Assessing My Fall Wardrobe Staples

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One day last year when my friend Liz and I were having coffee at Nordstrom, she commented about one of my blog posts in which I had, yet again, edited my closet. She laughed and said, “Susan, you’d better stop getting rid of things because you won’t have anything left.” And we both laughed. Ha. Ha. Imagine me not having anything left in my closet. Well, folks, I think that day has come in a kind of way. In a small way. With respect to my fall wardrobe staples. Tops in particular.

Not sweaters. I have lots of sweaters. Lots of chunky turtlenecks for wearing on their own in the fall and under coats in the winter. And I have a sufficient number of shirts: two white and one blue. A couple of blouses for dressy wear that I didn’t even bring out from storage. Lots of blazers, now that I am wearing all my really old ones from the nineties. A few coat sweaters. I mean, who needs more than three, I ask you?

But I do need light fall sweaters or long-sleeve tees. Not short-sleeve tees; I have lots of those. But light-weight, long-sleeve sweaters and tees that I can slip under a blazer or coat sweater, but which still look good on their own. Those puppies are not easy to find, I’m telling you. Looking back at my little book of lists, I see that I have had on my “needs list” every year for the past three: light fall tops.

Long-sleeve tees used to be a staple in my closet. I always had one in white, one in black, usually a light blue one, and at least one other colour. But since Gap tees became too fitted for my evolving shape (ha), I have had trouble finding new ones that I love. And now that most of the shirts I still had have worn out completely, I find myself almost long-sleeved tee shirt-less.

Almost. I have two left that are in good shape, and which I really like. Unreservedly like, I mean. A long-sleeve, black and white patterned tee from Noujica. And my old A.L.C. striped Breton tee from 2015. Today I tried my striped tee with my old black Max Mara blazer, my Frame high-rise jeans (similar here.) and my Stan Smith sneakers. I love this look. I may even wear this to my book club meeting tomorrow. The white of the tee, the silver earrings, and my vintage brooch with the rhinestones adds a bit of glint to brighten up the black. Enough for me to feel good in this outfit.

Fall wardrobe staple, long-sleeve tee from ALC. Worn with vintage Max Mara blazer, jeans and sneakers.
Old black and white ALC tee under my even older Max Mara blazer.

Of course I have a lovely blue, long-sleeve tee from Zella. Purchased last year as part of my never ending search. But the neck has stretched out from washing and I think I will relegate it to wearing at home only. I also have a long-sleeved burgundy tee which I bought at Talbots in 2019 for our trip to the Balkans. This is a good quality tee, and it wears and washes well… but, well… I don’t love it unreservedly. It’s the shape, a bit too big in the neck and too tight at the bottom. I know; I’m picky. I like it under my burgundy down vest, but not on its own. So, I think I’ll probably save it for travel.

Last year when I was looking for light tops and tees, I also bought this thin, loose-fitting, grey cotton turtleneck from Vince. (Similar here.) It has a great shape, and is really light-weight. Perfect for wearing under jackets and sweaters. And with this Lafayette 148 quilted coat sweater, and my black Liverpool Glider jeans. But it’s not a tee shirt.

Light t-necks are a fall wardrobe staple. Worn with Lafayette 148 coat sweater and Liverpool jeans.
Lafayette 148 coat sweater, Vince T-neck, and Liverpool jeans.

For the past couple of years, along with long-sleeve tees, I’ve been looking for a good quality, loose-fitting, light cashmere crew neck sweater. One that is warmer than a cotton sweater, but light-weight enough to slip under a blazer. I tried to order a pink cashmere crew-neck sweater from Everlane last winter but they were out of stock. So I settled for this purple one from Uniqlo. I love the colour. Looks great, I think, with my ancient Alfred Sung blazer.

Even though I had a tailor remove the huge eighties shoulder pads from this jacket and replace them with smaller ones, those are still some pretty big shoulders aren’t they? But I love the green and cream and burgundy in the hounds-tooth plaid with that purple sweater. I don’t love the sweater itself, however. The fit is quite weird, especially in the arms. Last year when I was looking for a cashmere sweater, I wrote a whole post about cashmere which you can read here if you’re interested.

