I can’t believe it’s another fashion quiz!

A Year in Review – Day 16

Today’s prize?


A Bombshell dress I got from Mod Cloth!  I wore it once during my Bombshell month (out to dinner with friends) and completely forgot to take a picture of myself in it — which is okay because it didn’t really fit me correctly.  The website said that the dress runs small so buy a size up, so I bought a large — which in fact, was too large.  I’m guessing in reality this dress is a size 8 or 10.  And it’s soooo cute — perfect for a New Years Eve party.

The question?

What constitutes a “base” wardrobe?

During “A year in review”, I’ve been trying to pick out some clothes that I’d like to wear in January when my style experiment is officially over and I have to dress for myself again.  It’s been fascinating because I feel like I’ve been in a “fashion rehabilitation” facility and now I’m being released into the fashion wild.  Can I find clothes for myself?  Will I remember the skills I’ve been taught so I can survive in the fashion world on my own?

It’s anyone’s guess at this point…

So I’m looking for a few basic pieces — and from those basic pieces I can start building a fabulous new wardrobe (the style of which I will reveal December 31st.)  What do you suggest I get?  How many pants?  Shirts?  Sweaters?  A Jacket?  Dresses?  A skirt?  And what about shoes?  Will two pairs of shoes cover it?  I don’t want to get crazy — I just need to know how to make a weeks worth of clothes out of some basics.  I think that would be a really great way to start acquiring a new set of fashion skills — how to mix and match and create outfits.  So any suggestions at all would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!  You have until tomorrow night.  As always, my kids pick the winner.  Good luck!


  • Janice says:

    I have what a lot of ladies consider the basics in these comments and feel like I look so boring everyday! Like I’m stuck in an American classic rut and feeling like you felt that month. I have to throw in some not-so-basic items and accessories to make things more interesting and force myself to choose those things to wear!

  • caroline says:

    I have felt completely liberated with capsule wardrobing, myself. And I have enough “basics” and “fun/trendy” to keep it from feeing boring. And with few items, I have fun switching minimal things out seasonally. Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com has great capsule ideas for Moms, Office, etc. etc. One of her more recent post was even “how to build a capsule wardrobe”.

    • V says:

      I’m talking myself around. This desire for a bulging wardrobe doesn’t fit with the overall desire to be a bit of a minimalist and may just be a knee-jerk at having had hardly anything to wear for yonks. At least capsule would give outfits whereas just having what’s left stuff leaves few actual style choices. Will be checking out everyone’s links.

    • My Year of Fabulous says:

      I think a capsule wardrobe can be really liberating. I’m going to go for it in the new year.

  • Lesia says:

    Hi Holly,
    Here are my thoughts on how to build a wardrobe that won’t bore you and that’ll see you through the weather that you see in California. (Entering to win the dress for my workbuddy and new friend, who’ll fit into it, who likes to swap clothes and says she’ll return anything I give her if/when I fit into them again, and who loves your blog too).
    You don’t work in an organization, so don’t need a suit or business casual clothes.
    My advice would be to buy only pieces that you love, and not to make “safe” choices. I think that interesting details on tops and dresses and jackets always “make” an outfit. If you’re determined to be able to mix and match and layer the pieces for travel and when it’s cooler, then go for patterns in the dresses and tops, and solid colours in the skirts and pants and jackets and sweaters, but not all the same solid colours and not all “neutrals.” PIck up on the pattern colours and get a few of the bottoms and jackets/sweaters in solid brights that you could wear together.
    Add some accessories in the pattern colours in different weights/styles.
    I wouldn’t wear the same neutral colour in a bottom and sweater/jacket or a dress and jacket/sweater. Contrast looks more modern and smart-casual for meetings and such.
    Forget the little black dress. If you’re going for a more structured style of dress, go bold with your colour choice. I’d suggest a nude leather for your dressy shoe.
    For your lifestyle and climate, you need a great sandal and a great closed walking shoe that you could wear with pants and a more casual dress/skirt.

  • Marisa says:

    When I started working in an office again (after 5 years off while I researched and wrote a dissertation), I had to completely rethink what I wore. I ended up settling on a sort of ‘uniform’ that feels comfortable and appropriate. For me (v. casual office), this has ended up being chuck taylors, jeans, and lots of cardigans with either t-shirts or button-downs under them (depending on season). Now that it’s cold, I also have a few pullover sweaters to toss into the mix (which I wear with those same button-downs). I do have some other shoes for variety (and because chucks don’t supply a lot of arch support).

