I’m always surprised by the items in my wardrobe that I wear the most. Whether they’re classic styles, cool statement pieces that reflect my personal style, or just reliable clothes that wash and wear well, I’m a big believer in identifying those instant wardrobe staples – the old faithfuls that make all your other clothes that much easier to wear. These are the pieces that you take great care of, cling onto until they’re threadbare, and replace the instant they’re past their best. Here are my top tips on what makes my wardrobe that much more versatile.
1. The perfect black jacket
Be it a blazer, a leather jacket, a tuxedo jacket or a mini mac, the perfect fitted or semi-fitted single-breasted jacket will work wonders. I have two or three I wear a lot; a tuxedo style suit jacket from the long-gone Stella McCartney for H&M collection, a peplum jacket with big round buttons also from H&M, and a jersey and leather Supertrash number. These go over dresses, on top of tees and blouses with skirts or jeans, and instantly take a dull or casual outfit to the next level, or add a bit of much needed warmth in cold weather. They’re particularly useful when teamed with black tights for making more Summery dresses work in colder weather, but I also like them for making strappy dresses a bit more work appropriate.
2. Jeans that make me feel fabulous
I have a love / hate relationship with jeans. In the past I’ve got on fine with cheap brands and have a lot of love for Primark’s £9 super skinnies. But buy the wrong cheap jeans and you’ll quickly end up with saggy knees and a loose waist. I’ve now discovered the best pair of soft skinnies I’ve ever tried, and I hate to admit they’re from Cheap Monday, where a 32″ waist is more like a 29″ and anyone over a size 12 will struggle to squeeze into anything. The Super-soft feel is what has sold me on these babies, though, and the fact they have a button fly (I hate a zip that comes down) and never seem to sag. When it comes to a slightly less tight-fitting style, I’m 100% sold on my “OMG HOW MUCH” Hudson jeans (which were a gift). They’re called the ‘baby bootcut’ and they fit like an absolute dream, just kicking out a little bit at the ankle over a pair of heels or boots. When you find the perfect jeans, casual dressing becomes a cinch.
3. A party dress that turns heads
We all know I love a good dress, and I love a party dress even more. For me a big knees-up is the perfect excuse to pull out all the stops. I’m big on sparkle, full skirts, bold colours and lots of embellishment, and the fit has to be perfect. At the moment, my go-to dress is a custom made style from Gorgeous Couture (more on that soon) and I’m also still completely in love with my Vivien of Holloway ‘Grace’ dress. I also found two brilliant frocks on my recent trip to the USA, both of which you’ll be seeing a lot more of soon; a black peplum dress by Alice + Olivia, and a gorgeous 60s style brocade dress with a jewelled neckline by Carmen Marc Valvo. God bless the outlet mall!
4. The handbag of my dreams
It’s from Linea Pelle, it’s called the Dylan Medium Tote, it’s perfection. We’ve been over this before. I still love my bag as much as I did the day I got it, which was well over 12 months ago. Since then I have acquired a new Linea Pelle hobo, a boxy Kate Spade number and a lovely LK Bennett shoulder bag, but nothing really lives up to the perfect shape, size and slouch of the Dylan. I use it for everything from work to travel, and it never lets me down. I’m definitely going to treat myself to another colour then next time I can afford to.
5. Denim shorts for hols and beyond
I never ‘got’ denim shorts until I went to Australia, and every girl, regardless of dress size, was wearing them. I made it my mission to find a pair to fit me. Denim shorts are great for a variety of reasons. You don’t have to worry about exposing too much in the wind, and they get better as they age and scruff up a bit. Being a curvy girl, I don’t have a gap between my thighs, and wearing skirts in high temperatures can be uncomfortable. Shorts help with this, and they’re the perfect jeans alternative in hot weather. Add to this the fact the 90s are back and wearing them in cold weather over tights is perfectly acceptable again, and you have a surprisingly practical item that you’ll wear far more than you could imagine! My two pairs are from Dorothy Perkins and Primark.
6. Boots that are comfy all day long
When I started working in a fashion office again, I was amazed how much the whole team was devoted to their ankle boots. I’d spent years wear knee-highs, trying to squeeze my disproportionate cankles into boots that squeezed them tight, thinking an ankle boot with a mini / knee length skirt (my go-to length) was a no-go. But then I realised that an ankle boot with a slight heel and some kind of detail (right now it’s usually studs) was super-practical, working with jeans (skinny and bootcut) or skirts / dresses and tights, and also shorts and maxis if you can work a slightly grungy look. My current boots are £20 Primark cheapies and they’re brilliant – I wore them stomping around town during fashion week and never suffered any pain!
7. Black tops of all descriptions
I own a lot of printed items, so having a good stash of black basics to mix them with is vital. A nice slouchy black tee looks amazing with my many pairs of printed trousers and fitted skirts, a long-sleeved Uniqlo heat-tech tee takes a sleeveless dress into winter, and a little vest can be worn under a sheer shirt to save blushes. I’m constantly snapping up cheap black separates, and I find it’s my black staples – particularly those long-sleeved tops – that I wear the most. I even have an old-school bodysuit for tucking into pencil skirts without bunching.
8. Something wonderful I made myself
Long-term readers will know that I’ve got back into sewing recently, and I have to say there is nothing more brilliant than wearing something amazing that you’ve made yourself. My most recent creation is a strapless dress with a full skirt and boned bodice, in a bright blue fabric with white polka dots. If you’re not good at sewing (and trust me, it’s not hard to learn) you could try customising instead – even changing the buttons or adjusting the hem or neckline can bring new life to something you love, extending the wear for years. It really saddens me that people don’t know how to sew any more. It may be a seemingly old-fashioned skill, but it’s so useful, especially if you have a body shape that doesn’t work with a lot of modern clothes. Just being able to take in a dart or let down a hem can help you to make sure your clothes fit better, and being able to make something from scratch means you can get the perfect fit time and time again.
9. The best bra in the world
I’ve spoken a lot about the importance of the right underwear, so it goes without saying that when I’m talking about my top fashion buys, a good bra is on the list. My favourite all-rounder is a moulded or slightly padded bra in a colour as close to your own skintone as you can get. Find the right flesh coloured bra and it will work with both light and dark coloured clothes much better than black or white bras. For me, the top bra is the Freya Deco, but I also love the Panache Zara (which also has multiway straps which are great with racer-back tops and dresses, and comes in a ‘mocha’ shade which is a much better match for darker skins). It’s worth trying a few to see which shape works for you, as it very much depends on the shape of your bust.
10. Shoes that make people stare
My love of ostentatious shoes is well recorded. I’m a huge fan of a mad shoe, from Irregular Choice craziness to the tiki sandals I’ve recently been coveting. The joy of shoes – other than the fact they fit at all times – is that you can use them to dress up any boring outfit. Switch out ballet flats for designer heels and suddenly that jeans and t-shirt combo is a little less boring. A black dress becomes a ‘wow’ dress with a pair of scarlet heels. And a pair of jewelled flat sandals will make an otherwise stuffy maxi dress look cool an bohemian. Never underestimate the power of the right pair of shoes!