Wearing a fall wardrobe staple, a light cashmere sweater, with jeans, sneakers, and a vintage Alfred Sung blazer.
Just when you think I will never wear colour… lots of colour.

The other day after I did my closet turn-around, I sat down to update my little book of lists, and assessed the state of my fall wardrobe staples. Specifically light sweaters and long-sleeve tee shirts. That purple Uniqlo sweater, fills the bill even if I don’t love it. I have this navy Vince v-neck cashmere sweater, which I do love. I bought it last spring, and it’s been in heavy rotation on cool days ever since. But where have all my tee shirts gone?

Well, relegated to camping or cool-weather biking wear, or gone to the Salvation Army. The last two Gap tees shipped off just last week. And not replaced. I guess Liz was right. I have edited myself into a bit of a corner.

But here’s the thing about closet editing. If I hadn’t shipped off for sale or donation, over the years, all the sweaters and tee shirts that no longer suited me, I’d still be hauling them out of my drawer, trying them on, grimacing and putting them back. I’d still be moaning today that I had no long-sleeve tee shirts to wear, and those tees I owned would be lying in a drawer unworn. This way, I know what I have. Or don’t have, as the case may be. And someone else gets a new-to-them top.

But the bottom line is that I still need one or two new long-sleeve tees. If I found those I’d be good.

You know, I knew full well that this day would come sooner or later. It’s not like I haven’t been looking. And looking. There are lots of tees out there, but the fit, the fit is so important. The crew-neck must be just right, not too big and droopy. The cut must be just right, not too baggy in the shoulders nor too tight across the middle. The length must be just right. Long enough to be able to partially tuck in, but short enough to look good worn out over my jeans. See? It’s complicated. The days when I could pull any sort of tee shirt over my head and feel good in it are long gone. Just like all my old tee shirts. Ha.

I debated if I should order a long-sleeve tee from Vince, but they don’t look as if they are the same fit as the short-sleeve ones which I like. So instead, I thought I’d try Everlane’s long-sleeve tee shirts. Especially since I have really liked the short-sleeve ones I bought this summer. And it looks as if the fit is the same. Just with long sleeves.

Eventually I ordered this long-sleeve, box cut pocket tee in forest green. I could wear it under my Khaki green suede moto jacket and under that old Alfred Sung houndstooth blazer. I also ordered this square cut long-sleeve mock-neck tee in navy. One can always use a navy tee. So, we’ll see how I get on. Whether I have solved my light-weight fall top problem, and brought my fall wardrobe staples up to quota. Or not.

Not that there is a quota. More of a comfort level. I want a few light-weight choices for fall. Three or four tops that I feel good in, and which will look great with what I already own, with my coat sweaters and jackets. Tops I can haul out of the closet and pull on with whatever jeans I feel like and which ever jacket I feel like, and bounce out the door. Ready to face the world.

Of course, if my two new tees are suitable, I may have, in fact probably will have, more outfit choices than I have places to go to wear them. Facing the world has become such a treasured and limited treat these days. And given the predicted “second wave” of covid… well… you know where this is going.

I will no doubt spend way more time this fall dreaming about what I might wear, than actually wearing my clothes. But, you know, I’m good with that.

Now it’s your turn my friends. Tell me… what pieces do you find problematic replacing in your wardrobe? As I get older I find that while my taste hasn’t changed all that much, my body has. Ha.

P.S. The clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will make a commission.

Linking up with Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for #IWillWearWhatILike

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49 thoughts on “Assessing My Fall Wardrobe Staples”

  1. Yes! I still like the same autumn styles but my ageing bod disagrees with my choices. Black roll necks. How I love them. How my strange wattle neck cannot allow me to wear them properly any longer. Nothing to be done about the neck, photos show that it is courtesy of my paternal lineage, evident in three generations. And I would love to wear Breton tops but, dearie me, they are just not becoming. Hey ho.

  2. High-waisted jeans have saved my midlife middle from infamy;). I am like you in that all I might need this season are a couple more long-sleeved tops, and maybe one more light jacket to replace one that’s getting pretty dang limp.

