18 Aug 2011

The Top Ten Wardrobe Essentials: The Extras

The Top Ten Extra French Wardrobe Essentials, vickiarcher.com

What are the other top ten essential items that make up a working wardrobe?

If we have ruthlessly edited our closets (that is the really tough part) and are starting out with the top ten, then what are those other accessories or pieces of clothing that make life easy and stylish?

I believe that what we women want is style on our terms.

Fads come and go, high fashion swings and twirls but elegance, with a dash of personal flair, lives on. The woman that I picture is graceful, classic and chic. Her selections are not necessarily of the season and what she is wearing, this is the important bit, is being worn by her.

The woman I admire is not a clothes horse at the whim of a designer, however famous and a la mode that designer may be. She is real flesh and blood, someone who rejoices in her femininity. This is the woman I want to be and that is what many French women seem to get right. French women are legendary when it comes to accessories and they get the how and the why and the when of it all.

I find that the older I get the less accessories I need. My ‘essentials’ work something like this.

Number 1: The Leather Jacket

I prefer the biker style of leather jacket, without the biker adornments and in a soft pliable black leather… This works mid season and can immediately make the most classic of outfits more casual. I have had mine for years …it is soft, squishy and supremely comfortable.

Number 2: The Coat

I live in the northern hemisphere so a dressy warm coat is essential. I buy simple, mid-knee length, straight cut, single breasted and cashmere to last. I am a grey/black fan but camel is equally as practical. This cut of overcoat can work with jeans and converse or with the LBD and heels. I am also a parka-puffer-padded jacket kind of girl and this completes my trifecta of winter warmth.

Number 3: The Boots

The only limitation on which style and how many pairs of boots is budget.
There is a boot for all seasons. I like a short ‘biker’ style boot, again with little adornment, that I can wear with jeans or with an easy dress. My other boot of choice is an ankle boot with a heel, roll on some sheer black tights or opaques and the ‘look’ is immediately notched up a level.

Number 4: The Belt

I don’t always wear one and they are probably the one accessory that I use the least but I like to have them on standby. Simple buckles, various widths and in a supple leather. The elasticised belt with the front clip is another great addition.

Number 5: The Bag

The all important handbag, my one true love and a love that men just don’t seem to understand. I believe that bags are to women what cars are to men. There is no such miracle as the perfect bag, we need a selection of bags to fulfil our cravings. For my shortlist I prefer an over the shoulder generous day bag that fits everything, a small clutch for night and the pliage carry bag for my travels.

Number 6: The Scarf

Silk, chiffon and cashmere are a must if you wear scarves. I am a fan of the large square in the softs and the generous longs for a pashmina. Scarves are a collectible that never dates (the older and more vintage the print the better), they take up such little space, they feel luxurious to the touch and they change the way we look in seconds.

Number 7: The Lingerie

The inside should look and feel as good as the outside.

Well fitting, beautiful fabrics, the lace and flimsy does wonders for the morale.The kind of thinking that puts off buying lingerie because we can’t see it will never do.

Number 8: The Glasses

Sunglasses and reading glasses are the easiest way to keep up to date and in fashion. I am a vintage style of girl when it comes to frames, think Iris Apfel. French women, whatever their age, wear the latest styles, it is the most painless and the quickest way to take years off your age.

Number 9: The Kaftan

I can’t live without kaftans in summer. Long, colourful and comfortable worn with espadrilles or flip flops.

Number 10: The Jewels

If ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ then pearls must run a pretty close second. Simple or elaborate earrings, necklaces, brooches or bracelets are the signature to an outfit.

image the cherry blossom girl

VA In Your Inbox

subscribe for updates from vickiarcher.com

In This Post:




I have these items – along with the Top Ten. I am now dreaming of how I can up the ante with the way I put them together.
I shall look at some of your archives for ideas. x


Very inspiring post. I am working on the discipline of reducing my wardrobe to the essentials. The only accessory I might add would be hats. I just happen to love them, especially wide brims as they suit me and can really dress up an outfit. I am never without one in the summer to protect from the sun. My current addiction is the Fedora.


Yes I agree with the others, hats and purfume, I can't wait to get into my wardrobe and mix and match what I have from your essential list.


Hello vicki

I love all your top tens again.

You get it spot on!

and yes – love the jewels too

have a great day


(ps might need to add a few more points to the list
the attitude
the smile
the walk)


Vicki you have summed it up beautifully!!

