13 Basic Wardrobe Essentials for Moms, Fall 2014

Basic Wardrobe Essentials for Moms

I wrote this post on Basic Wardrobe Essentials for Moms several years ago, and it seems like a good time for an update! It’s amazing how things change in a couple of years. This list will vary somewhat depending on your lifestyle and career choice, but I’ll assume that we’re talking about a non-professional wardrobe here.

I’ve spent the last few years trying to build a basic wardrobe so that I don’t freak out every time I have a new event or conference to attend. I spend most of my days at home or running errands, but I also attend enough blogging events and things that I need to have a complete wardrobe so that I’m not frantically shopping when I get a last minute invitation.

The trick, I think, is to find a few key pieces that you love. Then you can work out from there. Here is my list of 13 pieces every mom needs in her closet.

13 Basic Wardrobe Essentials for Moms

1. A Pair of Great Fitting Jeans

I’m going to be really predictable here and start with a pair of good fitting jeans. This is an item for which I recommend making in investment if it is at all in your budget. Even if you’re on a tight budget, if you’re patient you can find great designer jeans at off-price stores such as Marshalls and T.J. Maxx or even at your local consignment store. A great pair of jeans is appropriate for {almost} any occasion. You can dress them up or down. I wrote a post on How To Find the Perfect Jeans if this is something that challenges you. If you can only have one pair, go for a dark wash in a straight leg style. That is the most versatile and the most universally flattering. They say skinny jeans are on their way out, although I’m definitely not getting rid of mine just yet.

DL1961 'Florence' Skinny Jeans

Pictured: DL1961 ‘Florence’ Skinny Jeans (Fairview), $178

Other options:

Paige Denim ‘Skyline’ Straight Leg Stretch Denim Jeans (Stream Wash), $158

KUT from the Kloth ‘Stevie’ Straight Leg Jeans (Progressive), $79.50

Big Star ‘Kate’ Straight Leg Jeans (Ally) (Petite), $58.80

LOFT Modern Straight Leg Jeans in Dark Rinse Wash, $49.50 (sale price)


Get $20 off all full-price jeans at LOFT!

2. Cardigan

The drapey sweater trend is still going strong. It’s comfortable, flattering, and easy to wear. But I’m ditching mine in favor of more streamlined cuts. Last year the boyfriend sweater was super popular. This year I’m seeing much more of the traditional cardigan style pictured below. No matter what style cardigan you prefer, it’s a must-have in your fall/winter wardrobe because you can easily throw it on over your favorite tank or tee or button-down blouse and it changes up your look and adds warmth when the weather is cooler.

cotton cardigan


Get 40% off your purchase at Banana Republic with the code BRGET40!!! Ends 8/24.

3. Layering Tees and Tanks

With the cardigan trend, it is essential to have a few basic tees and tanks. You can also wear them under a pullover sweater that is a bit too short to add interest and also to help balance out your proportions. I am still a HUGE fan of Banana Republic’s Timeless Tank. I have it in a half dozen colors (and at least three black ones. True story!)

timeless tank

Although I believe the timeless tee is, indeed timeless, right now the relaxed-style tees and tops are more on trend. I suggest having some of each. Tees with a bit of embellishment, prints and even graphic tees are all very much on trend right now.

loft tee

4. Flats

Ballet flats are still very much on trend this year, but even more trendy is the boat shoe and slip-on sneaker.


5. Ankle Boots

There is still a place for a knee-high boot, but ankle boots have DEFINITELY taken over.

ankle boots

I cannot WAIT to break out my Toms Desert Wedge Ankle Booties this fall.

toms desert booties

6. Structure Blazer

Last year I FINALLY invested in a blazer — two, in fact! I can’t wait to get more wear out of them this fall. White House Black Market is a great place to go for blazers. I love that they have a lot to choose from, and they often have really cute detailing so they’re not too businessy. HINT: it does not have to be black!


7. Versatile Dress

Every woman needs at least one go-to dress that she feels good in for date nights, events, church or whatever curveball life might throw your way. I don’t wear a lot of dresses, but I do have two or three that I can rely on when I have the occasion to dress up. I just receive a LBD from CAbi’s fall line. I can’t wait to style it!


8. Black Leggings

Leggings are another versatile piece, and they’re more popular than ever this season. Wear them with tunics or long sweaters or oversized blouses. You can wear them under skirts or dresses, and they look great with a poncho (another wearable trend right now.) Dress them up or down. My favorites are the Ultra-Wide Waistband Leggings, only $36 at Nordstrom. These are great quality for a great price.


