Building a thoughtful, modest wardrobe takes work. 

It’s challenging to find clothing that fits your modesty standards, not to mention creating a closet with beautiful items you love. It's easy to end up with an overgrown closet filled with clothing you don’t really wear – and waste a bunch of money in the process. 

We understand this challenge because we’ve all been through it, and thankfully, there’s a good path forward. 

The best way to build a thoughtful wardrobe is to start with the basics. That’s why we’ve created this list of sixteen essentials for every modest wardrobe.

Foundations of a Thoughtful Wardrobe 

Before we dive into the specifics of which wardrobe items are essential, let’s take a quick look at some helpful perspectives for this process. 

Set Your Wardrobe Intentions 

It will be easier to compile your essentials clothing items if you’ve already set your wardrobe essentials. We will recommend essential pieces for your wardrobe, but you will have plenty of room for adaptation. For example, we’ll recommend a pair of sneakers, but the style and color is up to you. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself: 

  • How do I want to dress?
  • What kind of person do I want to be? 
  • What features are important in my clothing right now? Comfort? Simplicity? Confidence boosters? 
  • How much space do I have? Do I want to downsize my closet? Add fresh pieces? 

Next, choose 2-4 words about how you want to dress and who you want to become. Choose a few external words like “colorful” and “put-together” and some internal words like “confident” and “kind.”  Think of the season of life you’re in right now and allow that to inform the words you choose. 

Make Style Observations 

Look for inspiration around you! Remember to look for style, not fast fashions. Style is personal and is a way to externally communicate who you are internally. Fashion, on the other hand, is a series of  passing trends that aren’t necessarily created for your body type or lifestyle. 

Observe the style of people you admire and those around you. Note designs, textures, colors, and outfits that stand out. 

Two smiling women wearing skirts and shirts

Gather Inspiration 

The next step is to compile clothing and outfit inspiration. Here are a few good places to start: 

  • Make a Pinterest board
  • Create a document listing designs, textures, and cuts that you like
  • Look at style boards
  • Ask your friends to describe your style
  • Save posts on Instagram

Be Willing to Purge 

Having essentials in your wardrobe won’t help much if they become lost among the non-essentials already filling your closet. If you want to build a thoughtful clothing collection that you really love, you’ll need to take the plunge and purge as needed.

(Note: These perspectives are an abridged version of our free downloadable PDF, 7 Steps to Building a Modest Wardrobe. Download and read the unabridged version here!)

Now that we have some foundations in place, here’s our master list of modest wardrobe essentials! 

16 Essentials of a Modest Wardrobe

1 - Ankle-length black skirt or dress

This staple has endless styling possibilities. Dress up an ankle-length back skirt by pairing it with an elegant blouse or a pair of heels. Create a more relaxed look by pairing with a graphic tee and casual shoes. Feeling unsure of what to wear today? An ankle-length black dress is an effortless outfit on its own. 

Because of the dress/skirt’s length and color, it creates an effortlessly put-together look regardless of whether it's styled to be casual or dressy. 

2 - Knee-length black skirt or dress

You could think of this as the summer version of the ankle-length skirt or dress. But it can also work beautifully for cooler seasons. Pair with tights and booties for the perfect fall/winter look. 

3 - Denim skirts

Denim always stays in style and is a great way to add texture and color to your wardrobe. Plus, denim lasts for ages! With all the designs and lengths available, finding a denim skirt that matches your style is usually easy. 

Four denim skirts in different washes.

4 - Modest camisoles and tanks for layering

You won’t regret adding tanks and camis to your closet! They add the perfect second layer for a low neckline or sheer top. They also work well for those transitional times of the year when you want more warmth.

5 - Jackets and cardigans

Outer layers can function two ways. A jacket or cardigan can be a statement piece if most of your inner layer pieces are neutral. Conversely, neutral outerwear functions as a versatile wardrobe staple that goes with anything!  

6 - Basic tees

Start your basic tee collection with comfy neutrals and build from there, adding colors, graphics, and prints. Consider a ribbed tee if you want to add more interest but still keep things basic. 

7 - Sweaters and blouses

Just like with tees, start with neutrals and build your sweater and blouse collection from there. Getting dressed gets a lot easier when you have a few beautiful, stand-alone tops! Choose colors you love that complement and enhance your natural coloring. 

Two women standing on a sunny porch in uplifted casual outfits.

8 - Leggings and tights

Leggings and tights are a must-have for a modest wardrobe built primarily with skirts. They’re perfect for staying warm in cooler weather and staying modest when a skirt is a bit shorter than you’d be comfortable wearing otherwise.  

9 - Skorts

Whether you’re committed to your fitness regime, enjoy playing sports with friends, or work an active job, a skort keeps you comfortable and covered. 

10 - Maxi dresses and skirts

Maxi dresses and skirts are popular for the effortless elegance they covey. Fabric and design make a big difference in maxi dresses and skirts, influencing how functional or formal they are. A must-have for any modest wardrobe, maxi dresses/skirts are also a great way to add some colors and prints to your closet. 

11 - Formal Dresses

You’ll want at least one formal dress that can work as a stand-alone for weddings, banquets, and other special occasions. We recommend at least one formal dress option for warm weather, and at least one for cool weather. 

12 - Ankle boots

Ankle boots keep you warm in cooler seasons and look lovely with dresses and skirts. Choose neutral colors that will complement most of your clothing. 

13 - Sandals 

This summer staple is a must! You’ll want at least one pair of formal sandals and one pair of casual sandals.

14 - Heels

Pumps, block heels, kitten heels, or platforms: there are so many to choose from! It’s always a good idea to have at least one pair of formal heels on hand for special occasions

15 - Sneakers

Sneakers aren’t just for those sporty, active women among us! Low-top sneakers are a feminine and functional staple for every wardrobe  They are great for running errands, going shopping, or any time you want a comfy, functional shoe. 

16 - Flats/Loafers 

Flats and loafers can be worn in any season and look great with dresses and skirts. Choose a comfortable pair, and you’ll find yourself reaching for them for a wide variety of occasions.

Concluding Thoughts 

Here at The Main Street Exchange, we care about providing you with beautiful, modest clothing that inspires effortless confidence and helps you create your unique style. 

Beyond that, we want to create a community where you feel valued and understood so that you can encourage and empower others, spreading love and beauty everywhere you go. 

We hope you found this guide helpful! 

If you need some summer outfit inspiration, check out our Modest Summer Lookbook and our Guide to Modest Fashion in 2023

Thanks for spending time with us today! We’ll see you again soon!

August 24, 2023 — Naomi Stoltzfus

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