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If you’re like us, recently out of college and in the “real world,” odds are good that your wardrobe needs a serious going over. With college graduation season over, the market is flooded again with young twenty-somethings hungry for work. With that in mind, a more mature wardrobe is definitely a must. We’re not suggesting you need to get rid of your sequins minidress or your comfiest giant sweatshirt, but in order to affect a more grown-up style, your wardrobe probably could stand a few updates. However, we also know firsthand just how minimal a recent grad’s budget is, so the question becomes: how do you upgrade your wardrobe without breaking the bank?
As promised, we’re back with our list of wardrobe basics to complement our list of summer accessories. Since we’re focusing on combining thriftiness with style this summer, a list of our top ten basics that every woman should have, whether searching for a job, comfortably working, or just hanging around, seemed like the ideal list to create. And since we will readily admit to a clothes-hoarding problem, we’re planning on taking our own advice and culling out post-college wardrobes down. That being said, if you see a line of cowboy boots in size 7.5 in a New Jersey consignment shop in the next few weeks, you can safely assume we’ve been donating.
Another quick note about the list: these are basics and kind of boring. However, if you’ve been reading our posts for a while now, you know that most of the trends we highlight, we tend to focus on the accessories that you can add to an outfit to create the illusion of trend-following without the expensive commitment. And as we said in our last post, accessories are what make an outfit. To the extent that you can, splurge a little on these basics, but don’t forget to add your own personal style (whether it’s Southwestern, seventies, punk or runway chic) by changing up the accessories and the way you rock these basics.
1. Little Black Dress: Yeah, we know, this has been beaten to death. But it really is a necessary part of a wardrobe! It has to be a flattering, classic style and it really helps if it can be dressed up or down depending on what kind of accessories you pair it with. That way you can wear it out with friends or to a family wedding. With the LBD, colorful accessories can add a more daytime look, and metallics make it all the more glamorous.
2. Jeans: These are a given, but everyone needs at least one pair of nice jeans with the perfect fit. You know, that classic pair that aren’t necessarily a specific cut that will go out of style and that make your butt look amazing. Traditionally, the bootcut style comes highly recommended as the “classic cut,” but if your legs look awesome in skinny jeans or flares, then that’s your classic. (Jeggings need not apply, but some degree of stretch is recommended so they always fit, whether you gain or drop that 5 pounds.)
3. Trench Coat and Pea Coat: The trench coat and the pea coat are things that will never go out of style. Which one you are wearing totally depends on the season, but you will always look classy and put together, like you are staring in an old movie. If you only have these two coats, you’re good for Fall, Winter and Spring, and can splurge on scarves and cute gloves or mittens to freshen them up every season.
4. The Perfect High Heels: Everyone needs at least one pair of beautiful and comfy shoes. Especially if you’re working in an office, a good pair of simple black heels goes a long way. Just make sure that they don’t just feel good sitting in a store- walk around in them a lot before purchasing- blisters are never particularly stylish, nor is hobbling around after work. For fun and more comfort, we also love brightly colored platforms or wedges, as they add pizzazz to a simple outfit and are more comfortable than spike heels.
5. Button-Down Blouse: Another one of the simplest piece of clothing a woman can have in her wardrobe is the button down. Again though, this is all about fit. A button down needs to be fitted to your curves, but not skin tight, no one wants the buttons to pucker. And you have to make sure it isn’t too baggy or overly masculine, unless that’s what you’re going for. This is one piece that is definitely worth splurging on to get the right fit, especially if you’re in an office where you need to be dressed up every day. An ill-fitting shirt can quickly make an outfit go from corporate chic to sloppy, so consider getting shirts tailored if you have a hard time finding one in the right size or fit.
6. Blazer: Blazers are great because they can be worn for work or to go out on the town. They can go with nice pants and a blouse, jeans and a tee shirt, or even a fashionable mini-dress. With the “boyfriend blazer” (slightly loose, cuffed sleeves) as a major trend right now, there’s never been a better time to rock the blazer look. Often, adding a blazer can make even a sundress or a simple jersey dress into something office-appropriate, so if you need to quickly make a wardrobe more business-casual, this is a great place to start.
7. White T-Shirt/Undershirt: You really can’t go wrong with a simple white tee. They go with everything and you just have be careful that they aren’t see through. Tees are the ultimate in comfort and paired with nice jeans or a casual skirt. They can also be great under blazers, if they’re nicely fitted. Additionally, having a few simple undershirts on hand is never a bad idea. (Camisoles are another alternative.) Having undershirts or camisoles to wear under low-cut dresses or tops can add a whole new secret life to an outfit previously reserved for nights out on the town. Additionally, pairing them with a button down shirt or a blazer can create a more easy-going layered look for offices where the code is more business-casual.
8. Cardigan: In our opinion, the cardigan is the perfect sweater. You buy a light weight one that can be paired with literally anything, except maybe ponchos (but really, what goes with a poncho?), and you never have to worry. When it cools off during summer nights, you can just throw your cardigan over your tank top or dress and you are set. For spring and fall, they can extend the shelf-life of summer sundresses, and make even a low-backed dress into office-wear.
9. Sheath Dress: Straight up and down and sleeveless, sheath dresses are the epitome of summertime style. Whether it’s in the office with a blazer or a cardigan, or out after work rocking those colorful platform heels, a sheath dress works for pretty much any occasion, and is universally flattering, age-appropriate, and just plain cute. From a comfy jersey fabric to silk to simple cotton, sheath dresses can be found in every style. We like a length that falls a few inches above the knee and fits somewhat loosely, which is especially great on super steamy summer days. As an added bonus for recent grads, it’s easy to wear to work without looking like you’re trying to look older, and it’s a great style to wear to the ridiculous number of graduation parties you’re probably attending. If you’re slightly handy with the sewing machine, consider getting a pattern and some fabric and making a few- the patterns are easy to find and super simple to make.
10. Your Signature Piece: Owning at least one completely out-there piece that defines you in a nutshell is a great idea, no matter what your age. Whether it’s that perfectly broken in leather studded jacket, metallic minidress, silk jumpsuit, kimono, whatever, everyone should have one piece that absolutely screams “ME!”
One last tip: When buying these classics, especially if you’re willing to shell out more cash for the staples, make sure that they fit perfectly and that you feel amazing in them, make sure the quality is good, and avoid dry clean only when possible.