Breaking (or Makin’) All the Rules: Basics Everyone Needs


Fashion is a complicated world. On the one side, you have a universe of free-thinkers and creative types who use every day as an opportunity to turn their bodies in to walking artworks with their clothing; on the other side you have the upper echelons, the old guard of the design world, who set the trends and styles for the rest of the world, inviting you to skirt the rules at your own risk of committing a serious faux pas.
I’m not one for strict rules, especially when it comes to dressing; I say if you’re not in private school, the military or living in early communist China, there’s no need for a uniform.
But I do believe in certain standards when it comes to crafting a wardrobe. There are certain pieces that every person should invest in; I personally love things that look rich, not necessarily expensive or what have you, but things that look like they have weight and depth and value: A soft, thick cashmere sweater, a pair of scuffed boots, a black leather motorcycle jacket that fits just perfectly, a white T-shirt, ass-hugging blue jeans, a crisply belted trench coat, shiny leather loafers or brogues, slouchy old Levi’s, worn Converse sneakers, classic black Wayfarers, etc. They are sturdy and reliable, and if you’re like me, they give you the warm fuzzies when you slip them on.
These are things that carry some timelessness; they are sturdy, anchored in tradition as the classic elements of any wardrobe. They are things that are worth every penny you spend on them, and the more you put in the more you get out (I often encourage people to spend the most money of their clothing budget on these investment pieces). They do not change in value with the seasons or trends. They are not flighty or fickle, and there are no frills involved with things so simple. Almost anyone can pull these sorts of pieces off, and they can be incorporated into pretty much any look.
That’s not to say I don’t love flights of fancy, extravagant and ridiculously un-wearable clothes, but there is something so comforting about these rich and reliable wardrobe staples. Here is my list of essentials for every woman’s wardrobe.
You’ve heard it before, but a black dress is an obvious essential. A black dress is so key because its open to interpretation and personal style, while always being appropriate for pretty much any occasion. A fitted knee-length number with a blazer and pumps always looks good for work or a job interview while tight and low cut is always preferred for a night on the town. There are a million variations on a theme that make the black dress so easy to rely on, and all shapes and sizes look good on the most flattering color of all. My personal favorite is a black velvet, empire-waist, mid-calf dress that always looks good with a leather jacket. Find one and make it your own.
A leather jacket is another piece I recommend everyone invests in; yes, the real thing can get pretty expensive (I’ve been dreaming of buying a genuine leather motorcycle jacket for a few years now), but I support getting a faux-leather jacket in the meantime. A black leather jacket adds an instant dose of edginess to any plain-Jane outfit; throw one on over a girly floral or frilly dress and you’ll instantly feel cooler, and a little tougher.
This goes the same for a kick-ass pair or leather boots which are not just smart for the winter months. Boots (brown or black are your smartest option) add an extra dimension to a plain jeans-and-a-shirt outfit.
Jeans are another obvious key to any wardrobe; now, I personally was never a huge fan of them (blame it on the fact that I still have a hard time finding ones that look great AND fit will) and always opted for tights and dresses, but I’m learning to love denim more and more. Everyone should have at least one pair of dark, skinny jeans (which look great with any heels), a pair of slouchy “boyfriend” jeans to pair with a pair of oxfords, and a pair of ankle-cropped jeans for ballet flats. Find a pair you absolutely love and stock up.
I use this same rule for white T-shirts. As simple as it sounds, white shirts can be complex. I have a plethora of white shirts from a handful of different stores and designers; tight or slouchy, v-neck or crewneck, each one fits a different setting. Find one that looks killer with just a pair of jeans and that doesn’t need any extra embellishment or accessories to look good, and stock up on those.
Your closet should also have a few button-down shirts. They’re essential to any work wardrobe, but if you’re unemployed like me then they’re still an easy outfit solution when you don’t feel like trying to put together anything more complicated. Get a few in plain shades (white, light blue, chambray) and throw in some colorful or patterned ones; wear them over a plain shirt for layering fun.
It all seems fairly basic, but these are the foundations of any successful wardrobe. Invest in these pieces and you will be rewarded with looking eternally cool.