9 Atypical Staple Pieces Every 20-Something Needs In Her Wardrobe

by Lydia Mansel

If Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar publishes an article listing every item we should have in our wardrobes, I’ll read it.

I know it’s going to include the same basic staples – the perfect white t-shirt, versatile ballet flats, a fitted blazer, an LBD and an Oxford button-down that doesn’t gap at the boobs – but I’ll read it anyway, hoping I’ll finally figure out what I need in order to have the best and most functional closet.

Thanks to my constant need for the perfect wardrobe -- fueled by every fashion magazine out there  -- and my lack of self-control, I now have 10 black dresses, six white tees and three striped button-downs I truly never wear.

Sure, these pieces are all good basics, but they aren’t great. And after years and countless dollars spent trying to build the ultimate closet, I've finally discovered there's a massive difference between having a good wardrobe and having a great wardrobe.

A good wardrobe doesn’t need turnover every season; a great wardrobe turns heads.

A good wardrobe makes it easy to get ready for work in the morning; a great wardrobe gets compliments at work.

A good wardrobe can stand alone; a great wardrobe stands out.

So instead of spending your money on a set of tired basics everyone has, cash your paycheck and buy clothes you love -- not ones that are just OK.

Good: Plain white t-shirt; Great: Baseball t-shirt

The perfect plain white t-shirt is something of a mystery for me: I've never come across The One. There always seems to be something off about the fit, color or texture of the shirt. A baseball tee, on the other hand, is more forgiving and a lot more fashion-forward.

Good: LBD; Great: Black jumpsuit

I never thought I'd ever choose something over the perfect little black dress, but then I found a black, sequined jumpsuit on sale at Urban Outfitters. From that day forward, I was hooked. While the whole bathroom situation is a little difficult in a one-piece ensemble, you'll at least be safe from those unpredictable gusts of wind.

Good: Blazer; Great: Cape

After seeing both Olivia Palermo and Sarah Jessica Parker wear their own versions of a cape, I knew I had to have my own. Unlike the structured shoulders of a blazer, the right-sized cape creates a flattering silhouette on every body type.

Good: Jean jacket; Great: Suede jacket

Suede is, without a doubt, the fabric of the season. It's everywhere. If you're brave enough, find one with fringe and really embrace the 70s.

Good: Pearl earrings; Great: Small, gold hoops

While your grandmother's pearl earrings are classy and elegant in their own way (like Grandma), they're also tired (like Grandma). Reclaim your youth and give your wardrobe a subtle flair with hoops.

Good: Black trousers; Great: Culottes

The right black pant (just like the white tee) is hard to come by. You can't look like you're wearing leggings, but power-suit pleated trousers can make you feel a FUPA coming on. A pair of well-fitting culottes solves the problem.

Good: White Oxford; Great: Pussy-bow blouse

It's all about the small details here -- and the fact the bow conceals your bra from flashing the entire world doesn't hurt, either.

Good: Black flats; Great: Pointed Slip-ons

I was severely disappointed when I read "How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are" and black flats were suggested as a wardrobe essential. A slip-on is just as easy to step into as you're running out the door, and a good point keeps you looking chic and mature (all without wearing heels).

Good: Skinny jeans; Great: Overalls

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Overalls are absolutely necessary -- especially for the spring. They're just as versatile as a pair of skinny jeans, but a lot more memorable.