Seven Basics to Build Your Wardrobe Around

Seven Basics to Build Your Wardrobe Around
Reading time: 8 min

Unless you've been living under a rock (or a hoard of clutter), you'll have heard of the KonMari Method - the Japanese art of decluttering that's been popularized by lifestyle guru Marie Kondo. The trend for minimalism and the mantra that “less is more” has taken off worldwide, with the fad for fast fashion being overtaken by preference for quality, lasting pieces that you can build your wardrobe around.

With the likes of former President Obama and Steve Jobs citing a self-assigned “uniform” as one of their keys to success, more and more of us are looking for staple pieces that take the hassle out of staying stylish. Of course, every person’s list is different, but there are a few essential items that no wardrobe should be without.

Little Black Dress

Build your wardrobe around - Black dress

In the now legendary words of Karl Lagerfield, "one is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a little black dress." A look that transitions from boardroom to bar with ease, it's a piece no woman should be without.

Of course, just because the little black dress is a staple, it doesn't mean there isn't plenty of room for personal style. Make sure to pick a shape that suits your body type, whether that means a fit 'n' flare or a classic shift. It's also important to consider your lifestyle when making your choice: plunging necklines could be problematic in a corporate office, while sleeveless styles aren't ideal if you live in rainy London.

One of the biggest advantages of the little black dress is that it makes an ideal neutral base for customizing your look and building your wardrobe around. Everything goes with black, so feel free to experiment with chunky, colored necklaces or keep things simple with a delicate silver chain. It's also a good way to let another piece, such as a favorite handbag or necklace, take the spotlight.

White T-Shirt

Build your wardrobe around - White T-Shirt

Plain white tees have become such a pop culture icon that they've even had their own band named after them. Easy, comfortable and versatile, they're a definite must in any wardrobe.

Of course, wardrobe basics come in a range of styles and price points, but this is one area in which it's really worth investing. While it may be tempting to grab a throwaway piece, a good quality make can elevate a simple white tee from wardrobe basic to wardrobe favorite.

T-shirts are typically associated with casual daywear, but with a few well-chosen accessories, it's easy to create a cool look that easily transitions into the evening. An on-trend choker, a pair of black skinny jeans and black pumps make for just the right mix of dressed up and dressed down. Throw in a black leather jacket to really seal the deal. Which brings us to our next essential…

Leather Jacket

Build your wardrobe around - Leather jacket

It's the look that keeps bouncing back, and with good reason. A well-fitting leather jacket is an easy piece to build your wardrobe around, as it makes even the most casual outfit look fashion-forward.

The classic look is plain black, but grey or nude colors can make for a chic twist. Detailing is another great way to make your style more personal. Minimalists might prefer things as plain as possible, while edgier dressers might opt for an abundance of zips and metal studs. Asymmetric zips are a popular choice, as are military-inspired epaulettes.

Again, quality is key when it comes to choosing your jacket. Fast fashion might seem like a bargain at first, but good quality leather (or pleather, if you prefer) can last for years. It's also worth doing some research about how to take care of your jacket, and even investing in specialized leather cleaners.

Trench Coat

Build your wardrobe around - trench coat

The other outerwear staple to build your wardrobe around is a trench coat. Breakfast at Tiffany's? Trench coat. Downton Abbey? Trench coat. Balenciaga SS17 collection? Trench coat. It's a piece that's undoubtedly stood the test of time, and we can see why. It's great for all weathers, easy to pair and the belted silhouette is perfect for highlighting your natural figure.

The first name to spring to mind when you think of trench coats is Burberry, who have been perfecting the look since the 1800s. But there are also plenty of other options on offer. While tan is the classic color, khaki green makes a nice alternative while remaining neutral enough to mix and match with any outfit. Subtle detailing like fabric-covered buttons and piped trims can create a more feminine look, while chunky buckles and epaulettes lean more towards the structured, military look that's been popular this season.

The Perfect Jeans

Build your wardrobe around - Jeans

You know what they say: finding well-fitting jeans is one of life's biggest challenges. Well, perhaps they don't say that - but they should. So it stands to reason that once you find a pair that fits perfectly, they become one of your most treasured possessions. In fact, in the rare exception to the decluttering rule, if you find a pair you love, it's often worth buying two. Jeans are the most-worn item in many of our wardrobes, so wear and tear can show up sooner than with other pieces.

When it comes to denims, a good fit can mean the difference between casual and smart-casual, as well as just-threw-it-on and just-threw-it-on-and-look-fabulous. When paired with heels, they're perfect for the bar, whereas a pair of loafers makes them chic daytime wear. They're the ultimate in versatile clothing.

Fit and cut are both important factors to consider when choosing your staple jeans to build your wardrobe around. While skinnies, bootcuts and flares each take turns in the fashion spotlight, the most important thing is to find a style that suits you and that you feel comfortable and confident in. The same is true of finding the right tone. Even if white-wash denims are all the rage right now, they might not make sense as an investment piece if most of your wardrobe is made up of darker tones.

Comfortable Heels

Build your wardrobe around - Heels

We may complain about the hangover, but we all know that the worst part of the morning after a night out is the next-day blisters. Heels can be a great way to glam up an outfit, but finding ones that are comfortable as well as stylish is essential for any frequent party-goer.

Comfortable heels make it easier to wear them to work as well, for those days when you need the little confidence boost that a great pair of heels can bring. Of course, if you're planning to wear them during the day as well as at night, mid-height heels may make a better choice than stilettos. It's also a good idea to stick with neutral colors in order to get the most use out of them. Fun, color-pop styles can be a great way to add personality to an outfit, but they can be difficult to match and often fall out of favor after a season or two.

Platform heels are a great way to combine height and comfort, as the elevated sole reduces the angle of the foot. Look for cushioning too, and choose brands such as Kurt Geiger's Carvella which are well-known for their comfort.


Build your wardrobe around - Watch

This one's a bit of a cheat because it's an accessory rather than an item of clothing, but it's both stylish and practical and can really pull a look together, so it deserves an honorable mention. It’s also a piece you’ll likely wear everyday, so it’s definitely worth making an investment.

Today’s trends tend to lean towards chunky watches, with wide straps and thick borders on the face. It’s a great way to instantly boost your style cred, and keep your look on-trend (even when that look is simply a t-shirt and jeans). However, there’s always something to be said for the classics, and delicate, fine-strap watches add an element of sophistication and glamor to any outfit.

Color and material are two of the biggest considerations in picking your watch. While colored plastics are popular in fad fashion, they’re unlikely to stand the test of time (both in quality and in style) as well as metals. Rose gold is a favorite of late - although the color is renowned for fading over time so it’s important to invest in proper care and maintenance.

This list is populated by simple, timeless pieces that look good on everyone and are easy to build your wardrobe around. But the most important thing to consider when building up your base wardrobe is your own personal style. After all, in the wise words of Yves Saint Laurent, "fashions fade; style is eternal.