Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar

Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | www.eccentricowl.comIf ever you were to look through my (very sizeable) wardrobe, there would be one thing you might notice is in glaring deficiency: basics.

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?)Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | 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. Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | 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. Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar | 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.Marvel skirt, gray tee, and a detachable collar |

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.


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  • skye

    100% this. My theory is that this advice should be entry-level, for women who genuinely have no clue about even the fundamentals of a wardrobe. It’s full of good generic starting points, but said points should never be universalized. It’s like how they say artists should know the rules before they can break them.

    I also really, really dislike the way that most mainstream style advice boils down every single style to variations on the same drab theme. “If you’re quirky, buy a wrap dress in leopard instead of black. If you’re urban, look for a blazer with leather accents.” It’s like the only way you’re allowed to express yourself is through these subtle variations on what might as well be a uniform. There’s no room for genuine uniqueness. I used to watch a lot of What Not to Wear, until I came to hate the way the hosts always threw out each woman’s most striking pieces, feebly appeasing her with “accents” of her former look. “Just a touch, to avoid looking costumey.” What if costumey is genuinely your goal?

    …I have a lot of feelings about this topic. 😛

  • Salazar

    I don’t have many basics either (no LBD), but I think it all depends on your lifestyle. As long as your wardrobe works with it, right?

    I want that skirt, btw.

  • Katie Skare

    I love this outfit! I never would have thought of pairing gray with that skirt but it works so perfectly! Also, this is a great message. Style is filling your closet with what makes YOU happy, not about filling some quota of items listed in a magazine. Thanks!

  • Emily

    I can definitely identify with this! I think the “basics” lists are useful for people who a) are interested in building a “capsule wardrobe” like Kristian of Never Fully Dressed; b) people who hate shopping or have trouble finding clothes that fit their shape; and c) people who want to be able to put together an outfit with minimal effort/fuss. But for the rest of us, it’s just not a priority! I do occasionally pine for things like a great white blouse, gray skirt, etc. — but I see no reason why these have to be unadorned! So sequined collars, bows and peplums are, I think, totally allowed, even on “basics” 🙂

    Emily |

  • Emily

    I definitely agree with this one! I love prints so I always end up choosing them over basic items and my cupboard it just full or different prints / patterns and colours. I am going to start looking through and styling outfits to figure out ways I can wear them together more. I love the way you can mix your items and always look so coordinated! Sometimes basics are needed, but they are never quite as fun!

    Emily –

  • Hannah Rupp

    This is such an interesting thing to think about! I do have the classic “staples” in my wardrobe, a white button down, a couple blazers, and jeans. But it’s my patterned items that I go-to time and time again. Those my “staples”! I’d be lost without my favorite striped t-shirt dress or polka dotted shorts.

    Thanks for always breakin’ the rules with your style. 😉

    -Hannah | The Outfit Repeater

  • Emily Brownlee

    This was so reassuring to read! I have been sadly contemplating my wardrobe for a while because it, too, lacks anything that could be considered ‘basic’. I only have one casual dress and a black one for orchestra concerts, and the closest thing I have to normal “everyday” pants that every single girl owns is a bulky pair of olive green capris (although I do own two pairs of jeans). I just find it hard to achieve that “everyday” look that everyone else seems to have nailed, and I’m glad that you made me realize that I don’t have to!