Why Basics Aren’t So Basic


I was asked at a recent BEO event about the basics every happy closet should have. My answer? There is no answer.

Prescriptive fashion epithets like 10 Things Every Woman Should Own have no place in a happy closet. Each hanging space is unique to its personal fears, joys, hopes and experiences. The real solution in creating lasting closet happiness is in mastering what author James Clear calls ‘identity-based habits’ – those behaviours which reflect your true self. These are the buckos that will stick like a tongue to a cold pane of glass (not that I’ve ever licked a window, of course not).

Lists are merely curated lifestyle suggestions based on somebody else’s notion of what constitutes ‘need’. There’s no point investing in a ‘timeless’ white shirt if you absolutely hate collars or if a ‘classic’ trenchcoat makes you feel like Freddie the Flasher.

What I will say is that sometimes the small things make life that bit easier. We all need to leave the house, go to work, greet our neighbours or attend an event that involves swapping our sensibilities for some (over)due diligence. Consider this your larder list – fill those shelves and no one goes hungry. Leave it to chance and you’ll be shafted with a carrot and can of sweetened condensed milk when the in-laws pop round.

But first…

A few ground rules:

• buy the best quality/cut you can afford
• stick to a neutral palette: white, cream, navy, black, tan, brown, khaki
• use trends and accessories to add flavour and colour
• choose pieces from the suggestions below that suit your shape, lifestyle and location (no point ticking high heels off the list if you live in the Alaskan Tundra).

The list:

  • t-shirts – crew neck or v-neck
  • tank tops or camisoles
  • long sleeve tops – crew neck or v-neck
  • button down shirt or blouse – in cotton or silk
  • pencil skirt or full skirt
  • ballet flats, loafers or brogues
  • court shoes
  • tailored blazer
  • denim jacket
  • denim shirt
  • single- or double-breasted wool jacket or coat
  • wax jacket or parka
  • knee or ankle boot
  • v-neck or crew neck sweater (fine wool or cashmere)
  • indigo slim cut or bootcut jeans
  • slim cut trousers
  • structured bag
  • LBD
  • clutch
  • basic belt
  • leather strap watch
  • sunglasses
  • casual canvas shoe (Converse, tennis shoe, espadrille)