Best Basic Wardrobe List I Have Ever Seen: Harper’s Bazaar “Great Style”

Wardrobe Essentials from Harper’s Bazaar Great Style

A a home sewer I am looking for a guideline to direct my sewing choices since I want to spend my time creating garments that enhance my wardrobe, rather than impulse buying both pattern and fabric then sewing up something that is cute, but doesn’t go with anything else I own.  As I usually try to include some piffle amidst my regular reading I was both surprised and impressed to receive some solid advice in Harper’s Bazaar “Great Style: Best Ways to Update Your Look” Jenny Levin, @ 2010 Hearst Books

Most style how-to’s are never without a list of wardrobe basics.  You know what I am talking about.  If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times.  Countless fashion magazine writers have advised us to use their prescribed list of “necessary” garments in order to create a basic wardrobe for each season.  

These lists usually purport to be the bare minimum which you will mix and match fashionably through a season, never wondering if you have anything to wear, because supposedly you have it covered.  At least that is the usual claim.  But I have never grooved to any of the lists I have read so far.  Most of the time these lists are unrealistically minimal; there just aren’t enough clothes.  

Additionally, the compilers seem to make some assumptions that do not apply to my life.

  • That my business culture was similar to a bank where I would need some killer power suits.
  • That my social life consisted of frequent resort vacations or when at home, cocktail parties.
  • That I would never sweat in any of these items, resigning them to the laundry pile and out of commission for the repeat mix and match the author advises.
  • And, most obviously to any woman going about her business in the real world  filled with wonderful astute fashionable femininity, that I did not work in an office full of women who would comment on how often I had repeated my outfit.  (And they might think it a little strange that I kept changing up the same two pair of pants!)

 Harper’s Bazaar doesn’t exactly promote affordable fashion, and I imagine that much of its content is aimed towards an upper middle class woman with a cosmopolitan lifestyle.  And that is where the editor absolutely surprised me. 

Levin has offered the best, most reasonable basic wardrobe list I have ever read, and it is bereft of a ton of assumptions about what my lifestyle is like. 

Let me give you her list and see what you think.  I am quoting from pages 20-21.

4 Sweaters  

2 workworthy, 2 for weekends

7 tees

short sleeve, long sleeve, tank and turtle

4 coats and jackets

1 dress coat, 1 sporty outerwear, 1 trench, 1 day-to-night


4 pants, 4 skirts equaling 8 bottoms

2 office/evening and 2 informal

2 tops for every pant and skirt

1 dressy top and 1 casual for every pant and skirt equaling 16 tops

1 suit 

1 for every season that you can wear together or as separates


5 dresses

2 daydresses, 1 cocktail, 1 formal, and one “special knock-em dead frock”

4 jeans

1 slim cut, 1 relaxed, 1 ankle length for flats, and 1 longer length for higher heels


What I like about this list how open-ended and adaptable it is.  And it offers a nice amount of clothes, not a hoard or even a walk-in closet worth, but enough items to keep you, and your viewers, from becoming bored.  Additionally, with enough clothes, you won’t wear them to death, meaning you won’t need to replace the entire wardrobe each season.

Using this list I am going to adapt it to my needs and take a look at my closet. 

I am wondering about other home sewers. 

Do you have a guide that they you use every season?  For example, you always make a jacket, or a suit, etc.  


Do you sew hit or miss, and then fill in with purchases?



Next Post: Tuesday, April 20, 1010: Simplicity 2929 Shirtwaist Dress: Pattern Review


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gwen
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 08:38:56

    The shirtdress never goes away. It comes back year after year, maybe with a different detail or two. I have issues with cap/drop sleeves, and usually redraft the armsythe and sleeve. Your dress tured out nicely. Love your blog.


  2. Sewista Fashionista
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 11:22:37

    Thank you!!!
    I am curious – how do you redraft the armscye to fit your needs? I am sure others would be helped to know how one woman tackles it because the arm area can be such a fitting bugaboo.


  3. Echo
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 03:42:20

    Hiya – I couldn’t agree more because, hell, its been a ‘while’ since any near sensible wardrobe advice was included in fashions mags. Very interesting – thanks for the post.


  4. Echo
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 03:45:25

    PS – sorry didn’t answer the question… if I had more time to sew and the skills (huh) to do a jacket etc then I would probably, as am always lamenting the lack there. However, my life centres around kindy runs so I’m more a pants kinda girl, with skirts thrown in on good leg days. Also, I do sew hit and miss and fill the holes with RTW….there are lots of holes… :o)


  5. Connie Schaap
    Dec 29, 2010 @ 11:08:20

    I think this is a great list. It is one of the most balanced lists I have read in quite a while. So many wardrobe lists are unreasonable as to how many of each wardrobe item we actually use in our daily lives. This is a good balanced core addressing all parts of our lives. Thanks for posting. I would have passed right by this. :):)


  6. K Crawford
    Dec 29, 2012 @ 21:09:59

    Makes sense to me. I absolutely have too many clothes and sorely need to regroup. This list seems practical and I will adjust, more pants, fewer skirts. I am anxious to get going on that stash!


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Jan 01, 2013 @ 11:46:33

      I like the repeating patterns of four items and have reorganized my closet that way so I don’t keep buying my favorites over and over again, like tees, and forget to buy the less fun stuff, for me, like dress pants.


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  8. AngelicaSews
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 08:15:44

    I would have more sweaters… but then again, I live in Canada. I couldn’t imagine having only 4 sweaters to get me through the cold weather!

    But then again, it is a very good list overall. With allowances made for the climate you’re living in I might even call it the best list ever.


    • Sewista Fashionista
      Apr 29, 2013 @ 12:47:22

      You can certainly adapt as you see fit. I adore sweaters and envy you the sweater collection, but not the cold weather! 🙂


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