the sunday brief | back to basics | outerwear

all right, ladies, it’s Sunday which means another installment from my series back to the basics. what are those items that are considered core closet essentials? and why do we need them? when you think about building your wardrobe’s foundation it should start with those items you can pair with anything else in your closet to create an outfit. that’s the goal, creating outfits. each and every day we need to get up and head out the door fully clothed. right? so why not make that task a little easier? the number one reason you stand in your closet and think you have nothing to wear is a lack of those wardrobe essentials or the basics. so that new dress or that skirt or shirt you just bought you don’t have the shoes, clutch or jacket to go with it. it’s almost impossible to put your wardrobe together without the basics.

remember, your clothes should look pretty hanging on a hanger but they also need to work for you. think of core essentials as the connecting piece that two tie two garments together. and they’re neutrals: black, white, nude/camel, and grey. navy is also neutral. build your basics with different styles to add variety and give you more options. a white crewneck tee doesn’t flatter your figure? go ahead and add a v-neck. think your full figure can’t pull off a white button down? try a white button blouse with a relaxed fit. or better yet a flattering wrap blouse. the goal of building your wardrobe with core pieces is to have a closet that functions from day-to-day, month-to-month, and season-to-season.

essential winter outerwear

if you have missed any of the previous ‘back to basics’ posts they are listed in order: opens in a new window closet cleanse, opens in a new windowback to basics tops, opens in a new windowback to basics bottoms. today, we’re talking about essential winter outerwear.

jean jacket

yes, once again denim makes the list. this time as a jacket. look for dark rinse, light rinse, oversized or fitted. for summer add a denim vest for variety. wear your jean jacket with a white tee and white denim and roll the sleeves for a casual look. 

or how about a jean jacket with a dress and sandals? that works too. it also looks great in the fall paired with a flannel shirt and cable knit sweater.

shirtdress season

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denim daze

scattered prints


personally i like a tailored black blazer. but a deconstructed blazer has a looser fit and feels like you’re wearing an oversized sweater. 


blazers look stylish popped over a cocktail dress or boyfriend jeans and a tee. how about a pair of shorts? can you say versatile?

blazer basics

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 what an iconic statement piece. the classic khaki trenchcoat hails all the way back to WWI. 

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according to Wikipedia:

During the First World War, the design of the trench coat was modified to include shoulder straps and D-rings. The shoulder straps were for the attachment of epaulettes or other rank insignias; There is a popular myth that the D-ring was for the attachment of hand grenades. The ring was originally for attaching map cases and swords or other equipment to the belt. This latter pattern was dubbed “trench coat” by the soldiers in the front line. Many trench coats had large pockets for maps and cleverly placed flaps and vents to deal with the odor associated with earlier rubber coats. A range of waterproof coats was designed and sold during wartime that incorporated War Office requirements with traditional aspects of leisurewear. What became known as the ‘trench coat’ combined the features of a military waterproof cape and the regulation greatcoat designed for British officers.

rainy days and mondays

a classic way to wear a trench is unbuttoned and the belt tied at the waist. or tie the belt in the back for variety. who doesn’t like choices?

trench coat, j.crew toothpick jeans, everlane silk tunic, target merona slides

utility jacket

this little baby is a hard-working transition piece in those early days of fall and spring when the weather can be unpredictable. wear it with a feminine skirt. they say opposites attract. a long-sleeve stripe tee is the perfect companion to a utility jacket.

spring, sprang, sprung

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fridays with oscar

leather jacket

to me a leather jacket works just like a blazer but with an edge. drape it over a dress for evening or wear it with your favorite pair of blue jeans. either way, it works!

rock candy

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day and night

next week we’ll be discussing accessories. this is a topic i know you’re interested based on the questions you ask. see you then!


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  1. Cynthia Matos Macsherry wrote:

    Beth, love this series. I have all these piece except for the black blazer. I do own one but as part of a suit and I don’t want to wear it out! Looking forward to the accessories next week

    Posted 2.11.18
    • ha ha! but if you ever felt adventurous you could break the pieces to the suit apart. just sayin’.
      so happy to hear you are enjoying the series. the basics aren’t glamorous but boy oh boy are they the hardest working items in your closet.

      Posted 2.14.18
  2. DriftwoodLover wrote:

    Good tips. I’d like to find a utility jacket in a chamois color. You woe a jacket earlier this year that color and I saw it is a nice change.

    Posted 2.11.18
    • awww, your remembered that jacket! one of my favorites. it’s always a toss up between my olive jacket or the chamois color.

      Posted 2.14.18
  3. Sophie McDougal wrote:

    Great tips Beth! Love this series; classics for your wardrobe staples! And you carry them off so beautifully, too!

    Posted 2.11.18
    • hi sophie! thanks so much for stopping by. and i’m happy to hear you are enjoying the back to basics series. there’s nothing glamorous about wardrobe staples but they are the hardest working items in our closet!

      Posted 2.14.18
  4. Ali Fraser wrote:

    Beth, I so love the way you put clothes together. You always look so stylish. You should be Ms Athens!

