Recently, our reader Julie asked an excellent question. How does one go about creating a core wardrobe?
Staple wardrobe. Capsule. Style uniform. Many ways to describe the same idea of a core, basic wardrobe, an idea that is very popular (if you’re interested, check out a post I wrote discussing the pros and cons of style uniforms a few months back). Style books and magazines usually recommend a core wardrobe of classic, traditional yet versatile pieces. Something like this:
Here, you’ve got your usual suspects:
- Crisp white dress shirt; pencil skirt; pumps
- Casual essentials: tank top (for layering), jeans, comfortable shoes (flats)
- Versatile blazer; classic tall boots
- Little black dress and a statement accessory (string of pearls)
- Classic trench coat (a must, or so style magazines insist)
- Statement bag that “goes with everything”
To be fair, this is a great staple wardrobe, in and of itself. Each item can be combined with the rest to dress up or dress down an outfit. The overall look is classic, clean, simple, and elegant. It should work, in theory; and it does work for some women. Chances are though that you are trying to use these guidelines; they are not working; and you can’t figure out why. The answer is very simple. The wardrobe in this collage doesn’t work for you because you are not the woman in this collage.
Who is the woman in this collage? Physically, she is likely evenly proportioned and trim or slender, with a balanced figure and moderate to small curves. Age-wise, she is probably somewhere between her mid-thirties and mid-fifties. She likely has an office job. She is feminine, has good taste, and likes traditional, classic styles with universal appeal.
Now that you have a pretty specific picture in mind, ask yourself: are you this woman? Perhaps you are, in which case this is a great wardrobe for you. But what if you are not? I know I’m not. Sure, I like to think I have good taste, and I have an office job. I also know that a crisp oxford shirt is hell on my curves; jeans are often too tight around the tummy and too loose in the hips; blazers and classic trench coats look boxy; and pearls and a little black dress make me look like an Italian widow. And of course, my personal brand of femininity is very different from the one shown in this collage.
Does this mean that I can’t create a core wardrobe? Of course not. But it has to be “my” core wardrobe, and for me to know what it is, I need to have a clear picture of who I am and what I need. Here are some things I need to consider:
- My body type and shape
- My age and occupation
- My lifestyle: what occasions will I be dressing for?
- My geographical location and cultural / societal environment
Using these clues, paint a picture of yourself in your mind in broad strokes, just like I did for our imaginary woman above. Next week, in part 2 of this post, I’ll show you how you can apply this knowledge to create your core wardrobe.