The Classic Knits Wardrobe - The Essentials

The Classic Knits Wardrobe is designed to be an elegant A-List of timeless fashions for women. This is a list I created because I need it, too, and am in the process of making it happen. I recognized my wardrobe includes great pieces, but it is somewhat haphazard. My clothing at this point tends to reflect more of what I "got on sale" than my personal preferences, the best cuts for my figure or flattering color schemes. It is time for a change!

Late last year I performed the much needed cull - removing what was out of place. My criteria for removing items from my closet:
  • Bad fit and not worth altering
  • Too young for my now more mature style (and figure)
  • Worn out
  • Cheap materials, construction or look
  • Dated from a trendy find and not high quality to save for the next fashion cycle
  • Downright Ugly (most of the "ugly" category was, logically, from what I found at a rock-bottom price)
Concerning my personal Classic Knits Wardrobe style I have a bias that leans toward vintage looks from the late thirties through mid- fifties. Yet when I am considering the actual wardrobe additions, I never select pieces so locked in the past as to be passé. Timeless elegance, quality fabrics and construction, fashion forward yet not trendy - classics. I am planning this A-List to offer depth in providing  a fine selection of items required to be perfectly turned out on any occasion - in every season.

While the full Classic Knits Wardrobe list will be rather extensive, this post is designed to offer suggestions for the pared down essentials. These items are those I believe no woman seeking elegance, style and appropriate attire for a wide variety of occasions should be without. [More on that later.] This list intentionally omits outerwear, shoes and accessories.

Remember that these, and ideally all your clothes, should fit you like they were made for you. If you are evaluating your wardrobe and find you have these items, yet in front of a full length mirror - from every angle - they do not fit properly, get them tailored, alter them yourself, or replace them. Speaking of replacing, remember that anything in your closet that is worn out, poor quality, outdated, in need of mending, cheap looking or ill-fitting should be repaired or removed!

The Classic Knits Wardrobe - The Essentials

1. A Black Dressy Dress with simple, clean lines in a silhouette that flatters your figure. This piece can be dressed up (jewelry, fur cloak, lace stole, etc) or dressed down, (cardigan or blazer, tights, flat shoes, etc.) For this first black dress, avoid sparkles, ruffles and other involved trimming and certainly avoid plunging necklines this time around. This dress should offer clean enough modest lines to pair with a blazer for a funeral or jewelry for cocktail hour.

2. A fine gauge cardigan. Look for simple lines, excellent drape, quality fiber and a great fit. Not too tight, and remember if it is 100% cotton, it will more than likely shrink if it is a lightweight fabric. Think of a cardigan that can top your black dressy dress or be paired with a skirt or slacks. If you find it as part of a twinset, all the better.

Photo Courtesy lukasz-dunikowski

3. A Shirtwaist Day Dress, be it modern or vintage, in silk or broadcloth, will serve you well. A dress like this can be worn to work, out to the market or dressed up for dinner. Select a solid color or small patterned print that will match the cardigan. Avoid dramatically colored prints for your first day dress. This is a piece you could wear twice in one week accessorized differently without feeling you are repeating yourself.

4. Great Fitting Dark Slacks. Whether they are denim, wool or twill, a dark pair of classy trousers is certain to be a versatile addition to your wardrobe. Take care to view from all sides, a too-tight fit in the rear end or across the thighs is not appealing unless you have the body for it. Super tight pants are also not as versatile. These should be able to go from brunch to Central Park to pairing with a blazer for your next meeting.

5. A White Tailored Shirt. Selecting one in broadcloth without frills or ruffles will offer you the most options. This crisp white shirt is and nearly always has been, in a word, indispensable.

Photo Courtesy Vincent Boiteau

6. A Few Comfortable Knit Tops in solid colors to harmonize with your wardrobe. Consider a go-to pullover sweater, a couple of turtlenecks or long sleeved T's and some short sleeved heavier weight knits. These should be tops that can stand alone or be paired with another piece. Lightweight, skintight and sheer knits are not the gameplan here. Look for quality materials and construction so they will last, and not a sweatshirt! 

