the 10 pieces you need for a classic wardrobe

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I’m wondering, is there any one piece of clothing more classic than a trench coat? It’s the perfect layering piece for spring and fall when it’s warm enough to forgo your heavy winter coat, but still too chilly to go without any outerwear at all. Even more, a good trench coat is a timeless piece that’s been chic for decades, as proved by classic icons Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Jackie Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn to modern it-girls Keira Knightley, Kate Moss, and the queen, Amal Clooney.

The history of the trench coat was originally worn as a sporting coat in British society before being popularized in the first World War. The traditional regulation wool coats worn by the military weren’t able to withstand the elements in the trenches and thus, the waterproof trench coat came into play, designed first by Burberry and then Aquascutum in the early 1900s.

Since then, the trench has ascended to its status as an iconic garment after being seen in cinema of the 1940s and 50s, used by costume departments on the set of Casablanca and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the 90s, we saw modern versions done by Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. But it still remains that the trench coat exudes a sense of elegance and the functionality that is so common in British upper class fashion.

Recently, I was gifted the Whitstable trench coat from British brand Boden and I’ve been having a lot of fun styling it with my upcoming trips to London and Amsterdam in mind. What’s great about it is that it’s got all of the classic elements of a trench but with modern sleeve stripes and a really fun yet surprisingly discreet Union Jack printed lining.

Along with the trench coat, I’m sharing nine more pieces that I think you need in order to have a classic wardrobe. But, classic doesn’t have to be boring! There are so many iterations of classic that it never has to look bland. You could honestly be anything from classic prep to classic bohemian. What’s so fun about styling is that the possibilities and combinations are endless. Using these ten items as your base, you can infuse your personal style by layering on accessories or statement pieces.

cashmere sweater //
A good cashmere sweater can take you through all four season. Yes, even summer because it’s a thermostatic fabric that reacts to your body temperature. Ideally, I recommend stocking up on cashmere sweaters in black, white, gray, and camel and then adding pops of color to suit your personal taste. Some of my favorite places to buy affordable, high quality cashmere are Boden, Everlane, and J.Crew.

basic t-shirt //
The foundation of any wardrobe, in my eyes, is a collection of really great, basic t-shirts that fit exactly the way you like. When you find that tee, buy it in white, black, gray, and oatmeal, maybe even two of each and KonMari fold them into a little drawer. My all-time favorite t-shirts are from Madewell but some other great brands are T by Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, Equipment, Everlane, and James Perse.

perfect fitting jeans //
Denim styles really vary based on your body and what you like, so I can’t just say buy a pair of skinny jeans and be done with it. I recommend taking a day to go try on all sorts of different styles to find what suits you best, then invest in a couple colors like black, white, dark blue, and light blue. Also, I know jean shopping can be really annoying and can trigger body issues but keep in mind that brands size and even construct their jeans so differently that you shouldn’t take it personally when you put on a pair that looks terrible. My true size is 26-27 in jeans, yet a pair of 25s were huge at Free People and I once could barely zip up a pair of 32s at H&M. My favorite places to buy jeans are Madewell and Zara, where I find the sizes are true and the fits are comfortable.

little black dress //
What classic wardrobe list would be complete without a little black dress? Remember, this doesn’t have to mean something boring. It’s just nice to have a classic, black dress of any kind on hand that can take you from work to weekend and from brunch to a more formal evening event. This is a place where you can really infuse your personal style!

statement dress //
A statement dress, to me, means buying something interesting that suits your lifestyle very specifically. I live in the South and near the beach, so my statement dresses tend to be bohemian, printed maxi dresses in muted colors. If you live in an area that’s colder more often, maybe your statement dress would be something like this in a heavier fabric or if you’re really into color, maybe something bold like this in a classic silhouette. Or, maybe you like a delicate, vintage vibe and you’d go for something like this.

trench coat //
I’m a huge fan of a camel coat, but if I can only pick one outerwear item for this list of ten, a trench is the piece I have to pick. It’s the perfect outer layer for winter, spring, and fall. It’s waterproof, it’s chic, and it’s timeless. I was graciously gifted this amazing trench from Boden that is super classic but with a couple little twists.

gold pendant //
Jewelry is usually a thing that’s very much up to your personal taste, but I think a gold pendant necklace is suited for anyone’s wardrobe. You can veer into different directions depending on what you like, picking something clean and modern or going for more of a vintage vibe.

ballet flats //
You really can’t go wrong with ballet flats. A classic black or nude pair are super versatile and can be worn with literally everything. When it comes to fabrics, I tend towards leather or suede and I recommend really doing your due diligence and buying from a brand that has a sterling reputation for quality. I say this because I got a pair of $100 flats for Christmas a few years ago from a brand that I thought was a good one, then they were destroyed after just one week. Granted, I wore them at a conference for a week when I was an events coordinator but still, these should have lasted. Anyway! I recommend going with brands like Margaux, Rothys (worn by Meghan Markle), and Repetto (the OG ballet flat company, worn by Audrey Hepburn herself) and even Boden! I just got a pair from them and they’ve been great.

blazer //
I will admit I have a love/hate relationship with blazers, probably tied to my dislike for dress codes and office jobs 😅 But, I have a nice collection that are good to have on hand and can actually be dressed down pretty easily. If you want to dress your blazers up and down, I suggest buying linen blazers because they’re easier to make feel casual. For a full collection, try black, white, tan, and navy. My favorite brands for blazers are J.Crew and Ralph Lauren.

white sneaker //
If there’s one shoe that I own that I wear the most, it’s definitely my white Converse. They go with everything, they are super comfortable, and they add a little cool edge to a look. My favorite brand for white sneakers is Converse but there’s, of course, also Adidas, Nike, and Common Projects.