Mom’s Wardrobe Staples

I’ve had a few people ask me to write a post about wardrobe staples that should be in every mom’s closet. I suppose this varies 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 10 pieces every mom needs in her closet.

wardrobe basics for moms

10 Essential Wardrobe Pieces 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 (or three). I wrote a post recently 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. Although I’d say you should definitely have a pair of skinny jeans in your wardrobe too.

2. Drapey Sweater

The drapey sweater trend is comfortable, flattering, easy to wear and very much on trend right now. It’s an easy way to update a tired wardrobe.

3. Sweater Hoodie

This is an updated version of the typical button-down cardi. You know me and my hoodies! I love them, and the sweater version makes them socially acceptable!  It’s a sporty look you can throw on over a tank top with jeans and ballet flats and you are comfy and put-together to chase your kids around the playground.

4. 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 personally LOVE Banana Republic’s Timeless Tank. I have it in a half dozen colors (and at least three black ones. True story!) I’m still looking for the perfect long-sleeved T.

Banana Republic Timeless Tank

5. Ballet Flats

Ballet flats are back and they’re back with a vengeance! I was passing through Nordstrom the other day and as I walked by their shoe department, all I saw where varieties of flats in every color the rainbow. Don’t be afraid of colors. Your shoes are a great place to incorporate a fun pop of color. Flats go great with skinny jeans, skirts, dresses and even shorts. They are feminine and comfortable and make you look put together without being fussy.

6. Knee-High Boots

Ankle boots are trendy, but knee-high boots are a must have in every wardrobe unless you live too far south to get your money’s worth out of them.

If you can only have one pair, make sure to get a color that will go with almost everything in your wardrobe. A good rule of thumb is to match your hair color. Mine is dark, so my go-to boots are black. If you’re a blond, then perhaps you will find that a caramel color is more versatile for you.

And then make sure that they are the right marriage of dressy and casual to go with most of your outfits. I absolutely love my Dansko Brinkley boots. They go with everything from jeans to dresses.

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. Here is my current fave. The 3/4 sleeves and jersey knit make it appropriate for any time of year. It is easy to wear and packs easily when I’m traveling.


8. Black Leggings

Leggings are another versatile piece. 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.

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

Rumor has it that Lissé Leggings are fantastic and well worth the investment. And Spanx Look At Me Leggings come highly recommended by Alison.

9. A Great Bag

No, really. Ditch the faded mom bag. (You know the one I mean . . . her initials are V.B.) Totes and cross-body bags are in vogue this season. Make sure it is big enough to hold your essentials and that you can carry it comfortably on your shoulder or across your body. And maybe go for a fun color. Green and blue go with almost anything. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a neutral either. I love this Heritage Tote from Francesca’s.

10. Fun 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 all the rage. Try a ruffle scarf or an infinity scarf for something different.

What would you add to this list?


  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.

      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. 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. 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!

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