When I first committed to purchasing only responsibly made clothing, I was really into the idea of having a capsule wardrobe. We’ve lived on a low budget for a long time, and so my purchases have always been pretty limited. I’ve also moved almost once a year ever since I graduated from college in 2012, which led me to pursue minimalism in every area of my life because I hated packing so much! I’ve been working towards my goal of having a quality, versatile wardrobe that I truly love for about three years, so I’m now at the point where I’m starting to add a few more pieces rather than just replace items that were old, poor quality, or too trendy to last more than a season or two. Now that I know my style better I’m comfortable with starting to grow my wardrobe again. However, I do still have a small closet and it’s made up of mostly simple, classic pieces that can be mixed and matched multiple ways. A big part of the reason I’ve been able to make such a small wardrobe work over time is because I rely heavily on a selection of well-made essential pieces that I genuinely couldn’t live without. These items are the true workhorses that I wear multiple times a week and do the heavy lifting in my outfits by pairing well with anything and everything. They fit me really well and I feel fantastic wearing them, which is a big part of the reason I reach for them over and over. I thought it might be helpful to share a glimpse into my closet and give a brief overview about my most-worn items, why I love and wear them so much, and how they function in my closet. I’ll link everything at the bottom of each section!
I have two pairs of straight-leg jeans that I wear regularly throughout all four seasons. I like to have one pair in black and one in blue, and that way I know that I have a pair that will work with every single shirt I own. I used to be a die-hard skinny jean wearer, but I’ve been really gravitating towards straight-leg jeans lately. I like how they aren’t as tight or restrictive as skinny jeans, while still remaining form-fitting. This makes them a great choice for adding some shape or definition to a piece that would otherwise feel really flowy or unstructured - such as tunics, shorter dresses, or oversized tops. I also feel like the straight leg is completely classic and will always be in style, no matter what. I always choose a high-waisted jean because I have such a long torso and really short legs. I prefer a rise of at least 12 inches, which has the effect of balancing out my proportions and adding some length to my lower half. My absolute favorite straight-leg jeans are from Agolde, but the Cheeky Straight Jean from Everlane is a very close second at a more affordable price point. I’m also interested to try out the 90s Cheeky Jean from Everlane.
Another silhouette that I really love is a tapered, trouser-style pant. Tapered pants are nice to have because, once again, they work really nicely with any shape and size of top, from really loose-fitting to quite tight. They have a silhouette that’s pretty similar to a straight-leg jean, but they’re incredibly comfortable. They also look a little dressier, which is nice for an office setting or transitioning from day to night. My hands-down favorite brand for this style of trouser is Elizabeth Suzann. I really loved her Tilda style (which has been discontinued) but the Andy and Clyde pants are also favorites that are on very regular rotation in my closet. I particularly love my Andy pants in silk - the drape and texture of the fabric highlights their shape and structure so beautifully.
Wide-leg pants are such a fun look! I was really nervous to wear them for the first time because they felt so different from the skinny jeans I was used to, but after picking up my first pair (the Everlane Utility Crop) I was hooked. I find that I don’t wear these quite as much as my more fitted styles because they aren’t as practical for me and sometimes get in the way. They also don’t work with every top; if I were to pair these with a looser shirt or tunic, my petite frame would quickly get lost in all the fabric. However, they’re still a style that I wear really often and they make an outfit look instantly put together and chic. I really love how polished I feel when I put them on! My go-tos are the linen or silk Florence pant from Elizabeth Suzann because they’re so comfortable as well as stylish. I also really like the more structured look of a canvas or denim wide-leg pant, like my Utility Crop pants or the Wide-Leg Chino (which I haven’t tried personally, but have heard amazing things about). I’ve also been eyeing the iconic Kamm sailor pant for years now and am hoping to save up to buy my first pair this fall!
You can’t live in the Midwest without a good pair of shorts for hot, sticky summer days! I have two pairs for this season and will look forward to adding more for future summers as I can afford them. I’ve found that my favorite shorts are pretty much the same style as my favorite pants - high-rise and fitted in the waist with an elastic waistband, and then more free in the hips and thighs for a look that has a little more volume around my legs. I like the vintage vibe of this style, and I also really appreciate the modesty of a slightly longer length. I also feel like the longer, high-waisted style helps lengthen my legs a lot! My two pairs are the Easy Short from Hackwith Design House and the Aura Short from Harley Jae. The Easy Short is so lightweight and comfortable and absolutely perfect for the hottest days. The Aura Short is made out of the most gorgeous, textured hemp fabric that gives them such a unique look, and I often reach for them when I want to feel a little bit dressier. I love having both a light and a dark pair of shorts because of all the styling options each color opens up!
Everyone needs to have a handful of good, basic tees in their wardrobe! They go with everything and can be used in every season: you can wear them on their own, layer them under a dress, or pair them with a cardigan. I always wear a tee under my sweaters in the winter, which adds an extra layer of warmth, keeps my sensitive skin from itching, and protects my sweaters, too. My favorites are almost all from Everlane; their tees are high-quality, come in a wonderful range of colors, and are so affordable. I really love the textured look of their micro-rib tees. These are my first choice to wear under dresses or jumpsuits, but I also love them on their own with a pair of pants. The ribbed fabric and longer sleeves help to elevate them from just a normal basic to a piece that’s a little more stylish and unique. I also love Everlane’s cotton crew. I haven’t been wearing this style as often as I used to since we closed Botany (which you can read about here), but when I was working barista shifts every day, these tees were definitely my work uniform. Tradlands also has amazingly soft, high-quality tees if you’re looking to invest a little more money in one that might last you a longer period of time.
