The Elements of Style
It’s a familiar scene: An anxious woman stands in front of her wardrobe, surveying the clothes, muttering to herself, “What do I wear?”
While such behaviour may seem a bit extreme when you’re getting dressed to run a few errands, the absence of appropriate attire is the equivalent to grief when an invitation to a black-tie wedding arrives or you get a call from a headhunter.
With these wardrobe essentials on hand, though, you’ll always know what to reach for. Whilst I select some of the key essentials it’s also important to discuss the key number of items your wardrobe should hold. Whether it’s 7, 37 or 22, what is important is that you have the space to store your clothes and making sure anything not worn in the last 6-12mths is taken to the charity shop, sold or passed to family and friends so you are making the most of everything.
So back to the essentials to help with those fashion conundrums…
A sleek pair of black trousers with a flattering fit not only transcends trends, it is a master of multitasking. Without question, black pants are one of the few wardrobe staples that you can wear with just about anything else in your wardrobe, also (if you're less of a formal dresser) a good pair of black skinny jeans will work as well.
French-Cuff Dress Shirt
Nothing elevates a pair of trousers, a skirt, or a suit like a classic French-cuff dress shirt. The simple upgrade of the cuffs adds elegance to an otherwise ordinary shirt and helps create a look that will feel as appropriate for pitching a new client as it does for hosting a casual Sunday brunch. It is ok to have a crisp white shirt too but let’s always look at something with that little extra - the devil is in the detail.
Sorry, Prince Charming, but if Cinderella were around today, her footwear of choice would undoubtedly be a black leather pump. This persistent fashion favourite has withstood the test of time because it is the go-to shoe for day or night, jeans or trousers or skirts, dressy occasions or more casual events. Whether perfectly plain or adorned with a subtle pattern, a pair of black pumps adds polish to any outfit.
Since trousers are now an acceptable form of dress for countless daytime celebrations, the day dress doesn’t get as much play as it used to. But a sophisticated shift is often the easiest and most appropriate choice for such semiformal festivities as lunches, family celebrations, and interviews plus it can be dressed up or down to take you from day to night with ease. When you (re)discover how little effort it takes to zip into a dress, you’ll find it a pleasure to give your pants a well-deserved rest.
In the business world, a perfectly tailored black suit is a fail-safe gold standard. But it has appeal beyond the workplace: When you show up anywhere dressed in a well-fitted jacket and skirt, you look proper, polished, and modern. That’s why it is important to invest in the best-constructed suit you can afford, even if it means spending more than usual. Not only will you rely on this fashion overachiever as an ensemble but you can also really get your money’s worth by wearing the skirt and the jacket as separates. Worn with a tee or a shirt and jeans, the black suit jacket is the epitome of smart casual.
Whether it’s a ball gown or a little cocktail number, a black dress is synonymous with chic, sophisticated style. And one that boasts beautiful yet simple design elements, like a V neckline, a fitted waist, and a floaty skirt, will come out of the closet time and time again. The right accessory, whether it’s a string of pearls or patent-leather flats, will make the dress appropriate for black tie or something slightly less formal.
Wearing a dressy jacket is an effortless way to upgrade almost anything in your wardrobe. You can swap it with your suit jacket for a cocktail party, you might pair it with jeans, and you can throw it over your day dress for those work to social events.
While a daytime bag feels a bit bulky during evening festivities, you still need an option for night time that’s big enough to hold your essentials. This one has room for your mobile phone, cash, keys, and lip gloss (yes, an essential).
Wrap / Scarf
There’s nothing that complements an evening dress as well as an understated, equally sophisticated wrap. And while a silk-and-cashmere shawl is no substitute for a parka, it will keep you warm when your exposure to the elements is limited to quick jaunts to and from the car — and it will go just as capably with more casual attire, like jeans. Great for travelling too!
Think of silver, bronze, pewter or gold (rose or yellow) as your night time neutral—subtle enough to go with everything from black to red to a plethora of patterns. A slight platform adds comfort to these 4¼-inch heels, so you can dance all night in them.
So now for your wardrobe...
It’s all well and good discussing the above essentials to help with any outfit choice but what if your wardrobe has got out of hand?
Here's the mantra every style maven follows at the start of each season;-
To begin cleaning out a messy wardrobe take every single thing out of it
When choosing clothes to keep, ask yourself a few vital questions to immediately weed out the weak items. (WARNING: this may seem like everything you own. Probably).
Ask yourself the following, when did you last wear this item? Is it damaged, does it fit? If you can’t place the item in a relevant pile of useful and wear often then really assess whether this item could be sold on.
Hang the items you want to keep in your closet neatly so you can see everything you own at a glance
Use garment organisers to separate your clothes into categories that work for you - seasons, occasions, type of item, etc.
Fold heavy clothes, especially jumpers and loose knits that may lose their shape on a hanger
When folding your other keepers, try to think of a way of organising them before shoving them into drawers or up onto shelves.
While it may be tempting to colour code your clothes via Pinterest inspiration, make sure your organisation works for you and won't confuse you as to where your things are. Organise in a way that will remind you of the clothes you have and love.
Assess your reject pile and decide which items can be sold or passed on...
Repeating this process regularly will get your wardrobe really working for you - if (like me) you make excuses about keeping something, this process soon helps you realise that we hold on to far too much.
PS Apologies to all of you chaps reading this - we will have a Men's fashion focussed post for you shortly!