what’s in your core wardrobe?

Hello friends!

This week, I’ll be introducing you to two new Liesl + Co. women’s patterns that I’ve developed specifically with a core wardrobe in mind. They’re both styles that are versatile and timeless. They can also be customized to your preferences. I felt like our pattern line simply wouldn’t be complete without either of these items, so I’m really pleased they’re finally ready to share with you.

But before I show them to you, I thought it would be useful to talk briefly about what a core wardrobe is and why it’s useful.

Years ago when I graduated from college and started my very first job in book publishing, I had very little closet space in my tiny New York apartment–and even less money to spend on clothes. I regularly met with authors and attended meetings and presentations, so I had to look professional. That’s when I first learned about a core wardrobe, and it really saved me. (Sometimes you’ll hear people refer to a “capsule wardrobe.” It’s the same thing.)

How does a core wardrobe work? It’s essentially a collection of versatile pieces that all function together to form a basic wardrobe. They can be mixed and matched to create lots of different looks, but they can also serve as a base for other more unique or unusual items in your closet.

Different people offer different advice on what items should be in a core wardrobe, but I like to include one or two pair of trousers (one casual and one dressy), one or two skirts (a full skirt and a pencil skirt), a jacket or cardigan, a dress, and three or four tops. I also think you need two pairs of shoes. When all of these pieces coordinate both in terms of color palette and silhouette, you’ve got yourself a core wardrobe!

A core wardrobe also makes travel really easy. When I travel, I like to bring as little as I can–just a backpack, if possible–so everything I pack needs to be versatile to be worn in different ways, in different types of weather. My travel packing is a good example of a core wardrobe. This is my core wardrobe for a trip to Paris last year.

Liesl's Paris core wardrobe.

Really, a core wardrobe can be the basis of your entire wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Everyone’s core wardrobe will be a little different since those items have to work well for your own lifestyle and personality.

So let’s talk very briefly about building a core wardrobe, shall we? I plan to talk about all this in more depth in the future, but to get you started here’s a quick overview of how to build your own personal core wardrobe.

Start with a color palette: Generally, you want to pick two or three base colors and an accent color. The pallet you choose will depend on your climate, geographic region, lifestyle, and personality, but it’s a good idea to include at least one neutral in your palette. Your core wardrobe can be any two colors you like, as long as you’re happy to wear them a lot. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Core wardrobe color palette ideas.

Think about your lifestyle: A lot of your choices will depend on your job or whatever you spend most of your time doing. Do you wear heels or flats? Dressy or casual? Are you on your feet and moving around a lot, or do you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk? Maybe you wear a uniform to work and your core wardrobe will be mostly for casual wear.

Consider your body shape and what silhouettes look good on you: What are your best features that you like to highlight? What do you feel good wearing? When do you get the most compliments? Try on different silhouettes that you might not usually wear and you might be surprised at what looks good! Don’t be afraid to play with volume to see what works, too.

Think about what you want to communicate about yourself: Clothing speaks volumes about us, whether we like it or not. Is your clothing communicating who you are to the people you come into contact with? If not, what would you like to be saying instead?

What types of fabrics and pattern do you like? Do they need to be machine washable, or are you comfortable with hand-washing or dry cleaning fancier fabrics? What about prints and textures? It’s important for most people to have some solids in their core wardrobe, but a fun printed shirt and something with some texture can help to add visual interest to the basics.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to think about what items will be included in your core wardrobe. We’ll talk about this all in more detail over the coming weeks and months. But first I want to introduce you to our two new styles that I think you will want to consider including in your own core wardrobe.




  1. marjo

    So where are they? Or is that another posting somewhere else?

  2. RSmith

    I have been looking for this information for years!!! I am here to learn. Please don’t keep it to just young and slim, because I am old and feeling very dowdy but going into a new phase of life and I need to think differently – get out of a rut. Thank you.

  3. Sharon Knowles

    Great post! I been doing a lot of thinking just on this topic for me as I am loosing weight and want to make a new wardrobe for myself. I don’t want a closet full as I have a ways to go but want pieces that work with each other well so it seems like I have a closet full. I hope you will do more posts like this to come!

  4. Tammy

    This is a timely post as we switch seasons here. I look forward to reading more.

  5. DianeLyons

    This is an area I need so much help with. I am very excited about the upcoming posts!

  6. Love your recommendations for pieces and picking a color scheme. I am excited about your patterns!

  7. jane doe

    Liesl, When you’re done with core, consider addressing uncore. http://metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2017/rei-kawakubo You have a pretty exceptional aethetic, and you know all there is to know about construction, so I’m depending upon you to deconstruct the usual.

  8. Camille

    This has been very helpful for me and I’m hoping to learn more! I am a woman of age but I like style ! My husband and I travel to important meetings several times a year and I would love to pack a capsule wardrobe for these three-day affairs. It’s otherwise pretty difficult to figure out what to pack and I regret always packing too much!

    1. It’s so true, Camille.

  9. I’m a core wardrobe believer since high school – it literally saved me on countless business trips and holidays.
    Can’t wait to add both patterns to my collection (already sign-up for release notification 🙂 6 days to go!).

  10. Caitlin O'Connor

    I feel like I *should* do a core wardrobe, but I live for my pretty dresses! What a dilemma! Still, there are elements in this that make so much sense: core colours, and times when I do need to be able to travel with a carry on not much more. Loving the two new patterns, they’re just what I need to sew up!

    1. Caitlin, there’s no reason you can’t do both! You don’t have to get rid of everything else in your wardrobe. It just helps to have a core to build on. All the other things just add personality to your wardrobe. I’ll talk more about this soon.

  11. Adamalia

    as other replies.. this is a great post. i am old (53) and i need guidance to rebuild a wardrobe after weight loss, a new job and a fighting cancer. i am new to sew , just bought a sewing machine and a serger…..

    1. You can do it, Adamalia! I’m working on more posts to help you out.

  12. Joanne

    Thanks so much for this. Used it as the basis for my annual trip to Europe this year. For once I have the right number of clothes that I can mix and match – and layer or not. Took me from lunch at the Ritz to market visits and back to another unexpected fancy lunch out again. Can’t wait to sew up some more of your patterns. Thanks again.

    1. Oh, that’s so great to hear, Joanne! I use this any time I take a trip. It makes your suitcase so much lighter! Glad it helped. Cheers!

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