Photo Courtesy lukasz-dunikowski
Photo Courtesy Vincent Boiteau

7. An Athletic Ensemble. Personal style emanates from within...and a healthy, vibrant woman tends to be an exercised one. Whatever your fitness preference, be sure to look the part when you engage in it. There is no need for frumpy grey sweats and that free t-shirt you got at the last volunteer day for the office.

Photo Courtesy lukasz-dunikowski

8. A Beach Ensemble. I love heading down to the Jersey Shore (and hope things are going well with Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts) but I have not loved the way I look at the beach in, oh...I suppose nearly the last decade.

Yet I have a plan in motion to do something about fighting the professional desk-jockey physique. That means healthy eating and exercise in my case (great advice for us all). In the meantime, I am going to continue to take my sons to the Shore and will look decent, if not fit and fabulous, while I am there. Forget jean shorts and a t-shirt over a too-small swimsuit. Do some investigating on what colors look best for your skin tone. Try on the suit if you are opting for what is currently in your closet and make sure it fits you well. Do not try to squeeze into something that does not fit. If you have a giant gut and dimply cellulite across your derriere, do not make a point of displaying it for all the world to see. That is not elegant or stylish, it is crass and shows a lack of respect for yourself and other beachgoers. Solid, darker colors will make you look smaller. There are plenty of stores offering slimming lines in swimwear, be sure and check them out.

This is not spoken from a fitness fanatic - I, too, would not be seen on the beach in a bikini these days, even though I could rock one quite nicely in the past. Join me and make the effort to look pulled together, with a full coverage suit and sarong, if need be, and do not leave your sunblock at home!

Photo Courtesy Vincent Boiteau

9. The Tailored Suit. Start with a classic silhouette with a long sleeved jacket in a versatile color, such as black, navy, charcoal or beige.

Photo Courtesy thirdfloorcloset

10. At least two basic skirts in neutral colors to wear on varied occasions. Avoid the prints and embellishments with these.

Photo Courtesy What I Wore Jessica Quirk

11. A Summer Dress. A classic that reflects your style, fits exceptional well and is constructed to last for years to come.

Photo Courtesy Vincent Boiteau

12. PERFECTLY FITTED Underpinnings. Without the right brassiere you will not look your best even if the clothes you wear are top-notch. If needed or desired (think of the Black Dressy Dress) invest in some shape-wear, too. Elegant and feminine defined past eras, and the look is just as fresh today.

Here are some examples of the uplifted silhouette of yesteryear:

Suzie Parker

Lina Romay

Vintage Warner's Ad

13. Something for days at home. What do you wear at home, when you are just relaxing or working around the house? My aim is to eliminate "sweats" (you know, those baggy grey softy things from the discount store...) and old things that look like they have been around since my college days. I want a few pieces to wear at home that fit well, are in colors that complement my skin tone and are incredibly comfortable. If I have to run to the store I am not embarrassed if I bump into someone I know. That turns out to be a pair of soft, stretchy jeans with one of my knit tops or a velour track suit. Either outfit is fine if unexpected guests arrive or my kids have their friends over. Pulled together and comfortable is the goal here.

14. A "Custom Requirements" ensemble. If you do anything that would damage your regular wardrobe, do not resort to dingy, frumpy  cover-ups  that have you looking like a sack of potatoes. If you just need an outfit for heavy chores, try a large discount retailer to find a few items that fit your needs (like jeans and some t-shirts). I enjoy painting and wear a smock to protect my house clothes. Perhaps you need a gardening outfit or something for when you train your horse. The point is, you can still be stylish while wearing appropriate clothing for your activities.

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What are your wardrobe essentials? Do you think my list has enough of the basics to build around? What is missing...I thought of shorts, but rarely wear them and they could be classified with No. 8, Beach attire. Share your thoughts!


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