Thank you as you have done a great service to so many women!


Art by Karena


I like a classic denim motorcycle jacket instead of a leather jacket. You can dress it up or down, and it works.

I love how many of the items I got to tick off the list!


david terry

Dear Vicki, Speaking of women's scarves (not an issue, I'll admit, that occupies a great number of my days)? Just last night, I came across an amusing line while reading Dori Greenspan's new cookbook "Around My French Table" (it recently won the James Beard award for best cookbook).

At one point, thoroughly-American Greenspan simply throws down the gauntlet and deals quite directly with the dreaded topic of innards, "offal", and the French's general delight in both. She describes a meal which included calf's head, a sauce of calf's tongues and "ris de veau" (otherwise and less-prettily known as "thymus gland"). She claims to have "enjoyed every bite" before declaring "I can't think of how I acquired this taste. Maybe I was born with it. Maybe I'm French. Of course, the fact that I'm not a great scarf-knotter argues against it. Maybe the scarf gene is recessive–or just shy."

In-Law Anecdote #5984: Herve's parents come each Fall for three weeks, and of course there's a lot of entertaining when we have them here. Herve's mother is a tiny (100 pounds at most), intimidatingly energetic, retired professor of 17th century literature. She speaks five languages quite fluently, although she's the first to demur and say that Latin and Greek really shouldn't count. She always looks GREAT (don't ask me how she does it out of one small suitcase that suffices for a 3-week trip).

In any case, I've had two, large-ish dinner parties here at which one or another of my American female friends has asked her about tying a scarf (she always wears one, which is probably how she manages to look as though she'd brought 6 suitcases) They all ask "How do you DO it?"….etcetera….and Danielle (who, after all, was essentially a teacher for decades) ends up grabbing six or so scarves out of her suitcase. Then, all of my female, American friends (in one case, the line-up did include a gay, male couple who were interested for unspecified and un-asked reasons) end up standing in a line the middle of the dining room, while iddy-bitty Danielle flits around them, chattering away while she demonstrates various "knots" and techniques.

These impromptu sessions are fun, of course, but never remarkably successful. I recall her throwing her hands up one night and announcing (and you'll love this line, Vicki, since you've essentially written the same thing in previous postings): "Oh la!….but there IS no 'Secret'!. The crucial aspect is not how you tie it, but how you WEAR it….you must have self-confidence!".

I expect she's right.

thanks for the fun (if mostly-wasted on me; I'm a notoriously haphazard dresser) posting.

Level Best as Ever,

David Terry

under spanish moss

Vicki, you nailed it! We totally agree with what you said about handbags. Men just don't get it. We just love a great handbag. Diamonds and pearls…our favorites! Hope you are having a beautiful week!
Angela and Renee

Dumbwit Tellher

A woman after my own heart. I have always preferred understated clothing, and rely on my accessories to step it up a notch. I would expect nothing less from you dear Vicki. Chic..chic..chic.

x Deb


I agree with everything except the Kaftan. No way would I wear one; they look like a bag over someone's body!


I have a drawer filled with scarves and never wear them. I am a sham. However, is it a saving grace that my pearls see daily use?

hostess of the humble bungalow

Your list looks fabulous!
It has a few things on it that I do not own.
A leather jacket and a kaftan, with my short stature, would make me look dumpy.

These extras do make those top 10 feel more like 100!
Great tips, thank you.

A Gift Wrapped Life

More shopping………..need the leather jacket, a kaftan, and some very special lingerie (but only if I get some sparkly jewelry). then a drink when I pay my Visa bill again. You are such a bad influence Vicki……..but a clever and stylish one! Much love. Miss you. XO


I have done successful closet "purges" for the past two years and am really down to things that I believe I wear, not things that wear me. But because I purged so deeply, I really do need a few more pieces…and you've given me the perfect shopping list!

For some reason, it's easier for me to dress in the winter with dresses, skirts and sweaters, tights, boots, scarves – voila! Summer's tougher, but it's when I do tend to buy trendier things.

I need a kaftan SO BAD!

Beadboard UpCountry

Love the list! Believe it or not I had not heard of the J Brand Jeans…. But I went to my friend's store here in Brenham, yesterday and There they were!!!! Very cool.May have to get a pair. Oh and I like the sunglasses by Proenza Schuler. Thanks Vicki! Maryanne xo

peggy braswell

Vicki, thanks for this post. Scarfs are a great addition to any wardrobe, big or small-love the way Italians and French women put themselves together,tres chic,but then that is the European way of dressing. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

à la parisienne

I love this list. Scarves are a must for me-They are perfect for changing up an outfit and do not take up much space.

