In my first article I wrote about Spring Summer 11 trends: those that I thought would in to Autumn/Winter 11, and those that I thought would soon flounder and look dated. Unfortunately though, even those that survive through to a second season often fall by the wayside soon after...only to then come back in vogue a few seasons later, such is the cyclical nature of fashion. After all we're not re-inventing the wheel here, so after cowboy and biker have had a turn in the limelight, it's usually time for nautical and floral to have another bite of the fashion cherry. However, I am pleased to say that regardless of this constant ebb and flow of these trends, there are some pieces that really do transcend seasons. These pieces are always going to be on point, no matter what the current whims of the industry. This is, in case you missed it, is MONUMENTAL news, as it basically gives us all a massive get-out-of-sartorial-jail-free card, and a fall-back option for all of those days when just trying to put on a set of clean clothes is enough, let alone trying to be in step with the latest catwalk report or "Everybody's Wearing" page in Heat. With that I give you the ten pieces I believe every woman, and man, should be in possession of:
1. The White Shirt
The ultimate wardrobe staple, the white shirt is loved by waiters, office workers and grooms the world over. It can be worn with a suit to work or with jeans for the dreaded Dress Down Friday or at the weekend. For gents I recommend a tuck in, nice brown belt and matching shoes; ladies all you need is a ballet pump. It can also be dressed up for glamorous events, with a tux and bow tie for gents, and likewise for ladies. Yes, girls you can wear a tux, just team with killer heels, a cocktail ring and an evening clutch, see Diane Kruger for inspiration. This being said, you can go two ways with the white shirt. One is to go to M and S and buy often. The quality is good and so is the price, so every time you have a collar stain (or worse...we've all seen a yellow armpit moment) you just throw away and replace. The second option is to invest in a beautifully tailored and sculpted shirt that fits you perfectly, perhaps with a little extra detailing such as a ruffle or a pleat, and at the same time buy some Vanish and be prepared to use it liberally.
2. The Perfect Fit Jeans
When I was younger I wouldn't wear jeans at all as I found them stiff and uncomfortable, but as I grew up I soon saw the error of my ways. Everyone needs a pair of jeans in their wardrobe because when they fit right, there is no trouser more flattering. The right pair of jeans lifts and tucks, supports you in the places you need it and skims and covers in the places you want to hide. But please note I said the right pair of jeans. I also view denim as colour-neutral, meaning that whilst you may be wearing blue or black on your legs, because they are jeans they somehow don't count and will actually go with virtually anything you put on your top half. It's one of the mysteries of the universe, don't ask me how it works, just embrace it.
I know shopping for jeans puts fear into the heart of many a woman, and some men too, but honestly spending one or two nightmarish days trying on every cut and wash imaginable until you find your perfect pair really is worth it. No, honestly. Once you have the right cut you can just buy this style in bulk until you die, get pregnant or lose or gain a stone or more. Minimise the stress and go to a department store such as Selfridges and get one of their denim experts to help you out, or better still, take a trip to see Queen of Denim Donna Ida. She will diagnose your denim needs and have you in the perfect pair in less time than it takes you to start crying over the size of your behind. Designer-wise there is a wealth of brands to choose from, look out in particular for Citizens of Humanity, Goldsign and J Brand. And denim on the high street is not to be sniffed at either - head to Uniqlo for high-quality Japanese denim and Gap for the best range of styles. And gentlemen, one last tip: if you are slim a woman's jean may actually fit you better than a man's. Whilst I don't recommend going for a flare, a skinny or a wide leg jean from the women's department may do wonders for your figure. If you can get over the in-store embarrassment, go for it.
3. The Trench
Coats are a veritable minefield of dos and don'ts. The Parka, the Poncho, the Pea, where does one begin? I'll tell you where, with the trench. The trench coat has been around since the beginning of time, and thanks to Burberry and Aquascutum, has been a timeless wardrobe staple for decades now. Think of Humphrey Bogart and Sophia Loren sporting their trenches in a bygone era and you know you are on to a good thing. Always buy your first one in brown, and never do up the buckle (tie an insouciant double knot instead - far less try-hard). If you can afford a designer one then do invest as you can wear it every Spring and every Autumn for the rest of your life, but if not all the High Street stores stock them too. One last thing to remember ladies, if your hemline is shorter than that of the trench, and you have bare legs you are giving off a strong message: wield this power wisely.
4. The "Go With Everything" Tee
The basic tee goes with everything; it looks great with jeans in the day, and can be dressed up at night under a jacket or blazer, with heels and jewellery for the girls. You should buy one in white, one in black, and one in grey (in that order). Go to luxury basics brand Chinti and Parker for the best around, otherwise Gap is your best bet on the high street. And no, it isn't boring to wear something so simple, it's chic and understated, it sends a subconscious message that you are effortlessly stylish.
5. The Breton Stripe
Firstly let me clear the air on a key myth surrounding the Breton - horizontal stripes do not make you look larger. This is a fashion misnomer that has been pedalled for far too long. What will make you look fat is buying something a size too small or in an unflattering cut. Now take a deep breath and keep repeating this mantra until you feel you can take on a Breton. This item can be a long or short sleeved tee or a light jersey or jumper, the base colour must be white or cream for the authentic French look, but the stripe can be black, blue or red. Play around with the width of the stripe - finer stripes are less noticeable, wider stripes make more of a statement, but never wear a beret with a Breton - this is taking the Gallic influence too literally. Like the basic tee, a Breton stripe works with almost everything, just avoid other patterns in your outfit unless you are a confident and road-tested "pattern clasher", (This is an art form in itself and could be the basis of a whole separate post in the future). Again, the popularity and timelessness of the piece means that they are widely available - APC always have great pieces, but otherwise H and M and Topshop will do just as well. For the brave women amongst you I am an advocate of the Breton stripe trouser as well - just keep the top-half neutral - a white tee and navy blazer is all you need. Trust me reader, you are just one stripe away from Parisian street chic and once you have one stripe in your wardrobe I guarantee you will be back for more - I currently own three different variations and counting...
And with that I end part one of this nail-biting ride through your capsule wardrobe, leaving you breathlessly hanging on for more sartorial advice and fashion whimsy. Savour these first five wardrobe staples, and if you are lacking any of them now is the time to buy! Stay tuned for part two and the final five items you need to make your wardrobe, your style and your LIFE complete.