    Posted 1.26.20
  5. V Valencia wrote:

    I love every outfit in this post. Now that I am retired, I try to find casual outfits that make me look put together and up to date. I rarely find myself dressing up anymore. Thank you!

    Posted 1.26.20
  6. Michelle McDonald wrote:

    I love these Basic posts, partially because you show so many wonderful outfit ideas that I can pin for later inspiration!! You are such a beautiful woman with a fabulous sense of style.

    Posted 1.26.20
  7. Maura wrote:

    Beth, your blog has encouraged me to look at my wardrobe differently. It seems a lot of the plus clothes out there just doesn’t do it for me because I’m a “classic” kind of girl. Started wearing my 15-year old Ralpth Lauren Jean’s jacket again and picked up a classic washable navy blazer to dress up or down. No LBD for me. Instead many pairs of black pants that can be dressed up or down. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Posted 1.26.20
  8. Susan wrote:

    Beth, love this back to basics. I need to add some pieces to my wardrobe and this is really helping me choose what I need!

    Posted 1.26.20
  9. Cindy Woods wrote:

    Wonderful post today. I will definitely look at your links, as I only have a jean jacket and utility jacket. Two things: I LOVE your camo t-shirt and I love how you pull off pairing black and brown. Thank you again for your great style insight.

    Posted 1.26.20
  10. Noel M Clark wrote:

    I really love these “basics” posts. I have recently found an appreciation for those basics, and have been investing in them the last year. I live in Iowa, though, and our essential winter outerwear is more like: short down jacket, long down coat, fleece-lined rain jacket, dressy wool coat, everyday wool coat, snow-shoveling/sledding coat (old one that I don’t mind getting messy) knit gloves, dressy gloves, knit hats, knit ear warmers, knit scarves, knit cowls, more knitted scarves… 🙂

    Posted 1.26.20
  11. Maria j Johns wrote:

    just started following you……love all your ideas….thanks so much….I am 58 still working and need to dress in business casual…so your style really speaks to me

    Posted 1.26.20
  12. Sharon Larkin wrote:

    I love this post Beth, I have been meaning to purchase a black blazer and leather moto jacket. I love the suggestions for pairing these 2 basics.

    Posted 1.26.20
  13. Karen wrote:

    I’ve been following you only for a month r so and I love your style. You’ve given me lots of great ideas of how to mix things I already own.

    Posted 1.26.20
  14. Suzanne Smith wrote:

    I remember all these looks. They’re all pretty timeless. This winter, it’s been for the most part so mild here in NC that I haven’t had a real chance to break out most of my heavy winter things, so most of these you highlighted would do fine here over numerous seasons, too. Happy Sunday!

    Posted 1.26.20
  15. Maru wrote:

    I have the denim jacket. On the hunt for a long trench coat, not in black. Preferably in burgundy and a tailored black blazer. I would love a black leather Moro jacket. I had a Ponte one, but had to get rid of it when I lost wright. Looling for all in a plus size.

    Posted 1.26.20
  16. Cheryl Rielly wrote:

    I love this series. I’m working on sprucing up my wardrobe with better tops and jackets. What’s great is that you don’t have to have a lot of clothes to look pulled together.
    Thanks Beth for your insights and encouragement to get out of your comfort zone.

    Posted 1.26.20
  17. nedra wrote:

    Hi Beth, I do love your back to basics and was tickled to see your denim jacket, one of my personal favorites. I traveled from NC to Ohio to visit family and the county fair. I took along my jean jacket and was wearing it when a cousin’s wife, said, “I want a jacket just like yours!” I had to look down to see what I was wearing. lol You see she is the glamerous member of the family and for years played Beauty. Yes, Beauty and the Beast, Beauty on Broadway in NYC. She was commenting on my jacket from Tractor Supply Store. I think of her each time I wear it. Hope you will as well.

    Posted 1.26.20
  18. Lyn wrote:

    I am expecting an order from Nordstrom for one of the black moto jackets you featured! I have been afraid I might be a bit too old at 69 to wear one – but, what the heck!! I like to dress appropriately for my age, but my favorite look is jeans and my Chuck Taylors!

    Posted 1.27.20
    • Susan Y. wrote:

      I bet you look amazing!

      Posted 1.27.20
  19. Elizabeth Smith wrote:

    Hi Beth just wanted to say that I love the layered look with the denim jacket/sweater over shirt, I am going to try this, as I much prefer jackets to full length coats, being short. I am also discovering how to make my wardrobe ‘work’ for me, thanks to your guidelines, it really works thank you!

    Posted 1.27.20
  20. Susana wrote:

    Me encanta to look!

    Posted 1.28.20
  21. Karlene wrote:

    I just bought my first jean jacket, your outerwear basics post was perfect timing! I hope you know what an inspiration you are, not only for Your graceful style but your pushing through life challenge and carrying on. Thank you for all you share! Enjoy your day!

    Posted 2.2.20

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