Building a Wardrobe: Starting With the Basics

I’ve been talking a lot about sustainability lately, and I’ve noticed in my life that I create the most waste through fashion. I’m guilty of shopping out of boredom, and as a blogger I feel like I always need to have shiny new outfits to show off.

Trying to balance my interest in fashion with my need to feel like I’m saving the world has been weighing heavy on me, and I recently wrote guidelines for myself on how to shop more sustainably. (I’ll share those further down in the post!)

also did a full wardrobe audit when I moved out of my parents house and was able to donate or sell clothes that no longer suited me (embarrassing fact: there were clothes from middle school I was holding on to.) That left me with a lot of basics.

Any fashion lover knows that a strong wardrobe and overall style is built on the basics and what you do with them.

The most important basic in my book?

A good pair of jeans

My favorite are Levi’s

For most of my adult life, I bought my denim from fast fashion shops and wore them for a season before the knees wore out or the color faded in a not-so-cool way.

It wasn’t until this year that I got my first pair of Levi’s from The Ruby Slipper, a local boutique specializing in denim. This summer I did some modeling for them, and in exchange, the owner, Chris, gifted me a pair of Levi’s and now they are my absolute favorite pair of jeans.

How to build a wardrobe starting with a basic pair of Levi's.

All photos were taken by Phil Dodds Photography. Follow him on IG!

After my dad and I went to Argentina they got mixed in with his things and I thought I left them in a different continent and wallowed in heartbreak for a few weeks until they showed back up.

Back on track, a good pair of denim jean accomplishes a few things:

  • They’ll last you for years. Instead of having to buy a new pair of Levi’s next season, I’ll have these for a long time. I always donate my old jeans, but realistically denim is likely to end up in a landfill once it’s no longer in it’s prime. High quality denim stays in it’s prime for significantly longer.
  • They give you a “cool girl” vibe: When I say I’m cooler on the internet in my Instagram bio, it’s not just a sassy joke, it’s true. Growing up I never was the “cool girl.” (More like the shy debate team captain and vice president of the science club. 🙈) At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing about never being that cool girl, but I always was jealous of the cool girls’ effortless fashion back in high school. Maybe they were born with it, maybe they were wearing Levi’s. 😉
  • They’re flattering: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m built like a ruler. But a well-fitting pair of jeans (i.e. my Levi’s) give me some illusion of curves, and I dig that.

How to build a wardrobe starting with a basic pair of Levi's.

To all of my local readers: The Ruby Slipper is the best place to find Levi’s locally. Chris really knows what she’s talking about and she can take one look at you and point you in the direction of the pair that would be most flattering and fit what you’re looking for. Even if you’re not local, you can also find them online.

How to build a wardrobe starting with a basic pair of Levi's.

Once you’ve picked out your denim…

Build the rest of your look around it. My jeans are a “mom fit.” I opt to pair them with tight tops so I don’t lose my figure. Speaking of mom’s: My mother’s love for neutrals was passed on to me. Most of my basic pieces are in black or white.

This turtleneck is making it’s second appearance in the past week because I wear it all the time.

And like my denim? This is a piece I invested a bit more in. I find that the fast fashion stores didn’t have any turtlenecks that would last me more than a dozen washes.

This specific turtleneck is from Urban Outfitters, while this one is no longer in stock, they do have similar styles.

How to build a wardrobe starting with a basic pair of Levi's.


Fun fact: I wore newsboy caps to school just about every single day in third and fourth grade. Not just to school, but throughout the day, too. I had a collection of about a dozen and they were my most prized possessions.

And then my school banned wearing hats in doors.

That was the day my world came crashing down around me.  After pushing boundaries trying them to get them to make an exception in the name of fashion, I gave in. Eventually the love affair with newsboy caps faded away, until I saw one of my favorite models, Romee Strijd wearing one on Instagram and the passion was reignited.

This specific hat is from Target, and I’ve worn it a ton. Newsboy caps are a big thing this season, so I also have a few other styles linked.

How to build a wardrobe starting with a basic pair of Levi's.

The shoes are also from Target and my new obsession. I bought these before Chris and I celebrated our fifth anniversary in Seattle. After walking around the city for a week they still look and feel as good as new.

Sustainable shopping guidelines:

Before I list them out, let me leave you with this one disclaimer: I’m nowhere near perfect and am beginning my journey with living more sustainably. It’s something I’m working towards.

  1. Only buy pieces you’ll get more than one season out of. No more fast fashion tank tops or camis. They’re cheap, but they’re low quality. They’ll end up living the rest of their days in a landfill, and that makes mother earth sad.
  2. Only buy pieces that you love. Leave the trends to your friends and borrow from them. 😉  I mentioned how as a blogger there’s a pressure to wear all of the hottest pieces. I bought into that for a while and would purchase every trend only to find that half of my wardrobe was going untouched after the photoshoots.
  3. Buy pieces that you can hand down. I’m not the biggest fan of thrift shops. I’ve read some harrowing stories about how a lot of them (not all!) do more harm than good. I haven’t researched my local ones, instead I hand my clothes down to cousins or friends.
  4. Don’t shop for the sake of shopping. This is good for the environment and good for my wallet. I got in the habit of mindlessly adding things to my cart and hitting purchase just for the buyers’ high.

What are your tips for marrying sustainability and fashion? It’s something I’m still struggling with!

  • Great tips here!

  • These are great tips! I bought a couple pairs of Levis with my first “real adult” paycheck, and I’ve been living in them ever since. You mentioned a lot of their benefits, but I’ll add that the consistent sizing is a godsend! Most fast-fashion brands change their styles constantly, so you never know what size you’ll wear. I love knowing that every pair I buy will fit just right, even if I don’t get the chance to try them on!

    • Thank you! And ooh, I wanna see them! I’ve been looking to buy another pair, kinda want the wedgie style!

      And good point! Consistent sizing is so important, especially if you’re shopping online!

  • Joanne

    Ooooh, these photos are STUNNING! What a gorgeous look! Still on the look for *that* perfect pair of jeans but your outfit is absolutely ~goals~. I love your sustainable shopping guidelines and they’re very true, I don’t really get what you were referring to about thrift shopping though?
    Lovely post! Have an excellent week x

    Joanne | With Risa: A Lifestyle Blog

    • Thank you so much! I hope you can find your perfect pair!

      And I love shopping from smaller, locally owned thrift shops that focus on sustainability, but I’ve read a lot where some of the “big name” thrift shops have sketchy practices. I live in an area that only has the big name ones, so I usually avoid thrifting unless I’m out of town in a big city. If I’m buying second hand I check thrift shops first, but I feel better passing my clothes onto someone I know will use them and wear them rather than donating them to a large corporation.

      I hope that was explained well. I only started getting into the blackhole of internet articles on the problems with larger thrift shops and haven’t deciphered what’s true and what’s not, but it has made me more of a skeptic. As I learn more I can write a whole blog post!

  • Courtney Hardy

    These are really good tips!! Jeans are always a staple in every wardrobe. They can pretty much make any outfit look good. The outfit you’re wearing is so cute! I love the hat paired with everything.

    • Thank you so much! The hat is definitely my favorite piece in my wardrobe right now. My boyfriend makes fun of me because I’ll wear it around the house in my pajamas haha.

  • Megs Meanderings

    Jeans are a must for any wardrobe! ( I think I might need a pair of those Levi’s) 😀
    I’m loving your outfit- it’s simple yet it looks stunning, Not sure I could pull off that hat like you do though! Great post Morgan!