    For me, this particular formula makes me feel pulled-together without being dressed up or feeling like I’m wearing a costume. I like it well enough that I dress basically the same way on the weekends (though in versions that are ok to get dirty/snagged by cat’s claws/etc.). It’s definitely much more of a ‘look’ than whatever random stuff I threw on previously. (Ok, it does involve some minimal jewelry as well….)

  • Ginny in Texas says:

    Love the dress. And I have no idea how many clothes are appropriate. I have a closet full, and wear 4 pants, 4 skirts, and 6 shirts.
    But I’ll be looking forward to the answers.

  • V says:

    Not entering as that one would have to go in the wardrobe to be looked at rather than worn. Rebelling against post. Although I have been known to wonder at the men who have a capsule wardrobe, the travellers and explorers, the mum’s capsule wardrobe idea just feels drab. I read once that Einstein just had a seven day duplicate wardrobe of one outfit but that’s a bit extreme. I haven’t treated myself in years, there are old nursing nightdresses and anything that lasts a long time is always the ugly thing. I want a great big bulging wardrobe full of fashionable things that I give away when I get bored of them. i don’t want wardrobe staples, it just sounds depressing and very mumsy. All those staples are always for office workers and I think a capsule wardrobe for mums would be full of boring really serviceable clothes. Nope, every little bit of me is rebelling at the minimalism of it all and although I may not be being very rational about it I just don’t fancy it any more than a set weekly menu. It’s a visceral reaction. I’m going to go with advice I got from Danit A. Levi at the ‘Pout; event in Edinburgh last year, I didn’t have a consultation but we had a quick chat and she said don’t skimp on yourself when you’re a mum as children don’t really mind what they wear but it matters what their mum wears as it matters for the mum. I kind of paraphrase there but I think she’s right. I don’t want a capsule wardrobe, I want lots of choice. http://www.dressyourway.com/dressyourway-profile.html

    • My Year of Fabulous says:

      That’s true — Von, about the capsule wardrobe being drab. But on the other hand, I think it could really help out moms Pick a style you like, then buy a few basic pieces in that style and add cute things to them every day. It certainly beats the mom jeans, right!

  • Sian says:

    What a gorgeous dress!

  • Lauren says:

    I had to work on a “basic” wardrobe after losing baby weight after baby #3 and finding out that basically everything I had was pilly, faded, out-of-fashion, and didn’t fit anymore. I started by reading a lot of the blog “Ain’t No Mom Jeans” (which is how I found you!), but I agree with the above statements…you have to find your own style. I mix and match what works for me, and what I’m comfortable with, with trendy items. But my rule of thumb is that I won’t pay too much for anything trendy because I don’t think it will be worth it if it’s out-of-fashion in a year. I didn’t have a huge budget, so I had to buy a little at a time, and I wanted the things I bought to be multipurpose. Here’s what I consider my “basic” wardrobe (items in my own closet):
    -2 pairs of jeans — one slim or skinny and kind of dark — this one is dressier and trendier, and I wear the legs cuffed, or tucked into tall boots, or whatever. The other is a lighter wash, more casual, and more everyday, but still a flattering fit, so not “mom jeans”.
    -1 white button-down — mine is a knit mix so it’s more of a pullover. I can wear it out and loose, tuck it in for work, belt it as a tunic, etc.
    -layering tanks in a few colors (when you find one that fits you perfectly) — I have three, black, white, and hot pink
    -2 “trendy” shirts that you will switch out seasonally — right now I have a black leopard print one and a red-and-blue color block one. (I moved to two new long-sleeved ones — bright green and navy-and-white striped — as it got colder.)
    -2 “dressy” shirts that you can wear for a nice event or to work (I teach college classes when I’m not a mommy, so multi-use is important!)
    -1 pair of dress pants — black or khaki
    -1 dress skirt — black or khaki
    -1 LBD — dress it up for a night out with jewelry; make it casual with a scarf; add a blazer/cardigan for work
    -1 black blazer (washable is better!) — you can make it work-ready or casual
    -2 cardigans — 1 “fun” (hot pink or leopard print) and 1 more subdued, like navy
    -1 pair of simple, black pumps
    -1 pair of trendy flats — mine are bright red
    -1 pair of boots — I actually have three (a brown and black tall and a brown short), but I think I would start with a tall pair that matches most of your clothes
    -1 pair of comfy, everyday shoes — mine are green Skechers
    I feel like you could get a pretty good start with all that, plus a few trendy pieces of Target jewelry, a fun belt, and a scarf or two. Then start adding things — colored pants, fun shoes,

