How To Create The Perfect Foundational Wardrobe

It’s common lore that all stylish women rely on a thoughtfully selected wardrobe of essentials, anchored by carefully curated, time-tested pieces. This mentality is echoed in the ethos of Cuyana, a brand that encourages women to invest in “fewer, better things” for a more gratifying sartorial experience. If you’ve yet to secure your own foundation of must-haves, it’s time to take stock of what you’re working with. Here, Cuyana cofounders Karla Gallardo and Shilpa Shah share their tips for building and editing your closet for the season ahead.

Vanessa Jackman

Just The Essentials

Why it's important: "The classic leather tote is a forever piece. It never goes out of style and if it’s crafted right, it will only get better with age."

What to look for when buying: "The tote should be made from the highest-quality leather so that you don’t have to think twice if you have a lot to carry—like your laptop or heels."

Why it's important: "The white shirt is one of those pieces you invest in and can style differently throughout the years. It's been a key piece for over a century and certainly isn't going anywhere."

What to look for when buying: "A good white shirt made from crisp cotton-poplin is ideal, as it'll maintain its shape even after multiple wears. Look for a perfect fit (i.e., not too tight but not oversize) so to give you tons of styling options."

Why it's important: "Denim will always be relevant in a woman's wardrobe, and trying on and finding the right pair of jeans is a worthy endeavor."

What to look for when buying: "Good denim is all about stretch. If it stretches too much throughout the day, the fit feels all wrong, but if the stretch isn’t enough, it can feel restrictive. It should be the perfect balance of both, so the cut is flattering and the denim is soft."

Why it's important: "In the winter months, a cozy, well-tailored coat will resurface as a core piece in your closet."

What to look for when buying: "A great coat starts with material, if it isn't high-quality then it’s not going to keep you warm when the temperature drops. The second element is silhouette. It should be versatile and perfectly tailored so that you feel sophisticated every day."

Why it's important: "Good-quality cashmere is not only timeless but functional. If it's well made, it's the ultimate source of warmth."

What to look for when buying: "An essential cashmere sweater comes in a versatile, relaxed silhouette so you have the option of layering. Cashmere comes in a range of qualities. The best cashmeres are usually two-ply and you can tell by the softness of its handle."

Styling Ideas For Spring

"All of these pieces are versatile, and the ready-to-wear can be layered depending on the weather. On the weekends, tuck your favorite white shirt into slim denim and roll up the sleeves for a laid-back vibe. For accessories, add a saddlebag in a spring shade and slip on some easy slides or leather sneakers. The cashmere sweater is also great layering option with springtime staples. And who can do weekends without the perfect sunglasses?"

While the low price tags of fast fashion might be tempting, seek to change your strategy to one of intentional buying—consider how much wear you'll get out of the piece, how long it will last and whether or not it feels rooted in a trend that will soon expire. "The problem with shopping for trends is that they fade quickly, and women end up accumulating all of these things they don’t use. Being an intentional buyer is not about quantity, it’s about quality."

Now is the perfect time to give your wardrobe a thorough spring clean. "If you don’t wear a certain piece at least once a month, then it shouldn't be taking up precious real estate in your closet. Of course, seasons change, so apply the rule seasonally. The pieces that are left behind should be timeless and comfortable and express who you are. Keep items that, as we say at Cuyana, are 'feminine essentials' or ones that are always in style but also have something special to them—like the story of their gorgeous craftsmanship or a design detail that's unique and elevated."