Wardrobe Basics – Key Capsule Pieces
Have you ever looked in your wardrobe and wondered why it’s so hard to find something to wear? Do you have a load of items that are nice, but are hard to make an outfit from?
When I visit my clients with a wardrobe consultation it still surprises me how many of my ladies are missing classic staple pieces. These are the items that are considered as those that form the foundation of a fully functioning wardrobe. They are those pieces that will go with anything else that you might add to your wardrobe and those pieces that you go back to season after season. Depending upon their lifestyle, some may be not so necessary, but the majority should work well. A perfect capsule wardrobe filled with key pieces will take you anywhere and everywhere, making dressing stylishly for many occasions, so much easier!
There are certain items in a wardrobe that I would always advise to spend a good proportion of your budget on. The following pieces are them! Tailoring, jeans, leather bags and shoes… A few good quality classic key pieces will serve as investments, especially if they are chosen in neutral shades that work well together. Such as white’s, grey’s, navy’s, beige and black. Take care of them and you won’t have to replace them every single season.
Here are my top 20 key staple pieces for your capsule wardrobe:
Nude seamless bra – this is always number one on my clients shopping list! Before any clothes are going on we’ve got to make sure that all your assets are in the right place! Wearing the right size bra will transform you. Christian Dior once said ‘without foundation there can be no fashion’ and he was certainly not wrong! Your underwear provides the foundation upon which your entire style and appearance is based upon. It is where the start of looking and feeling good all begins. Always make sure you get fitted by a professional, my favourite brands are Lejaby and Marie Jo.
Black trousers – smart, classical and sophisticated. A good quality pair of black trousers will last you for years. Opt for a shape to suit your body shape, if you’ve got good legs then go for a slightly more fitted pair, if you’re conscious of your bottom and thighs then a wide leg black trouser will be perfect for you. Remember to buy them as long as possible to make your legs look longer. If you’re petite you may need to get them taken up, a seamstress needs to be in your little black book! My personal favourites are by Jaeger, Hobbs, Planet and Armani.
The perfect fit Jean – you really need them in both blue and black, and if you’ve got the legs for it, white too. Where jeans are concerned, you really do get what you pay for. Different brands suit different body shapes and its only professionals like myself that know what to look for. No more spending hours in a fitting room, getting all hot and flustered whilst trying fifty pairs on! My clients ages range from 25-76 with sizes from a 6-24 and I am yet to become incapable of finding a pair of jeans my clients look and feel amazing in! My advice is to get a little help, there are stores in London that specialise purely in Jeans and know their stock inside out. Unfortunately these jean boutiques have yet to travel further north. Still seek the help of a good shop assistant and tell them what you want your jeans to do for you. Hold in a mummy tummy, suck in those thighs and pull up that bottom. Believe me it is achievable. Brands I work with are JBrand, Hudson, Seven For All Mankind and NYDJ. Once you find a brand that fits you, buy them in every blooming colour!
White shirt – a lot of ladies I meet struggle with finding a white shirt. This is mainly because we want it to look stylish and not like mans piece of clothing. They need it to cover their chest but still nip them in at the waist, without having excess fabric or buttons about to pop off and shoot into someone’s eye! Girls there’s hope so don’t despair, Bravissimo (originally an underwear shop) are now doing clothing for real women. They do a white shirt that comes in 3 different sizes, curvy, really curvy or super curvy. Fantastic! If you don’t feel you quite need that then I would try Thomas Pink, Hawes and Curtis or good old M&S. Remember to always wear your nude seamless bra underneath so that it becomes invisible.
The tailored blazer jacket – in either black, navy or camel. The blazer sounds very masculine, but when you get the right one with a proper shape it is not. Women’s blazers should follow the silhouette of a woman’s body, structured shoulders balance out a body, whilst accentuating the hourglass curve at her waist. It is also a perfect piece to put with a pencil skirt or black dressy trousers and white shirt. Or make it casual with a pair of jeans and a vest. Investing in good tailoring is key. Take care of it with a specialist dry cleaner and shoulder cover to make sure you have it for years.
The winter coat – in wool or cashmere. Invest in this wisely, a beautiful classical winter coat can be kept for years. There are some beautiful examples out there, for a better idea take a look at Crombie or Stella McCartney.
Mac / Trench coat – the camel coloured Mac / trench coat is one of those pieces that is both classic and currently a hot fashion item. Available in many stores, my favourite is still the classic Burberry or Aquascutum. It is great for autumn and you can pick it up in a wide range of lengths. If you are larger on the top make sure you choose a single breasted version. If you find the belt uncomfortable, try knotting it at the back to still produce a more fitted shape.
Little Black Dress– the LBD is the ultimate wardrobe staple that anyone, regardless of their age, shape or style should own. It is a classic style chameleon that when you slip it on, you feel the instant glamour. For all types of body shapes the most flattering length for a dress to end is just below the knee. This is the narrowest part of the leg and is where the eye is drawn too. The last part of looking good in your LBD is getting the right accessories. Opulent sparkle and sumptuous glitz will always be the perfect partner to your Little Black Dress. But if the look makes you a little nervous, then concentrate it in one statement piece that taps into the trend. Such as an embellished cuff, a jewel-laden necklace, gem encrusted cocktail ring, fabulous clutch or a pair of ornately detailed shoes. Plain sophisticated pearls also look amazing. Dressing your LBD with the right accessories will make or break the outfit. You want them to add glamour, sophistication and most of all to make it your own.
