Thursday, 13 March 2014

Building a Wardrobe: Finding Key Pieces

So far in this series, I've discussed finding your own style, how to determine number of pieces needed for your closet, and how to pick closet basics.  Today we're discussing how to fill in the rest of your closet with Key Pieces (again, refer to this article by Into Mind for an excellent explanation).

I think of Key Pieces as the showstoppers of your closet--the pieces that you select first then build an outfit around, or the pieces you'd miss most or be unable to replace if your closet burned in a fire.

When I'm thinking about selecting Key Pieces, I try to picture my closet as a whole and make sure that this unique piece can be easily replaced in an outfit by any other item in my closet. Key Pieces generally incorporate one or more of the following characteristics:

4 Characteristics of Wardrobe Basics

  • Structured: the cut of the fabric is unique and makes the piece standout beyond your typical basic. Helmut Lang is a master of this. 
  • Patterned: a piece with a print is more memorable than a solid. Subgroups to incorporate into you wardrobe may include: geometrics, florals, stripes, animal prints, and watercolors/abstract prints
  • Textural: a tweed jacket will almost always be more interesting or statement-making than a cotton jacket, because the texture of the fabric teases the eye differently than a smooth, nondescript fabric. It's great to include a variety of fabrics in your closet, including tweeds, cottons, silks, metals, laser-cut fabrics, jersey knits, and workout-friendly fabrics.
  • Colorful: Our brains are wired to notice colors and variations in tone, so obviously a colorful piece of clothing can stand out more in a closet than a neutral. Make sure your colors are flattering to your skin tone! Note: Blacks, greys, creams, browns, and whites get a bad rap for being boring, but a little black dress can be just as interesting as a cobalt one if it incorporates one of the other three characteristics of statement-makers.
So what items would I select for my own wardrobe? See below:

Key Pieces: Bottoms

Breakdown (including which of the four characteristic the item incorporates)

  • 1 pair Colorful, Structured trousers: these are basically like wearing pajamas to work, so obviously you'll wear them at least once a week. These are another good example, showing that they don't have to be colorful to be a key piece. The drapey structure of the piece will also make it stand out in your closet.
  • 1 pair Patterned (geometric), Structured, Colorful trousers: these are SO. GOOD. You HAVE to click here to see how fun the cuts of these are, plus the pattern adds a fun Pow! to my mostly-neutral wardrobe. If this is a bit much for you, you could go with these grey jeans with awesome stitching. Not crazy enough? Try these gold sequined reptilian-print trousers!
  • 1 Patterned (floral) Colorful maxi skirt: I love this skirt because it has so many colors, so it's infinitely mixable, plus the print has a basis of black so my neutral tops would look great with it. These floral trousers are another good example, although they're sadly sold out now.
  • 1 Textural, Structured leather skirt: leather texture is always sexy to me, and that vibe is reinforced by the severe lines of the skirt. For a more demure yet colorful look, try this midi leather skirt; for a trendier take on the topic, try these pleather joggers.
  • 1 Geometric, Colorful skirt: much like the maxi skirt above, this skirt is versatile because it incorporates many colors on a black base. The print affords the opportunity for fun pattern mixing, too! This is a super fun alternative that I may just have to buy for an upcoming wedding...
  • 1 Colorful, Textured skirt: I love the bright cobalt color and the geometric floral cuts, but I just realized it's sold out! Here's a real leather alternative.
  • 1 Structured pair lounge pants: newsflash: companies make really fun, interesting sweatpants--no need to relive the college days in your baggy heather grey drawstring pair! I'm also digging on these that seem like they could be dressed up with funky heels, and these that are made for your laziest, coziest of days (as a dreadlocked stoner).
  • 1 Patterned (watercolor) Colorful legging: I mean. I am dying to workout just to wear these fun leggings! Here's a tie-dye pair in similar colors. 
  • 1 Patterned (floral) Colorful legging: It's tough to keep motivated to workout, so I don't think it hurts to have a couple pairs of fun leggings, especially if one is in cool tones and the other is in warm tones to fully utilize your closet. Try these eco-friendly alternatives--they're made of recycled plastic bottles!
  • 1 Patterned (watercolor) Colorful pair of shorts: For when it's super hot out and you want to get your equally hot tush in gear, try a fun pair of shorts.  These could light a fire under you (har!), and these are a fun compression version.

