In my black & white post last week, I was harping at staffers at lifestyle (and some fashion) magazines, who love to provide us with lists of wardrobe staples that everyone "should" own. Am I the only one who usually rolls my eyes at those lists? Maybe such unsolicited advice is useful for clueless women who don't have their personal style down yet and might need a little help picking out some basics that work on almost all occasions - but please, can the rest of us get a break from these tedious staple lists?! Clearly, your needs depend heavily on your work situation, personality and taste, and a basic wardrobe consisting of "a classic black suit with interchangeable skirt and pants, a crisp white shirt, a classic LBD, a single breasted black or camel coat, another white tailored shirt", etc, etc, is not necessarily the optimal choice for all of us. No offense to anyone who relies on these staples, but I for one know those pieces would most likely remain forgotten in the back of my closet collecting dust, were I to invest in them. And yes, I am technically in the age range where suits and tailored shirts are appropriate daywear... it's just that I have neither the need for nor the interest in wearing them.
As I took a peek into my closet to figure out exactly what would be my staples, interestingly enough I realized that while my favorite styles span everything from prim and proper in bouclé or jersey, to flowy, romantic bohemian in lace, clogs and braids, to Eastern Euro gold-digger in fur and precious metals, the wardrobe staples I use to create each and every one of these very different looks tend to follow a much-predictable, never-changing pattern. My beloved bouclé, knits and faux fur materials are present in almost every outfit I put together, be it a preppy, hippie or a sultry one. The nautical stripe, oversize scarf and chunky hardware necklace or handbag strap seem to get a lot of play as well. And if my imagination fails me, I always reach for a romper or minidress, as they seem to never do me wrong.
This leads me to believe that everyone's wardrobe should be built not around a number of universal must-have items, particularly not those chosen by know-it-all fashion editors, but rather on a variable and versatile collection of your own favorite materials, shapes, prints/colors, shoe styles and accessories. In the case of my own wardrobe, styles and trends come and go, but there are a couple of important constants that I tend to always rely on for putting together outfits that are current, yet personal - regardless of season and current fashion musts. Let's find out which they are!
1) Crochet and knitwear. My closet currently holds 10 crochet frocks and 7 non-crocheted knit dresses, as well as a crochet halter top with a matching pencil skirt (let's not even mention the plethora of knitted cardigans, sweaters, wraps and scarves). Some of these are sundresses, while others are more suitable for fall/winter season. And yes, I use all of them on a regular basis - currently with opaque black, white or bright-hued tights, layered necklaces, patent flats or thigh-high boots, and a biker jacket. My latest addition, from Mink on 11th & 1st, is pictured to the left. Right: SS10 look at Missoni - note that I usually like them shorter, though!
2) Faux fur. With so many beautiful fakes out there, why would you want to wear real animals? I currently own seven (faux, all of them) fur coats and jackets, five fur- or feather trimmed ones, one fur vest and one fur wrap - styles and colors ranging from vintage shearling to long haired swing coat, in silver, tan, black, white and chocolate chinchilla. As tacky as it sounds, I am crazy about the fur/ gold/ oversize shades glam look and try to alternate it frequently with my GG cutesy flats/miniskirt/blazer combos on the one hand, and my boho/hippie-luxe getups on the other. Always keep people guessing! Right: AW08 skunk look at Jaeger London.
3) Jumpsuits. Yes, they are a lot of work getting in and out of, especially when layered during the winter season. But no pain, no gain, right? I love them equally in silk, jersey and denim, and I have a penchant for pairing them with cage heels and any kind of chunky hardware jewelry - regardless of whether it is in style or not. Needless to say, I guess I got lucky this season! Right: SS09 look at Akris.
4) Jeans. I am obsessed with jeans - I don't even own regular pants, with the exception of a black skinny pair that only look good with rainboots (!) and a white bootcut pair that my boyfriend is frequently trying to get to see me in more often (without much luck, to his dismay). I believe the secret behind denim being such a relied-on staple of so many a wardrobe is its impressive versatility and amazing potential for being dressed up or down. What other garment could as easily take you through a day of brunch and shopping (or work - for some of us!), followed by a trip to the stables for a cuddling session with your horsie or a walk in the woodsier parts of Central Park? Left: Dorothea Barth Jorgensen in a SS10 denim look at Acne. I don't care much for the oversize blazer, but the gold plates, the gold plates....!
5) Minidresses. Who said they had to be knitted? Welcome to my closet! I tend to break out my minis and micros on a more regular basis during winter season, reason being I enjoy showing off some leg, but at the same time dread exposing too much skin... could there possibly be anything more tacky for a day look? Opaque tights usually solve this problem just fine for me. Further, as counter-intuitive as this may sound, I usually wear minis with over-the-knee boots for exactly the same reason. While to some this combo may come off as too provocative or risqué, to me the boot works wonderfully as a cover-up that tones down the flirtatiousness of the dress. Right: Hervé Léger SS10 runway look.
Prints and colors:
6) Stripes. My go-to pattern on dresses, T-shirts, socks, knitted scarves and sweaters. I have a strong preference for the classic black and white nautical stripe, but as long as the fit and the material is alright, I'd say pretty much anything goes. Right: Audrey Tatou in Coco Avant Chanel, sporting one of Coco's signature looks.
7) Printed T-shirts. Oh no, I just admitted it! You didn't think I dress up in Prada to take the pup to the dog run or for standing on line at Trader Joe's, right? I have a big, big collection of tees for those low maintenance days when I am too lazy to put together any outfits other than denim cutoffs or skinnies with something cotton-y on top. Most of them are band T-shirts or finds off of those endless UO racks, but I do get fancy once in a while with some Anna Sui or The Row. Left: representing my 'hood. Right: Lanvin wishlist item.
Shoes and accessories.
8) Boots. Flat suede, equestrian, over-the-knee, fringe, stiletto - I always find an excuse to wear boots, even in the summer. Not that I don't try to give my booties and ballet flats the same amount of love, but any kind of boot just seems to flatter my legs more. And how can you argue with that? Right: Kate Moss in thigh-high: definitely one of my go-to looks, except I prefer my denim dark.
9) Scarves. Do I need to explain myself? Just take a look again at Kate!
10) Statement jewelry. I always love a chunky necklace or a dangling, eye-catching pair of earrings! I used to be all about feathers, chandeliers and even pony hair pieces hanging from my earlobes, while using all other kinds of jewelry very sparingly, often wearing nothing more than a thin gold chain with a pointe shoes pendant around my neck - sometimes a single cocktail ring if I was in the mood. This fall, however, I seem to favor necklaces, bangles and cuffs over big earrings. I have worn the same pearl studs for weeks without a single thought of changing them up, while I am constantly switching around between different hardware around my neck and on my wrists. How can you not, considering all the options out there this season? Also, as we all know, buying (and even splurging on) jewelry is a convenient way to deal with shopping cravings when on a recession budget... enough said. Street fairs and art street markets offer excellent opportunities for finding unique pieces without breaking the bank. I almost bought a couple of bracelets at the Madison Square Market (pictured right) yesterday evening on my way home from work, but came to my senses at the last minute. For those of you (in NY) who have not exceeded this month's shopping budget already, do check out this event! Left above: SS09 look at Giambattista Valli.
And last but not least.... what about you? Any interesting staples or principles for building a functional wardrobe that you would like to share? Don't be shy! ;)
Man in a Can, 57th & Madison. - Because we all need a break now and then.
5 years ago