Have a good weekend.

  2. Good, solid advice. I guess one of the main things I like about your blog is that you do not bend to every new fashion whim.

  3. This is my first post to you. Thank you for all of your insight. In my early sixties I retired from New England and it’s cold weather to South Carolina. My winter business wardrobe had to give way to a more relaxed semi tropical one. When I first moved here, I ditched all my woo lens and went a bit over board with color and patterns.

    Now I enjoy your guidanance and look forward to your posts. In future posts about layering it might be enlightening if you would post photos of the steps, tank and pants before accessories.

    Thanks again
    Sandy Ewing
    Bluffton, SC

  4. Good advise. I know shoes have always been an topic, and I have a question. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who have foot problems and want to look decent and not wear “old lady” shoes?” I am not talking just wearing flats vs heels, but a true decent looking comfortable shoe when we indeed have a foot problem. I keep telling my podiatrist that my goal is to just wear cute shoes again. Love your blog and thank you for all your suggestions.

    1. Whether I am shopping for flats or heels, boots or sandals, I always look for shoes that are slender and have nice lines. Nothing too bulky, cushy or rounded. Think of a sports car instead of a minivan.

  5. I love that advice Susan…and the “sports car” instead of a “minivan” really paints a picture. Now I get it even more…thanks!

  6. I have been reading so many blogs and Facebook posts about the glory of a ten piece wardrobe. The writers extol the virtues of a small wardrobe and how it will simplify my life.I have a much larger wardrobe than that and it’s taken me many years to build it and develop it. What are your thoughts about a small versus a large wardrobe? I don’t find that my closet full of clothes that I love in any way complicates my life; it just gives me choices.

    Susan Mc

    1. I have way more than ten pieces in my wardrobe! If you love it, keep it, wear it and enjoy it. What I think is important is to always have those few base pieces (in good condition) so that you can create looks with all your other special pieces that you love. When you have too many prints or too many pants, you may have trouble putting together a variety of looks.

  7. Hi Susan,
    Your formula for putting together outfits is genius! I love black basics too, so keep these posts coming! You always look beautiful.
    Thanks, Paula

  8. Susan, I’m consistently pleasantly surprised how well you encourage us as you break it all down for us. You make it so fun and workable to fight frump! Thank you

  9. Susan, This article really helps me. I found I am much more selective in my clothing purchases.I used to buy whatever I thought looked good and on sale .Now I have many things just hanging in my closet not worn.I am a work in progress.

  10. Another informative post!Love you in that red!
    I’ve found it helpful to lay my outfits out for a type of activity or event. Then I try it on to make sure it works and take a photo. Then when I have something to go to, I know exactly how to put together an appropriate outfit I’ll feel great in. This has saved me many times. I don’t know how many times I needed to add a different undergarment or stockings or shoes. Now I can pull it together effortlessly.

  11. From a 68 1/2 lady….thank you so very much. I am learning I do not need to be frumpy thru your blog. I do not need to stay overweight, but I can be a classy woman even at this age and make the best of these years the LORD will give me. HE is using you for us all. THANK YOU Susan. from Linda

  12. At your suggestion last year, I was able to find the Peck & Peck 3/4 sleeve scoop neck tops in black and white; they were one of my most useful purchases! Also assembled a collection of tanks in black, white, grey & ecru over a period of months which have helped immensely. Can wear these year round. Thank you so much for all your tips. You look super in this outfit! Have a wonderful weekend!

  13. Dear Susan,
    You are a gem I’ve been following your blog for a few years now. While I’m younger you inspire me with your use of classic basics. I gave dark hair, so your palette is mine. Could you tell which covered perfectly top this is? I go to the site and get overwhelmed! Also tell me what size of t you normally wear from otter sources and what size you wear from covered perfectly. I can’t believe you gave a thick waist, so you do a great job of concealing. I have that same issue, so I need yo be better at that. Thanks for your blog, I know somewhere I’d like to visit is Blowing Rock based on your reviews! Amy

  14. Why do I follow this blog? I NEVER wear black above the waist, I have a hourglass shape so a very different shape, my style is sporty and I have way fewer clothes. It is for the great advice you give such as these shopping tips! This is so true…you get what you pay for!

  15. Hi you have a great blog. Wanted your opinion on cardigan sweaters which I like to wear with tanks as it’s easy to slip off and tie the sleeves at neck if it gets warm.
    My question comes from the fact that most of the cardigans I see (Talbots, Macy’s etc) seem very small. I have to go up several sizes to find ones that don’t seem tiny on me. Am I mistaken, or is it the trend for them to be that way? It doesn’t seem flattering to me for things to be so tight.

    1. I also look for more oversized cardigans since I enjoy wearing them at home with jeans and a tank even in summer. Air conditioning quickly becomes too much for me. I just got a couple of them from Cali and York and I love them. They are not cut so slim nor are they so thin that you can see my rolls through them. They are also on sale right now!

  16. Dear Susan,

    Your blog is an inspiration to me, a recently retired, almost 60-year-old woman born, raised and still living in Michigan. I’ve culled my wardrobe of non-essentials and looks that don’t work anymore and now need to build up the basics once again.

    Thank you for your sensible guidance!


  17. Do you have one particular blazer sort-of-thing that you like the best? I am about to buy one for spring. I am looking for a neutral to wear with black pants or leggings. I look better in non-knits that fall from the shoulder and hide my waistline. I can wear a satiny tank or top. This takes 10 lbs off and although I need to lose 20 lbs, it would help to have a jacket that helps. I go to the tailor and buy for the latest part of me (top). Thanks.

    1. If the largest part of you is your top, I would suggest buying a jacket with slim or no lapels. Never add more volume or width to that area. I would look for one that closes in a V if it closes at all. A jacket in French Blue would be a great choice for year-round wear. Good luck!

  18. I recently found your blog and I love it! I went back and read all your posts from 2017 & 2016 and am now reading through 2015. Thank you for all the inspiration. I think I need a Mr. Mickey in my life! How fun that you have someone to go out on dates and share adventures. How did you two meet?

  19. Fantastic ensemble, Susan! I just happened upon your site and I really enjoyed the video on packing for a long weekend as well. Thanks for the tips and ideas. 🙂

  20. Susan hi–

    Never responded before to your posts. Thanks for sharing. Your captivating with pure elegance… how you achieve this transfers your feelings almost like a 500 watt light bulb.

    Your infectious charm inspires, as you carry even the basics off!

    Is it ok for a 52 year old to be envious of you?

    Let me know how you feel:)

  21. Hi. I have reorganised my wardrobe around your basics and find it much easier to choose clothes each day.

  22. This is exactly what I needed to read today. For a couple of months I’ve been studying a few bloggers and visiting many Pinterest sites. Now I need to narrow it all down. Thank you for including warm colors in this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

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.