Your Basic Wardrobe

Last weekend I went shopping with some of my friends and one of them showed the classic symptoms of a shopaholic. She needed brown pants for work, but she walked out of the mall with a Muppets t-shirt, a brown sweater and a pair of leather boots. So, what about the pants – the ones she needs for her weekly meetings with the managers at her job? They are still hanging on the rack!

With an intoxicated glow, my friend looked at us happily and said, “Those slacks are gonna have to wait a couple of months now!” She was excited about her purchases, and they were good deals, but they weren’t what she needed. I bet she’ll sober up when it comes time for that meeting and she has no pants to wear to it.

It’s not like I haven’t been guilty of the same thing though – and I bet you have too! We go out to find something and come back with a sheepish grin on our faces and a number of other items that we didn’t need. Sometimes they are a variation on something we already have 10 of – like a black sweater. How many black sweaters does one person really need? Other times, our impulse buys don’t match anything in our closet. And the worst part is that we know as we buy those yellow shoes that they don’t match anything but a cute yellow blouse we don’t own, and that turquoise purse will only match the turquoise sandals sitting right next to it at the store.

Here’s the justification: The shoes only cost $5! That black sweater was just $8! Yes, that’s a bargain, but one without much value if you don’t really need what you bought.

Do you have any real idea of how much you spend on clothes in a year? Try this: for the next six months, take every receipt from every piece of clothes and every accessory or pair of shoes you buy and throw it in a box or a drawer – even the stuff you get at Goodwill and garage sales. Make a little scrap of paper receipt with “$.25” written on it for that great garage sale bargain and toss it in the box. Even quarters add up. Six months from now, tally the receipts. I’m betting you will be very surprised at how much you spend.

There is a lot of money to be saved by shopping smart, but we want to look great too. However, a cluttered closet does not a fashion diva make. Smart divas start with a basic wardrobe that is highly versatile. They build each outfit with a fashion staple and add splashes of color and design to diversify. Unless you have to dress up every day for work, you don’t need five pairs of dress pants and six different black dresses. Invest in one quality item of each of the following “must-haves” and then use your limited clothing budget to purchase things that scream “This is me!” – yes, even if that is a pair of yellow shoes!

Basic Black Dress –a classic! You can add different accessories every time, making it look like a  different dress entirely. Try pearls for a job interview, then switch to a funky red necklace and some high heel sandals to have dinner with your girlfriends.  

Dress Pants – though there’s no set rule about the color, black is probably the safest bet. Dark brown works well too. Go as basic as you can stand because if there is something quirky about your pants, they are easier to identify as “the same pants” in different outfits.

Classic Shirt – try a button-up white shirt. Like the little black dress, adding a jacket or a vest will completely change the look. You won’t need 10 different blouses to achieve 10 different looks.

Jeans – beyond “must-have,” this is a “can’t live without!” The thing about jeans is that they come in many styles, washes, cuts, etc. It’d be nice to buy 10 different pairs, but for the cash-conscious, the best thing is to buy a pair that’s a dark blue and classic cut. Put on loafers and go to the grocery store. Add heals and head out on the town. And the dark blue will seem to slim you.

Any Occasion Top – Find something you look great in that looks job-interview respectable under a jacket but will bring on the fun when going out with friends.

Skirt – A skirt is super important because it completely changes your look. A skirt is womanly and can be feminine or businesslike, depending on what you pair it with.

Jacket – Find one with a proper, fitted shape. Choose the color that will match the majority of your items – some good choices are brown, navy, black, off-white or a shade of pink. It is also a perfect piece to pair up with the skirt or dress pants and white shirt. Or add jeans and it becomes casual wear.

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