Though it might sound easy, figuring out how to create a classic wardrobe is harder than it seems. If you can't rely on flashy trends with a lot of personality, it becomes a little trickier to add interest to your looks. How do you stand out instead of blending in? Surely wearing something as simple as a collared shirt with jeans won't feel satisfying? It's a fine line you need to balance, but there's a reason why the style of Parisian women is seen as immaculate, or why the minimalist trend took off in such a big way this year: If you have the correct pieces, you don't need a lot of flash to make a statement.
A classic wardrobe is simple and down to its bones, which makes it easy to overlook the elegance. It's interesting but in a quiet way, with each piece assigned to say its own word. A well tailored pant says "grace," a structured cross-body bag on the hip says "taste," a pair of fringed oxfords quip in "panache." You get to only choose a handful of pieces and make them tell your story, in four words or less. Sometimes, it turns out the less words you use, the stronger the message. That's why classic pieces still have plenty of flair. So how do you go about creating your own? Here are five in-depth tips on how to create a classic wardrobe.
1. Fill Your Closet Holes
There's no such thing as a classic wardrobe without a solid foundation. Before you go off being distracted by patterned dresses or citrusy pops of color, first take the time to make sure you have the basics of your closet. How do you know what is a basic? They're the pieces that you can see yourself remixing with a bulk of other items in your wardrobe, and that acts as a blank canvas to pair flashier pieces against.
For example, a black skirt can subdue a wildly patterned top, or oxford shoes will always look amazing with any style of dress or pant. But don't hunt down your basics without a game plan: Make sure you choose pieces with tailored, sharp details to keep them from feeling dull or uninspired. Buy collared shirts that have small, feminine collars; black booties that are slim and well made; cross-body bags with sharp, elegant lines. If you take the time to find pieces that look like they came straight out of the tailor and have details that add pops of interest, then your simple pieces will speak volumes in terms of style.
2. Use Trends As Shopping Alerts, And Not As Gospel
Trends come and go, and if you rely on them you'll have a forever changing wardrobe. While they're completely fun to dabble in and help keep things interesting in your closet, you should use them more as shopping alerts rather than as rules on how to dress that season. Think of them as email alerts: "This is really popular now — is there anything about it that could work with your wardrobe?" If the answer is yes, turn it into investment shopping and take your time finding the perfect version that will work with your pieces the best. Choose what has a similar aesthetic to your style and the pieces hanging in your closet, and what you can see yourself wearing for years over, rather than just months. This way you're not shopping for a trend, you're shopping for a new staple.
For example, say you like the fit of wide culottes much more than skinnies. Well you're in luck because those suckers are everywhere right now. And because they're everywhere, they come in many variations since every store wants to get a hand at trying to sell them to you. This means you can find the version that suits you and your wardrobe the absolute best.
3. Think In Neutrals
If you keep your wardrobe in a soft palette of black, white, beige, navy, grey, and brown, then mix and matching pieces together will be pretty effortless. While these hues might sound boring to a few of you, remember how a classic wardrobe doesn't rely on flash, but on details. If each of your pieces are tailored and have elegant characteristics, you'll look just as interesting as a loud, on-trend outfit. And by having a neutral color foundation, you can use your accessories to add fun pops of color and pattern.
4. Have A Signature Pair Of Shoes
It's no secret that shoes can either break an outfit or raise it to a whole other level, so take the time to figure out which style is your favorite and make it your signature. As hard as it may be to believe, a woman doesn't need thirty-two different options to keep things interesting. If you have a solid style, your signature shoe will move effortlessly between looks.
But choose one that has a bit of boldness to it so it adds some panache to your look. For example, block-heeled sandals are simple, but their thick ankle straps and heavy heel help drag the eye downward and anchor a look. Clunky patent leather bluchers add the same type of effect, and usually come with a pretty detail like fringe, metal paneling, or tassels. Choose a signature shoe and then move it from outfit to outfit — there's nothing more classic than that.
5. Throw In Something Menswear Inspired
If you can't quite see yourself wearing simple lines and neutral colors year-round without going crazy, add an unexpected contrast to your look that will still stay classic no matter the season or year: menswear. Toughen up a dress with a boxy blazer, pair a midi skirt with metal-tipped bluchers, slip a bolero tie underneath the collar of your white shirt, bundle up in an oversized peacoat and balance it with a delicate bag and booties, or add a thick knit sweater over the skirt of a delicate dress. Having a few meanswear inspired pieces handy will add some interesting contrasts to your looks while still keeping you classic and clean-lined.
Having a classic wardrobe is more about knowing your personal style than anything else. Master that step, and everything else will follow.