Six style essentials to love now
Words: Modupe Oloruntoba | Photography: Rudi Geyser | Art Direction: Charl Edwards | Styling: Akim Jardine
Confessions of a Shopaholic was an important movie for my wardrobe. There’s a scene where the main character’s overflowing closet literally explodes on her. Fashion can sometimes feel like that – there’s so much coming at you all at once that shopping smart gets harder and harder. As a result, there are regretful impulse purchases piled in the dark corners of closets everywhere. Mine include a pair of electric blue leggings and a pastel skirt suit (my mother’s idea actually, but ultimately my decision). These items don’t just reflect moments of weakness, uncertainty or bad judgement. They reflect cold hard cash, wasted on bad choices fromw which you’ll likely never fully recoup your losses. That scene was a personal moment of clarity – I cannot ever allow my love of stylish clothes to drown me in tulle, neon, and crippling debt.
The more you know, the less you need, so just consider us your well-dressed investment banker bringing you a piping hot tip: one of the best ways to choose investment pieces is to focus on the building blocks of the reigning silhouettes. If the fashion cycle has taught us anything, it’s that once an all-pervasive shape is established it isn’t going anywhere for a good, long while. The details may change for the sake of an update but as long as the overarching ideas remain the same, you can use silhouettes as a trusty guide in making considered, confident purchases. Time and again, spending more on less has proven itself to be the best system on which one can build a winning wardrobe. It’s not just good for your pocket, it’s great for your look.
We've identified six key items that will see you through the year and beyond in high style. Just six – a small selection of the aforementioned building blocks of current silhouettes. Buy a few varied repeats of what really works for you, but focus on getting quality you can count on. You’ll never regret buying a well-made basic in functional colours and cuts you truly love. The point is to be able to reach into your wardrobe, pull out absolutely anything, look good, feel great and know for a fact that your selection was worth every hard-earned cent.
Classic white shirt
Shirts are arguably the best thing we’ve ever borrowed from the boys, and the classic white shirt sits on the proverbial Iron Throne. It’s comfy and familiar, but in a more useful way than say, sweatpants. The fit should be flawless – obvs – but there are more options than you'd think there are. If you love them but you only own one, you may be robbing yourself of endless possibilities. The best shopping tip I can offer is this: when picking a style, go where you would go in the shirt. The fabric and details will tell you everything you need to know. Need a new old-faithful? Head straight for the crisp cottons and stretch cotton sateens with straightforward, no-fuss details. Have enough workwear but like the idea of a button-down for a night out? Try silk or a sheer fabric, with a few fun features. Feel like channeling Tom Cruise in Risky Business? Go for a longer-length option that can moonlight as a shirt dress whenever you’re not lip-syncing in your socks, or head to the men’s section for the oversized boyfriend shirt look. Remember that you can wear them unbuttoned as a light layer, to maximise versatility.
It’s an odd selection to start with, the beautiful, but seemingly impractical sleeveless blazer. What’s the point of a jacket that isn’t very warm? The point, young Jedi, is that this is the ultimate transseasonal layering staple. It’s tailoring that sits just as comfortably with your jeans and tees as it does with your highest heels and your sharpest shirts. This is the answer to the extant 7am dilemma of whether to dress something up or dress it down. Throw on one of these and you are guaranteed to hit the happy medium, whether you came to it via jeans and slip ons or a pencil skirt and heels. It’s Diane Keaton in a 21st Century remake of Annie Hall; it is the go-anywhere, be-anything wardrobe hero you can trust to make you look good, whatever shape, size or height you may be. It’s also one of very few truly new items to emerge over the past few seasons, and the fact that it remains popular while fashion is feeling particularly nostalgic (for the 70s and the 90s) says a lot about its staying power. (Céline, Balenciaga, Alice + Olivia and Calvin Klein would agree.)
I once heard a men’s magazine editor say that he didn’t understand culottes. He called them ‘pants with no ambition’ (hi Piers Buckle). I would beg to differ. Their sole ambition is to flatter you, to flatter us all, freely and universally – it’s a high calling. The cut formula for culottes is pretty standard but it produces a wide assortment of results, among which you are sure to find a rocksteady staple. High-waisted or hipster, floor-length or cropped, cut for a light flare or for dramatic volume, there isn’t a body anywhere that there is no matching culotte for. There isn’t a lower body flaw they can’t camouflage either – you name it, they hide it, whatever the issue. They’ll lend an attitude of understated polish and comfort to any outfit you pull together. They’re not just day pants; pick a good, dark, heavier fabric and with the right accessories you’ll be good to go come party time.
A word of warning: some shoes will work with cropped culotte hemlines, and some won’t. Keep footwear in mind when adding culottes to your cart. You should probably stay away from embellishments too; a little embroidery never hurt anyone but rhinestones and other shiny details will date them fast – and you want them to last.
If the rise of the hero sneaker was a manifestation of our lean towards the casual, think of this trend as its classier cousin. The chunky sandal is a new-ish player in the world of eveningwear, a place where sexiness reigns, and practicality and comfort are relatively new considerations. It’s sturdy, sure, but the real reason to invest in a pair or two is versatility. There are probably heels in your closet that you don’t wear, not just because they’re too high to be in – realistically – from 9 to 5 or even through a short dinner, but also because they don’t actually work with the looks you wear most often (they probably also cost you a pretty penny). Don’t make that mistake with these, because if you buy the right pair they will never leave your side (your feet – you know what I mean).
Definitely buy-and-try; make sure they feel as good as they look. Be honest about what you love versus what you will actually wear often, and find the shoe that is both. A shoe that’s pretty to look at but doesn’t fit into your everyday life has no business being in your arsenal of essentials. Save that for a treat yo’self moment.
A colour long associated with all things clean, pure, and heavenly (brides, babies, angels and the like), white is the last thing you should be putting on your feet before they hit the concrete. But white sneakers just look so good, and if you’ll care for them properly, they’ll lend their freshness to your outfits for a long time. Use them to lift a dark ensemble out of the shadows or go with the tone-on-tone trend, head to toe. You’ll still need good sneakers to compliment your everyday looks for the next few seasons so pick well: if you generally wear slim, tailored items, you need a slim pair. No bells, no whistles, just a quality sneaker in a quality material. If your look leans closer to casual than trim, go for something with body and detail for a bolder statement. Jeans and a tee can become so much more with a considered footwear choice.
The updated polo neck is the embodiment of fresh, sophisticated simplicity. Ribbed, fitted styles have dominated the past two seasons of street style and several runways before that. It is an ideal first layer in the colder months, and it holds its own on warmer days, too. Even with high necklines and full-length sleeves, they’re as sexy as any cropped or cut-out top because they’re cut tight - they define your shape. They’re popular (and very dependable) in neutral tones, but it is this writer’s personal opinion that jewel tones make them really pop. Think emerald, ruby and tanzanite – the richer the better.