I have read every “must have in your closet” or “basics for every woman” article there is, and every time I take the handy checklists to my closet, I find that I am missing about 85% of the recommended basic garments. I don’t own a black blazer, a pair of dressy slacks, a neutral cardigan (unless mustard yellow counts), a white button up blouse, or even a wrap dress. I’ve never found the need to wear black tights when there are so many other colors out there, and I don’t even own a basic pair of black flats. (And why is black the basic color when silver, white, navy, brown, and red go with almost everything too?) Even a great little black dress is hard for me to find. I have one, and it’s pretty, but in the five or so years that I’ve owned it, I think I’ve worn it maybe twice, and it currently doesn’t fit me (not for the reason you might think — my belly, no problem. My boobs, however… it’s a whole new situation this time around and I’m pretty sure that’s the area that is going to grow out of everything I own far before my stomach does.) And I guess I also have an LBD from the forties.
Every other black dress I own, though, has pattern, buttons (insert: I just thrifted this exact dress for FIFTY CENTS. More on that later), collars, embroidery… you name it, it’s embellished somewhere. And the one thing that I own from a “must have” list is, as you might guess, patterned: a striped tee, and I own in multiples. But only one of them is basic black and white stripes. The others have sequined collars, bows, or peplums.
The thing is, I’ve never really thought those lists made a lot of sense for any wardrobe outside of an office-wear one. This outfit contains probably my most basic of items — gray tee, silver flats — and I’m okay with that. I don’t think you necessarily need a set of basics to mix with the rest of your wardrobe, as long as you’re okay with clashing patterns or mixing great colors together. I rarely stare at my closet and think “Oh man, I wish I had ___ basic item because then I could make a real outfit!” Usually, I stare at my closet and wonder which fantastic colors and prints I should wear that day. Don’t get me wrong — I think in certain situations, basics can be helpful. If you work in an office-like setting where professional wear is required, it’s good to have a blazer, a pair of slacks, a pencil skirt, and a great pair of flats to tone down your wardrobe into work-appropriate.
But I have never felt that basics apply to me, or to anyone with a more retro/vintage wardrobe. Sometimes, I wonder if basic lists apply even to most women who read and snap up those garments in hopes that their wardrobes will be transformed into something wearable because of a few simple garments. Or if they just find themselves with more clothes they will never wear.
Shirt and flats, Target | collar, thrifted | skirt, self-made | glasses, c/o Firmoo | ring, mom’s/vintage
I think basics fluctuate depending on your lifestyle and style preferences. Mine are far different from what InStyle professes they should be. The black and white prints that I can match with any other pattern or color in my wardrobe, this gray tee that I inevitably wear with everything, the multi-colored floral skirts that go with almost any top, polka-dot everything, and the nerdy graphic tee collection that grows monthly — those are my basics.
Perhaps pattern is my basic black. Silver is as neutral as my shoes get. Florals and polka dots go with everything. And as I’ll never be required to work in an office, I am 100% okay with that. But I’m pretty sure I could still pull office-appropriate attire out of my cacophonous wardrobe. Though I would probably be known as the loud dresser.
And that’s just fine with me.