{iStyle} Closet Essentials: A Guide to Style for Men and Women

By: Jenn Ortiz, guest blogger

I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, by me and many others, that it is important to build a good and stylish wardrobe. WTF does that mean? What are we all blabbering on about? Well, I’ll tell you, right now. Today, we’re going to be covering the essential items every man or woman needs in his or her closet. Let’s get started.

Jeans (short & tall) – At minimum, every women should have two pairs of jeans. One hemmed for heels and the other hemmed for flats. The classic jean should be mid-rise, hitting right above the hip, fitted well in the rear with a slight flare at the bottom of the leg, aka boot cut jeans. Obviously, men would not need a variety of lengths; one will suffice. The cut for a man’s jean should fit well in the seat, straight through the leg. Simple. Both sexes should look for a medium to dark wash.

Pants – The same rules apply as for jeans. Both men and women should own a pair of slacks in khaki for casual occasions. A pair in either navy and/ or black with a dressier material is essential as well; it is best if these are part of a suit with a matching jacket.

A-line skirt – Ladies, this shape flatters every figure. Make sure it ends at or above the knee. Men, if you are Scottish then an A-line tartan would be lovely on you. (Hey, you never know!)

White button down – Who loves Carolina Herrera? I do. That woman knows style. She also knows the importance of a good white button down shirt. She’s worn it with everything from jeans to a ballgown skirt with perfect grace. My favorite place to buy button-downs are Banana Republic and BCBG. Brook Brothers is a great place for men and women to get a button down. They offer made to measure service at many of their stores and customization over the phone. I plan to get a few custom fit at some point.

* Men, button downs are huge in your wardrobe in any color. Make sure they fit well.

Tees – Both men and women should own at least one white, one grey, and one black tee in short sleeves. Should you happen to live where the temperature varies throughout the year, then you may want to purchase the long sleeved options, too.  They should be plain, so no words or graphics.

Blazers and Jackets – A well fitted blazer is a must for every man and woman. Single breasted is most flattering. The classic colors are navy, black, or white. (White should be worn in spring and summer, of a lightweight material, like linen or cotton.) Men might want to invest in a sport jacket, which is to be worn in casual environments only.

Suit – Every man needs to own a suit; no exceptions. The suit needs to be fitted well and of the best material you can afford. Even if you do not wear a suit to work, you will need one for formal occasions. Stick to black if you are only buying one. Women, I highly suggest you purchase a suit, too. There is less emphasis on formality for you than there is for a man, but a good fabric is still essential. Navy, grey, black or white. Both should skip the pin-stripes if they are only buying one. Start with Theory, J. Crew, or Brooks Brothers. Ladies, all the aforementioned plus BCBG are great places to start. If you are able to go the designer route, please do. I suggest looking into Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, YSL, D&G.

Coat – This is especially important for those living in cooler climates. If you live somewhere warm and don’t travel much, just shelf this one.

Heels – Ladies should own one black patent leather heel with either a closed-toe or a peep-toe, a metallic high heeled sandal, and a tanned leather or nude heel. The toe should be round on all these heels. Buy the best quality and comfort you can afford.

Sandals – Both men and women need to own a good pair of flip-flops. Corso Como has some of my favorites.

Flats – For me, this one was optional for a very long time. I never really wore flats until about a year ago. I’ll suggest that you own a pair because they’ll dress up jeans and sweeten an ensemble. Men should own a pair of dress shoes and a pair of casual loafers or driving shoes.

Multi-tasking dress – This one should be made of jersey, cut close to the body, but not tight. It should work as a swimsuit cover-up, a day-dress, and be able to transition into night. I prefer a maxi, but this could be any length. J.Crew, Splendid, T-bags, and James Perse all offer great options.

Shift, wrap, or shirt dress – Or all of the aforementioned. These are work friendly items that will also translate into other occasions. Start by looking into Diane von Furstenberg, Theory, and J.Crew.

LBD – Little Black Dress. Possibly, the most essential item in a woman’s wardrobe.

Another thing Herrera knows is the art of tailoring your wardrobe. If you can’t find a perfect fit, which often is very hard to do, then buy a piece that can be tailored. This will make your pieces look 10 times more expensive and your body will look much better.
A few rules you should know about tailoring:

  • Pants should be around 1/4 – 1/2 inch off the ground when you are standing straight. They should always be shorter in the front; you will hear the term “break” associated with this. The break refers to where the front of your pants hit and the amount of crease it creates across the front of your shoe. Jeans should break a bit in the front. The standard break for pants is for the hem to hit somewhere between the mid-side of your shoe and the top of your foot. Men and women can use this guide when wearing flat shoes. **Note for women, if you are wearing heels, there should be very little break and the hem would hit closer to the point where your foot slopes out into the toe. In general, the point of tailoring a pant is for the pant to look as clean cut and straight as possible, while maximizing the length.
  • When finding a tailor, ask questions. Don’t assume that they know what they are doing. Find out what fabrics they work with. My general test is three fold. First, I ask them about tailoring pants. I play dumb, and ask them where the hem of my pant should be. If the don’t adhere to the rule above, I run. With jeans, I also ask if they’ll use the original hem; a really good tailor will. Last, I check to see if they do custom wedding dresses or suits. If they do, and can show you some of their work, they are a safe bet.
  • It is easiest to tailor the sides and length of a shirt. Look for shirts that fit well at the shoulder and if need be, tailor the rest.
  • Women, the most flattering places for the hem of a skirt or dress are at or right above the knee, the thinnest point of your thigh (usually mid-thigh), and skimming the ground. Anything between those will throw off your proportions.
  • Always err on the larger side. It’s easier to take in than to let out.

Remember, these are the basics. In a future post, I will cover how to add on to this wardrobe, dress for your shape, and more, so please don’t fret. For now, learn it and start living it. Buy the best quality you can afford. You can always buy cheaper versions later, but you should always make sure that your essential basics are as quality as possible. Now is a great time to start building this wardrobe since retailers are frequently holding sales on quality items and tailors are often willing to negotiate. Take advantage.

Visit here for an edited selection of men’s and women’s essentials.


Jenn Ortiz is a graduate of the University of Florida with degrees in History and Latin American Studies with hopes to pursue a PhD in Child Development. She believes there is beauty in everything around us; from the inside out, outside in. She currently runs {Bits of Beauty}, a place you just feel good about.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.


  1. What a fun post! I had a blast going through the list checking off the items I already have, and making a mental note to get the ones I don’t…um, nude Louboutin heels anyone?

  2. Lovely post! I love your ideas and those shoes 🙂 They are fabulous… Love your blog, glad I found it! Great post, thanks for sharing :p

  3. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. nice post

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