Key Pieces: Tops


  • 1 Textural, Patterned, Structured, Colorful blazer:  If this company wasn't based in New Zealand I would own it already. LOVE. Here is another option.
  • 1 Patterned (stripes) Structural cardigan: this is perfect to dress up or down, and its oversized fit and print make it memorable. Here's another that has a fun fit and striped print.
  • 1 Structured, Colorful, Textured blazer: A more colorful take on the first cardigan's assets, this can go sweet or tough because the pink color is balanced by an angular cut and studs.
  • 1 Structured, Textural trench coat: although most consider a trench coat to be a wardrobe basic, this makes it to 'Key Pieces' territory because of the mix of fabrics and the severe lines created by the contrasting colors. I also like this abstract plaid version.
  • 1 Colorful, Patterned (stripes/geometric) tank: with white cutoffs for play, black pencil skirt for work. Try this one for a little less color. 
  • 1 Colorful workout sweatshirt: Pop this on after your workout and carry the positive vibes throughout your day :) Try this for a warm-tone top. 
  • 1 Patterned (animal) sweater: Try this with jeans on the weekend or over a button-up and pencil skirt for work. Another option here. 
  • 1 Patterned (abstract) Colorful blouse: Multiple colors = multiple options to pair it with in your closet. Here's a slightly less multi-color version. 
  • 1 Patterned (geometric) blouse: This would look sharp with a blazer blazer; here's a less dressy alternative. 
  • 1 Patterned (floral) tank: this is loose and flowy--very comfortable, and would be fun paired with stripes. Here's a more structured alternative. 
  • 1 Patterned (watercolor) workout tank: Try this with blue-colored bottoms, or black shorts. Here's another!
  • 1 Patterned (abstract), Structured workout tank: This tank has a fun wrap feature, making it equally great for yoga or an art show. Here's another that is a little less funky.
  • 1 Patterned (geometric/stripes), Colorful, Structured, Textured work dress: I love with this dress and will stalk the internet until it goes on sale. Here's another amazing option with scuba-inspired styling. 
  • 1 Structured work dress: Yes, this is technically colorful too, but I treat hunter green as a neutral like grey or navy, so it doesn't count for me as colorful ;) Here's a truly neutral option that is still gorgeously structured. 
  • 1 Patterned (stripes), Structured maxi: The back of this dress is a fun surprise. Try this one for a more coverage. 
  • 1 Structured little black dress: This Helmut Lang dress is equally amazing if worn turned around...I know because I've tried, and I can't stop thinking about it. I also want something in my life that warrants this beauty. 
  • 1 Structured 'power' workout tank: Tip: highly structured and minimalistic pieces convey a powerful, sexy vibe, so when you need inspiration to tough out a hard workout, grab a simple-but-strong tank. Here's another option to show off your sexy back ;)
Things to note:
  • The greater number of the four listed characteristics that an item has, the more of a 'wow' factor is likely present. Making note of how many of the characteristics your key pieces cover may further help clarify your style. For example, of all the items here, the ones I most want in my closet are the first black blazer with pink and patterned insets and the work dress with geometric stripes......both of which are the only two shown here that meet all four criteria. In contrast, I'm a little bored by the blue workout sweater, because it doesn't have as much 'pizazz' in comparison. If you want interesting pieces but have a more classic style or just don't want crazy-town pieces like me, find pieces that just have one or two of the characteristics.
  • I provided a couple alternatives for each piece to reinforce the idea that you're not looking for a specific piece (i.e., if you hate those amazing geometric pants, you can find an alternative that suits you better that still has a great cut and print but doesn't give you a seizure looking at it ;)
  • In looking at my list of shirts, most of them can be labeled as Patterned, but they aren't repeating elements in this imaginary closet because each represents a distinct category of pattern (geometric, stripe, animal, etc). You need a mix of pattern categories to keep your closet remixable. 
  • Notice that none of my labels overlap--I don't have two different Colorful Structured skirts listed, etc. This is because by mixing up what characteristics your clothing presents, you have greater diversity and thus greater mixability (if you plan it correctly--items in your closet still need to go together!)

For the other posts in this series, see:
Coming up next:
  • Building a Wardrobe: Accessories and Shoes!
  • Building a Wardrobe: How to Maximize Options in a Capsule Wardrobe
And, because I personally hate having to click on each link in a blog post, here are all of the alternate options I linked to in this post :)
Alternatives to Key Bottoms

No comments:

Post a Comment