What Are Basics?

“What are your favorite items in your wardrobe?” “What do you wear in heavy rotation?” “What do you consider your must-have items?” I enjoy your positive comments and questions since they help me to focus on what is most important to you. Today, I am sharing some of my favorite items and also one of the ways I get fresh ideas for styling them in updated looks.

Your lifestyle will determine the content of your basics wardrobe. For example, you may love to wear skirts and dresses. I detest them, so my basics include jeans, simple knit Ts, tanks, cardigans, jackets, cashmere sweaters, and button front shirts. Each time I have shopped for the past few years, I have looked for unadorned, classic shapes in the solid colors that flatter my complexion. I also look for pieces that work with all the other items in my closet. I can combine and layer those items in different ways depending on where I am going and the weather.

I used the image from Fashion Jackson above as inspiration to combine black jeans and a white tank across three seasons. I could wear my pink J.Jill sweater/jacket in summer. I can wear the faux leather moto jacket in fall. The white linen jacket would be comfortable in spring.

My Inspiration board on Pinterest (click here) shows many ideas for putting together updated looks. I discover combinations I might not have thought of on my own. The use of colors, silhouettes, and textures and the addition of accessories often gives me new ideas for using what I have in different ways.

The photo above of Anne Hathaway inspired my combination of a navy cashmere sweater with a scarf tucked inside the neckline. I look for photos that feature one or more items that are similar to the pieces I own.

‘From Luxe With Love’ provided the inspiration to wear a loose-fitting black silky tank with my gray suiting jacket and cap-toe pumps.

Note that all of my inspiration models are much younger and thinner than I. Their clothing items are most likely far out of my budget. These facts don’t prevent me from getting ideas on how to wear my basics similarly.

The magic happens when you have the basic elements in your closet that reflect your personal style. I own mostly solid colors and simple shapes in classic styles, so it is easy to build different looks using what I have. I can get appropriately dressed for any event using items I already own. Another benefit of my wardrobe is that I can wear my classic pieces for the next few years because they are timeless. I can skip spending a fortune buying the latest trends that I might wear a few times for only a season.

A new shipment of scarves has arrived! If your favorite was sold out, it might be here now. The remaining crepe basics on my shopping site are here. Thank you to Elizabeth Miller for stopping by after school on Wednesday to be my photographer for this post.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

83 Comments
    1. Wonderful post Susan. I am 44 and I learned a lot from you. May I ask you the source of white jacket and a white purse?

  1. I love all of these looks, especially the ones with the light jackets. I am pear shape so having the longer length helps. I am 5’8” 155 lbs. Would you agree with my thinking ?

    1. Try on a short jacket which stops just below your natural waist. Have someone take your picture without your face in the frame. You will find that if the jacket or top comes down over your hips, it brings more attention to them. We often think that a long tunic or jacket hides the bum, but in truth, it usually draws the focus there. The fabric often hugs and pulls like an arrow that points right to the spot you don’t want attention.

      1. Just discovered your u tube uploads, blog, Instagram etc. I am 65 and gaining so much inspiration and great advice from you. I need to lose a few pounds and you have encouraged me to do just that.
        I actually went shopping yesterday taking all of your great advice into consideration. I, like you, dont want to feel frumpy,
        Thanks so much for your great information, You r a definite inspiration for many of us ladies in our sixtys.

    1. I also check Pinterest for inspirational ideas on how to pair items. Your blog has taught me so much and your blog and videos are an inspiration as well. I am loving that JJill pink jacket and might have to order today! The simplicity of your style really appeals to me. Love all that you share with us. Have a wonderful weekend!

      1. That JJill pink jacket you like is from their Wearever collection. I love many of the pieces from that collection; they never wrinkle, fit most bodies, and wash and wear over and over again without losing color to the fabric! This pink cardi/jacket is a new color and I’m loving it, also!

  2. I’m 60 size 14 and rarely wear dresses but sister in law wedding is semi-formal in May what should I wear?

    1. I love how you transform a look from a younger actress and make it your own. All these outfits look age-appropriate and so flattering on you. Thank you for showing us all the fashionable possibilities!

