Wardrobe Basics: An Easy Plan

Closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? Just a few wardrobe basics can transform your closet. Here's a plan to get you started, and help you make the most of everything in your wardrobe.

Do you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? Are you tired of jeans and t-shirts but don't know where to begin to build a wardrobe? Are you on a limited budget, but still need a professional look? Here is a plan to design a wardrobe from scratch, adaptable to anyone's lifestyle, that can help you make the most of everything you have in your closet.

Pick one solid color as your foundation neutral. Black, navy, or camel are traditional standbys, but you could use burgundy, khaki or plum. This must be a color that you love, and one that flatters your skin tones. Keeping that in mind, now go shopping!

In that foundation neutral color, buy a plain dress in a lightweight wool or linen, jersey or cotton, depending on your climate, your lifestyle and your comfort, and a jacket or cardigan sweater that fits well over it. If you get a dress/jacket combo, make sure that the jacket can be worn with other things besides the dress. Look for a length that comes at least to the waist, and avoid trim that "has" to go only with that dress.

The dress does not have to be stuffy or prim (unless you want it to be) but it must be in your chosen solid color, have very simple lines, and be able to be worn through several seasons. It can have a waistline or not, sleeves or not, a plain neckline or a collar, and the length is up to you.

For very casual lifestyles, a knit T-shirt dress is fine. For a more professional look choose body-skimming princess seams or an a-line shape.

Next, buy a two-piece outfit, also in your foundation neutral. If you are building a business wardrobe, make this a two-piece dress. It could be a flowing skirt and over blouse, or a tailored skirt and shirt that look like a shirtwaist when worn together, whichever suits your personality and body the best. Top and bottom need to be in the same fabric.

For a casual lifestyle, you might choose pull-on jersey pants and a full cut shirt that could be worn either tucked in or left out and unbuttoned as an overskirt.

Whatever you choose for this outfit, it can be worn under the jacket you got when you got that basic dress.

The next thing to find is a two-piece PRINT outfit. The print must have an ample amount of your foundation neutral and as many other colors as you like. It can be soft or flamboyant, stripes or floral, paisley or plaid--that's up to you--but choose carefully because it will set the tone for the rest of your wardrobe.

It doesn't have to be exactly the same cut as your foundation two-piece outfit, but you need to be able to wear both bottoms with both tops. This choice might have slacks instead of a skirt, but, again, the top and bottom need to be in the same fabric. You can wear these pieces together, as separates with your other two-pice outfit, and with the your jacket.

Now, choose a second solid color from your print. This color should co-ordinate with your foundation neutral, for instance grey if you have chosen black as your neutral, or perhaps chocolate or rust if you have chosen camel.

In this second color, add a blazer or a cardigan sweater, and a pair of slacks or another skirt. These two items should look good together, but not match exactly. A change in texture from your first two choices, perhaps a wool or linen blend, will add some interest here; these pieces can be worn with your print pieces and with your other solid pieces.

Now, add two or three tops in any solid color from your print, in any style and fabric that you like. They could be button-down tailored, turtleneck, scoop neck t-shirts, or dressy knits. Whatever you choose, they can be worn with everything else you've chosen so far.

Now, add a couple bottoms (skirts or slacks, whatever you need) in a "semi-pattern" such as a tweed, or in solid color from your print outfit. These can be worn with every shirt and jacket you've chosen so far--your print top, any of the solid color tops, your dressy jacket, your blazer or cardigan choices. Your foundation neutral is what hold it all together.

What you have if you've followed these guidelines is a dress, a jacket, and a two-piece outfit in your foundation color; a two-piece outfit in a print that sets the tone for your wardrobe and co-ordinates with everything else; a blazer or sweater and a pair of slacks or skirt in a second solid color and interesting texture; and a few solid color tops and bottoms that can be worn with everything else. This selection can be mixed in dozens of different combinations, dressed up or down with accessories and jewelry.

To build from here, you can choose other print pieces that will go with your solids. Or, you can begin again with all new colors. Chances are, you'll find that if you choose colors you love and styles that work well, pieces from your "second" wardrobe will go with a lot of that from your first one. Happy dressing!

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