Some Style: My 2021 Wardrobe Wishlist

From my closet analysis at the end of 2020, I identified a few goals: to have a wardrobe full of pieces that I love, but also suit my life —balancing sentiment and wearability; and to favour beautiful, everyday pieces that are versatile over “special occasion” items that are single-purpose. In addition, I named some of my perceived gaps: easy, basics (with a twist) to add more cohesion to my summer wardrobe; and interesting layering pieces to break up the consistency of my cold-weather wardrobe.

As of writing, I still don’t feel a particularly strong desire to shop and acquire new things. However, I know that my motivations ebb and flow —and that I do a better job of building my closet in an intentional, sustainable way when I articulate what I want. And so, I’m sharing a few clothing items that have been on my radar, many of these I’ve been stewing over for at least a few months. Some things on my wishlist have more specific parameters, while others are merely characteristics like a colour or a material. The pieces I’m considering adding to my closet range in level of priority, although the weighting may change because I’m prioritizing based on “want” rather than “need” (You already have more than you need, my inner minimalist guru is tut-tutting). I certainly do not intend to purchase all these things over the course of the year, nor is this a set list that I must abide by; I’m writing out this wishlist more as a reference guide than a scavenger hunt with the prize of a perfect wardrobe at the end.

1. A Thin Light-Coloured Turtleneck

Since last year, I’ve been thinking about retiring my old Ralph Lauren cream turtleneck that’s seen a lot of good times, but is no longer something I often reach for. It’s looking especially tired lately —stretched out, ill-fitting, stained —and it’s not very insulating. I’ve spent time searching for a potential replacement, but haven’t landed on “the one”. Since I’m looking for something light coloured —white, off-white, cream, or maybe a very light dove grey —I’m thinking that secondhand might not be the best route. And because I would prefer merino wool or another durable, insulating material, I know it’s going to be a bit of an investment. So I’m taking my time before I pull the trigger.

In terms of style, I’m looking for something that’s fitted, but not uncomfortably tight and restrictive. Ideally, it’s a long sleeve knit with a turtleneck, but I’m open to other neckline styles like a mock neck or high neck. It must be thin, warm and suitable for layering with a variety of pieces — another sweater, a jacket, a button down, or a dress. While layer-ability is my main concern, it would also be great if the piece had some visual interest to stand on its own such as texture, visible seams, or other subtle details. Some degree of sheerness is also fine by me, but I’d want to be able to wear a nude bra underneath and not bring scandal to my family. Though most of the items on my list lean towards “fanciful wants”, this light-coloured turtleneck is a wardrobe replacement that I hope to make before the end of the year.

2. A Half-Sleeve Knit

A half-sleeve knit tee is an item where I could possibly add more fun and texture to my wardrobe. Many years ago I had a ribbed half-sleeve top from American Apparel and I always thought the cut was flattering and elegant on me. Unfortunately the shirt eventually fell apart, as cheaply-made fast fashion pieces tend to. Since then, I’ve been wanting to bring this style back into my closet.

Apart from the overall style (half-sleeve, knit, fitted), my criteria is fairly open for this piece. But it must have some element of interest to make it stand out from the rest of my knitwear, such as colour, texture, shine, or transparency. The neckline should be high, but I’m open to different styles here as well: crewneck, boatneck, ringed, or notched. I see myself wearing a top like this with a jacket and trousers in colder weather, or with a skirt, sans-jacket, once the days get warmer. While this item is not a high priority, I’ve been keeping an eye out for secondhand options online.

3. A Fitted Cardigan

A knit style that I thought I was done with, but am now hoping to bring back is a fitted, lightweight cardigan. I’ve had different cardigans like this before, in various colours and weights. A few years ago, I decluttered all of them during one of my manic purging phases because I thought they weren’t “my style” anymore. I wish I hadn’t. I thought that since I chose the open, wide sleeve cardigan/jacket as my topper of choice, there would be no room for cardigans like these anymore. Now, I see that there’s room for both —even in the same outfit. I love the shape of open, cropped-sleeve, loose-fitting jackets, but they don’t always provide maximal warmth. Enter the fitted cardigan —what if I wore something like this underneath the jacket, as a mid-layer, to add an extra veneer of insulation? I’m not 100% sure this layering technique will work as I’d never thought to try it before, but I think that with the right cardigan, this could be life-changing.