For me, I would love to invest in a few more vintage-inspired hats and have a go at that look-although I will expect to receive many awkward looks from the rural populace that I am surrounded by!


carolyn bradford

Vicki…this was wonderful!!! I've always quoted my mother in law in that she says our homes "should be elegant but understated"! Well…I also think it's true in our wardrobes! I so agree with you on the handbags! That is so very important to me! You have inspired me to make the other areas just as important! Thank you!!!!
Carolyn Bradford


I wish I could embrace all these gorgeous things Vicki, but a job on the road in & out of the car, in & out of Hospitals & frequently acting as a packhorse lugging heavy equipment & boxes with me means comfortable yet stylish clothing – a very tall order. My Winter uniform seems to be black cashmere polo jumper, black skirt, thick black tights & a comfy pair of Nine West pumps. Then I chuck on the jewelry, trench, add the all important perfume & stuff the old Coach bag with as much as it will hold! Not exactly haute couture, but I guess it works.
Millie x

The enchanted home

OK well I was doing pretty well with this list until I got to the lingerie part….ugh. Do my timeworn but super comfy cannot give up cotton pjs (aka my uniform) count? I could use some help in this dept. but I am at 45 way more about comfort over sex appeal…haha. Great list and am happy to say I have most of it covered!!


Vicki, today's post is yet another example of your ability to inspire us to lift out game…even here in a little Victorian country town in Australia. Not sure if the Louboutin's would go over at the local footy but a scarf is always a winner. Thanks for making the time and effort to create this beautiful blog! Sylvia

Linda C.

I love, love love these tips!

Could you give some advice on how to look stylish in really hot weather, as in an Australian summer.

thank you

Angie Muresan

This is a perfect addition to the must-have closet. I already wrote it down in my little book. Thanks for your fabulous influence on my future choices, Vicki!

Half-heard in the Stillness

Definitely agree with the others about perfume and then of course a good pair of kid leather gloves too.
Coincidentally I've just written a piece about them on my blog too. Love your photo of the gorgeous drawers and those rose coloured gloves!


Ivy and Elephants

The scarves are so fabulous. My mom just brought me some back from Chamonix and I cannot wait to wear them here in the winter. They are just so fabulous. Style français est très magnifique!


Trish Murphy

Adore the list have been a scarf gal since I was sixteen.I agree about the glasses there are so many chic styles and if you have to wear them they should be smart.
Thankyou for the great posts just love them.
Scarves look great used as a belt.Just to add a good hair style is a must.


I am a HUGE accessories girl so I own multitudes of all of these (including hats) except for the kaftan – don't own even one – clearly I must change that. I would rather have fewer, better clothes and change their look with creative use of all these must-haves!


You are so chic Vicki and so kind to share your secrets! Sadly I missed the chic gene and instead inherited a craving for arty styles and a great love of colour. The thought of wearing a lot of black is deeply depressing to me. But yes scarves, I have literally hundreds to choose from and too many bags, including Celine and Lacroix but my current faves are by Jamin Puech, so not the elegant tailored minimalist look preferred by most of your readers. For a sixty plus with a dodgy ankle the Loubs are unsuitable, so have taken to Arche in a big way and to wonderful italian sneakers for walking, Geox. They're heaven to wear, much lighter to carry in a suitcase and they breathe, so prefer them to Converse. Some of my fave scarves come from Op Shops – fabulous vintage colours and patterns from Hermes, Jacques Fath, Balmain, Yves Saint Laurent, Celine etc, costing each around $5-6 Australian (in case you're freaking out at the thought of all this colour and pattern I do wear these with simple solid colours – rarely combine pattern with pattern). After editing too much when I was younger I now err on the side of keeping too many items. But I regret so much giving away wonderful Mary Quant, Australian Pru Acton and other great designer gear from my skinny teens and twenties. Also love love love French perfume, Chanel 19 and 5, Hermes Caleche and others, Jean Louis Scherrer, Eau du Sud etc etc. Can't start the day without good perfume. Also what about gloves? Every time I visit Florence, I come back with more leather gloves in ravishing colours.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

powered by chloédigital