Core Wardrobe Items: 5 Essential Things Every Woman Should Have (that may shock you)

Here are 5 secrets of the core wardrobe essentials you must have in your closet. Don’t miss this chance to elevate your wardrobe game.


Today I want to talk about wardrobe essentials because this came up a few weeks ago in the Radiant by Design membership. We have weekly challenges over there that are a little bit different from the daily challenges in the free group.

It’s great because it gives you a chance to focus on just one challenge and dig into it so that you can experiment with it in a couple of different ways.  It’s a chance to learn the process a little bit deeper so that you can just explore these different wardrobe challenges and style challenges in different ways.

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I believe it was about a month ago that we did a wardrobe essentials challenge which brought up the question “What are wardrobe essentials?”. Today, I wanted to talk about wardrobe essentials in a new way. I want to share five wardrobe essentials that every single woman, no matter what needs to have in her closet.

You might be shocked at the things that I’m going to say, but I can guarantee you there will not be a chambray shirt in here. If you haven’t heard my chambray story, I’ll tell it at the end.

Core Wardrobe Essentials #1: Clothes

The first essential thing that every woman needs to have in her closet, a non-negotiable is clothes. Maybe you thought I was going to say something revelatory here, but no. You have to have clothes in your closet. The reason I say this so tongue-in-cheek is because we have to get dressed.

Thank you Eve for making the fig leaf no longer in style. I’m sure some of us would be perfectly content to be naked all the time and others of us are very glad that we have clothes. The reality is you have to get dressed to society’s standards. I know that they can be different around the world and different cultures, but you have to get dressed.

Yes, you have to have clothes because you have to get dressed, but you don’t need a ton of clothes. You need clothes that are just right for you. And you only need one really good basic outfit to be honest. If you love v-neck t-shirts and skinny jeans, you only need some v-neck t-shirts and skinny jeans.

And maybe some different completer pieces when it’s cold or for when you want to add layers. There is no wardrobe essential that your closet needs. You don’t need a button-up shirt, you don’t need a cocktail dress, you don’t need any of these things unless you, the individual person I’m talking to right now, need that thing. 

This is the truth of what a wardrobe essential is, it’s essential to you and your wardrobe that works with your body, your personal style, your lifestyle, and all of these factors. The truth is that nobody can tell you what your essentials are. Only you can determine what they are. 

For me, a wardrobe essential is multiple dresses. I have three or four different styles of dresses that I wear on repeat. That is an essential for me in my closet. Cardigans are also an essential thing for my closet. But blazers are absolutely not essential. 

I know that if you were to go to Pinterest or any of these visual platforms and type in wardrobe essentials or capsule wardrobe, you’d get an image that has these things. The truth is that those things don’t work for everybody. Those lists of essential items don’t suit everybody’s body, taste, or lifestyle.

So there really is no list of essentials that I can tell you to get because you have to figure this out for yourself. 

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Core Wardrobe Essentials #2: Shoes

The second wardrobe essential is shoes. You can’t go out in public barefoot. There used to be signs that said “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” I hardly ever see those anymore. Maybe it’s because everyone wears shoes now. You can get a little more specific here when it comes to shoes, especially because shoes can have so much personality.

They can be such a different way to elevate plain basics in your wardrobe if you have them. I would say at minimum you probably need four pairs of shoes in your life. If you don’t have four at least you’re probably missing a few. I am not going to tell you which four to buy or what is essential for you.

I will say that for most people, one pair of casual shoes and one pair of dress shoes is going to be fairly essential. I’m not going to tell you what kind of dress shoes to have either because you have feet that may have their issues. Maybe your feet are perfectly fine and you can wear whatever you want.

When I was in my twenties I wore heels every day, but that time has gone. Now my feet can only handle flats all day long. I do love to wear slip-on sneakers around the house. I can wear a wedge, but that’s about as high of a heel as I can go without feeling like I’m going to break something, drop a child, or have a terrible catastrophe happen with my shoes. 

Core Wardrobe Essentials #3: Accessories

The third thing everyone needs to have is accessories. These can be different types of jewelry like earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. You could wear a broach. Those are not as quite as in style, but they really do add a lot to your outfit. They give a lot of sparkle and shine and can share a lot of personality. 

Speaking of personality, that’s really what accessories do for your wardrobe. That’s why it’s essential because it allows you to showcase who you are. It allows you to be honest and forthcoming about the things that you love and the things that make you happy. 

It’s a good place to showcase colors and habits. It’s a great place to let you come through, especially if you are looking at different essentials. Maybe you have a lot of neutrals in your closet and you just want to add some pizazz accessories.

Think about things like jewelry, scarves, and even different completer pieces if they’re really interesting can be accessories. You could even go with some occasional statement items of clothing. They can sort of be an accessory, especially if they don’t match well with lots of other things in your closet. It would function like a special accessory. 

Core Wardrobe Essentials #4: Cohesive Color Scheme

The next wardrobe essential is a cohesive color scheme. I don’t know where you’re at with your closet planning, structure, and wardrobe building, but if you walk into your closet and it looks like a rainbow of lots of colors and shades of colors, you don’t have a cohesive color scheme. 

This is because it’s hard to make your clothes match each other when you have too many colors in your closet. I’ll be upfront with you and tell you that once upon a time, I did not like the idea of having a super cohesive color scheme because I wanted all the colors and variety because I could not imagine the thought of being locked in. 

I was so afraid of boredom that I was afraid to commit to a smaller color scheme to create that in my closet. Once I got over that and focused on creating that color scheme, things changed so much. I was able to focus on building the wardrobe I actually wanted. 

