January is the best time of year to stock up on those wardrobe essentials. These are the classically styled pieces you can just keep on wearing, no matter what's trending in the shops. They're like style boosters, in that they can easily mix and match to create endless outfit options. And this month, you're sure to find them on sale as retailers clear space for a new round of spring's hottest pieces.
How to buy wardrobe essentials online
There are a few tricks to buying wardrobe essentials without regret, particularly if you're shopping online. First and foremost, lean towards pieces that are neutral-toned in either a solid color or a classic pattern. Obviously beige and taupe are neutrals, but you can also delve into navies, dark greens, maroons, and greys. If you prefer patterns over solid colors, reach for classic stripes, checks, or even a subtle camo for casual pieces. The goal is to avoid "of-the-moment" patterns that you won't want to wear next season -- like neons or tie-dyes.
Next, stick with the silhouettes you know look good on you. If you're not sure what those are, analyze the most flattering tops, pants, and dresses that are already in your closet. Those are the shapes and styles you're most likely to love. You can experiment with other silhouettes, but only after you've verified that the store offers free returns, including shipping.
Lastly, get familiar with the fabrics you like. It's common with online shopping to be surprised by the weight and construction of the piece you receive. You might think you're buying a warm knit, for example, but what shows up isn't heavy enough to prevent a chill on a summer evening. Check the fabric content before you buy and compare it to the labels on the clothes you already own.
With those practicalities out of the way, here are the nine essential fashion pieces I'm eyeing right now. All are affordable, priced $50 or less, and classic in style. Pair them with your trendier, seasonal pieces or with each other for a host of stylish outfits you'll love.
1. Black blazer from Kohl's ($24)
The blazer isn't just for the office. Use it to upgrade your denim or add a crisp touch to a jersey or sweater dress. You can layer a blazer over nearly anything from lightweight t-shirts on casual days to sweaters when it's cold. As for shoes, again, nearly anything goes: heels, loafers, and even a nice pair of sneakers.
At $24, this black blazer from Kohl's is a steal. It has a classic single-button, two-pocket design, but it's lightweight -- so not overly stuffy or stiff.
2. Shirt jacket from ASOS ($49)
Shirt jackets are having a moment this season, but this style has staying power. This one, in pink faux leather, doubles on style as well as practicality. Simply layer it over a long-sleeved top or sweater for a look that's chicer than your standard puffer. Then, as the weather heats up, ditch the extra layers and wear it as a top.
3. Down coat from Sam's Club ($43)
Speaking of the standard puffer, we all need one this time of year (unless you're fortunate enough to live in California or Florida). I have this Kenneth Cole coat in black and, frankly, mine looks pretty boring next to this maroon version. It's tough to find a coat that's warm, slim in design, and affordable all at once. I especially appreciate the angle in at the waist, which keeps you from looking like the Michelin man.
4. Chambray shirt dress from Macy's ($25)
It's not a shirt or a dress -- it's both. The chambray shirt dress is an incredibly versatile piece you can wear year-round. In the colder months, use it as a tunic over fleece leggings. You can add a belt if you prefer more structure. In the summer, wear it alone with a pair of Stan Smiths and a brightly colored handbag.
5. Patterned ankle pants from Old Navy ($25)
Patterned pants are one of those underrated classics that have a reputation for being hard to wear. They're not, as long as the cut works for you and the pattern isn't enormous. Think stripes and subtle checks but steer clear of big florals, as those can be unflattering on any sized leg.
Team your patterned pants with any solid-colored top. Even something as simple as a long-sleeved, cotton t-shirt from Target works! The blue houndstooth pants from Old Navy will go perfectly with a soft gray top and black mules or loafers. Or, try a cream top with a low-profile black sneaker.
6. Neutral ankle boot from DSW ($50)
The block-heeled ankle boot can anchor jeans, leggings, dresses and skirts of all shapes, and even your upgraded shorts. Wider-leg pants don't always look great with this style, mostly because the pant legs cover up your boots. But a straight-leg pant can work if they're rolled neatly to land just above the top of the boot.
This pair of boots has a nice heel height -- not too tall or too short -- plus texture and stitching for added interest.
7. Dolman sleeve sweater from New York and Company ($15)
An easygoing, soft black sweater with a subtle pattern can be a workhorse in your rotation. This one's lightweight enough to go tucked into your high-waist bottoms, or wear it untucked over your skinny jeans. Those dolman sleeves have a casual elegance to them, too. All for $15. You can't beat that.
8. Easy button-down top ($14)
This shirt can't be worn tucked in, but that's one of the things I love about it. Tucking can be fairly inconvenient, right? The end of your shirt gets wrinkled and then you have to retuck just right to avoid looking disheveled as you leave the ladies room. This button-down, wrap-style top solves that issue by hanging perfectly below your waist on its own. At the back, the hemline hangs down over your bum, giving you the option to wear leggings if you are so inclined.
9. Wide leg pant from Banana Republic ($26)
Wide leg pants can be incredibly flattering when paired with a fitted top. This winter, try a form-fitting, long-sleeved sweater. And when spring and summer roll around, you could wear these pants with a crop. That look works for many body types. And it doesn't have to involve bare midriff, either. This isn't the '80s anymore -- crops today come in more reasonable lengths. Just find one that hits just below the top of your pants and you're good to go.
Round out your wardrobe this January
January is the ideal time to round out your wardrobe with a few versatile pieces that'll add dozens more outfit combinations to your rotation. And the secret to success? Reach for neutrals in classic cuts that'll continue to be stylish for seasons to come.
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