  3. Great inspiration , I am going over seas on a holiday and have just had to buy a new wardrobe as i have lost over 23 kilos so i have go e with black and white and grey with a touch of colour mainly in scarves and beads i think i will get enough different combinations as we will be away 5 weeks . Thankyou again for showing us how to put clothes together and adding the accesories.

  4. Love basics. That’s mostly what my wardrobe is and like you I hate dresses. I wore them in the 80s & 90s but no more. So happy I found your blog. You always look great.

  5. Love the simple white tank. I prefer v-necks. Unlike you I’m ALWAYS warm. Source of that particular white top,please.

    Thanks!

  6. Thank you for articles like this. You make it all seem so easy and effortless. I love that you have taken inspiration from the younger set and interpreted for your own look. I had never thought to do that. This type of article is so helpful.

      1. Your posts are always entertaining and enlightening, but this one is especially so. Once again I ask, WHEN is your book coming out? (I think it’s been a year since I first asked, so hope this doesn’t count as nagging.) It would be a public service, truly!

    1. I see all the emails and comments, but I may not publish them until I get back to my computer. I filter comments because I sometimes get 35 SPAMS at once along with pron links and other creepies.

  7. Wow! I liked the “twin” photos. You are a most excellent stylist, combining new items in the photos with your previously purchased items.

  8. My heavy rotation is lite weight pants, jeans skirt and jeans along with lite weight tops and tanks with a jeans jacket. I live in Florida so I need to dress due to the temp and humidity. Love your blog. You have helped me chain my mind set about style. I am on the heavy side so I do have difficult time with style that look good on me. Keep up the good work.

  9. Once again, so helpful! Lots of help in the comments too— shorter jacket with fuller hips! Sometimes I am afraid I’ll miss a tip so I check both Facebook and here!
    I should have asked on color post, but I want to purchase one pop of color purse for summer. I wear mostly blues and greens with my neutrals. Suggestions for what goes with most colors?

  10. Thank you for inspiring me to purge my closet and get rid of so much that I no longer wear, doesn’t fit my current lifestyle or body, or that I never felt comfortable wearing. I took about 150 items to a local charity yesterday and then rearranged my closet to take advantage of all the new space I have! Still have a bit more work to do, but it’s a very good start. Going forward, I plan to use many of the same principles you use in making choices for new items.

  11. Hello, I really enjoy looking at all the clothes you put together. I live in Tucson, Arizona where the summers are almost unbearable. I have such a hard time looking put together at 67 years old when you don’t want to wear anything with sleeves, but feel I must. Any ideas?

    Thank you!

    Jan

    1. I don’t get out to Arizona nearly as much as I would like. When I do visit, I wear lightweight cotton and linen in light, airy colors. Simple straight dresses that fall from the shoulders without waistbands or too many details around the neckline are the most cooling options for me. I always wear a light color straw hat and sunglasses.

  12. There is a lot I didn’t realize that goes in to having a blog! So sorry you have to put up with unwanted junk! I certainly am pleased that you continue to publish such a pleasant (no annoying ads) and useful blog. I love the different looks you achieved with basic pieces. I’ve been moving in that direction and am enjoying my wardrobe. It really is easier to get dressed for any occasion! I’d love to have another post on what you eat daily to keep your slender figure. I find those inspiring. Thank you!

  13. Really great combinations Susan – you look especially pretty in pink (which is not a great color for me unfortunately)!

  14. Love those spectacular side by side outfits where you recreate them and it does work to see the success of that comparison. Great choices and results. Thanks.