  3. Long sleeve tops are getting trickier for me too. I always wear a long-sleeve, cotton, crew-neck tee underneath wool or cashmere sweater/jumpers (too itchy otherwise, even merino wool or the softest cashmere). It’s getting harder to find cotton tees and my extensive collection is not getting any younger, just like me I guess. Sportscraft, an Australian brand that’s not shipping internationally at the moment due to Covid, and Uniqlo are my saviours. The shape of Uniqlo tees suits me and, while the colours can be a bit muddy, they always have black, white and navy and most seasons I usually find a colour that I like as well. The quality is reasonable for the price, though the fabric is becoming increasingly thin, but they’re fine for underneath jumpers.

  4. I love your Alfred Sung blazer,such a lovely print!
    Long sleeve tee shirts could be complicated indeed-I have some old viscose striped tees,from Joseph (but,not so sure if it is the “right” Joseph)but some of my cotton ones are too long,too tight,too uncomfortable…… I’m looking forward to some new european brands suggestions (because shopping in US now is more expensive than gold,with all the taxes)
    All together,I don’t need anything- maybe only straight gingham black/white trousers,similar to yours,but a little bit longer and wider,only for some feeling of old normal……
    Dottoressa

    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. All my old Gap tees seemed to let me down at the same time. I’ve heard some UK bloggers swear by And Other Stories. Not sure if it’s for tee shirts though… might be jeans. Wendy says she has had good luck with Toast brand.

  5. I am with you on the t-shirt front. Have been finding it more and more difficult to find t-shirts in a style that suits my body. Never had issues in the past and really liked the Gap Ts made from cotton but sadly are not around any more. Reading your post, and the comments, I am wondering whether it is not our bodies but fashion itself, often made as cheaply as possible, and the cut and fabric are not there anymore.

    1. I see so many brands who have a much greater selection of tee shirts on-line that I see in stores. But I am so hesitant to order anything on-line that does not come recommended.

  6. “Long-sleeved” for me is often 3/4 sleeves as I will push them up eventually so why not start there? I have had good luck with Olsen T’s, both long- and less-long-sleeved, including the coveted elbow-length that my aged upper arms favour. The colour palette doesn’t always work for me, but when it does I stock up, as these shirts have worn well. They also often have V-neck styles that are not cut so deep as many, and are much more to my liking.

  7. Benn hanging on to a few that real need to disappear! For weeks in the winter I would wear one of 3(black, navy, grey ) LS merino tees from Icebreaker. They come in few colours but several weights. Very comfy and warm.

  8. Yes tees are also problematic for me. I need a few for summer but finding the right cut with the right neckline that is not too sheer is difficult. I would like crew neck but not too high. I have tried scoop neck but they are too low. I will only buy in Australia as the shipping from overseas is simply not worth it for some tees. Well actually it is ridiculous on most items, but that is whole other issue. I hope you have some luck with the ones on order.

  9. I really like the boxy cut of that green T . A couple of mine were from Toast . They fit well on the shoulders then flare slightly , good material too but I’ve had them a while & haven’t looked round lately . I prefer that shape with the looser trousers I wear now .
    PS I’ve finally got round to reading Olive Kitteridge . Just as good as you say but I’m glad I don’t live in Crosby . The place is jinxed !

  10. I love your various blazer and sneaker looks. I would love to be able to wear this look, but being short and round I haven’t quite worked out a way of doing it and my dress style is almost always quite informal. I have always worn a lot of white t-shirts, I have almost a whole drawer of them in various styles; my daughter enforces a culling of the oldest but I can usually justify continuing to wear them under a V-neck jumper or for gardening (though of course they never make it outside). For every day wear I get some from Boden here in the UK, I don’t know if they ship to Canada, their quality is generally good (with occasional blips). I also have some Uniqlo supima cotton ones for under jumpers in the winter and they wash and dry so well. Plus I usually manage to slip in a couple of expensive ones as well. Hmm, I wonder how many is too many?

