Monday, January 19, 2015

Discussing "Basics"

The past few days I've had a series of excellent conversations with my dear friend M, who is also a university student developing her own personal and professional style. We've mostly been talking about what piece you need in your wardrobe to get started- your basics. I searched Pinterest for an embarrassingly long time for a list of basics that would actually be helpful but I kept running into the same problem. One list would have almost everything that I thought was necessary and then throw in something like a pair of stilettos. As a future elementary school teacher- probably one dealing with young enough children that I will sit criss-cross apple sauce more often than in my desk chair- I have zero interest in stilettos. Or any heel, regardless of the thickness. I then thought of M, who I've never seen in heels. I then thought of about 20 other women I see regularly in flats.

This made me realize that, even if I did think that stilettos were for me, they certainly wouldn't be for everyone. Then I began to question the entire institution of "basics." I can easily describe my own basics- neutral colored button downs, black skinny jeans, a pair of ankle boots, and an oversized sweater. That's what I consider my uniform. I could wear it every day and be happy. But what about M? She doesn't wear skinny jeans- so my own list of basics isn't 100% useful.

At the risk of continuing on describing the pitfalls of basics lists, let me just say this. One of the most important things I've realized about fashion is that what we do every day getting ready for the day isn't actually fashion- its style. Fashion seems to be the institution of creating new ideas for clothing, while style is the personal application of clothing.

Instead of looking for other people's ideas of basics, we could be looking at the things in our closets that we love wearing, that make us feel excited and confident and ourselves, regardless of whether or not that fit of jeans or style of jacket is fashionable at the moment. If we know what we love to wear, that will guide our future style choices and help us shop smarter. Here are some questions that might help you decide what your basics are.
  • What does your perfect (shirt, pants, shoes, jacket) look like? How does it feel?
  • Think of the people whose style you most admire. Why do admire them? Do you like what they're wearing, or how they wear it?
  • Think of your daily life- your profession, hobbies, family life. What is practical for you to wear? Could you function in heels and dresses? Is it work appropriate to wear jeans every day?
  • Look in your closet. What items do you have a lot of? If you have a lot of colorful dresses or muted t-shirts, that you actually wear and love, then that item should be on your list of basics.
Here is my own list of basics, both for work and play.

Neutral button ups

Skinny jeans

Oversized sweater

Ankle boots
Gap ankle boots, sold out (similar)

Reasonable flats

Moto jacket

((Full disclosure: my own jacket is faux leather from a teeny bopper shop in Kansas City. However, this one is a much better alternative.))

Men's watch

These basics work for winter and most of fall and spring, but come summer I replace jackets and boots with sandals and tank tops. But the formula stays the same, generally neutral colors with skinnies and flat shoes. I know that where ever I go, that will keep me comfortable, functional, and confident!


  1. This is such a helpful post! Inspires me to figure out my basics...


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