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10 Wardrobe Problem Solvers Every Woman Should Own at 50+

Feel instantly pulled-together with these closet classics

Woman picking clothes out of closet
Hybrid Images/Getty Images

You’ve heard of the “capsule wardrobe”? It’s just a fancy term for a bunch of clothes fashion people call timeless basics. The real essentials at 50-plus are items that deliver fast, smart solutions. You reach for them when you’re running late at 7 a.m., when you’ve gained extra pounds, are looking tired or have a last-minute event and no time for an outfit do-over. They make you feel glam (or at least well-dressed) without a lot of fuss or stress. In other words, they’re the ultimate wardrobe problem solvers. Here are the 10 best right now.

1. Pull-on jeans

(Left to right) Riders by Lee Indigo Women’s Pull-On Waist-Smoother Bootcut in Dark Wash; Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women’s Pull-On Bootcut in Point Bonita 5d; Women’s Croft & Barrow Classic Pull-On Jeans in Dark Wash Denim or Medium Wash Denim
(Left to right) Riders by Lee Indigo Women’s Pull-On Waist-Smoother Bootcut in Dark Wash; Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women’s Pull-On Bootcut in Point Bonita 5d; Women’s Croft & Barrow Classic Pull-On Jeans in Dark Wash Denim or Medium Wash
Amazon (2); Kohl's

This is one of the secrets of many stylish women who always wear jeans. With an elastic waist and flat front panel instead of a zipper, pull-ons make belly bulge and bloat a nonissue. They keep untucked tops and layers looking smooth, and come in straight and subtle flared styles. Try the Signature by Levi Strauss & Co. Gold Label Women’s Pull-On Bootcut in Point Bonita 5d, which come in standard, plus-size and three lengths ($28, amazon.com); the Women’s Croft & Barrow Classic Pull-On Jeans in Dark Wash Denim or Medium Wash Denim ($40, kohls.com); or the Riders by Lee Indigo Women’s Pull-On Waist-Smoother Bootcut in Dark Wash ($29, amazon.com). Make them your dailies or have a pair on standby.

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2. A tailored knit jacket

(Left to right) J.Crew Eloise Sweater-Blazer in Navy; Lauren Ralph Lauren Sweater Knit Blazer in Birch Tan; Chico’s Denim Coatigan Jacket in Dark Denim
(Left to right) J.Crew Eloise Sweater-Blazer in Navy; Lauren Ralph Lauren Sweater Knit Blazer in Birch Tan; Chico’s Denim Coatigan Jacket in Dark Denim.
J.Crew; Zappos; Chico's

By age 50 women know the blazer drill — wear it for immediate coverage, authority and confidence. But back-of-the-closet oldies and even new versions may feel out of sync with more casual life and work styles ... like wearing a lacy push-up bra under a sweatshirt. Knit blazers with notched lapels like the Lauren Ralph Lauren Sweater Knit Blazer in Birch Tan ($195, zappos.com), J.Crew Eloise Sweater-Blazer in Hthr Khaki or Navy ($158, jcrew.com) or Chico’s Denim Coatigan Jacket in Dark Denim ($139, chicos.com) combine a crisp shape with soft, stretchy fabric. They feel right at home with casual clothes and soft, floaty dresses and skirts.

3. A-line tunics

(Left to right) VTSGN Women’s Crewneck Sweater Tunic with Side Slits in Caramel; Anrabess Women’s Turtleneck Batwing Sleeve Asymmetric Hem Top in Camel; Chico’s Ponte Faux Leather Inset Tunic in Black
(Left to right) VTSGN Women’s Crewneck Sweater Tunic with Side Slits in Caramel; Anrabess Women’s Turtleneck Batwing Sleeve Asymmetric Hem Top in Camel; Chico’s Ponte Faux Leather Inset Tunic in Black.
Amazon (2); Chico's

Big, untucked tops skim over mid-sections and allow you to get on with the day or evening — even when pants feel snug after a night of salty snacks. And yes, there’s a fine line between stylish and sloppy. Instead of oversized shirts, choose soft A-line sweaters and ponte knits with curve-friendly features like piping, high-low hems and side slits. For instant ease pair tunic sweaters like the VTSGN Women’s Crewneck Sweater Tunic with Side Slits in Caramel, Khaki, Navy or Army Green ($39, amazon.com) or Anrabess Women’s Turtleneck Batwing Sleeve Asymmetric Hem Top in Camel, Gray Coffee or Celadon ($40, amazon.com), or go with an elegant knit like the Chico’s Ponte Faux Leather Inset Tunic in Black ($90, chicos.com).