  15. My basics.
    1. Super comfortable good leather flats in black, navy, cream, red, and a few fun colors if possible.
    2. Black, navy and white plain really good cardigans, usually Eileen Fisher, in just at the top of the leg aka just below hip length.
    3. Good denim dress, can wear with leggings or with bare legs in warm weather.
    4. Black full length leggings. High waist. Not super tight. At least 12% spandex. Same in capri length. Same in navy. Long in charcoal. Short and long dark denim leggings. Short and long white denim leggings.
    5. Covered Perfectly black V neck tee in different fits and lengths.
    6. A set of very comfortable opaque full length nightgowns to wear at home in evening. LL Bean plaid flannel. The 1 for Me white cotton. Shadowline petal sets in all the colors. I switch to a thinner, short gown for sleeping.
    7. Set of basic color good Eileen Fisher pull over sweaters that are super comfortable and easy care. Wine, gray, navy, black, dark green.
    8. Set of simple pull over dresses for summer. Either tank worn with a light cardi or usually one with elbow or 3/4 sleeves. More colors than I usually wear. This is the one area where I go a bit off grid with patterns and colors. They are usually low cost and last 1-2 seasons – basically disposable. Usually J Jill or something cheap from Amazon.
    9. Eileen Fisher black straight leg crepe pants with wide waistband. Same in black velvet. Both washable.
    10. Black dresses. Maxi, knee and above knee. Dress up or down. All season. Usually Eileen Fisher or J Jill.
    11. 6-12 summer weight cotton or linen button up or pullover shirts. Loose. Often white. Blue stripe. If linen it may be a popsicle color just for fun. Always washable.
    12. 6-12 oversize and comfortable cotton, modal,spandex/lycra blend 3/4 sleeve tees, low hip length, in black, navy, white, wine, dark green, and some fun colors. Eileen Fisher in the dark colors and cheaper ones in light or bright colors (I am always spilling on my shirts).

    1. Hi Annette thank you for sharing and describing your basic wardrobe. It actually sounds pretty big. I am a 70 year old living in Australia, and I could easily wear all of your basic waedrobe. June

  16. I love your blog. I have the same formula, but true classic style doesn’t work so well for me. I am more of a soft classic-more Yin. Any ideas on how to adapt classic to softer classic would be appreciated.

  17. Great looks Susan. I love how you get some of your inspirations from the net and great photos as always. This was how I learned to put tan boots and handbag with navy clothes. I had always liked tan but as I am a winter, any tan near my face looks odd. 🙂

  18. on this page there is nothing to guide u to where the loose fitting tank top in black can be found since I am interested could you please advise me?

  19. I’m living proof ‘you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!’ I have always loved fashion but don’t always get it right. I have learned so much from you Susan and am so grateful you take the time and effort to maintain your blog. Keep
    up the great work! You are inspiring many to be the best version of themselves!!!

  20. Love your timeless, classic style w/just a passing nod to the seasonal trends! As it’s now Springtime, would you please consider showing pants in colors other than black or white. And also show appropriate tops, light jackets, etc that go w/them. I’m retired a few years & have a more casual wardrobe now. Tho I do love looser dresses & skirts in our hot & humid TN climatefor late Spring & summer. I find they’re cooler, especially in lovely linen. Would you also consider styling some linen pieces for casual &/or casual dressy. I no longer wear shorts, except around our pool, they’re really not attractive on older gals.

  21. This blog was one of my favorites for the pictures showing the same style through the seasons. Well done! And, for its casualness of style. Perfect for NorCal.

  22. I have used Pinterest as my inspiration for a long time. I follow you on Pinterest too! My go-to items in heavy rotation are skinny jeans, turtlenecks in gray, white and black, cardigans in pink, gray and black and a faux leather pink moto style jacket.

    1. I have a short, thick waist and short legs with wide calves covered with broken capillaries. Skirts and dresses are like giant arrows that point to all my least favorite bits.

  23. I prefer not to wear dresses anymore and love the basics. I’d love to get a cashmere sweater but am trying to justify the cost. I did purchase a nice trench coat and love it. Wearing tshirts in my late fifties seem to look nice only if I wear a jacket with it.

    Finding nice camis, tank tops, and jackets are a challenge for me.

    Have you ever purchased clothing from Qvc and if so, do you like the quality of the clothing?

  24. I love this post Susan. It is really helpful to see how you styled your own clothes using the photo inspiration. I can see how I can do this and it will be helpful to find things to look out for to put into my own collection, to create these timeless looks. Great to know we don’t have to be skinny and slim like these celebrities to still get the style we are after. Great post. Thanks Susan.

  25. I agree. I am a large farmers wife that lives in s very small community, but I still like to look nice & put together. My daily dress code are jeans & a top that still look nice & put together. But shoes are my weakness, I still like my heels. I think we all need to need to know our lifestyles & and what we are happy in! Age is just a number & the larger my number gets, the more comfortable I am in my own skin & style! Love your thoughts & have been very pleased with any purchase I have had with you. Keep up the great work, and may you & Mr. Mickey have more adventures.

