I was out with my friend Andrew last week, & the conversation turned to simplifying our lives & jettisoning the non-essential. It got me thinking about what I would do if I lost my entire wardrobe in some freakish, hellish way.
After crying for days over the irreplaceable vintage in my wardrobe, & the few pieces I hold with sentimental value, I would pick myself up, dust myself off, & begin to rebuild.
The first place I would look is to my outfit photos & notes (even though I don’t photograph my outfits every day, I do take notes on what works & what doesn’t). This is a great resource when it comes to being able to look objectively at your wardrobe & what might need to be replaced.
I’m a huge list maker, so I would definitely pull out some index cards & get to scribbling a list of the essentials. An absolute dream list. (I’m not going to lie, a dream list for me definitely includes a pair of nude Louboutin Rolando pumps & a Michael Kors MacBook tote!)
I think that if I had the opportunity to start from scratch, I would probably only replace about 10% of my wardrobe. But I would replace it with items of extremely high quality, that I love & that fit me perfectly. I would only choose colours that suit me & my style direction for the coming years (writing out a vision for where you want your style to go in the next few years can be extremely helpful when it comes to shopping).
The best place to start in wardrobe building is with good basics. High-quality basics will always elevate cheaper, trendier pieces. It’s a good rule of thumb to spend as much as you can on your basics—you really do get what you pay for! This may mean doing some saving, but that’s not a bad thing. If you think of your wardrobe as something you’ve invested time, energy, & money into, you’ll be more likely to take good care of it.
Another great thing about having an excellent basics wardrobe is knowing that you can throw anything on from that side of your closet & you will always be appropriately dressed, although perhaps in a very classic, staid, no-personality sort of way.
So, what are the basics?
- Little black dress. Or a little charcoal dress. Or a little chocolate brown dress. Choose a dress in the darkest neutral that best suits you.
- Jeans. Straight-cut, no distressing or whiskering, dark wash. Remember, basic, not trendy.
- Heels that are comfortable enough to walk long distances in. These do exist!
- Elegant flats.
- White or off-white shirt—pure white isn’t flattering to all skin tones.
- Neutral three-piece suit—jacket, skirt, pants.
- Neutral cardigan in a classic cut.
- Neutral pants.
- Neutral jacket.
- Flattering neutral skirt.
- Dark neutral camisole.
- White or off-white T-shirt.
- Neutral turtleneck.
- Great handbag that is the right size for your day-to-day essentials.
- Cashmere wrap.
- Pyjamas & robe.
- Trench coat & Wellies.
- Winter coat & boots (I do live in Ottawa, after all!).
After the basics are taken care of, you can begin to branch out to fill in as your life deems necessary. Figure out where you spend your time, & break down your wardrobe accordingly. Here are some examples of things you may need:
- Work: Stockings, sweaters, scarves, blouses.
- Exercise: Comfy pants or shorts, t-shirts, athletic shoes, a good sports bra, athletic socks.
- Lingerie: Basic bras & secret pants, frillies.
- Socializing: A great dress (wrap dresses are very flattering on almost every woman), a fancy cardigan, a couple of flirty skirts & tops, killer shoes.
- Casual: Shorts, jeans, sundresses, swimsuits.
When you’re figuring out where to fill in your wardrobe, it’s so important to keep your actual life in mind, not the life you wish you had, lest you end up with a closet full of clothes & nothing to wear!
Accessories are a great way to rework a small, chic wardrobe in new & exciting ways over & over. Accessories can really elevate plain clothing. Mix things up & around, try on everything you own with everything else. Take some risks. Try a belt over that dress. Wear your V-neck sweater backwards (Diana Vreeland thought them much more flattering that way). Think outside your clothing rack.
Of course, no one is building a wardrobe from scratch! You have clothes in your closet already. But there’s no time like the present to start figuring out where your gaps are, & filling them in. As for me, I’m off to make a list!