If you’ve ever read womens’ magazines – and I have – you’ll have read about the “must-have” classic items that every wardrobe simply cannot do without.
Again and again you’ll see listed: a crisp white shirt, a little black dress (“LBD”), a plain white tee, ballet flats, classic black pants…the list continues.
It’s all rubbish.
When I was a teen, just setting out and figuring out what to buy that would give me some value and distance, I went straight to these lists. You know what I learned? There is no ONE item that suits everybody. There is no perfect list for everyone.
I don’t suit white. It kills me. I have warm colouring, thanks to my Scottish ancestors. If you want to see someone look ghoulish, stick me in a white shirt. It’s nasty!
Interestingly, neither does most of the population. A majority of Western people don’t suit pure white, jet black, or navy – yet again and again we see these colours come up in “must have” lists. People with Asian heritage often look great in these colours though, as do people with darker, richer skin tones generally (African-Americans, Indians and people from the south of Europe).
Go right up north to Scandinavia, or Scotland and northern Ireland, and you’ll find a much smaller percentage of people who suit pure white. A huge proportion of people there have the warm colouring that typically looks great in browns and tans. Stark colours are death on them.
In other words, what you look great in isn’t a matter of choice. It’s a matter of genetics. So yes, you can buy pure white and pure black. But unless you have the right ancestors, you won’t look good in them. And what’s the point in that?
So what about the “classics”?
Forget the “classics” lists. There’s rarely any such thing as a classic in womens’ fashion – cuts and styles change so much from year to year that spending huge amounts of money on an item expecting it to last years simply isn’t sensible.
Consider Levi 501s. They were a staple jean through the late 80s – everyone HAD to have them! – then they disappeared completely, only to start returning now.
A classic? Maybe. But if you’d bought a pair in the late 90s they’d have been sitting in your wardrobe well over a decade before they were “acceptably wearable” again.
Mens fashion, by comparison, is slower to change. Mens t-shirts haven’t changed as much as womens, and their jeans cuts have stayed pretty standard, with only a few fluctuations along the way. Men definitely have it easier in the fashion world.
10 things you REALLY need in your wardrobe.
So here’s what you really need in your wardrobe:
1. Clothing that you love! Don’t wear clothing to suit other peoples’ tastes. Wear what you love, and what makes you happy. Forget the “heavy women shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes” rule and the “tall women shouldn’t wear flare jeans” rule, and go with what you enjoy. Life is too short. Enjoy your clothes!
2. Jeans? Maybe. Not everyone can / should wear jeans. I love them, but if you don’t like them, don’t wear them.
3. Colours that suit you. Not everyone can wear black. Or white. Or any other colour. And if you’re a bride, you don’t have to wear white. There are so many other options! Check out Pretty Your World to start figuring out what colours suit you. But even if a colour suits you, if you don’t like it, don’t wear it.
4. Clothing that fits you! Everything needs to fit you, and feel comfortable. If it isn’t comfortable, you probably won’t wear it.
I can’t emphasize fit enough. Check length and width. Don’t wear it if it’s too tight or too short / long. You simply won’t look your best. If you want to look tailored, you must have a good fit. This is the key to looking great.
5. Forget the little black dress…unless you look great in black. For me, my LBD is a little patterned dress. Choose what looks great. Something basic that can be dressed up or down. And it doesn’t have to be black.
6. Clothing that is cut to suit you, not someone else. Learn what suits you. The best way to do this is simply spend time trying things on. If you, like me, don’t like shopping, you’ll probably hate this part of things but it will save you time and money in the long run.
7. Clothing that suits your needs and is fit for the purpose. If you’re a busy parent, you need clothes that are easy to care for, and probably don’t need ironing or dry-cleaning. If you have babies, dark-coloured tops are a win (to hide stains from messy fingers etc.).
By comparison, if you’re an executive, you’ll need suits that can be mixed and matched, and an assortment of good quality shirts or blouses. I stand strongly in favour of pants and against skirts for women, simply because the cost of stockings really adds up.
8. Quality leather shoes and bags. You’ll also need good quality leather shoes – nothing else cuts it, and “faux” leather always looks cheap. Choose comfortable shoes that you can walk in, and consider their purpose – if you walk or drive a lot, but need heels for the office, buy a pair of good sneakers or slip-ons and change when you get to work.
9. Clothing in good condition. No matter if it’s your favourite jacket, if it’s tatty or frayed, toss it. Don’t keep clothes past their used-by date. And don’t buy secondhand woollens (jumpers etc.) – they always look tatty.
10. Up-to-date clothing. Fashion changes. While it’s a waste of money to be up to date with the latest fashion, you don’t want to look outdated and frumpy. Wear older items with newer. If you choose to wear a vintage item, wear just one item from that period as a focus, or you risk looking carbon-dated, rather than unique.