Just please remember. LEGGINGS ARE NOT PANTS. Cover your tushies, ladies.

9. A Great Bag

No, really. Ditch the faded mom bag. Slouchy totes and bowling bags are popular right now, as are the smaller cross-body bags. I don’t mind investing in a great bag, but you really don’t have to spend a lot. Nine West and Big Buddah make a lot of cute styles and are usually priced well under $100.


Macy’s has a huge handbag sale going on right now.

I also wrote an eBay guide about my favorite fall 2014 handbag trends.

3 must have handbags for fall

10. Accessories

This is where you can have fun and experiment. You don’t have to spend a lot either. Places like Target and T.J. Maxx have lots of affordable options for costume jewelry and scarves. Try some fun, colorful bracelets or a wide bangle to add interest to your outfits. And of course scarves are still going strong. You know I’m going to tout my Stella & Dot boutique. Since I love their products so much, I signed on to be a stylist last spring. Check out my post about their new fall styles AND ENTER TO WIN an Engravables necklace. There is still one more week to enter, and you can tweet once a day!

stella and dot fall 2014 collection

11. A pair of classic pumps.

While booties are taking center stage, sometimes you just need a classic pump. Pumps are another item I would advise investing in because they will last a very long time, and if you’re going to wear heels, they should be comfortable. Rather than the expected black pump, a more current look is to go with a “nude” or flesh tone.

michael kors pumps

12. A basic pencil skirt.

Another piece from CAbi that I received to style is this Ponte Pencil skirt. I love the forgiving fabric and the flattering lines.

CAbi pencil skirt

13. A great-fitting white button-down shirt.

This is one piece that I do not have and probably will never have. I’ve tried, and I just do not like collars, and I don’t like the feeling of a blouse layered under a sweater. However, this is one piece that most fashion mavens would determine an essential, so I will dutifully include it.

white button down

Something like this white sleeveless blouse is a great alternative if you, like me, don’t care for collars and long sleeves. In fact, I might order that right this second!

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  1. says

    I have to disagree with you on one thing, Jo-Lynne. If you aren’t skinny, you probably will want to skip the skinny jeans. :) Or at least, I will want to skip them.

    • says

      They are definitely easier to wear when you’re thin, but Sarah once wrote a really good post about how to pull them off if you aren’t. http://www.waterwatereverywhere.net/2011/01/fashion-friday-myth-jeggings-are-only.html

      A straight-leg jean can often read as a skinny jean, though. I always tell people to try those first, if they don’t want to go for the skinnies. (And I wish they’d come up with a new word for skinny jeans. I hate that term.)

      Do you ever do leggings? It’s sort of the same concept. You can do boots and tunics with skinny jeans too.

      Confession: I don’t have leggings. I don’t know, I just never quite got on that train.

    • Jennifer Young says

      Tara – I used to think so too, but I took Jo-Lynne’s advice and tried on a pair. They actually looked pretty good. Remember when you are trying them on that you will be putting a whole outfit together also. My advice would be to try to buy a good quality pair. I just bought some at the Gap Outlet for about $35. I am tall and plus-sized, but I have a friend who is shorter and they look good on her too. Try it, you might be surprised!

  2. Carly says

    Agree with all your picks here…but I would have to add in a GREAT BLAZER. Any solid will do…but they are so downtown hip with white t shirt, jeans and flats and SO business meeting appropriate with a great pencil skirt. My blazers are worn lovingly once a week at LEAST!
    Great roundup! Love you in that printed dress!!!

    • says

      Hey Carly! Yes, I actually considered adding that in here, as well as a white blouse, but I didn’t b/c I don’t have either and I don’t really miss them. Personally I hate the feeling of a collar, and it interferes with my short hair, plus I have a short neck, lol, and I don’t know, all together I don’t have much luck with them personally. But yeah, most lists of wardrobe essentials would include a great blazer. The other thing I didn’t manage to fit in there is a pencil skirt. I also didn’t mention outerwear. It was hard to choose just 10! LOL

  3. says

    Great post! I would add a crisp white blouse, a structured jacket in a neutral color (a blazer or similar to dress up jeans or even the leggings), and a well-made, timelessly classic neutral (tan or natural leather) pump. I also think every girls needs a pair of fierce heels for evenings out. They don’t have to be high at all, but they do have to make her feel beautiful and sexy.