  • Janice Riggs says:

    I’m so happy that someone sent you to my blog, but I’ve got to stress that NOBODY can tell you what your wardrobe should be. That’s the strain/joy of the whole process – you have to figure it our on your own, but you get to be the only person in the entire history of time that has your particular style. It’s a great adventure!

  • Jenn says:

    I’m trying to build a “basics” wardrobe at the moment because usually I’m attracted to the hippie dippie or weird. I’m now in my mid-30’s and a stay-at-home mom, and my husband is an executive. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously in my peasant blouses and torn jeans and it’s time to get a little more grown-up (I’m not giving them up, just making them a little more polished).

    I think it’s tough to tell other people what belongs in their wardrobe. For me, building a basics wardrobe has meant buying higher quality pieces that fit like a dream in neutral colors. Right now I have a bunch of jeans that fit perfectly but only one cardigan. I COULD rush out and buy more because someone else believes that’s what a “good” basics wardrobe should include it but I think it’s best to let my closet evolve as I find the pieces I feel good in.

  • It depends on whom you ask: Nina Garcia has a book called “The One Hundred,” which is the length of her list of wardrobe essentials!

    I have an entire workshop module on building out your base wardrobe (or Core Wardrobe), including a checklist. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to send you a copy. I’ve also written about it before (blatant self-promotional link here –> http://www.franticbutfabulous.com/tag/core-wardrobe/). :)

  • Raia says:

    I thought this post was helpful: http://mightygirl.com/2012/11/26/5-tips-for-building-organized-wardrobe/

    I think it’s most important to have a great pair of jeans in one’s closet. And things you just love.

  • Kristi says:

    I agree with what’s already been posted, except I think 2 pairs of shoes isn’t nearly enough! Nothing changes/elevates a look more IMO, and stretches the usefulness of other pieces.

  • Amiable says:

    I recommend the series on building a remixable wardrobe from Audrey at PuttingMeTogether. http://www.puttingmetogether.com/p/building-remixable-wardrobe-series.html, or her series on builging a wardrobe from scratch http://www.puttingmetogether.com/p/wardrobe-from-scratch-series.html

  • Virginia says:

    Go here — http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com/ — to experience the genius of Janice Riggs. She is the master of capsule wardrobes. Very similar to what Juliana describes, but with pictures. Lots of pictures. Troll the archives for “six packs” or “common wardrobe”. If your style doesn’t match the pictures, it’s easy to swap out items, but keep the same idea. Have fun.

  • bonnie brady says:

    must have a little black dress as a staple-

  • I think buying a lot of “basic” separates is where most people go wrong. That is a sure way to end up with a lot of things that don’t go together and then you are back with “nothing to wear” Personally, I would steer toward creating a week’s worth of outfits and you’ll probably find some creativity with the individual pieces afterward. And less is more. probably 2-3 dresses, 2-3 pairs of pants (if your wardrobe will skew toward pants rather than skirts), 1-2 skirts (reverse skirts/pants #s if you will wear more skirts), 1 good jacket, 1-2 good cardigans in two different weights (here I would go with a neutral navy and/or mushroom), 2-3 pairs of really good shoes (2 for every day, plus one for dressing up). I’m guessing the weather doesn’t get too crazy where you are, given your photos from the last year, so a heavy sweater probably isn’t a must-have, but if you run cold, add that to the list too!

    • Erin m says:

      Hi! I’m still learning too but I think you need things that you love and look great on you. I like to keep it very basic but I think it works.
      Jeans x 2. One skinny at least.
      A couple great white ts
      One dressy pant
      Two skirts
      Long sleeve t or great button down shirt
      A couple of cardigans
      Then add some special pieces you love and some scarves (which I continue to buy but never wear because I feel ridiculous!) but other people look great in them.
      As for shoes, right now I have black boots, black heels, converse sneakers and nike runners. I feel like I can go almost anywhere. Truthfully I wear the boots EVERy day or my runners. I chase my 4 year old around a carry the baby!

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