Hyperbole aside, what I’m looking for is a cardigan that is thin, but warm; shorter in length; and has tight sleeves. The sleeves should be long enough to poke out a bit under the open jacket, which adds another visual detail to this imaginary outfit I’m picturing. Ideally, I’d want it be v-neck or collared, so that it looks good buttoned or unbuttoned as a mid-layer. Colour-wise, I’m leaning towards a mid-toned neutral like beige or light grey —something that will complement both darker and lighter layers. I’d also like to be able to wear it on its own as a button-up sweater, which seems to be a trendy thing. Though I regret my ruthless decluttering days, I’m confident that I’ll find another cardigan that meets my criteria secondhand.

4. A Thin Navy Knit

Alright, this is the final item following the trend of thin knit layers to spruce up my winter wardrobe, I promise. Another layering piece I’m hoping to add into my wardrobe is a navy merino top, either long or short sleeve. While I already have a lot of navy in my wardrobe, it’s a colour that really suits me and one I keep coming back to. For me, this is more of a nice-to-have than a must-have. This means I’ll be pickier about the fit and the material, which must be high quality merino wool. Having a navy knit like this would help to break up my all-grey ensembles, which I still like, but haven’t made me feel very inspired lately. I know this isn’t adding anything radically new to my wardrobe, but this is something I would definitely get use out of. Also, I can’t stop saving images to my ‘navy’ folder.

5. A Light-Coloured Open Jacket

Open jackets, cardigans, haoris —whatever you want to call it —I love these and I want more. Within reason, of course. To round out my current collection of jackets in this style, where are navy and indigo, I think it would be nice to add something a little lighter and brighter. One that’s beige, tan, or even a purplish tint would be nice to pair with charcoal sweaters, blue dresses, and other layering pieces I might add in. And since I don’t own blazers anymore, I’m also relying on jackets like these to act as business and formal wear. Therefore, it should be casual, but professional.

What I love about this style is the open front which creates clean, vertical lines, juxtaposed with the drapey, relaxed fit. For this jacket, I’m open to different fabrics and weights, but would prefer something that’s not too flimsy and could be appropriate for all-season wear. I’m also looking for roomy pockets and slightly wide sleeves that are 3/4 length or can be rolled up. This is a wishlist item that I don’t see an immediate need for and wouldn’t mind sitting on for a while. On the other hand, I’ve had my eye on the Wiksten Haori pattern for a while and if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I might try making it myself.

6. A Pair of Beige Trousers

Like many sweats-clad people I’m seeing on the streets these days, the pandemic has made me re-evaluate my relationship with denim jeans. I’ve long had a love-hate dynamic with my jeans: I find my flattering pairs uncomfortable and my comfy pairs unflattering, but I can’t deny the ease and versatility that they bring to my wardrobe. This year, I’d like to explore denim alternatives, and hopefully find another style of pant that goes with everything.

First in my quest, I’ve identified a pair of beige or light-coloured trousers as a promising candidate. First and foremost, these must have a casual, everyday feel, with the ability to be styled up like denim jeans. Therefore, I’d like something that has a more relaxed fit in the waist with maybe the tiniest bit of a drop crotch, as well as roomy legs that are straight or tapered. I want trousers that I can move in, with perhaps a vintage workwear feel, that don’t feel too delicate or precious. The pants should also be structured, like jeans, and the fabric sturdy, but not too heavy so that they can be worn in the summer. Of course, good pockets are a must. Pleats and a cropped length could also be nice, but are not mission critical. Although this is an item that I’d really like to find secondhand in a thrift shop, whenever that might be possible in my city, I have a few options earmarked online as well.

7. A Pair of Neutral Shorts

After leaning hard into skirts and culottes as my summer bottoms of choice, I think I’m finally ready to give shorts another chance. I currently have one pair of patterned blue shorts, apart from exercise shorts and spandex shorts I wear under skirts, but I’ve been considering adding a more neutral pair to the mix for a while. My main motivation is movability, specifically bike-ability, as cycling is my main mode of transportation in the summer. While I like biking in skirts and pretending like I’m in a rom-com set in Holland, it isn’t always the most convenient. I want something that’s durable —something I can run around the city in on a lazy, scorching summer’s day without worrying about ruining my outfit.

