My Looks

Start From Scratch: Building Your Wardrobe

Q. Hi Jordan! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to work towards a more grown-up wardrobe. I am 21 years old, graduated college in May, but I am starting work after the New Year. Any advice as to where I should begin? Staples? Must-haves? I don’t even own a pair of black pants!


A. Congrats on your graduation! This is a tough question for me to answer since I don’t know what kind of job you’re heading into, but since you’re writing me and not, say, a blogger specializing in corporate-wear, I’m going to assume that you’re looking for more general advice on looking pulled-together and presentable.

I think that you’ll find this post on Wardrobe Basics helpful – basically, I think that when you’re building a wardrobe from scratch, the easiest (and most cost-effective) way to go about doing that is to figure out what kind of silhouette you feel best in, buy a few key pieces to mix and match, and then add variety and interest with accessories. For me, that would be neutrals (black, navy, grey) that are loose on the top and slim-fitting on the bottom…and then I’d transform that basic uniform with eye-catching (but not necessarily expensive – try Forever 21, Lulu’s, H&M, chloe + isabel, etc.) scarves, earrings, shoes, and other extras.

As an example, here are just some of the ways you can style up a pair of simple bootcut grey pants and a white sweater:

More Tips:

– For your key pieces (3-4 pairs of pants, 1-2 skirts, 6-8 blouses and light sweaters, 2-3 cardigans), aim somewhere in between Forever 21 and Saks – you want quality basics that will hold their shape, but there’s no need to spend a fortune.

– Where you should spend a little more: on a beautiful coat (I like camel or grey rather than black) and a stunning bag (black always works, of course, but if you’re feeling more daring you might want to consider red, which goes with pretty much everything, too).

– Toss or store away everything that doesn’t fit well, or that’s seen better days – the key to a sophisticated look is making sure that everything you put on is neat and polished. Plus, the more streamlined your wardrobe is, the faster you’ll be able to get ready in the morning. I’m not saying that you need to get rid of those worn-to-bits college t-shirts…just put them in the bottom drawer, away from your go-to pieces.

– I like the idea of buying pants and skirts in neutrals (black, grey, navy), and then adding color and interest on top with inexpensive, bright blouses. Try combos like navy and chartreuse, or grey and orange.

– Remember to have those pants tailored to whatever heel length you prefer – and if you have a favorite pair, you might want to get two so that you can wear one with flats and the other with heels.

– You should own at least one great suit, even if your job doesn’t require you to wear one; you just never know. Focus on quality and a classic cut, because this is something that will last for years if you’re not wearing it very often (I had an affordable pencil skirt suit from Banana that lasted me forever and felt chic in almost any situation).

– Nothing says “I’m a grown-up now” like a little extra grooming, so get some subtle highlights (ask your colorist to weave in lowlights so they’ll last longer without a touch-up), attend to your eyebrows (I should take my own advice here), and keep your nails looking nice (just DIY your manicure if you’re looking to save money).

– Buy a great red lipstick and some gorgeous sunglasses (street stand knock-offs work just fine). Nothing will make you feel more glamorous in five seconds flat, even after a late night out.

Product info after the jump.

White top: Thakoon

Pants: Barneys New York

Accessories, clockwise from top left: Gucci scarf, Thierry sunglasses, Alex Monroe studs, Dorothy Perkins belt, Foley & Corinna Mid City bag, Michael Kors watch, Tom Ford sunglasses, Butter London nail polish, Lanvin flats, Marc by Marc Jacobs scarf, Rupert Sanderson Mary Janes, Amrita Singh bracelet, YSL lipstick, Max & Chloe hoops.

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