  4. Megan says

    I’d say a good pair of comfortable, flattering black pants. I’d also agree with Megan and say good, classic black heels (Cole Haan is worth every penny) and good, classic neutral heels.

  5. mary b says

    Great list! I have almost all of these already.
    I seriously need to find some ballet flats I like…maybe even in color! GASP!

  6. says

    Speaking with the voice of the “professional” dress woman, you basically have to have two wardrobes. This one and the one you wear to work. It helps that I try to keep everything in the black/gray range so that it will all mix and match and I can pretty much wear one pair of shoes every day (I know, sacrilege, but it helps so, so much).

    • says

      LOL, yeah, I think it definitely comes down to 2 wardrobes. Which is why I left out things like black pants, a pair of heels, etc. I don’t find that I really need those pieces, although they would round out my wardrobe a bit.

  7. Julia says

    I’ve found I really like the Mossimo brand long-sleeve T’s at Target. I like the v-neck b/c I don’t really like clothes around my neck and just don’t feel the normal T looks right on me. Though I almost always wear a tank underneath.

  8. says

    great fashion post, by the way.
    the real comment i have to make is… thank you!!! as a new blogger, i am absolutely inspired by your blog. over 2000 posts! wow. and we are sisters in Christ, love that.
    at any rate, i just want to tell you that all those hours and hours of time you have spent on this blog have been worth it. it is lovely, and i’m certain Papa is pleased with it too.
    another shocker is how much the headings on our blogs are alike! i promise you , i did not copy your idea!! it is a crazy, wonderful thing how much they are alike :)
    best of the best to you Jo-Lynne.
    i’ll be back :)

  9. says

    Love your picks…I am not a hoodie girl, though!

    I would also add to the list a nice pair of basic black dress pants. I bought some at Kohl’s year before last and I honestly pack them for EVERY event I go to. I can dress them up with heels and a sparkly embellished top or dress them down with boots and a nice drapey sweater and tee.

    Another wardrobe staple I can’t live without is a jersey knit (thick, no wrinkle) black matte skirt. I can literally roll up the sucker and toss it in a wad and put it on and voila! It looks great. Mine is George brand from Walmart believe it or not! I can wear it with just about anything.

  10. Jennifer Young says

    Finally getting back to comment on this post–so great! I also wanted to add that if you try something on once and think it doesn’t look good, try again. I tried a few drapey sweaters and they looked terrible. I thought that trend just wasn’t for me. Well, I found a great sweater at the Gap Outlet a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wearing almost every other day.

  11. h.b. says

    Hi Jo-Lynne sorry to comment on an older post but I am curious if you would change anything on this list for 2014? Perhaps this will show my age bit I feel like style is changing too fast! So a great list of staples is worth it’s weight in gold!

  12. says

    LOVE! I’ve been trying to slowly build up my “base” or essential wardrobe with high quality items so that they last longer, leaving me to buy less expensive brands for the every changing trends.

  13. says

    Those 13 items are all great pieces for moms as well as women in general. I have them all and agree with all. I have to get a new pair (or two) of booties though. I’d love a couple of pairs with the chunky heel. You look lovely layered in those black leggings which are my favorite Winter staple.

    Pleasure linking up today. I got a remix post going on I’d love your thoughts on. Thanks, Ada. =)

  14. says

    Great post! I need to work on my wardrobe and will use this as a guide. I’m with you on everything except the skirt & pumps. I wouldn’t wear those enough to make it worth the investment. I think the last time I wore a skirt was 2001. :)

  15. says

    Great post! I’m in the process of cleaning out closets and determining what I need to get for fall!


  16. says

    This is an excellent list and I have to agree 100% with all of it. Totally agree with skinny jeans being for all shapes and sizes too. A nice dark wash pair with some stretch flatters all body types. Hope you have a great weekend!

  17. says

    All great pieces Jo-Lynne! and You’re so right- we all need everyone of these pieces in our closet! Thanks for the Macy’s sale alert!! I love those Toms booties as well…I wonder, are they comfortable?? Also, I would really love to see how you style that black pencil skirt! Please do it soon!

  18. Denise says

    I am going to check out the jean recommendations. I always have trouble finding a good pair. As for the white shirt, I think it’s good to have something like that in your wardrobe style wise, but it doesn’t have to be white. With my hair and skin tine I look terrible in it so I opt for crime colored items. Thanks for the recommendations!

  19. Bonnie says

    “Leggings are not pants.” Amen and Amen! I pray women heed this. If they only knew how it looks wearing leggings with a too-short top, SURELY they wouldn’t do it.

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