    1. Have you tried wearing a blazer that hits you just at the hip area? Also I find that boot cut jeans are really leg lengthening. Just my two cents worth. I’d love to try some of the Boden brand. I see their stuff featured on a few UK sites I frequent.

  11. From your post and the comments so far, it would seem finding long sleeve t-shirts that fit is like looking for hen’s teeth. Manufacturers are either making them too fitted or too boxy with not much other styling in between. One thing I am very tired of is the dropped sleeve look. Hate the feeling of seams across the top of my arms (especially with a jacket on) and the fact the sleeve itself rarely fits correctly. Necklines are usually too large for me and sleeve lengths too long–even when I buy petites, still must roll up the sleeve at least once so it doesn’t hang over my fingertips. Three quarter length sleeves work the best–if the rest of the sizing would just work. Hope you have better luck with your choices.

  12. I’ve just purchased some Woolx long-sleeved t-shirts for when the weather eventually cools down here in SoCal. I’ve been wearing their short-sleeved shirts this summer, and absolutely adore them. Very light weight, with a fit that skims rather than compresses. And wool breathes so much better than cotton. They might be a tad long for your purposes, but you might want to take a look….

  13. I feel your pain! Don’t you hate it when necklines stretch out? I have a couple of long sleeved tees from cabi that I love except that the necklines are sagging. 🙁 I have a very old Breton striped one from Reitman’s that cost a fraction of the price of those ones and it’s still going strong. No idea what I’ll do when it wears out! I’ve been wondering about trying a couple from Uniqlo, but I have long arms so I’m not sure how well they’d fit. Sure would love to be able to walk into the store and try them on, but the closest one is a couple of hours away and we aren’t going to the city unless we absolutely have to. In addition to things with long sleeves, I have trouble buying pants that fit as I have a very boyish figure. Pants that fit at the waist often bag at the hips. I haven’t done my seasonal closet switch yet, but thankfully, I think I’m okay for pants for this fall/winter.

    1. The thing that frustrates me is that so many stores do not carry a good selection of long-sleeve tees. I guess due to space and the fact that they’d rather showcase their higher-end products. My goal has always been to shop for style and try on in the store, then once I know if the style fits me, order on-line. Ha. That’s not working out so well this year.

  14. Ellen Tracy Women’s Long Sleeve T-Shirt
    Company Ellen Tracy Long Sleeve Tee, Pink, Large

    Item #1317495

    I’ve had the best luck for several years with these long sleeved tshirts from Costco! They are what my Mum would call “cheap and cheerful” but great quality and for me great fit. You can find them in the warehouses and online. I’ve added a couple every year and think I have almost every colour. They are inexpensive enough that you don’t feel bad tossing them (especially the white ones every year). They wash well, hold their shape and colour. For BC the perfect weight for Fall under a jacket or cardigan and for winter under a heavier sweater. (I run cold due to thyroid). I love the neck line, regular crew neck T-shirt neckline does not suit me. Highly recommend. I also have a couple of very old Reitmans with a rounded hem that have lasted for ever. Good luck with this hunt.

  15. Love my cashmere pullovers from The Bay and my Vince vneck in soft grey. For other long sleeve winter t’s, hate to say it, but Costco marino wool light-weight fit the bill for me. I use them for hiking and for semi dress-up with a silk scarf. As for jeans, high waisted are not comfortable I find as there isn’t enough space between the girls and my waist. At 76 I am lucky to still have a clearly visible waist and it shows best in pants that end just barely at the waist. Love your blog and especially when you post about NB. Greetings from Darlings Island.

    1. I’ve tried the cashmere sweaters at the Bay. They are very nice. I didn’t like the fit on me but they are great sweaters. I’ll think of you, Theresa when I talk about New Brunswick. Wish I could get back there. But I called the travel advisory number yesterday and spoke at length with a lovely girl. The 14 day self-isolation rule is still in place and doesn’t look likely to be lifted given our rising numbers here in Ontario. 🙁