  26. You look smart and casual. YOUR MODEL PHOTOS……I don’t do copycat styles. I look at the styles of young and modern 30/40 year old women that I see in shopping centres and I closely assess what they are buying for day-day-to clothes. Most,of their clothes are a poor fit, wrong style for their body. wrong colours for them complexion and look as if …..they didn’t think twice about what to put on to go shoppping. No just throw anything on! I always take the look a notch up e.g. uncrushable fabric, a good fit, personalise colour tones, colour co-ordinated, inexpensive garments….. all to produce a refined look. To me, we live in a world of indidivuals, so why do we want or need to copy anyone else.

  27. I really liked your post today using inspiration pictures for new ideas with basic items I already own. More of these posts please!

  28. Really enjoyed this post. Love the smart casual look and it reaffirms the value of wardrobe basics. Simple yet well curated. Thanks.

  29. Hi Susan
    You definitely know your style. Your grey suiting jacket combination looks better on you then the model. She looks like she through on someone else’s clothes, expensive or not. I love this post. The way you show the basics this the different looks, and beside the inspiration photo with it. All your looks are great. I love the idea of the scarf at neck tucked in. I have never thought of that before and I’m going to try it.
    By the way I love your new haircut for spring, it suits you well.
    Dee

  30. With the weather on the west coast still cool and raining, I wear in heavy rotation cashmere sweaters, skinny pants, boots, boots, boots and jackets. Being retired, I miss dressing up, but do occasionally wear wool dresses when out to dinner. I, too, am a ‘winter’ and love the bright colors. I am new to your blog (found you when looking for on-line packing tips). After all these years, I still over-pack. I wish I had seen your video before I purchased multiple cubes from Eagle Creek. Although, they did keep me organized on a recent trip. I will try some of your suggestions on my next vacation. It is an understatement to say, I have been inspired by your posts and have already made several changes in my attire and make-up routine. My husband laughed when I called you my new BFF.
    Thank you and please keep posting those pictures on places you and Mr. Mickey visit. You two are a great team!

  31. Susan, I’m in the UK and follow your blogs. I love the way you make a simple pair if pants or jeans look classic and stylish and how a piece of jewellery scarf or different purse transforms the look of an outfit. I see your photos and I instantly think I create that look, and there are so many similar things sitting in my wardrobe already!
    You bring everything together so well. Thankyou

    1. I have five black ones and six beige ones. I use them in the order so that they are rotated first in last out. I have owned most of these for more than a year and they are still supportive. If the straps stretch out, and elastic no longer smoothes or a wire should poke out, I will retire the bra. All of my bras are by Shapeez.com.

  32. I love your blog and I love fashion. Thanks for the tips on your site. I dress on a tight budget and I find wonderful bargains at thrift stores that have enduring versatility. For instance my faux leather jacket was out of season and cost me $5. It still had the tags on it . I have gotten tons of compliments on it and even saw an actress on a talk show with the identical jacket. My point is, your blog is great and you can even do it on a tight budget!

  33. Susan I love your style! I have far too many clothes
    Your choices have inspired me to weed them out and be more selective.

  34. I love your helpful, sensible tips. You always look totally put together. Please keep those tips coming!

  35. I avoid shorter dresses and skirts too — for the same reasons you do, Susan. I have a couple of Eileen Fisher maxi skirts and long dresses that I wear in summer, or in winter with boots. But I have to be careful as they can look frumpy if I don’t accessorize carefully. I love jeans with nice jackets and tops, but I avoid the silly, trendy jeans with rips, tears and excessive fraying. (I can’t justify spending money on demolished clothing — and I feel sloppy in it too.)

    I have a lot of basic black and feel great wearing it with pops of color and interesting artisan jewelry. I have a collection of white shirts and cardigans in various colors.

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I blogged for five years as Fifty, not Frumpy. Now that I am in my sixties, I am sharing ideas and inspiration for using and loving what you already have.

Thank you!
Susan

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