Top Ten Lists-Helpful or Hurtful?

November 6, 2014

ten must have's for women's wardrobe

One thing that always sparked me to shop was top 10 lists.  I would review these lists and run out to purchase everything I was missing so that my wardrobe would then be “complete.”  And guess what.  It never was.  I’d then search out more wardrobe management advice, run across a new top ten list and begin my search all over again.

I’ve spent the past year trying to reduce my shopping and manage my wardrobe, without using a top 10 list as a guide.  I don’t own all of the items on this latest top ten list, and I survived the year just fine with my wardrobe anyway.  Crazy, right?

These are items from Tim Gunn’s Top 10 Fashion Must Have’s and how my wardrobe does (or doesn’t) align:

  1. Trench Coat.  A classic item for rainy days, I recently broke the zipper on my raincoat, which was not a trench coat style.  I agree that a rain friendly jacket is crucial for me to own in my climate, but a trench coat style does not fit with my personal style.  If I purchased this it would sit unworn.
  2. A Basic Black Dress.  One of the most important items to own for any top ten list I have ever read.  And while I do own one black dress, it is not basic at all.  It’s strictly for weddings and other formal occasions.  Since I do not care for dresses and skirts (I prefer jeans and trousers) owning a basic black dress that is versatile does not work for me.  I sport a black trouser suit for those occasions that would suit a black dress.
  3. A Day Dress.  I do own a couple of dresses for business use, which could count as my day dress.  However, again as a jeans and trousers gal, I do not sport them often and adding more to my wardrobe would be wasted money.
  4. A Skirt.  I feel I’m repeating myself, but as a jeans and trousers gal, I do not own a single skirt and my wardrobe functions just fine.
  5. Black Pants/Trousers.  I do own a few pairs of these, since I’m a trouser gal.  I learned a long time ago that black trousers are quite versatile and if I do not sport them daily I do not need to own trousers in other colors.  I don’t sport them often enough to get bored of them.
  6. Jeans.  My wardrobe cannot function without jeans and I own quite a few pairs.  I own different washes, colors, and styles to prevent boredom.
  7. Crisp White Shirt. This is another most important item to own for any top ten list I have ever read.  And I do not currently own a white shirt.  I do own a denim shirt which is my version of a while shirt.  It is slightly less crisp but fulfills my white shirt needs nicely.
  8. Cashmere Sweater.  I do own a few of these, but I notice that alpaca sweaters are often more comfortable for me than cashmere one’s.  For any sweater the quality really dictates how itchy it is for me.  I’ve owned cotton sweaters that last just as long as my cashmere one’s, if not longer.  Cashmere runs the risk of needing dry cleaning which can be a financial and time commitment to maintain the sweater.
  9. Shoes.  A stiletto, pump, and a good flat.  I do not own a stiletto per se, although I do own pumps and flats for dresses.  My shoe wardrobe primarily consists of boots and if I was to compose a top ten list, boots would definitely be on my list.
  10. Sweat Suit Alternative.  I’m not a fan of overly casual dress outside the home.  I think a sweater/pullover and a pair of jeans can suit casual occasions just fine, but Tim Gunn is talking about another option that isn’t jeans.  Chinos are a comfortable alternative and still have a casual vibe.  I don’t currently own any but adding one to my wardrobe sounds like something to consider for me.

I do think top ten lists can be a helpful starting point when one is stuck with what to do with their wardrobe.  However, these lists are only starting points.  One’s personal needs and lifestyle have to also be considered.  I wish I had realized this sooner, I would have saved myself both money and time, and made fewer poor purchases along the way.

Do you follow top ten lists?


  1. You and me both. I got rid of my trench coat yesterday in fact, having worn it 3 times in as many years. One pair of nude pumps that I’ve worn probably the same amount (3 times in 3 years) but I’m keeping them as they are the ONLY pumps in my closet and I do believe in a couple ‘just in case’ items. No stilettos, never have, never will. My LBD has seen, you guessed it, about 3 wears in 3 years. But again, I like having it on hand for those dressy occasions. white crisp shirt I have worn twice but can foresee getting creative with it and jeans in the future, so I’m not giving up yet 😉
    I would be interested to see someone come up with a modern casual list of top 10. More work at home types or suburban every woman, rather than what I imagine as the upwardly mobile city dwelling career woman these lists seem to cater to.

  2. I completely agree. Far more useful to have a list of the activities you do and decide what you want and need to wear for them (smart, casual, dresses, jeans, etc.) List the items that make up 2 typical outfits you wear for each activity. Add in outfits for special occasional activities (funerals, interviews, holidays etc.) This should give you your capsule list of basics to ensure that you have a couple of fall back outfits to chose from for any activity.

  3. This reminds me of all those rules of how if you haven’t worn something X number of times in the last six months you should get rid of it. That doesn’t work for all of us. I own several items that are worn very infrequently. To get rid of them now, when I will likely need them in a year (meaning a repurchase at a probably much higher price than I originally paid) is foolish.

    1. A great point! I often wonder about how long one should keep an item before moving it on to a new home. I agree that there are always going to be some items in a wardrobe that are essential but may not be a daily workhorse. Thanks for stopping by!

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