Growing up in the 2000s, I’m still a bit scarred by my brief booty-shorts-wearing past. Therefore, a longer inseam is a must; my litmus test will be, “would Jennifer Garner wear this?”. I want something that looks clean and put together, perhaps with a tailored fit. It should be comfortable in the waist and not tight around the legs. The material must be lightweight — like tencel, cotton, or linen —and easy to care for. Though I’ve included a lot of light-coloured inspiration, I think something that’s more of a mid-tone like taupe or tan would be best to minimize cleaning. I want a shade that’s going to pair well with my summer tops, which range from crisp whites to a bold red. I know that new styles of shorts are going to be everywhere in (online) stores soon, but think I should be able to find a pair that works for me secondhand or even DIY some by chopping the legs off of thrifted trousers.

8. A Boatneck Sleeveless Top

Probably the least exciting, but most needed item on my list is a simple, well-cut tank top that I can wear across seasons and style with a variety of pieces. Since getting rid of my plain cotton t-shirts, which I don’t regret, I have felt a void for easy, effortless tops that can go with everything. Don’t get me wrong, I love my collection of silky summer tops and I’ve been able to make them work as core pieces in my summer wardrobe. However, I’d still like to have a “lazy” option.

For this basic top, I’m thinking an achromatic white, grey, or black would be most versatile with my colourful summer bottoms in navy, beige, purple, and khaki. I’ve also realized that fitted boatneck tops really suit my body shape and proportions, so along with a plain colour, these are my only requirements. The material should be machine washable and breathable, helping me look cool even when I’m melting. This could also be a bodysuit for easier tucking or a crop top that demands no tucking at all. I debated adding this item to my wardrobe last summer after finding great options at COS and Arket, but couldn’t make up my mind. Now that I’m on the other end of summer and still wanting this, I know it would be a well-used addition to my wardrobe.

9. Something Made of Raw Silk

This is a more fuzzy wishlist item, but I’ve been coveting a piece made from raw silk (or silk noil) for a while. I love the nubby texture of this material, which is so different from silk crepe or charmeuse. There are a lot of small brands I follow like Jamie and the Jones, Ali Golden, and Miranda Bennett that use this material. Recently, I was very tempted to splurge on a gorgeous raw silk dress from Miranda Bennett that was on sale, but the more rational side of my brain intercepted —maybe I need to try this fabric in a lower-stakes form, like a secondhand top, before dropping $300 on a new piece. I’m still hoping to add something in this material (and meets other criteria of course) as a “fun”, slightly hedonistic purchase. It could be a secondhand shirt, a discounted dress —or maybe I’ll just buy a small piece of the fabric and play around with it.

10. Something Lilac

Finally, I’ve been lusting for something in this soft lilac colour. Again, more of a fun “want”, but I know this colour works for me and would be a pleasant addition to my wardrobe palette (lilac + grey and lilac + navy are beautiful combinations to me). I have a couple of things in a purplish, pinkish print, but now I’m ready to go all in with a solid piece. Whether it’s a bold or muted shade, a top or a dress —I’m open to the form this may take.

I know I’ve just present this big fantasy list of wants, but my main goal for this year is to keep focusing on wearing and using what I have. Over the last year, I’ve been trying to delay purchases as much as possible. It’s been fairly easy with all the shops closed, but part of me is afraid that I’ll revert to my old habits once physical stores open back up where I live. Buying less and buying smarter is something I continue to work on. Additionally, I want to continue making most of my purchases secondhand, but I am open to investing in a few high quality pieces, particularly from small-scale shops that I want to support.

Despite my list-making tendencies and eagerness to stick to plans, I am still open to unexpected purchases that meet my criteria — like an amazing, wearable vintage dress that brings me endless joy —or evolving this list as the year goes on. What’s most important is maintaining that longer-term wardrobe mentality. I’m still referring to my 5-year wardrobe plan; many of the pieces here can be found in that original wishlist from August 2020 or may otherwise still fit the vision. My goal is to have a functional, “slow” wardrobe that suits my needs, without sacrificing fun and some novelty here and there.

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