Although last week’s post didn’t quite turn into the post I was planning, the main message was there, wrapped up somewhere in between the new world order under the CWM (you’ll just have to read it I’m afraid, no time to explain) and the weary sigh at the inevitability of it all: women’s websites and magazines love to hawk a very, very, very specific selection of wardrobe staples. Every woman should own these staples, apparently, and some publications even insist that we own them before we’re 30. They’re ‘basics’, ‘essentials’ and even ‘life hacks’. They have the power to free us of stress, anxiety and indecision. They’re also literally always the same. So prescriptive are they, in fact, that if they were all I had in my wardrobe I’d be forced to sandpaper my own eyelids just to escape the boredom of it all.
You know the score. You need a white shirt, a black blazer, a pair of black ankle boots, a grey cashmere jumper and a pair of straight leg jeans. A few more similarly innocuous pieces and you have the perfect wardrobe. Not only will getting dressed be easier, because these staples all coordinate, you’ll look chicer too. You will transcend trends and be a beacon of refined style year-round. So they say. The thing is, I don’t actually want to spend the rest of my life in a breton top, black tapered trousers and white trainers. I want to wear, well, what ever the fuck I want actually.
So does the concept of wardrobe staples really have to be so ironclad in a single aesthetic? Must we toe the line in our blazers, jeans and jumpers or can we extrapolate the idea and apply it to other items? After a look through my own outfits over the past year or so I can confirm that, yes, we can do the latter.
I absolutely have wardrobe staples, they just don’t fit the pre-defined item list. They’re not neutral or even necessarily typically ‘chic’ but I know I can pick them out and solve an outfit dilemma instantly.
My blue shirt is my ultimate staple. It’s featured in countless outfit posts, I’m wearing it on my ‘about‘ page and I even came up with an entire style challenge for HelloGiggles to wear it in as many ways as possible.
It’s a total style saviour and I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve worn it. It is fairly neutral though and isn’t too far removed from what you might see on a generic wardrobe staples list, so if you feel like that’s cheating what about a pair of leopard print trousers with polka dot godets?
They don’t just clash with other things, they clash with themselves. Hardly an understated must-have but they’re absolutely integral to my wardrobe. If it’s hot, I’ll chuck them on with a t-shirt and sandals or a bright jacket and espadrilles. If it’s cold, I’ll layer them over tights and clash them with literally any jumper I have. The fact that they don’t go with anything essentially means that they go with absolutely everything, so if I’m feeling stuck and fancy indulging in a print bonanza, they’re top of the list.
My polka dot trousers and my favourite printed vintage skirt serve a similar purpose. When jeans just aren’t cutting it and my outfit needs something more, it’s always time to deploy one of them. The trousers cost £10, second hand from Depop and at this point, that probably works out at about 0.0001p per wear. The skirt cost around £9 from a vintage shop and the cost per wear is probably equally as tiny (and made up).
The shirt, the lemon jacket and the multi-coloured jumper all make a second appearance in the photos above too, proving the point I’m trying to make: that wardrobe staples exist outside of the firmly set parameters we’re sold. You don’t need to go out and buy a set selection of garments in order for your wardrobe to work for you and have longevity.
It’s not a choice between a wardrobe full of basics or a wild array of trend pieces that have three month’s relevance and will make you scream with indecision every morning. What constitutes a long lasting, easy-to-wear wardrobe is entirely up to you; avoid the inherent unsustainability of trends however you wish. Choose your own adventure. Your wardrobe staples can be three crochet waistcoats and a pair of denim pedal pushers if you like. The fashion rules will always be there, but we don’t have to follow them.
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