While I have unstoppable tendencies to pile on too many jewels and accessories (all at once), and can be found most lunchtimes fantasising over the most beautifully frothy and impractical clothes on Net-a-Porter from my desk, none of these extravagant sartorial whims work without a set of good quality staples to anchor the whole thing (unless of course eccentric cat lady is the look you’re aiming for). Get these staples right, and everything else will work almost by itself. These items are the essentials that are the building blocks of my wardrobe, and which I think should be everyone’s essentials. If you are weighing up costs, always scrimp on the seasonal trends and spend the most you can afford on good-quality foundation pieces instead.
Here are the ten wardrobe essentials I couldn’t live without (and which I’m always on the quest for the ‘perfect’ version of):
1. The Perfectly-Cut Jackets: I’m particularly partial to blazers myself (either mannish and black, or preppy crested colegiate blazers), and I’m forever on the quest for the perfect tuxedo jacket (a la Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking), but I also love little vintage silk and lace bed jackets, or fur (faux or vintage) styles. Jackets pull any outfit together, and sharpen up even the floatiest of tops.
2. The Dark, Slim Jeans: Everyone needs a pair of jeans that they can pull on whenever they don’t know what else to wear. They right pair should be flattering; that is, lift the bottom, not be too tight at the waist (there is nothing worse than muffin top), and slim through the leg (but not so tight that sitting down is a problem). They should work either dressed-down with a top for weekend casual, or dressed up with killer heels and a tuxedo blazer. While other denim styles will come into fashion, these are the classics that will always work. Surely finding the perfect jeans is one of the eternal sartorial quests.
3. The Tailored Pants: Whether crisp and skinny, mannish and rolled at the ankles, wide-legged and high waisted, or cropped at the ankles, these are essentials for professional situations. While I shun boring suits and corporate dress codes (despite my serious Westminster day job), these will always work when the dress code calls for something smart. Wear with a silk shirt, a pretty white blouse, a plain tee and a statement necklace, and either fantastic heels or patent ballet flats.
4. The Perfect Tee: The perfect tee should be luxuriously soft and skim over the body (slouchy and slightly loose if preferable to second-skin tight). Pure white, black, grey marle and navy breton-stripes are eternally chic. Good quality, basic tees make even my most ridiculous layers of jewels look acceptable (a super-luxe statement necklace looks effortlessly cool), and work as well in the office as they do on sloth-like Sundays.
5. The Smart Shirt or Feminine Blouses: Collared Shirts (I love them in either crisp white or preppy blue cotton with French cuffs or sheer silk or lace) and beautiful, silky blouses are both wonderful versatile. Team them with jeans, tailored pants, tailored shorts or skirts and they will take you everywhere and are enormously easy to personalise (I love wearing my cotton versions with a bow tied at the neck, or brooches pinned to the collar).
6. The Happy Dress: Absolutely everyone needs a dress that they can throw on when all else fails, and which makes them feel absolutely wonderful every time. I have two (similar styles – one in black by DKNY and one in white by Lover) that seem to magically look good in practically every scenario; whether I put them on first thing on a Saturday morning, for a meeting at the office, for a date with the boyfriend, or to drinks with friends, I always feel comfortable, fun and occasion-appropriate.
7. The Ready-to-Party Dress: Fairly self-explanatory. But like the Happy Dress, every woman should own a party dress that instantly says “Hello, I’m exploding with fun and I’d like a cocktail please!”. Key to the party dress is that it should be on the right side of sexy (ie. chic and fun, never trashy).
8. The Flirty Skirt: Like most of the other essentials, the right skirt should be able to be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. My current favourite go-with-everything version is an (almost) mini lantern-shaped version by Carven, and I take it from geek cheek (with a collegiate tee, tuxedo blazer, black bow heels and glasses) to work-appropriate (with a tucked in blouse) to casual (with breton strips and Isabel Marant boots) to fashion party (with a brooch-encrusted blazer). It should be fun, versatile, and comfortable enough (I personally despite pencil skirts for the fact they’re impossible to actually sit down in).
9. The Winter Coat: I’m stubbornly pretending that winter is months off, so coats remain the last thing on my mind. But that said, one cannot survive a northern hemisphere winter without one (this may sound silly, but in Australia, coats are strictly an optional extra), and given it is to be worn practically every day for several months, it might as well be one you madly love! Military or trench coat styles flatter all shapes and work with most outfits, while fur or cocoon coats work on petite frames. Personally, I’m still on the hunt for the perfect cape coat (any tips?). Black is predictale but it works, and it absolutely must be a good quality, thick wool (cheap wool is not only less warm, but it will pill and fall apart in no time) or, if in warmer climes, a thick cotton. Mine is See by Chloe, and although it doesn’t look wildly exciting, it still looks flawless and works with every outfit.
10. The Transformative Underwear: Without this, everything else looks bad. It must be supportive, impeccably-cut (so it stays where it’s supposed to), and pretty enough that you feel fabulous regardless of what you’re wearing on top. I like Elle McPherson and Pleasure State for everyday loveliness, Stella McCartney and Topshop for fun knickers, and Agent Provocateur.
What are your essentials? Have you found the perfect basics that you couldn’t dress without?
Love, Miss B xx