There are two types of people. Those that love clothes for their own sake, and those that just want to get dressed, but want to do it stylishly and effortlessly and comfortably. This approach is for those people, but there are takeaways here for the clotheshorses and fashion fiends like myself.
Here’s the formula, and it’s so simple, it’s easy to dismiss it. But don’t. Because it’s pretty powerful, and it’s the best shortcut I’ve found to true and lasting signature style.
It only seems basic. Here’s the thing. The quickest path to great style is to curate your very best basics, sprinkle in some personal-style-specific statements, and stir to create your own brand of signature style. Here are some examples of this formula at work.
Each of these outfits features the most basic of basic tops, a white tee, paired with a solid, neutral pant.
Each of these women started with the same basic formula: White Tee + Neutral Pants. But with these basic components, they each managed to create completely original looks by adding statements.
But not just any statements. Statements that align with their personal style. Statements that feel true to who they are. There’s no point in putting on a pair of red tasseled high heeled sandals if your real style is more biker-chic or coastal-prep. Your statements should be unique to you, and no one else.
So here’s the step-by-step shortcut-to-great-style system, and it will work every single time if you follow it.
Step One: Assemble Your Essentials
Essentials need to be simple enough to be versatile, but can include details that elevate and personalize them to you. Here’s a rule of thumb when selecting the essentials for your wardrobe.
Let’s look at one of the most basic of basics, a white button-down shirt. You’ll find them in jersey and linen and crisp broadcloth, slouchy and casual or sharp and tailored, simple or more stylized, plain or embellished.
You can find some of my favorite essentials in this catalog.
So even though essentials are staple pieces, and by definition neutral, solid, and relatively simple, they can still reflect your personal style. Your white shirt can be feminine or classic or preppy or natural or whatever you want it to be.
And now, for my list of the most essential of essentials. Here, 10 items that every woman truly needs in her wardrobe, in my opnion. Are there exceptions? Always. Are there substitutions? Of course. But for the most part, these are the workhorses that will work for most women, most of the time.
- Tank or sleeveless top
- White or off white button-down
- Neutral blouse
- Neutral pants
- Neutral classic coat
- Neutral dress
- Neutral jacket (any style)
- Neutral sweater
You can download a checklist of these essentials right here.
Step Two: Add Your Statements
Next, start building out a wardrobe of accessories that represent your personal style. For example, if your style is classic, maybe a pair of cap-toe pumps, a classic pair of ballet slippers, gold hoops and a top handle bag. If your style is boho, maybe a slouchy bag in tooled leather, a great pair of suede boots, a floppy hat and some beaded jewelry. You get the idea. By adding accessories that speak to your personal style, you elevate the essentials and transform them into outfits.
Shoes alone are enough to take an outfit from simple and basic to a statement of your signature style.
Consider how these shoe options would turn our basic-tee-and-pants outfits from the beginning of this post into statements of style that say something about the woman wearing them.
Step Three: Create Your Signature Style
Now it’s time to make some wardrobe magic. Simply take any top, any bottom, and (if desired) any completer piece from the list of 10 essentials, stir in some stylish accessories, and watch your signature style emerge. Here are 3 examples of this principle at work, using the shoes and the items shown here.
Each of these distinct looks started with the same wardrobe essentials, and ended up representing three completely different style viewpoints.
I hope that this 3-step process has given you some ideas on how you can start incorporating your style into your wardrobe, and make the most of what you have.
Which of these tips is the most helpful to you? Let me know in the comments!
Nada Manley says
Great questions Janice! As a Petite, I understand, although I am 5’2″. A trendy may definitely be too much fabric for you. I would just try a jacket of any style in a khaki. It can be a short trench style jacket, a utility jacket, or an open silky blazer in that camel or khaki shade. They will all serve the purpose of adding interest to outfits. You can also go the custom route and get a drapey, not stiff/ trench made to fit without the belts buckles and shoulders. Thank you so much for the comment! Hope this helps!
Janice W Fisher says
I am not the beige khaki trench coat woman. Too much – belts, buckles, shoulders, etc. I am 4’7″ short….I have more problems than most because petites are 5’4″ at most so therefore are too long everywhere….that is 10 inches of difference to cope with. .What can take the place of the trench? I am a retired business owner and wearer of high end suits/dresses and accessories. I now need to have some more casual clothing. I see all kinds of faux fur out there……what do I do with hundred thousand dollars of real fur? (I am using a $30,000 white mink coat as a casual throw over my bedroom sofa – bedroom is cream) In my current wardrobe are black and white everything, black, gray, white and blue jeans straight leg, great fuchsia tops, and a sprinkle of turquoise. I also have 10 long cardigans of black, navy, gray, and other colors. I have blazers of white, black, navy, khaki and a lots of jackets in various colors. I love colored purses and currently have fuchsia, turquoise, black, white, cream, purple, straw, gold and another few colors. My real love is shoes….Love high heels but now cannot wear 4″ so am doing 3″ or under. Leopard is a favorite…booties, flats, open toe almost flats, sandals, pumps, and sling backs.