Day dress – so many women are not really wearing dresses anymore. I think we feel more comfortable in jeans and have lost the effort to dress up for daytime. They can be very flattering, and there are so many different styles to choose from, there’s bound to be a choice for everyone. Whether you want to flaunt your curves in a wrap style, look sophisticated in a plain shift dress, or float away in a pretty floral maxi. The choice is yours. Team it with flats or heels depending on the look you are going for. Add some chunky jewellery if you wish and a bag to finish the outfit off. Add an edge to it by wearing a little denim or leather jacket over the top. Top of arm coverage, yes please!
Pencil skirt – a high waisted pencil skirt is smart yet womanly, and can be feminine or business like. It also produces an hourglass figure, just make sure that there is not too much fabric around the legs, they need to be as close fitting to the silhouette of your legs as possible. They don’t just have to be for work-wear, teamed with a loose-fitting top and high heels they make the perfect outfit for going out to dinner too.
Special occasion top – to wear with your black trousers, pencil skirt or dressed down with jeans. It may be beaded, lace, silk or satin, encrusted with Jewells. Whatever you feel will add that instant hit of glamour to your basic staples. Pop on your blazer, patent heels then grab your clutch and you’re ready to go!
Basic tops – jersey vests and tops, waterfall cardigans and knits in various weights. Layer these staple items to reinvent your look. If it is your smart/casual wardrobe you are struggling with then a basic jersey vest with a waterfall cardigan, worn with jeans and ballet pumps is a comfortable, practical yet stylish outfit. Especially if you have young children and need to be able to get on your hands and knees, run around and get covered in rusks! Try whistles, Jigsaw and Massimo Dutti for jersey tops, knits and cardigans that you can mix and match to make your outfit work whatever the occasion. Ted Baker also do some fab open cardigans in bright colours to bring a little zing into your step.
Black opaque tights – to wear with any dress or skirt. So chic and flattering, especially if you invest in my personal favourite, Wolford. They are around £20 but wash and wear like a dream. If you prefer a natural tight, try Pretty Polly for around £3.99.
Footwear – Flat ballet pumps, black or nude patent court shoes, boots, jewelled sandals, wedges. Good shoes last forever, so it is always worth investing in your footwear. ALWAYS keep them in their boxes and spray them with a leather feeder/protector. Flat ballet pumps work really well with jeans and are comfy yet still stylish. Black or nude court shoes go with everything from jeans to your little black dress. Choosing a patent finish will allow them to look newer and chicer for longer. A good quality pair of leather boots will take you through winter. I personally love the look of Riding type boots, worn over jeans. They are flat so I can wear them all day but again make your outfit look so stylish. Russell and Bromley always offer a great selection, as do Dune and Kurt Geiger. For summer you need a pretty pair of jewelled sandals to wear with everything from linen trousers to maxi dresses. You can then dress them up with heeled wedges. Throughout the years, I have collected a gazillion pairs of shoes that I still wear. If you wear a pretty casual outfit composed of say, jeans & a basic top/knit, the right pair of shoes can still turn you into a bombshell. ‘Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world!’ Christian Louboutin. I so agree!
Handbags – a practical but stylish Leather everyday handbag and a clutch. I would always advise my clients if they have the budget to do so, to invest in a beautiful designer handbag. They say so much about a person and will add an expensive look to a high street outfit. As long as you take care of it with a leather protector and feeder spray or cream, it will last you for years and prove as a great investment. I would recommend classic styles by Mulberry, Prada, Anya Hindmarch or Miu Miu. They’re leather bags are fantastic quality and there styles are simple, classical and will not date from season to season. Expect a good bag to set you back from anything between £200-to over a £1000! A versatile clutch bag is also a must to go with your various outfits for a more evening, dressy look.
Accessories – costume jewellery, a tan belt and a scarf. When styling your staple outfits, it is the accessories that are going to make you stand out, look individual and instantly give your outfit that edge. They finish an outfit off and are the one thing on the whole list of key basics that need not cost the earth. Costume jewellery such as statement necklaces or bangles are all over the High Street and you can easily find items for less than £20. If you prefer a more demure look then try simpler jewellery, such as a gold pendant or a cuff in muted gold or wood. Wallis, Accessorise, John Lewis and Marks and Spencers all offer a good selection. A tan belt will go with everything, from black to blue, over layering and even a pretty floaty dress. Scarves are great to add to a plain outfit, choose whichever fabric, texture, colour or pattern your heart desires.
So there we have it ladies, your fail safe basic key wardrobe staples that will help you dress for any occasion life may throw at you. Next time you are lusting after a new dress, coat or pair of shoes, just think of it as your key piece that you can rework in various outfits. Forget stocks and shares, this is what I call investment!