Earlier this week, I delved into my differences with some of the published stylistas about what constitutes a wardrobe must-have. Though they may be a good starting point, other people's lists often don't take into account lifestyle or climate, and we ultimately have to develop our own. It took me a lot of trial and error to suss out my own list, especially when it comes to bags and shoes.
Though I'm a notorious bagaholic, if I had to narrow it down to my "can't-live-withouts," they would fall into three categories.
First is the workday bag/briefcase substitute. This bag should be able to hold everything you'd normally carry, plus a files and/or a laptop. Handles long enough to sling over the shoulder or a shoulder strap are critical for me. I'd recommend a neutral color without a lot of trendy hardware or frou-frou details, but it needn't be stodgy. Look for good quality of materials and construction; this bag will get a lot of hard wear. Here are some options from Cole Haan that would do nicely:
Aerin satchel in Dark Aubergine, $425,
Or Dark Anthracite. Both of these are great neutrals.
This Box Tote ($475) has a nice bit of equestrian detailing, and also holds a laptop.
Category two is the weekend bag. I currently have a good variety of bags that I'll rotate through, but if I had to pick one essential style, it would be a cross-body bag. When I'm out with the munchkin and/or dogs, having both hands free is a must. I also plan to take a cross-body bag on our upcoming Paris trip. When you're on your feet all day, it really makes a difference, and according to my physical therapist, is much, much better for your back and posture.
Category three is a smaller, dressier evening bag. When push comes to shove, it has to be one I can wear over a shoulder. When you have a drink in one hand and a potentially messy canapé in the other, there's nothing left with which to wrangle that clutch. Style mavens often insist any stylish bag wardrobe must include a Chanel 2.55, but I say Feh! They're rarer than hens teeth and cost a bloody fortune. There's a whole world out there of affordable evening bags, so find one that's the right style and size for you. My advice is to skip the ones with excessive beading or other detailing; those will be the first bits to show wear.
Where shoes are concerned, comfort is non-negotiable for me. That doesn't mean I chug around in orthopedic granny shoes; there are plenty of comfortable and cute options these days. These Ecco shoes are just about my favorite pair, combining great style and walkability.
A pair of great-looking, classic flats is another of my shoe-ssentials, and they don't get any more classic than these Audrey mary janes from Ferragamo. Unlike a lot of the ballet flats out there now, these are very flattering on, and don't make your feet look like Daisy Duck's.
If black is too boring for you, Ferragamo offers this style in different materials and colors each season. I also have a pair in chili red patent. (And they are available in Wide widths!)
One area where I agree with the style book writers regarding must-have footwear is a black leather, pointy-toed, stiletto heeled pump. Now my style may be more conservative/classic than some, but this is the pair I turn to when I want to look casually elegant, regardless of what else I'm wearing. Spend good money for these, and if they have a leather sole, take them to the shoe repair for rubber half-soles (and a rubber heel if they come with a plastic one...it's appalling how many pricey shoes do). My pair are Ferragamo's again, and I know I'll be wearing them for decades.
With our Mediterranean climate, sandals can be worn for several months out of the year. Mine have to multi-task.
These sandals by Sofft are dressy enough for the business casual office or an evening out, and comfortable enough to wear to walk the dogs.
But we do get some rain and cold weather, too. During those months, a pair of Stuart Weitzman short boots similar to these are my most frequently called-upon footwear.Whatever shoes are must-have's for you, my suggestion is don't skimp on quality. Well made shoes will be more comfortable, will last longer, and can more easily be refurbished by a good shoe repair person. Think value, not price.