Are you looking to build a classic wardrobe that will last you through the years or even decades to come? Then you will definitely need these 15 fashion staples.
15 Fashion Staples to Build a Classic Wardrobe
Why is it necessary to build a classic wardrobe? When I was young I would spend all my money purchasing trendy items that were not high quality nor fashion staples. And, surely enough, at the end of each season I find my closet filled with items I could not wear into the coming seasons. That’s when I decided to invest in quality basics that would become the building blocks of my curated closet. More likely than not, these purchases will last you years if not decades so don’t be afraid to splurge a little. Here are the must-have pieces every well-dressed woman needs.
This is indisputable – everybody needs t-shirts. I personally have multiple white, grey and black t-shirts. T-shirts offer the most versatility and can be worn throughout all seasons as a stand-alone piece or layering piece. When I think of t-shirts I think of brands like T by Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone and H&M (for a cheaper price point).
TIP: When choosing t-shirts, I find that the right neckline can greatly complement a person’s face shape. If you have a rounder or shorter face, try wearing a v-neck to add definition and elongate your face. For those with a more boxy face, a boat neck works well to smooth out the angles and soften the face.
White Button Down Shirt
With the deconstructed fashion trend going on lately, it’s easy to get carried away with all the different styles of deconstructed shirts available out there. But a traditional white button down shirt is still a fashion staple that you can rework over and over again. A white button down shirt is one of those pieces that can be layered and styled so many ways and instantly adds sophistication to any outfit. It is also a great top for working ladies or those of you going to work interviews. Versatile, multi-functional and very chic!
If you told me I was stranded on an island and I had to pick one top, it would be a silk camisole. I could eat, sleep and do everything in a silk cami. I say silk cami, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be silk – a polyester cami that imitates the look of silk works just fine. A camisole is truly one of the core fashion staples of any classic wardrobe. I love to throw it under a robe, tweed jacket or leather jacket. I also wear it over a fitted t-shirt, shirt or even sweater sometimes. In this outfit below I am wearing a black silk cami under a blazer for a more polished look.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to pick out a camisole with some lace or one by a lingerie brand like Fleur du Mal. Black, white and navy are great colors to have. In addition, a blush color can also be a great choice.
Here are some other examples of how I styled the same silk camisole in white:
Next on the essential basics list is a simple sweater. Again, similar to t-shirts, the neckline can really help complement your facial shape so choose accordingly. Keep layering in mind when purchasing a sweater because if it’s too bulky then it’ll be hard to layer on top.
TIP: Don’t be afraid to invest in a good quality cashmere sweater. Even though cashmere can be expensive, it is super soft, lightweight, keeps you warm and will last many many years if well taken care of. When it comes to cashmere everything, my favorite brands are Eric Bompard and TSE Cashmere – both classic and high quality. I spend $200-400 on each cashmere sweater, and based on the number of times I’ve worn them, they were DEFINITELY worth the price.
Turtlenecks are another must for layering in fall and winter. They add an air of minimalism and sophistication. If you look at any winter street style fashion, you’ll see a lot of turtlenecks! It’s definitely a fashion blogger favorite, and for good reason! You can wear it under a camisole, button down shirt or slip dress to instantly transition your spring/summer look into fall/winter.
TIP: Turtlenecks may not flatter everyone based on your face shape. If you’re concerned that a turtleneck will make your face look rounder or larger, try a mock neck instead.
What would we do without a good pair of skinny jeans? Good jeans form the foundation of any wardrobe. You can throw them on and pair anything with them and you’ll be good to go! Skinny jeans come in all different colors and rises and I just found the perfect pair at Mott & Bow. Mott & Bow specializes in manufacturing premium jeans at a reasonable price (around $100). They have a good selection of colors and washes to choose from. Mine is the light/medium blue. I personally love this color because I think it can be worn all year round.
TIP: The fit of the jeans can really make or break it. Personally I love stretchy denim because it can hug and accentuate your curves. Also, if you are concerned with your tummy, try a higher rise.
A good pair of fitted black trousers can easily take your outfit from work to date or day to night. If you want to elongate your legs, try a pair of flared trousers and wear platform heels underneath. Otherwise a nice pair of straight tailored trousers would work for any occasion. When I think of nice tailored-looking trousers, I think of brands like Theory or Vince.
