I have always been intrigued by this concept of the “basics” within a wardrobe. It seems like the foundation of fabulousness. Having the basics right is like the sartorial equivalent of a fairy godmother. Gorgeous outfits will fall with abandon from your wardrobe and you will always have something to wear.
But what are these basics? And how do they magically transform your wardrobe and style?
Real Simple has a fabulously, exhaustive check list of basics. But it is written for the northern hemisphere, so also check out Nikki Parkinson’s list at Styling You and her book Unlock for Your Style for a more Australian approach.
I love lists of basics – it’s helpful have a guide when building the foundations of your wardrobe. But it’s unlikely that you need every single thing on some-one else’s list.
Your wardrobe has to tie back to your lifestyle. I think of my wardrobe in terms of “go to” outfits. And your “go to” outfits are going to be different depending on what you do with your days. Once you figure out what that looks like, it’s much easier to determine what your particular basis are.
I work from home twice a week and look after my young boys, so my “go to” outfit list looks this:
- The easy-to-wear, easy-to-wash, doesn’t need much ironing outfits that look good and can withstand plays in the park. Things like maxi dresses, tights + tunics, printed pants + tops, cute shorts + tops with an accessory or two to make them pop. This is the majority of my wardrobe right now.
The go-anywhere outfit that works in most situations and can easily be converted from casual to dressy with the addition of accessories. Like a little black dress. I have a great longer one from Sasha Drake that can be worn a few ways.
The standby occasion dress or outfit that makes you feel fabulous. At least one for daytime events and one for nighttime events.
The smart and sassy outfit that works for running errands, coffee meetings, shopping with girlfriends or a casual lunch. Something just a little dressier than the day-to-day outfits.
I have other things in my wardrobe too – more corporate things, exercise things, things to muck around in – but I live the majority of my life in the above categories.
So what do I need for all of the above to work in terms of basics?
- Lots of singlet tops for layering (I prefer them to t-shirts)
- Long sleeved stretch tops for winter (including some long options that cover the top of tights)
- A variety of bras in nude and black, including strapless options
- Tights and leggings
- A great pair of jeans
- Slips or very long singlets in nude and black (I like to put these under light weight dresses and tunics. They also work well over tights and then you can wear whatever goes over the top and avoid the do-not-wear-tights-as-pants debacle)
- Shorts in a variety of colours at a length that suits me
- A little black dress that can be styled a few different ways
- A jacket that instantly lifts an outfit
- Nude & black summer shoes
- Nude & black winter shoes
- Ballet flats for both
- Hats – not just to look cute, but it’s Australia, they are essential.
These then work back with the fun dresses, pants and tops, which show more of my personality.
So how are your basics looking?
I have two printables for you to help out. The first will help you identify your “go to” outfits and their building blocks and the second is a basics audit + shopping list.
Some more basics tips:
- When shopping for basics, take a list and have a purpose. If you are easily distracted (like me) this should keep you on task and away from the pretty, shiny things on sale. You can use the printable above as your list.
- If you find a good basic, like a pair of perfect black pants, find out whether it’s a seasonal piece or something that’s regularly in store. If seasonal, buy two pairs.
- Do some research first online and have a plan. Again, I am easily distracted so if I know exactly where I am headed, that helps.
- When it comes to bras – get fitted!
- Don’t skimp (too much). Some things, like singlets, you can get really, really, really cheap. But they might not last more than two washes. Maybe spend $20 – $30 rather than $5.