Unless you’ve got a closet like Carrie Bradshaw’s, extensive enough that you’ll never have to repeat the same outfit twice, you need to invest in the right foundation items to uphold the rest of your wardrobe. If you don’t have those solid pieces to build the rest of your collection around, you’re going to end up staring at your closet feeling like you’ve got nothing to wear. You have to have foundation pieces to orbit around and build off of.

This concept is nothing new. This article, The Best-Kept Secrets Of The World’s Best-Dressed Women, discusses this point.

A while ago, in attempt to put my French language education to use, I bought a French fashion magazine. Bravo to me! I poured over an article and was quite proud that I was able to decipher it. I imagined that the advice was coming straight from off of the pages from the streets of pink Paris. The article was all about how every French woman should own an exceptionally well tailored, high quality white blouse. To me, there was something so fitting about reading that particular piece of advice in French rather than in English. European elegance in simplicity. I could imagine the woman she described sitting at a street side cafe in Paris dressed exactly as the article described.

In addition to the perfect white blouse, the writer similarly insisted that every woman should own the the exact right shade of red lipstick, perfectly matched to her own complexion. All women should wear that red lipstick as an accessory to that white blouse as a kind of personal statement of simple femininity on a blank canvas.

The article explained that wearing the latest fashion trend, “Ca ne plait que d’autre femmes.” Now, I’m much more interested in the personal pleasure that fashion can bring, not in dressing simply to “catch a man’s eye” or even another woman’s eyes for that matter… Though come to think of it, there is something fun and wonderful of admiring a fellow woman who inspires me simply by seeing her looking her best…

white blouseBut I digress.

I do believe in the classic elegance of the white blouse and red lipstick combo. These are symbols of simple but unstoppable fashion staples that will never go out of style. There’s nothing quite like the confident feeling of wearing items of true taste, tailoring and quality; an exceptional foundation piece can make you feel like a million dollars.

So what foundation items should every woman invest in?

This article suggests a longer list than I’ll prioritize here, but I do agree with the following, in alphabetical order rather than by season:

One-button blazer A cotton or lightweight-wool jacket is a pulled-together layer that can be removed when the temperature rises.
Flat leather sandals A good pair of flat sandals will pair up with virtually anything from shorts to jeans to flowing skirts to bathing suits—and can even sub in for slippers, for minimal vacation packing.
Cardigan A neutral shade goes with everything, and a longer style that hits at the hip flatters most figures.
Dark-wash jeans A wardrobe standby in the cold winter months that’s available in a variety of cuts. Keep in mind that boot-cut and wide-leg styles work well over boots.
Inverted pleat skirt As good looking with a tailored button-down shirt as it is with a tank top, it can be paired with a jacket for a more professional look.
Black turtleneck Consider investing in cashmere: You get more warmth with less bulk.
Ballet flats (in a neutral or a versatile red) Equal parts sophisticated and practical, ballet flats, especially those with rubber soles, are easy on the feet but more polished than sneakers.
White button-down shirt (one cotton, one silky) Fitted ones will get the most wear: They’re easier to tuck in and look neat when left out.
Winter coat Fur-trimmed, down, or wool, a winter coat should offer enough room to accommodate a sweater or jacket.
Black heeled boots or booties High-heeled boots are a fall-to-winter essential. Ankle-grazing booties fall somewhere on the daintiness scale between pumps and boots and make a stylish alternative to both.
Lightweight waterproof coat Ideal for traveling, this practical item looks as right with a skirt as it does with a pair of jeans.
Flat boots (black or brown) Knee-high styles work well with anything from full skirts and A-line dresses to narrow silhouettes.
Heavy sweater Look for a big, chunky knit that’s both comfortable and stylish.
Skinny jeans Once considered a trend, they are now a denim staple. Skinny jeans look best when they don’t fit too snugly at the waist.
Crisp white blouse Softer looking than a button-down, a white blouse is a timeless addition to any wardrobe.
Khaki trench coat Structured and stylish, it’s a true classic.
A black dress The “little black dress” is a cliche for a reason: It’s a wardrobe necessity.
Basic black pumps The workhorse of shoes, a good black pump can take you from day into evening without losing a step.
Capri pants These ankle-baring bottoms look great with ballet flats or strappy sandals.
Crewneck sweater Thin knits, in cotton or wool, layer easily for versatility and comfort.
Pencil skirt This classic piece should be tailored so it grazes the tops of the knees.
Black pants To get the most from this wardrobe staple, select a style made of an all-season fabric, like tropical wool or viscose.
Pantsuit Wear the jacket and pants together to show you mean business—or treat them like separates to maximize their use.

Here’s another interesting link that prioritizes the top 5 items you should invest in.

At home in Canada, Toronto fashion maven, Jeanne Beker, has preached that message by trying to sell a more mature generation of Canadian women her collection of signature clothing.

While I’m not particularly taken with Jeanne Beker’s fashion line, but I get it. Her collection, EDIT, isn’t really right for my generation. I appreciate maturity, but it feels like a woman in her 30s would be aging herself in that clothing line… like she’d be trying a bit too hard. But the concept is spot on. And it’s the same message that fashion experts and columns have always preached to us. We just often forget to listen.

Whether you’re 21 or 45, this advice holds true. I wish that I’d listened to this advice when I was emerging from University, but it’s never too late to learn.


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