4. A dressy blouse

(Left to right) Beyove Women’s Silk Satin Button-Down in Navy Blue; Pilcro Plus Relaxed Velvet Buttondown in Grey; Gap Satin Shirt in Huckleberry Purple; JayGate Women’s V-Neck Puff Sleeve Wrap Blouse in Blue.
(Left to right) Beyove Women’s Silk Satin Button-Down in Navy Blue; Pilcro Plus Relaxed Velvet Buttondown in Grey; Gap Satin Shirt in Huckleberry Purple; JayGate Women’s V-Neck Puff Sleeve Wrap Blouse in Blue.
Amazon; Anthropologie; Gap; Amazon

Need a fancy top that’s not so fancy you’ll wear it only once? A simple blouse in a luxurious-looking fabric like silk, satin or velvet pairs with any pant you currently own — and elevates it. Just choose a rich neutral or jewel-tone in a contemporary style that flows, like the Gap Satin Shirt in Huckleberry Purple ($70, gap.com), Pilcro Plus Relaxed Velvet Buttondown in Grey, Moss or Plum ($130, anthropologie.com), Beyove Women’s Silk Satin Button-Down in Navy Blue or Light Coffee-Style 1 ($29, amazon.com) or JayGate Women’s V-Neck Puff Sleeve Wrap Blouse in Blue ($33, amazon.com). The tops work for the most elegant event or dinner and jeans with the girls.

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5. An uncomplicated dress

(Left to right) Knox Rose Women’s Long Sleeve Maxi Dress in Red; Coldwater Creek Valley View Maxi Dress in Cider Multi; St. John’s Bay Long Sleeve Midi Peasant Dress in Pink Floral
(Left to right) Knox Rose Women’s Long Sleeve Maxi Dress in Red; Coldwater Creek Valley View Maxi Dress in Cider Multi; St. John’s Bay Long Sleeve Midi Peasant Dress in Pink Floral.
Target; Coldwater Creek; JCPenney

Wriggling into compression bike shorts every time you slip on a dress is not fun, but many women have a few pairs right this second awaiting their turn. Everyone needs one confidence-boosting dress that doesn’t need shapewear. The answer these days is a midi — like the Knox Rose Women’s Long Sleeve Maxi Dress in Red ($40, target.com), Coldwater Creek Valley View Maxi Dress in Cider Multi ($138, coldwatercreek.com) or St. John’s Bay Long Sleeve Midi Peasant Dress in Pink Floral ($84, jcpenney.com) — with a hint of waist definition and a small allover print that is flattering and flowy.

6. Black ponte pants

(Left to right) Spanx The Perfect Pant Hi-Rise Flare in Classic Black; Eileen Fisher Tencel Ponte Cropped Wide-Leg Pants in Black; Maeve The Colette Ponte Pants in Plus in Black.
(Left to right) Spanx The Perfect Pant Hi-Rise Flare in Classic Black; Eileen Fisher Tencel Ponte Cropped Wide-Leg Pants in Black; Maeve The Colette Ponte Pants in Plus in Black.
Spanx; Garnet Hill; Anthropologie

Black pants have always been a savior. They make every woman feel slimmer, taller and sleeker regardless of size or shape. However (and this is important), any old pair of black pants — especially those that are pleated, boxy, baggy or too sausage-casing skinny — won’t do. Opt for a pair of ponte knit ones — like the Spanx The Perfect Pant Hi-Rise Flare in Classic Black ($168, spanx.com), Eileen Fisher Tencel Ponte Cropped Wide-Leg Pants in Black ($198, garnethill.com) or Maeve The Colette Ponte Pants in Plus in Black ($120, anthropologie.com) — to upgrade your style and keep the black-pant benefits going. The thick, sleek, no-crease stretch fabric and lack of bulk-adding zippers and pockets make these a never-fails splurge worth every penny.

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7. A pull-on skirt

(Left to right) Zara Printed Midi Skirt in Black; Max Studio Women’s Faux Suede A-Line Midi Skirt in Vicuna; Lane Bryant Faux-Leather Pleated Midi in Black.
(Left to right) Zara Printed Midi Skirt in Black; Max Studio Women’s Faux Suede A-Line Midi Skirt in Vicuna; Lane Bryant Faux-Leather Pleated Midi in Black.
Zara; Amazon; Lane Bryant

Pants are not always the answer. Working on the same principle as pull-on pants and jeans, elastic-waist skirts — like the Zara Printed Midi Skirt in Black ($50, zara.com/us), Max Studio Women’s Faux Suede A-Line Midi Skirt in Vicuna or Russet ($40, amazon.com) or Lane Bryant Faux-Leather Pleated Midi in Black or Sugar Almond ($90, lanebryant.com) — provide a smooth base for sweaters and tops. You’ll want one with an A-line shape, substantial fabric and longer length to benefit from the extra volume that makes these skirts so nonstop flattering.