Tanks + Camis
Tank tops or camis serve a similar function to tees but are more specific to the summer months. I pretty much live in a tank top + shorts or a skirt all summer long! Two of my favorite tanks are once again from Everlane: the Clean Silk Cami and the Air Cami. Both of these tank tops are long enough to tuck in but also look nice untucked for a more flowy, casual look. I also wear my Petra Crop from Elizabeth Suzann very frequently, and it’s the perfect length to wear with my many high-waisted bottoms. The linen fabric is so breathable and wonderful for summertime, but I wear my Petra throughout the cooler seasons under a cardigan, as well.
I’ve also found that it’s really important to include at least one turtleneck in my wardrobe. I love the classic alabaster option from KOTN because it’s thin enough to wear under other pieces, but is completely opaque and can also be worn on its own without any anxiety about my bra showing through. I wear my turtleneck most often under dresses and jumpsuits in the winter - I try really hard to wear as many of my pieces as I can through all four seasons of the year, and layering a turtleneck under warmer-weather pieces has been so helpful with that! I also really like the look of a turtleneck tucked into a skirt with tights, or with a good pair of high-waisted pants.
Fitted Turtleneck: KOTN
Minnesota winters are absolutely brutal, and have been especially so the past two seasons. We’ve had foot after foot of snow from multiple blizzards, many sub-zero days, and the season has lasted from early November until late April. It’s not a stretch to say that I literally would not survive winter without warm, cozy sweaters to help block out the cold. I’ve really fallen in love with cashmere over the past few years, and I’ve purchased all of mine from Everlane. Once again, they have lots of colors and styles, and the quality for the price just can’t be beaten. My favorite styles are the turtleneck, the crew neck, and the v-neck; this covers just about every situation and creates plenty of opportunities for versatile pairings. I love cashmere because it’s so warm without the sweater needing to be really heavy or chunky. I have pretty sensitive skin and have never had a problem with irritation from these sweaters like I sometimes get from a more scratchy kind of wool. The cashmere is really soft and gentle. I also love cotton sweaters, and the Modern Fisher sweater from Tradlands gets lots of wear all through fall and winter as well as into spring. The cotton is warm and so gentle on the skin, and I love the texture of the cable-knit fisher sweater design!
I also wouldn’t be able to make it through winter without at least one cardigan. I like to choose cardigans in the most neutral colors to make sure they pair well with all of my tops. The natural cotton cardigan from Babáa was my favorite this past season, and I have my eye on L’envers as my next brand to try when the weather turns cold again. I love that both of these companies offer cotton as an option alongside wool so that I don’t have to worry about itchiness. I also rely on cardigans to carry me through fall and spring, so it’s really essential that they’re high-quality, long-lasting, and classic enough to wear month after month.
No. 18 Cardigan: Babaà
Skirts, Dresses, and Jumpsuits
As much as I love pants, I also like to have a few options for a more dressy, feminine, free-flowing look. I don’t own a huge number of dresses and skirts because the styling options tend to be a bit more limited. However, I love wearing them throughout the summer because they’re so cool and breezy, and I’m learning how to style them in the colder months, as well. My favorite skirt hands-down is the linen Bel Skirt from Elizabeth Suzann, which I managed to score second-hand. However, I love it enough that I’m strongly considering adding a silk one to my closet at some point, as well. I really appreciate the midi length, the high rise, and the soft pleating in the shape from the elastic waistband. For dresses, the Georgia dress from Elizabeth Suzann is one I wear really frequently, and Everlane’s new shirtdress has been more than pulling its weight this summer, too. Another place I love to shop for dresses is Not Perfect Linen; their styles are simple, timeless, and so easy. I also love jumpsuits for their ability to be such a simple, one-and-done outfit that still looks so polished and classy. I don’t wear these as often as dresses because I don’t like using the restroom in them, but they’re a wonderful option in every other way!
When it comes to shoes, I have a relatively small collection. I try to make sure that I always have one pair of each of these styles: sandals, flats, mules, heels, ankle boots, taller boots, and some kind of clog. Mules and clogs are definitely my most-worn styles; I wear them on their own in the summer and with socks in the colder weather, and the fact that I can make them appropriate for all seasons is what draws me to them again and again. However, I do also really like to have a pair of flats and heels for some variety, sandals are a must for the summer, and boots are even more important for the winter months. My two favorite shoe companies are Nisolo and Everlane, and they make up the majority of my collection. I’ve also been really impressed with St. Agni and Bryr Clogs and plan to purchase more from them in future years. I purchased a pair of taller boots (currently sold out) from Aquatalia during an amazing sale last winter, and I couldn’t believe I’d managed without them before because they made styling wide-leg and cropped pants throughout the winter so, so much easier. They are the most expensive pair of shoes I own, but the fact that I wore them to death and they’re in near-perfect condition after a six-month Minnesota winter makes them completely worth it in my book.
That pretty much wraps up my closet essentials! I do own a few other pieces outside of the categories listed above, but these are far and away the items that get the most use in my day-to-day looks. As I continue to grow my wardrobe, I’m looking forward to greater variety and a few more options! But this core collection of pieces has served me so well over the past three years and will continue to do so for a long time to come. I hope this is helpful to think about if you’re considering a capsule wardrobe or simply starting fresh with more quality pieces!
All opinions are my own, and this post is not sponsored by any brands. It does contain affiliate links, which gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support and the way it keeps my blog going! A handful of these items were gifted to me, but I purchased the majority of them myself over years and fully support each of these companies.