With the amount of new trends being thrown at us each and every day, it has become really hard to keep up. Most times, you won’t even want to pick up that dress you like simply because a million other girls around you are already wearing it. With the advent of fast fashion and the quick movement of runway styles to the streets comes the challenge of maintaining your own unique identity. Fashion critics around the world are in fear of the meaning of style changing from the expression of one’s personality to uniform dressing.
When faced with such a crisis, it becomes extremely important to distinguish between the classics and the fads. While you can pick up various pieces from budget-friendly, high street brands, there will always be certain items which are worth the investment – items that you can create your entire look around, items that will become true friends you can count on.
Here’s a list of apparel and accessories that one must never compromise on:
1. Trench Coat – Gone are the days when the trench coat was only worn in the rains; Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg transformed its image by wearing it with sneakers and jeans. Look no further than Burberry for this wardrobe essential. If you are going for another brand, just make sure the coat’s made of high quality gabardine – you really don’t want to buy anything that comes in synthetic materials or droopy cotton with a shiny finish.
Tip: Carefully study the lining, which gives body to the coat, and the details, such as epaulettes; leather buckles; cuffs; front pockets with flaps etc. before making the final purchase.
2. Short Leather Jacket – Choose soft supple leather, which is cut close to the body, so it feels like a second skin. You can wear it with your shortest, most romantic dresses or your favourite floral print shirt and skinny jeans. Personally, I don’t use animal skin or encourage the use of it, so if you’re like me, there are various options available in faux leather (try Zara or Mango.)
Tip: You can maintain and clean your leather with the help of baby cream and cotton pads, but if the colour starts coming off, hand it straight to a dry cleaner who specializes in leather.
3. Boots – These are essential at any age and well suited for a variety of occasions – from the motorcycle boots worn by rebellious teenagers to the ankle boots worn by women in their 40s to add spice to an otherwise conservative outfit. The current favourite is cowboy boots, which look great with flounced skirts and boyfriend jeans. Avoid wearing these with jeans and a biker jacket or else you’ll end up looking too “Wild Wild West”. Another loved style is the riding boots – these can be worn with Jackie Kennedy WASP-style clothes or even a miniskirt or denim shorts.
Tip: Prevent shoe leather from cracking by regularly applying moisturizing cream and by storing them in shoe boxes or stuffed with newspaper.
4. Little Black Dress – No one could have said it better than Karl Lagerfeld – “One is never over-dressed or under-dressed with a Little Black Dress.” The LBD is that versatile piece of clothing which can enable you to truly express yourself. Your bag and shoes will define whether you’re going chic or casual, daytime or evening, conventional or crazy. You can accessorize with pearls à la Coco Chanel, go elegant with real diamonds, or be playful with costume jewellery. Don’t be afraid to layer it with a denim jacket, a trench coat, a button-down, a tie-up shirt, or even a crop top.
Tip: Everything can easily be spotted on a little black dress. Take care that not a stray hair, nor a speck of dust, nor the smallest stain spoils its beauty.
5. White Shirt – I cannot emphasize enough the power of a classic white shirt. Men’s shirts, in particular, have become increasingly popular amongst women everywhere. No terylene – plain, simple, thick cotton. These shirts can be worn as dresses with tight belts or can be paired with your shortest shorts, your simplest pair of jeans, and even your most serious pencil skirts. The key is to accessorize – you can take the white shirt from a formal meeting to a girls’ night out by changing a few elements, like jewellery and shoes. You can find your perfect shirt at Dior Homme, Charvet, Agnès B., and the GAP.
Tip: If you prefer black, go for it – both black and white are classic colours. Also, try to avoid men’s shirts with front pockets and shoulder straps.
6. V-Neck Cashmere Sweater – Fitted or loose, you must have one of these in your closet. You can wear this with pencil skirts, sober jackets and skinny jeans. These are quite easily available and aren’t very expensive either. My favourites – Bershka and Zara. Once again, accessorizing can make a world of difference – you just need to know which pieces to change to take it from a day at the university to a hot date night.
Tip: Always hand-wash your cashmere in tepid water using special wool soap or mild shampoo. Tumble dry as gently as possible and finish the drying by laying the sweater flat out on a towel. If the fabric balls up, use an electric sweater shaver, which is easily available at most hardware stores.
7. Chinos – Made of cotton duck, these pants come with or without pleats and can be worn broad, narrow, long, short, or rolled-up at the cuffs. Pair your chinos with men’s shirts, plaid shirts, silk blouses, vests, men’s jackets, heeled sandals, or boots. You can wear them in every colour and cut!
Tip: Avoid wearing them with sneakers and sweatshirts – much too casual.
8. Moccasins – My affair with men’s shoes began all thanks to Steve Madden, where I bought my first pair of black loafers – they fit like a dream and go with almost everything I wear. Moccasins and loafers are the perfect antidote for when the weather is too warm for boots, yet too cold for flats. They come in a variety of styles – some with fringe, some with laces, and some with wedge heels. Just take your pick and wear them with your trusty boot-cut or skinny jeans.
Tip: Moccasins look best when worn sockless with short chinos.
9. Denim Jacket – Choose one that is tight or even too small. Wear it under another jacket or coat during the chilly months. Go ahead and pair it with your flirty dresses – long, short or knee-length. If the situation permits, don’t be afraid to wear the tight jacket buttoned up with a crop top or lacy bra.
Tip: If you don’t own a denim jacket, you can use denim waistcoats as a substitute.
10. Boyfriend Jeans – Sorry, boys, but we really can’t help ourselves from invading your closets. Loose boyfriend jeans should be loose – the looser, the better. Roll them up at the cuffs, use a big belt to pull them tight around your waist, tuck in your T-shirt or button-down, and put on a pair of stilettos.
Tip: If you want to go for the tomboy look, opt for lace-up shoes.
11. Pea Coat – We owe it to Yves Saint Laurent for making this a classic. Wear it with rolled-up jeans or chinos, a tucked in white scoop neck T-shirt, and a pair of high heels.
Tip: It must be made of thick woolen fabric, which is slightly coarse to the touch, just like the original.
12. Your Monumental Piece – This single precious piece will add glamour to the most ordinary dress, a touch of femininity to the most professional pantsuit, or sophistication to the most worn out jeans. What you choose to call your prized object really comes down to you and your personal style; you can pick from a variety of items, such as a Marni plastron necklace with coloured glass balls; a crystal Swarovski cuff; or a mass of Imai long gilt chains.
Tip: Avoid wearing this with other jewellery – your big piece should have no competition.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive.
What are some of your essential pieces? Do share!