The ABC of Fashion: A Basic Closet

Now that you’ve cleaned up your closet (*AHEM*) cuz I know as soon as you read my post, you cast everything aside, sent your children out to play and spent all day throwing out your dirndl skirts and sweatshirts. I just know it. Now you need to start from the ground up and build A Basic Closet full of attractive, appropriate wear.

Most of you are probably at some big box store stocking up for you kids, right? But this is also the best time to stock up for you – for next summer! Take a deep breath, arrange for your children to be cared for, and spend a day shopping for yourself. (You are not allowed to go into any children’s sections.)

Every store has all their summer things on drastic sales, often 50% off already reduced prices! TalbotsAnn TaylorAthletaGAPPiperlime! Even thrift stores are having summer sales!

Nina Garcia wrote a book, The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own.  I’ve got it; I’ll lend it to you.  For most of us mortals, we might think about The Ten for the Summer:

  1. Feminine t-shirts
  2. Pretty tank tops
  3. A dressy top or two
  4. Dressy pants
  5. Stylish Shorts
  6. Denim Skirt
  7. Summer Dresses
  8. Flip flops/Casual shoes
  9. Dress shoes
  10. and of course,  a swimsuit

Here we go!

Numero Uno: Pretty t-shirts to wear every day, everywhere. Because you threw away all your over sized t-shirts, you’ll need ones that are designed to  fit  a woman. Clinton & Stacey make fun of having the same shirt in multiple colors, but I disagree. If you find something that looks great at a terrific price, go for it! (I have a basic v-neck t-shirt in white, black, yellow & orange.)


V-neck tees on the right by Ann Taylor, all others by Talbots

Dos: Pretty tank tops for those really hot days. Old Navy has a great variety at give-away prices! (Just make sure they “flatter” your problem areas, or layer with a basic tank underneath.)

Left and right by Ann Taylor; center by Talbots

Some will double up as dressy tops when paired with white pants or a cute skirt.

Number Three: Make sure you have a dressy top or two that you can dress up or down for a night out with the honey, or for that library fundraiser:

Tops at left by Ann Taylor, print tank by Talbots.

Quattro:  Even in the heat of the summer, there are some places you need to wear pants. I love white pants. If you don’t own a pair, find the right pair for your body and it will double your wardrobe! Honest! Or a light pair khaki or gray that will go with lots of things:

Left & center: two pair of pants that give you coverage from Talbots. Right: wide leg trousers from GAP

Cinqo:  You’ll need some attractive shortsnow that all your mommy shorts with the pleats are in the trash.

Talbots has shorts in 5, 7, 9, and 11" - very limited sizes at this point - but keep this in mind next year.

SIX: A denim skirt. Short, long, white, blue. But stick with a basic from the Missy department (not the Juniors) that stops just above the knees:

5-pocket at left from JCPenney's, white & knit waist versions from LOFT.

SEVEN:  Dresses!  I am definitely wearing these when I clean my surfboard! Orrrr mebbe when I’m pushing a shopping cart. The three on the right are great for hiding a non-washboard tummy.

All by Athleta

Want a bit more coverage?

Shimmery dress at left from J. Crew, other two from Macy's.

8: Slip on  Shoes!

Flip-flops and casual shoes:

L-R: Talbots, Talbots, red suede from GAP and Born, available at

Privos, by Clarks are a great option for a very comfy but stylish look. Save sneakers for exercising and Tevas for hiking.

9. Dressy shoes for dates:

Talbots at left, gold flats by 9 West and espadrilles by Clark's.

10. And finally, swimwear.  There are a number of us here that swear by Land’s End swimwear. They have things marked waaay down and they wear like a tank, are extremely flattering and keep the “girls” looking fine!

All by Land's End. Lower Left: They even have a high waisted bottom for their tankinis!

Print out this list, and get thee to the mall now!!

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About Jo-Lynne

Written by Jo-Lynne Shane, a professional lifestyle blogger, brand advocate and community manager. Named one of Nielsen’s 50 Most Influential Women in Social Media, Jo-Lynne is best known for her award-winning lifestyle blog, Musings of a Housewife, where she dishes up an assortment of food, fashion, fitness and family travel. She has been featured on, Southern Living Magazine, and in Cosmopolitan Magazine. In the local sphere, Jo-Lynne facilitates the vibrant networking group Philly Social Media Moms, providing community, support and education for 200 area bloggers. Jo-Lynne lives and works from home in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her husband of 17 years, three lively children and one extremely spoiled shih tzu named Savannah.


  1. What a great guide! I’m a tad trendier so I agree with your list of basic staples. Hilarious that you crossed out the mini skirt. In the past year I’ve gotten rid of so many little tanks and skirts I was holding onto for some reason.

  2. Glamamom, oh how this list could have been longer! But you got it when you said “basic staples.” And speaking of too short – I just got rid of my favorite summer dress when I realized it had shrunk over the washings and it wasn’t so cute anymore!!

  3. Great list!! I totally agree with the denim skirt – I’ve been looking for a good option!

  4. wedges and white pants! and, the shorty denim skirt? totally agree…. X!

  5. Great advice! I live in my Sam Edelman Gigi sandals in the summer!