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10 Classic Clothing Pieces

Basics that belong in everyone’s closet

You hear about “classic” cars and “classic” movies, but what, exactly, is classic clothing? Old styles from long ago that were hot in their heyday but that no one wears anymore?


Classic clothes are styles that look good on just about everyone and that have been popular for years. Like the humble chicken that can be batter dipped and fried for a casual occasion or simmered with vegetables into Coq Au Vin for formal guests, classic clothes can be dressed up or dressed down for any occasion. With classic pieces, a little can go a l-o-n-g way, so invest in these wardrobe staples so you can wear them for years to come. Classics include:

  • A Crisp White ShirtA crisp, white, button down shirt can be worn under suit jackets, with a skirt or pants, under a vest, over a tank top whatever you want. Dress it up with a silk scarf or a strand of pearls for work, or tuck it into jeans for a more laid-back look.
  • A Form-Fitting T-ShirtA simple style, form-fitting t-shirt can take you to meetings when worn under a jacket, to a picnic when worn with jeans, and help keep you warm when layered under a shirt or sweater. Forget the logos, cute sayings, or goofy details – just stick with white and fitted for maximum versatility.
  • Straight Leg Dark PantsDark, straight-legged pants in a simple style can take you to work during the day, to evening events at night, and to casual events on weekends, depending on what you pair with them. Dress them up with a beaded top and sandals for night, dress them down with a sweater and flats for errands.
  • Straight Leg JeansA simple style, straight-leg dark denim jean can see you through LOTS of casual activities. Pair them with a silk top and heels for something a little dressier, a t-shirt and tennis shoes for something a little more casual.
  • A Dark, Fitted, Single-Breasted JacketWant to command respect and immediately set a more formal tone? Put on a dark, fitted, single-breasted jacket. It’s appropriate for meetings, funerals, church – you name it – and will immediately upgrade any outfit you wear, including jeans. If you can only afford one jacket, make sure it’s this style.
  • A Knee Length SkirtWhether your lower half looks best encased in a straight, A-line, or wrap style, strive for a dark or neutral color with a hem to the knees. Knee-length tends to flatter most women, whereas thigh high or calf length tend to work for very few.
  • A Day DressA day dress in a simple style can take you just about anywhere, from church and teas to funerals and work. You can dress it up with heels and jewelry, dress it down with flats and a trendy jacket.
  • A Cocktail DressThis can be the traditional LBD (little black dress) or another color in an evening style and fabric. Wear it for cocktail parties, semi-formal dinners, drinks with friends, or the theater.
  • A Trench CoatA classic, belted trench with a zip-out liner can take you anywhere in the world three seasons a year. It will repel rain, sleet, and snow in style, and fold up compactly when not in use. Originally designed as an all-weather coat by Thomas Burberry for use by British soldiers “in the trenches” during World War I, the trench does exactly as intended – keeps you warm in all sorts of weather.
  • Walking ShortsA dark or neutral-colored, flat front, straight-leg walking short is a summer staple. It should fit you properly without gaping, pinching, or riding up, and the hem should hit just a few inches above the knee. Wear them with tennis shoes for a very casual look, or upgrade a bit with strappy sandals or cute flats.

Now I have to admit that if I’d seen this list at the height of my clothing consumption (“fashionista”) days in my 20’s, I would have shouted, “boring!” and immediately dismissed it.

But take a closer look at these clothes. They look great all by themselves, but they also offer an elegant background to more interesting pieces. Have a stunning top you want everyone to see? Pair it with your black pants or dark skirt. Have a gorgeous new necklace? Put it with your classic day dress and show it off properly.

It’s like the difference between walking into a white room with light blue carpet and being asked to set it for an elegant dinner party on a $500 budget, and walking into a lime green room with orange carpet and being asked to do the same. The first one allows you to focus on the table; the other forces you to cover up the backdrop before taxing your imagination (and what’s left of your budget) on the table. See the difference?

Yes, trends are fun and certainly have their place, but classics are VERSATILE and allow you to do more with less. Dress them up, dress them down, wear them out – and still look good. That’s the power of classic pieces, and that’s why you should have plenty of them in your wardrobe.

About Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at Fashion For Real Women. Need some tips and tricks? Pick up a copy of Wardrobe Magic. Visit her site for more information.


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