A casual Google search for “wardrobe essentials” produces about 99,000,000 results, most of which are listicles declaring the X number of clothing items every woman needs in her closet — everything from a trusty pair of boots to a white button-down shirt. As someone who’s 100% on board with not having more than I actually wear, and with making sure the items I have are high quality and work well with my lifestyle, I’m tempted to whip out my credit card and get to shopping. But as a TFD convert, I know that the “one strategy fits all” financial myth applies to one’s wardrobe as well.
While I’m intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, for some reason I just can’t trust Elle or Glamour to tell me what’s essential for me. My life is different from your life, which is also different from everyone else’s life…maybe what’s “essential” should be different, too.
In that spirit, here are four “must-have” wardrobe essentials that just don’t make sense for me:
1. Dry-clean-only clothing
To me, dry cleaning seems to be part of a bygone Mad Men era, when women wore pencil skirts and men came to work in scratchy woolen suits. I’m fortunate enough to work at a company with a dress code that does not require pantyhose, so there’s no need for me to maintain a wardrobe full of expensive, tough-to-maintain outfits.
But there are a couple of other reasons I’ve made the conscious decision not to buy dry-clean-only clothing. The first one is logistical: I’m not interested in making the time to schlep stuff to and from the dry cleaners. I want to be able to throw anything I own into the washer on laundry day, and not have to plan extra trips to drop off and pick up my things. The second reason is that women get charged more for dry cleaning on average than men. That just steams my broccoli, and I refuse to participate.
2. High heels
This has been the hardest adjustment, because I have such a weakness for high heels. I love how they make me taller and look leaner, and so many of them are spectacular. Like these! I want them! But alas, it’s just not meant to be. Because unless you’re willing to fork over a substantial amount of your paycheck (which I’m not), most of the high heels you’ll find in stores favor form over function.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve bought a pair of cute heels that brought me nothing but blisters, blood, and pain. If I need to walk more than a couple of blocks during my entire day or evening, I am screwed. Nothing ruins the classic line of a Little Black Dress quite like a shoddy heels-induced limp. Plus, as a murderino, I am well aware that a flat shoe (and solid knowledge of all exit doors) is a smart choice.
3. Cute pajama sets
In my teen years, I dreamed of being Holly Golightly, waltzing through my fancy apartment in matching silk jammies, a pale blue eye mask perched atop my head. As an adult, I’ve realized that a lot of pajama sets are expensive, uncomfortable, and invariably chilly. Why spend money on something “cute” that I’m just going to cover with a gigantic sweater and thick, slip-proof socks?
When I get home from work, I just want to throw on one of my husband’s oversized shirts, soft pants with actual, usable pockets, and my house shoes. I definitely do not want to put together dinner and haul a stinky trash can to the curb while wearing something like this. That’s how you get burn scars (not to mention a reputation in the neighborhood). I do keep a little black nightgown and robe in the back of my dresser for special occasions, but let’s be honest: I just don’t wear it for that long!
4. Huge totes and tiny handbags
Several years ago, my stepmother got me a beautiful bag that she called a “purse.” I now use it as a suitcase for weekend trips.
I’m a handbag Goldilocks. I don’t want something so eensy that it’s a squeeze getting my cell phone and ID crammed in, and I don’t want something so big it looks like I’m trying to smuggle a Labrador into my office building. I just want an average-sized, high-quality bag that holds exactly what I need. I’ll never be the person who carts around an entire medicine cabinet, a full set of makeup, or a complete change of clothes, but my back will thank me later.
To each their own
What’s “essential” is inherently subjective. These items don’t fit in my life, but they may be exactly what you need and love. The critical thing to do is think about what makes sense for you — with your finances, of course, but also with everything else. Be intentional about what works for you, and you can’t go wrong.
Image via Unsplash