The Only Wardrobe Essential Is You


It started with a leather jacket. I wanted a “real” one for my 16th birthday. Some kids get cars, Ferris Bueller got a computer, and I got a leather jacket.

No, it goes back farther than that.

I was the kid that paired a floral shirt with floral pants, or a pink shirt with red pants. My style as a little kid was a bit chaotic, much to the chagrin of my older sister.

My outfits became more coordinated as I got older, but not less wild. As a preteen, my clothing choices weren’t subtle, to say the least (lots of bright colors, lots of jewelry).

By the time I was an adult, I had worked out most of my weird fashion kinks and started dressing, well, like a normal person and not like a pirate (yes, I went through a dress-like-a-pirate phase).

But I still don’t dress subtly.

Clothing has always been really important to me. As a kid, sometimes I dressed to impress. Sometimes I dressed to mimic something or someone I wanted to be. Then I started dressing to express myself. I started to wear clothes that made me feel more like me.

I want the clothes I wear to explicitly express me. Not that I want to imply that everything is about me, not that I want to screw all propriety and wear the absolutely wrong outfit to a funeral. I always dress to match the occasion, and there are plenty of occasions that call for the most neutral outfit possible (like a funeral).

But I still want to feel like me in those clothes. I follow one very simple rule to achieve this:

There are no rules.

You can browse the internet for endless articles about what and what not to wear. There are endless lists of “wardrobe essentials”, and there will be plenty of people telling you what items of clothing you absolutely must have.

People say everyone should own a pair of gold hoop earrings. I don’t. Why? Because I don’t have my ears pierced. I haven’t had black jeans for four years now. I don’t own a single cardigan. Shockers, I know.

People say everyone should own a classic white shirt. I look terrible in white (I’m as pale as a vampire) and never wear it. I’ve read that animal prints should be a staple in every wardrobe. I personally like leopard print, but what if you don’t? Do you have to own something animal print even if you really don’t like it? No. No you do not.

I’ve dressed for work, for home, for fun, for special occasions all without these essentials:

  • Plain white shirt of any kind
  • Cardigan
  • Skirt
  • Midi or maxi dress
  • Sundress
  • Raincoat
  • Pumps
  • Ballet flats (I mean, I have actual ballet shoes…)
  • Wrap dress
  • Striped anything

Could this change? Could I own some of these wardrobe essentials in the future? Sure. But I want it to change naturally. I’m not going to buy something just because someone or an article said I should.

I want to feel comfortable. I want to feel me. And unless I’m actually doing ballet, I don’t feel comfortable in ballet flats.

There are no real essential items for your wardrobe except one. You are the essential part of it.