Q&A: Adding Personality to a Wardrobe of Basics

October 9th, 2008

Q: I’m really not that stylish at all, but I want to learn to be. I want to expand my wardrobe, but I don’t want to fill it with fashion trends that are short lived. How do I go about building a wardrobe that’s young (I’m 23), eclectic, but not typical looking? I do have some basic necessities such as a good white shirt, good black trousers, skinny jeans, and a little black dress.



Feeling the love for this outfit?  Here’s more information about it.


by Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: Smart move.  You’re never too young to start building a wardrobe that has style and staying power.  Sounds like you’re off to a good start with your wardrobe foundations, but that it’s time to add some personality.

Adding personality to an outfit can be done in two main ways: (1) what you wear, and (2) how you choose to wear it.

With regards to what you wear, you can easily add personality with color and pattern.  Maybe it’s adding a bright green tunic, maybe it’s adding a skirt in a dramatic oversized print.  Or adding classics-with-a-twist: the clothes that you reach for over and over again in your closet, but with an extra special touch.  Items like a perfectly cut polka dotted pencil skirt, a great peacoat with 3/4 sleeves, or a bright yellow pair of heels.

But even a pop of color from a set of bracelets, a cascading set of necklaces, or a statement handbag adds interest to the basics without overwhelming you.

How you choose to wear your clothes is where it gets more interesting.  You mention that you want to build a wardrobe that’s not typical looking.  You can do this, even building on the basics that you already have.  Your good white shirt, for example, can be transformed from a wardrobe basic to something special simply by how you wear it.  Try artfully rolling up the sleeves for a relaxed-yet-polished look.  Or leaving an extra button unbuttoned and layering it over a lacy undershirt for a playful after-work look.  Or go glamorous and add a statement brooch (think Carrie Bradshaw from SATC) – or a gorgeous set of layered necklaces. 

Pictured is an example of an outfit that is composed of basics with a twist.  The sleek black pencil skirt is a pure basic, but the boatneck top features sailor stripes, the peacoat in bright green has 3/4 sleeves, the cardigan sweater sports two small front pockets, the herringbone scarf is a bright yellow, the heels are not only yellow but also feature a ladylike rosette, and the black handbag is purposely strappy.  If you push up the sleeves on the cardigan, you’ll allow the sailor stripes to peek out from under the shorter jacket sleeves.  And the bright scarf picks up the yellow in the shoes, adding a touch of lightness to a very city chic outfit.

By building outfits like this, you’ll save your closet from being filled with short lived fashion trends – and you’ll be building a wardrobe that you can count on for years to come.

In the end, dressing is the art of expressing yourself.  I encourage you to be playful with your clothes.  Go out to the mall and try on a bunch of clothes, even ones that you think that you’d never wear.  The results may very well surprise you.

Have a great tip about how to add personality to your wardrobe? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women, Women's

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Miss Moneypenny  |  October 10th, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I was in the same boat when I was her age. I had classic basics and wanted to do something different with them — but what? I ended up having to put a lot more thought into my style than I had ever planned on — but the process proved to be worth it. I would encourage her to read books about personal style; Brenda Kinsell has a bunch of titles out and the one I have, “Brenda’s Wardrobe Companion,” was definitely useful. Make a file of inspirational fashion photos and teach yourself to break down outfits into their component parts, then look for your own versions of elements you like. Read this site! Basically, every hour of thought you put in is worth about $1000 down the line!

  • 2. Trisha  |  October 11th, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for sharing, Miss Moneypenny. It’s so true - the more thought you put into how you dress (how you can work with what you have, and how you can find less expensive versions of outfits you like), the more you save.

  • 3. M.Mazhar  |  November 24th, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Hi it’s Mazhar from Dubai. I am 27 year old and i am working in Government department. I wana help to give me some tips for good looking dress for office and after office with friend, party and any other vocation. I am 5′6 hight smart, sport boy.

    thanks for your advance coordination.

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