Remember the deserted island where I could only bring one top with me? Well the one bottom I would bring with me is a pair of form-fitting leather pants. A pair of leather pants is probably the only item in this list that isn’t included in other people’s lists to build a classic wardrobe. Leather is often considered as a slightly more risqué material because of its associations with fetishes etc. But I couldn’t think of an item from my closet that I have worn more than my leather pants. (I guess you can see why my blog name is called Of Leather and Lace now!) It adds wonderful texture to an otherwise basic outfit and also goes well with all materials. A pair of skinny black leather pants can go a long way in building your core closet. Mind you, they do not come cheap. The price point is generally around $900-1000 for genuine leather, but you can go for shiny denim that imitates real leather instead.
Here are some other posts where I style my leather pants in various ways:
If you are in the work force, then more than likely you’ll need a well-fitted pencil skirt. Even if you are not working, or your work doesn’t require corporate attire, a pencil skirt can easily be paired as a sexy-date-look or a sophisticated going-out-look. If you are comfortable showing your curves then a stretchy material that hugs your figure is perfect. Otherwise, a straight fitted pencil skirt with a back slit will work just fine too!
Little Black Dress
Every girl needs multiple LBDs. Black is a universally flattering color that you simply cannot go wrong with. I personally have many LBDs for different occasions. I have a stretchy tank midi and a corset dress for sexy date nights. For those New York brunch dates with my girlfriends, I like to wear my black skater dresses. I also have lace dresses for formal dinners with parents or attending a classical concerts. They are so easy to wear and so easy to dress up. You can pick and choose the shape to fit your figure. Another type of LBD that I think is great to have is a classic wrap dress.
Here are a couple of my little black dresses that I have featured on this blog:
A slip dress is essential because it is a basic piece that is super easy to pull on and off. Moreover, it can be styled in many different ways, which I have written about here. You can wear it to a formal setting or you can wear it casually. It is good from Spring/Summer through Fall/Winter (just wear a turtleneck sweater underneath!).
SHOP SLIP DRESSES
Blazers are essential to building a a polished yet timeless wardrobe. Blazers don’t have to be limited to the work place. It can also be belted over a slip dress or worn with denim shorts and military boots to create different looks. If I had the budget, I would definitely buy a classic Balmain double-breasted blazer. But if you can’t dish out $2000-4000 for a blazer (I can’t either!), I would highly recommend brands like Club Monaco or Theory. These two brands both make well-tailored blazers that are high quality and much more affordable than Balmain. I also love to buy blazers from Zara – every season they have such a great variety of shapes, lengths and materials!
The reason why I included denim jackets in this list is because they literally go with everything, even denim. You can wear a sweater on top of it and let the collar pop out, or wear it under a leather jacket. Denim jackets are so cool, so casual and will stick around forever. Does your mum have a denim jacket from the 80s or 90s? You can probably borrow it, wear it out and still look totally chic. I wore my mum’s denim jacket here and styled it with both leather pants and a pair of denim shorts:
In order to build a classic wardrobe, I think a good quality leather jacket is a must. This is one of the key pieces that can truly last through the times of ever-changing fashion trends. I really recommend splurging on a genuine leather jacket. It may be tempting to save that money and just get a fake leather jacket from H&M or Zara, but trust me, real leather will last a long, long, long time. In fact, the more you wear it, the more the leather moulds to your body and gains its own personality. I recommend biker jackets over bomber jackets because biker leather jackets are more timeless whereas bomber jackets tend to be more trend-driven. If you want a more subtle and classic look, opt for silver hardware vs gold.
TIP: Most genuine leather jackets will cost around $300-1000 (or more) but will be well worth the investment. Lamb skin tends to be more expensive and is soft, delicate and will scratch easily. Pick cow hide over lamb skin for a longer lasting leather jacket.
Here are two different leather jackets that I’ve featured on the blog:
One of the fashion staples I have been looking to splurge on is a good Burberry trench coat. Trench coats aren’t just classic and timeless, they’re also utilitarian. They were invented by British Designer Thomas Burberry for military purposes to repel both wind and rain. But you don’t need to spend a fortune for a trench coat. There are plenty of cheaper options at Banana Republic and Club Monaco.
| Photography by Austin Donohue |
How many of the 15 fashion staples do you own? What would you add to the list or what would you skip on the list? Here is a checklist to help you build a classic wardrobe: