Just about every stylist and fashion maven advises to own some “classic” pieces in one’s wardrobe. There’s a good reason for this. They help bring simplicity and sanity to our lives when we suddenly have to look pulled together. Because, face it, at our age we’re less likely to give a rat’s behind about what we’re wearing when we spend a lot of time at home puttering around the house or in the garden.
So, classic pieces are the “throw-on-and-go-anywhere” elements that you don’t have to think much about. They have stood the test of time (at least for the past 100 years or so—in the larger scheme of things these too may pass) for a lot of reasons. They cut across all fashion archetypes and offer something for everyone. Here are some of the basics of a classic foundation wardrobe and the reasons why they work for everyone.
The de rigueur white cotton blouse seems fairly pedestrian, no? But frankly, it has a Romantic silhouette because the neckline draws the eye to, and suggests the existence of, cleavage. As simple as it is, it can add a little sexiness to any outfit. Turn up the cuffs to ¾ length, add a few bracelets, and voila! Instant chic.
Pencil skirts tend to work for just about every shape body – and thankfully are available in sizes for just about every shape body. Their simple lines appeal to Classic types and Classic is the balance point between the extremes of someone with a lot of Drama and a will-o-wisp ethereal Angelic type. (You know them – think Mia Farrow or Tilda Swinton.)
The best length for wearing one (after fifty) is just slightly below the knee cap. Go any shorter than that and it might throw off your proportions – or mandate dark stockings. Go any longer and you move toward looking matronly. If you wear it with that white blouse, tuck it in. If you wear it belted or loose, the hemline shouldn’t come lower than your hip joint. If you’re pear-shaped, add a classic blazer that comes no higher or lower than your hip joint as well.
A trench coat always creates some sense of mystery. By covering up what you are wearing with a garment that suggests menswear it implies you are hiding something – or having a secret liaison. That appeals to Dramatic types. It’s also appealing to a variety of women in that wearing anything in a fabric or cut typically used for menswear plays against type just as how a boyfriend jacket or an actual husband’s or boyfriend’s shirt is sexy. There’s the implication you’re wearing your partner’s clothes…and that you have a partner.
Leopard—and any animal print for that matter—works for a broad range of types for different reasons. It speaks of nature, and we are, of course, all part of Ma Nature. It specifically appeals to someone with a lot of the laid-back Natural archetype – but does so in a tongue-and-cheek way because you aren’t wearing the actual animal—at least I hope not. (I personally am averse to buying fur. With so many convincing faux fur fabrics these days killing an animal just to look sexy, mysterious and powerful is, IMHO, unnecessary.)
Because it’s a kind of “wink-wink” pattern, an animal print works well for someone with a lot of the High Spirited archetype. It suggests you have conquered a “dangerous” beast. In another sense it becomes somewhat kinky. Men traditionally have been associated with hunting, so the women who wear animal prints become as if the hunted. (Yeah, I know that one’s pretty creepy, sexist and is going to get me in hot water, but still…)
Classic accessories like Topsiders, sneakers and LLBean totes immediately say “preppy chic.” The typical colors and fabrics of these items make you think of summertime, a season associated with Youthful energy, good times and outdoor get-togethers that appeal to every type, particularly those with Youthful and Natural style elements in their features and body shapes.
The LBD is Dramatic (simply because of its color) and Romantic (because of its often body-skimming silhouettes). The starkness of black also suggests something “beyond” or hidden and that alone increases the drama. Even for those who never wear black (yes, we are out there…) it works.
Still, when choosing one of the classic pieces, it’s a good idea to make sure that the color, fabric and drape are complimentary to your coloring, style type and body. Someone with warmer or subtler coloring may find a creamy white works better than a snow white on them. And if you can find it, maybe your LBD is charcoal instead of jet black.
Having some of these workhorses in your closet is a smart idea. They take you from shlumpy to chic in an instant. And they’re the pieces you don’t want to skimp on – go for quality. They’re definitely worth it – particularly when you have to face the world and just don’t have the time or mental energy to put together a whole new “look.”