  16. As other commentators have said, try Uniqlo if you can get to their website and if you don’t mind where and how they are made.
    The quality is still quite good, cotton thick and well… lush, yes I can’t find a better word. You could even have a look at the men section: sometimes the colours’ choice is better (well to my taste).
    Otherwise, as already stated here, second hand website like Poshmark could help you in your search.
    Also, as a matter of fact, if you are tall enough, try the men’s range. They do have XS too, do they, the tees may fit you and, often, the quality is better than with women (aka the fabric is not see through).
    I am very petite but this summer, for once, I made an exception and bought new some tee shirt from Uniqlo, some XS from men’s range, because the colours appealed to me.
    Boden is also still quite good, don’t know what would be the shipping cost.
    As for the brand And another story, a sister brand from H&M, there are mixed review on the quality and style, and value for the price. But again, it depends on your taste and own values.
    A question: what is a coat sweater? I might have to search for it.
    As for cashmere, again, I am sure there are good brands in the US and Canada.
    But, of course, let me add the french brand Eric Bompard. Got now a dozen of sweater, most of them bought new or nearly new on second hand site.
    And the scottish brand Brora.
    If you can and want, may be invest in an alpaca sweater?
    This autumn, I am looking to find trousers but specific ones: 100% wool and blend with silk, high waist tailored gripped trousers a la Katherine Hepburn, a bit mannish. Not easy to find when one is under 5 feet (150 cm?)
    I really love this style. Unfortunately, best way to find some is to go vintage.
    I wish you luck in your research.

    1. Thank you. Lots of good suggestions here. I have ordered a few things from Uniqlo before, namely an ultra-light down vest and jacket and a cashmere turtleneck. I liked all three pieces very much. Here in Canada we use the word coat-sweater for a heavy cardigan that can be worn almost as a coat. I am also looking for loose, tailored trousers this fall. Not holding out much hope that I will find anything to fit me, though. I have looked unsuccessfully before.

  17. Tees, both short and long sleeved, are my nemesis. The neckline is tough, as I don’t like crew necks that come up too high, nor V’s too low. Have tried several different Everlane options, over the years, and have never found one I like well enough to keep. The cut and the quality always disappoint. My favorite tees (literally) have gone by the wayside: Gap Favorite Tee in short and long sleeves were the loveliest weight cotton and great fit for me. I am wearing my black long-sleeved one today and it is so flattering.

    Banana Republic used to have nice cotton tees, but their quality has plummeted in recent years, and they changed the fabric on their men’s tees so my husband is out of luck also.

    On the bright side, I find it a fun challenge to search for a new “favorite” tee, and in the interim, I have enough clothing that is still in great condition while I look for future replacements!

  18. Hi Sue,
    I like J. Crew/factory “Teddie” (crew neck) sweaters. They are a combination of merino wool and cotton (not itchy). A perfect weight for a Northern California cool fall/winter to wear alone or under a jacket or vest. Also, J. Crew “slim” t-shirts are nice and thick. I just size up for a more “generous” fit, ha.

  19. I feel J.Crew’s long-sleeved “Perfect Tee” is just that: perfect. Good weight, good all-around cut, unbeatable price. I have a drawerful of them. I know my size, I know my colors, I just reorder when I want a new one. Although I’ve never worn any out, sometimes I just fancy a new color.

    1. I’ve never been much of J Crew fan. But that’s mostly because I had such poor service at their store here in Ottawa. I will check their tee shirts out on-line, though. Thanks.

      1. Our experiences with the face of a company really matter, don’t they! I haven’t been inside a J.Crew store in many years but I do order a few basics online from them regularly, because they fit me so well. I’m 5’10” and on the slender uncurvy side; finding jeans and trousers that work for no hips, no waist and a flat bottom is not all that easy! So, when I find something that works I really stick with it. But I totally get your reluctance to patronize a company that has shown you poor service. Hope you find your holy grail LS tee.

  20. This summer I bought t shirts from Patagonia, Everlane and Universal Standard. I had my tailor shorten the Patagonia and US shirts. It might be worth buying a shirt that is too long and then having them tailored.

    I think LLBean and Land’s End have some solid shirts. LL Bean cotton sweaters are worth a peek.

    Have you heard of Kettlewell? I haven’t ordered from them, but hear good things about their quality and color range.

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