8. A real coat

(Left to right) Eloquii Strong Shoulder Coat with Cinched Waist in Racing Red; Zara Belted Faux Leather Trench in Black; Angashion Women’s Fuzzy Fleece Lapel Long Button-Front Coat in 2226 Brown; Ava & Viv Women’s Plus-Size Faux Leather Belted Trench Coat in Tan
(Left to right) Eloquii Strong Shoulder Coat with Cinched Waist in Racing Red; Zara Belted Faux Leather Trench in Black; Angashion Women’s Fuzzy Fleece Lapel Long Button-Front Coat in 2226 Brown; Ava & Viv Women’s Plus-Size Faux Leather Belted Trench Coat
Eloquii; Zara; Amazon; Target

Count on a chic coat and a change of shoes for the ultimate last-minute fix. Most women have a puffer or two, an anorak and maybe an old, tailored coat from workdays past. Those won’t be your best choice now. Thrown on over jeans or a “nothing-special” outfit, a trench coat — like the Ava & Viv Women’s Plus-Size Faux Leather Belted Trench Coat in Tan or Black ($55, target.com) or the Zara Belted Faux Leather Trench in Black ($129, zara.com/us) — or a button-front style such as the Angashion Women’s Fuzzy Fleece Lapel Long Button-Front Coat in 2226 Brown or 2226 Black ($53, amazon.com) or Eloquii Strong Shoulder Coat with Cinched Waist in Racing Red ($170, eloquii.com) will raise the fashion bar fast. Add it for job interviews, important meetings and events, of course, and as your “everyday” topper for an instant boost.

9. Bodysuits and long-sleeve tees

(Left to right) A New Day Women’s Plus Turtleneck Bodysuit in Black; Madewell Wrap Bodysuit in Hthr Smoke; Hanes Women’s Perfect-T Long Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt in White
(Left to right) A New Day Women’s Plus Turtleneck Bodysuit in Black; Madewell Wrap Bodysuit in Hthr Smoke; Hanes Women’s Perfect-T Long Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt in White.
Target; Nordstrom; Amazon

You need both and probably have neither! Bodysuits like the A New Day Women’s Plus Turtleneck Bodysuit in Black or Brown ($20, target.com) and Madewell Wrap Bodysuit in Hthr Smoke or True Black ($50, nordstrom.com) streamline tuck-ins by eliminating excess fabric. They work as stand-alone elegantly fitted tops or under jackets and cardigans. Sleek, refined tees with long sleeves like the Hanes Women’s Perfect-T Long Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt in White, Navy and Ebony ($10 each, amazon.com) are “outies” with a contemporary fit meant to be worn untucked. They not only give clothes edge and attitude, but also take the itch out of winter sweaters, provide extra warmth as a base layer and pair easily with anything from jeans to a leather skirt and your favorite joggers. Buy them in neutrals two at a time for backup.

10. Textured chunky cardigans

(Left to right) Old Navy Shaker-Stitch Cardigan Sweater for Women in Dark Brown Heather; Universal Thread Women’s Open-Front Cardigan in Charcoal Gray; a.n.a Plus Women’s Long Sleeve Open Front Cardigan in Avocado
(Left to right) Old Navy Shaker-Stitch Cardigan Sweater for Women in Dark Brown Heather; Universal Thread Women’s Open-Front Cardigan in Charcoal Gray; a.n.a Plus Women’s Long Sleeve Open Front Cardigan in Avocado.
Old Navy; Target; JCPenney

Enhanced with ribs, cables or visible stitchery, cardigans such as the Universal Thread Women’s Open-Front Cardigan in Charcoal Gray or Rust ($28, target.com), Old Navy Shaker-Stitch Cardigan Sweater for Women in Dark Brown Heather ($45, oldnavy.gap.com) and a.n.a Plus Women’s Long Sleeve Open Front Cardigan in Avocado or Oatmeal ($49, jcpenney.com) use volume and texture as a fashion statement and as a problem solver. Wear a textured cardigan open as a “frame” for your body to shift the emphasis front and center, making them perfect for those who wear belts, dresses with a wrap or tie waist and bodysuits.