Put me in a beautiful outfit and my entire demeanor will change. I’ll be lighter than a feather and happier than most sunbeams. A good outfit will give me the confidence to dominate a room.
An ugly, misshapen outfit will make me want to be as invisible as possible.
It has been tough on the clothing end of things lately. Eliminating clothing as a financial concern has helped me balance my budget this past year. Then there’s working at a rough and tumble place like Trader Joe’s five days a week: I don’t know how some of my co-workers keep so chic and fashionable while my fashion life has flatlined to TJ shirts and stressed jeans. Incredibly stressed jeans as any bottoms I wear to TJ’s better be ready to be destroyed from wayward boxcutters (I’m clumsy, ok?), spills and the other messes involved with hauling giant boxes around. And you can forget about makeup which, if not used sensibly, can actually destroy your face.
Then there’s just the sheer psychosis that is fashion sometimes: the absolute disposability that characterizes the big retailers (“fast fashion”) nowadays and the revolving door of what’s in and what’s out. It’s all so exhausting to keep up with, one can’t be blamed for not bothering.
As a result, the bulk of my wardrobe is still from 3 years ago, when I was last in Asia and could, with little conscience, buy whatever I felt like. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be to wear the same pieces in and out. With pride, I can say that I’ve picked well, overall. I’ve even discovered new clothing combinations I hadn’t invented when I first bought the pieces.
But still. With a trip to Manila and Tokyo on the horizon, I decided to uncap my shopping block and get back into the swing of things. And after the first heady rush of that new fabric smell and new fabric texture… it’s time to think.
How does one stay fashionable on a budget? Is there a way to do this without constantly buying clothes? The simplest looks can achieve that confidence booster effect without too much hassle. I decided to sit down and work out what the ideal closet foundation was exactly. (I googled “closet must haves” after I made this list and saw similar ideas.) I think of this as the baseline for looking effortlessly fashionable at all times. I love bold colors and patterns and that can be added on top of this foundation.
Here’s what I came up with, from head to toe:
[Intention: to look effortlessly fashionable, chic, and comfortable at all times, while on a budget. Note that this was made for living in on the east coast of the United States with hot, humid summers and cold winters.]
- Lipstick: bright red (1), dark red (1)
- Lip balm
- Option: a pink no-makeup-makeup lipstick?
- Blush: peachy (1), rosy (1)
- Black eyeliner
- Smokey eye palette
- Korean skincare routine (guide) [Comment: Korean skincare is all about looking fresh and dewy. Just stay away from the skin whiteners if that isn’t your thing.]
- Oil-based cleanser
- Foam cleanser
- Sheet masks: 1x a week
- Moisturizing cream
- Eye cream
- Hat, straw (1) for summer
- Sunglasses: black (1), brown (1)
- North Face beanie (1) for winter
- Scarf: red is ideal (1), other
- Umbrella, black (1)
TOPS (white is the baseline)
- Bras: white (1), black (1), nude (1), other (2) for a total of (5) bras
- Athletic bra (1)
- Adjustable bra, nude (1)
- T-shirts: white (2), black (1), other
- soft and pliable (1)
- better at keeping its shape (1)
- Options: scoop neck (1), V-neck (1)
- Button up shirts: white (2), black (1), other
- Starchy and long sleeved (1 black, 1 white)
- Breezy and short-sleeved (1 white)
- Options: polka dotted (1)
- Tank top
- Spaghetti strap: white (1), black (1), other
- Thicker strapped: white (1)
- Long sleeve shirts: black (1), other
- Turtleneck: navy (1) *Ines’ suggestion
- Striped (1)
- Sweater: soft, warm and gray is ideal (1)
- Cardigan: soft, warm and gray is ideal (1)
- Sweatshirt: navy is ideal (1)
- Blazer: navy (1)
- Fall jacket: black (1)
- Uniqlo’s light down jacket: black (1) ← excellent and flexible
- Winter coat: black or gray (1)
- Trench coat: black (1) ← maybe?
BOTTOMS (black is the baseline)
- Underwear: white (1), black (1), nude (1), others!
- Bikini cut? Boy shorts? Thongs?
- Jeans: light blue (1), dark blue (1), khaki (1)
- Pants: black (1), other (2)
- Striped and patterned, encouraged!
- LBD → form fitting
- Work dress, black/navy/gray/olive → heavy material, holds its own shape
- Light summer dress for the beach
- Short skirt: gray/navy?
- Pencil skirt: black (1)
- Pleated skirt
- Short shorts: jean blue (1)
- Shorts up to your knees
- Socks: black, white
- Ankle socks
- Crew socks that cover up the ankles
- Option: knee socks
- Thick cable knit: black (1 or 2)
- The 2nd can be gray
- Regular: black (1)
- Optional: gray, navy
- Thick cable knit: black (1 or 2)
- Athletic shoes: black (1)
- Ballet flats: black (1), other (1)
- Knee high, black (1)
- Ankle, black/brown (1)
- Winter boots, white? (1)
- Bonus: rain boots in a fun color
- Flip flops, any color
- Heels, black
- Yoga pants, black/gray/navy (2)
- Yoga tops, no sleeves, light colors
- Black leotard, short sleeve (1)
- Black leotard, long sleeve (1)
- Pink tights
- Canvas shoes
- Swimsuit, black (1)
- Optional: bikini, in any color
Let me know what you think, if I should add or delete anything. I’ll be working on having this as my closet backbone and building from there!