Basics for every wardrobe

BlogHer Original Post

Today we're going to the virtual mail bag. Pamela wrote:

I recently lost 12 lbs (all my "baby" weight and then some) and need basically a whole new wardrobe. But here's the kicker: we are hoping to get pregnant again soon. I plan on losing whatever weight I gain during the next pregnancy, but know that my body might change its shape and never quite go back to its current state. So what can I buy to fit my current body that will have some flexibility for my future post-pregnancy one?

I'm 5'8, 140 lbs., with a pear shape (measurements 37-32-40). I'm in an office where sweaters, button downs, skirts/pants are the norm, and I like a preppy and tailored look.

Dressing a transitional body is tough, particularly when you're trying to look professional and put-together. Pamela has the right idea, though: what she needs to do is focus on basic pieces that will carry her through this window and will work for her after she has her baby.

So what does she need?

First things first: Pamela's body has gone through a lot recently; she's had a baby and has gained and lost some weight. She should start with a bra fitting, to make sure she's wearing the right size bra. Pregnancy and changes in weight can affect the size and shape of your breasts; having the right size bra will make your clothes fit better. Most department stores will do bra fittings, as will small specialty lingere stores.

Once that's out of the way, Pamela needs the following:

A pair of jeans. Because Pamela is tall and curvy, she should look for boot cut or trouser jeans--something with a straight leg (the same width all the way down, not tapered or flared). Trouser jeans will be a little dressier, but regular boot cut jeans can easily be dressed up or down. For maximum flexibility, she should go with a pair that she can wear with flats.

A pair of wool or cotton blend trousers in a neutral color. Again, Pamela wants to look for something with a long, straight leg, to balance her hips. Because these are dressier pants, she should opt for something hemmed for a heel, even if its just a little heel. A "neutral" color can be black or brown or grey (either a light grey or a charcoal) or navy. A herringbone or tweed is also a nice neutral. Pamela should steer clear of light colored bottoms; they will emphasize her bottom half, and will get dirty easily.

A wool or cotton blend skirt in a neutral color. Because Pamela is curvy, her best bet is an A-line skirt; because she is tall, she can also look for something with a little flounce at the hem. A skirt that hits just below the knee can be worn with flats and heels and boots. If you are slim through the hips, you can opt for a pencil skirt, although keep in mind that it will look best with heels, which makes it a little less versatile. Again, choose a neutral color for maximum flexibility.

BananaRepublic suit

A jacket that goes with ALL the bottoms. Pamela might want to opt for a suit (the one pictured here is from Banana Republic), because she works in an office; she should choose a suit that will mix and match with other pieces in her closet, particularly her jeans and whatever other bottoms she has. Something with texture--a tweed or herringbone--will move nicely from dressy to casual. Or she can opt for something more summery, like a pique or stretch cotton blazer.

A great white shirt. It sounds like a cliche, but the white shirt is the Holy Grail of wardrobe basics. Pamela wants to find a shirt that fits through the bust AND the waist, which may mean a little bit of tailoring; she also wants to find a shirt that is long enough to tuck in or to cover her waistband when she sits down, if she wears it untucked. Finally, she wants to choose a shirt that is slim enough to wear under a sweater or jacket. Pamela should NOT dry clean her white shirt (the chemicals will eventually discolor the white); instead, wash it either by hand or in the machine. I would suggest that she look at a wrinkle-free shirt, one that can be washed and dried and NOT ironed; that way, she's more likely to actually WEAR it.

Two sweaters. Pamela should choose two of the following: turtleneck, crew neck, V neck, or cardigan. She can opt for a basic neutral color--black or brown or grey--or she can go with a color that looks great on her, like a red or blue. Because all of her bottoms are neutrals, a red sweater will go with EVERYTHING, and if it makes Pamela look and feel beautiful, she will be more likely to wear it. Sweaters should be cut so that she can wear them on their own or layered over the white shirt.

Two t-shirts. Pamela needs one really nice white t-shirt, in a cut that is appropriate both for work and play. She might look for something with a modest V neckline, or a boatneck. She also needs a second t-shirt in a neutral color, again appropriate for work and play. I would go with two white tees, one long sleeved and one short.

Finally, Pamela needs a pair of yoga pants that fit really well. Let's face it--on a Saturday morning, when she's running out for coffee, Pamela isn't likely to throw on her wool trousers. She should take the time to find a pair of yoga pants that fit properly--not too baggy, not too tight--for lazy weekends. It would be a shame if she looked great all week and then schlepped around on the weekend in some elastic-ankle sweats that are three sizes too big.

These are the absolute basics, the bare minimum that every woman needs in her closet; everything on this list can be mixed and matched with everything else, for work and weekends. Pamela can wear the wool trousers with the long-sleeved tee and the jacket one day; the next day, she can pair the skirt with one of the sweaters. She can wear the jeans with a sweater and the jacket, or with the white shirt and a sweater. And so on.

There are NOT enough pieces on this list to get through the week; Pamela will need to buy multiples of some of these things. She might need more than one pair of wool pants, for example; I work at home and own more than one pair of jeans. She could substitute chinos for jeans, if that's more her style. She might add a denim jacket, for weekends, and another blouse in a beautiful color or pattern. The key is to stick with neutral colors and classic cuts; this will make it easier for Pamela to pull these pieces out two or three years from now and have them still work for her. Of course, she can spice up her basics with funky shoes and great handbags and bright scarves and eclectic jewelrey, but the essentials--pants, skirts, tops--should be things that she will be able to return to after that second baby is born.