Instead of spending $20 here and $20 there on random pieces of clothing, I was able to take my money, save it for a little bit, and invest in pieces that were high quality. They were well-made in colors that actually suited me and made me feel great.

I only needed a little variety because everything I had I loved. Now, I don’t need 50 different colors and 50 different styles because I’m sure of what I want and what I love, and I don’t need to go down those rabbit holes anymore. The best way to start with this is a cohesive color scheme.

I always talk about starting with color because it is the best place to start. It’s the one thing that you can do that doesn’t require a ton of knowledge and that will take your wardrobe super far, super fast. You can do so much with it. You can use it to buy new things or declutter your wardrobe.

Choosing about four neutrals, two or three signature colors and a couple of accent colors throughout the year helps you hone in and focus. Then you’ll have a closet that is beautiful when you walk in the door because it is cohesive and just really suits you. 

Core Wardrobe Essentials #5: Style Goals

The very last wardrobe essential isn’t something you could put in your closet, although theoretically, I guess you could print this information off and put it on the wall in your closet. This would probably do you good, honestly, and you could even put it on your mirror. 

This final essential is to either have style goals or have a defined sense of style. There are these quizzes you can take online that’ll tell you what your style is. I don’t recommend this because they’re just going to give you some words and the words don’t tell you anything if you don’t know what to do with them.

One of the things that we do in the intensive and I’ve done this in a workshop once before. You’ll also find this information in the roadmap and it’s also in the membership if you want a deep dive on this topic.

Essentially you want to come up with words or concepts that define how you want to be seen. You don’t just throw some random words together. This is a bigger concept. This is like a bucket that holds all these words that express how you want to be seen, how you want to be perceived, and how you want to communicate yourself to other people.

This very intentional way of showing up,  how you look in the world, and what you want to communicate to other people. Once you have a bunch of these words all jumbled together, you come up with a one-word concept, which becomes your style goal. I usually recommend coming up with three of these.

Having a defined sense of style will help you just like color does in your closet. It gives you a lighthouse for your style. For honing in, finding what works for you, and for having cohesiveness through everything. Style goals and having a defined sense of style will do the same exact thing.

It gives you that yes-no box to check when it comes to the things that you wear, the things that you buy, and the things that you decide to keep or donate. It gives you parameters. I’ve talked about this before, limits set us free when it comes to our clothing.

I know it’s hard for some people to think about that because you are probably like I used to be and you need all the variety. The truth is, there are still a few areas in my closet – shoes- where I still like that variety so I let myself have it. But it doesn’t need to be every piece of your wardrobe.

You don’t need a hundred shirts, a hundred pairs of pants, a hundred dresses, a hundred pairs of shoes, 50 pairs of earrings, and 600 scarves. You don’t need variety in everything. There may be one or two areas where you feel like it’s important to you, but you don’t need it everywhere.

What you need is a honed sense of who truly you are, what makes you happy, the clothes that are essential to you, and the shoes that work for your lifestyle and your feet.  Include accessories that showcase your personality and make you interesting, different, and unique because you already are those things. Just be those things.

Show up and be unique and let your accessories show that side of your personality. You do need a cohesive color scheme. You need to walk in and know that the colors work together and that they work for you. And you need to have a defined sense of your own style.

Final Thoughts on Core Wardrobe Essentials

That’s a wrap on wardrobe essentials. There’s no chambray shirt here. That was one of those things that I tried over and over and over again. I think about three of these shirts in different styles and colors trying to fit myself like a square peg into that round hole because it was essential.

I felt like I had to follow the rules and do this perfectly. That my wardrobe had to be perfect. It’s never perfect by the way. But I kept chasing this concept until I realized this was just not for me. This isn’t even a maybe or a nice to have. That moment for me was the one where I realized that chambray shirts aren’t wardrobe essentials.

If you are stuck thinking that there are wardrobe essentials, that there’s some essential thing that you need in your closet, I can promise you there’s no perfect wardrobe out there. There’s no capsule wardrobe image that you’re going to get everything and then suddenly your life will make sense. 

That’s not what style is about. It’s not about being cookie-cutter, it’s not about being like everyone else. It’s not about collecting things or curating a perfect ideal wardrobe because it doesn’t exist in that capacity. It only exists the way that you define it, and you have to do the work to define it.

I could never find myself in these capsule wardrobe recommendations. Who are they even for? As somebody who does this on the backend side, I understand trying to create something that looks visually stimulating to promote on Pinterest.

On the other hand who makes these rules up? People who are living nine to five jobs in the city? Is that you? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Even if it is you, do you love neutrals? Do you love beige and black? Do you want to wear beige and black all the time?

Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. But the thing is, they’re not unique and they’re not individualized. They’re just a standard guideline made up by somebody who has some ideas about what’s essential. If I could leave you with nothing else today let it be cohesive.

Cohesive, not only in the way it looks and the way it’s styled but in the fact that it is cohesive with who you are. The person that you are, the individual that you are, and the beautiful woman that God created you. Perfectly unique like nobody else on earth. Let that person shine because that’s the person we all want to meet, talk to, and want to get to know. 

Related Wardrobe Essentials Articles


Have you seen those lists of core wardrobe essentials recommended? Do you have them in your closet, or do you think they aren’t for you?

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  1. Love it! 😀

    Could I ask, with regard to Eve making the fig leaf not in style: the translations I have suggest that the man and his wife were naked prior to the fall, and only wore fig leaves after it. Then God clothed them in skins. That would suggest “Thank-you Adam and Eve for making the fig leaf and other clothing necessary,” rather than putting the fig leaf out of style. If this is just pedantic, ignore me: I ask in case I’m actually missing something!

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