How to Reinvent Basics

How to reinvent basics and make your wardrobe go the extra mile

Wearing: Monogrammed Oversized French Cuff ShirtAnna Quan | ‘Roll Seam’ Wool TrousersThird Form | Nude SandalsSchutz | Boyfriend Blazer (similar) | Ring Buckle Belt (Similar)

I was not invited to a great many social outings in my – describable only as –  geeky teenage years, complete with the quintessential vampire fan fiction writing and online forum frequenting phases, naturally. My very limited wardrobe reflected as much. So on the rare occasion I had an occasion, I was invariably, the frumpy girl in the corner in her t-shirt and jeans.

Of course, in those days my tendency to dress plainly was due to a complete inability to grasp fashion or trends. Now that I fancy myself as knowing better, I rather think that I was on the right track after all.

Must we always find ourselves in the predicament of having ‘nothing to wear’, and needing to run out immediately for a new outfit? Last year, I wrote about wearing basics better. Today I’m extending this discussion to reinventing basics. On the one hand, this is to transform something everyday into something a little bit extraordinary, and on the other, to discover new ways to wear things you already have, to make an effective capsule wardrobe go the extra mile.

1Basics with a twist

All basics are capable of being reinvented with a bit of creativity (and courage). And, as always, it starts with selecting versatile, and always classic, pieces – the kind of basics that have a ‘twist’. For example,  pants with a zipper on the leg that can be worn as a straight leg or flares (mine is by Third Form) jackets that button all the way up so they can be worn as shirts, and t-shirt dresses that can also be worn as tops.

2Wear it wrong

Sometimes it’s ok – and highly recommended – to wear something wrong. Instead of buttoning a classic shirt, cross it over and turn it into a drape front shirt.  Reinvent basics by wearing them with something altogether inappropriate, like a cocktail dress layered over a plain white t-shirt, or a slouchy knit over your suit pants. Think, also, deconstructing tailored pieces – I love wearing my Anna Quan french cuff shirt sleeves down, and hitting that awkward spot between tailored and insouciance.

3Cinch everything

Something boxy and slouchy, to me, is always a two-in-one outfit opportunity. My theory is: cinch everything. Belting up my slouchy boyfriend blazer transforms its boxy silhouette into a feminine hourglass. The same applies to anything from shift dresses to chunky knits.

4Layer for effect

Successful layering is another essential way of reinventing basics. The idea is to layer for effect, always creating an interesting juxtaposition, whether it’s of different textures, lengths or contexts. Shirt collars and sleeves are one of my favourite peek-through element, infinitely layerable with all manner of jackets, knits, and even another shirt. Also in this outfit, I have chosen barely there heels with my split pant legs to emphasise a sliver of skin.


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