A Shopping Guide: Back to Basics

Though I usually discuss where to find the trendiest items for less or how to update your fall essentials, I've realized that sometimes its important to go back to basics, so I'm dedicating a whole week to it! When shopping this weekend with some friends, it occurred to me that a lot of college students don't really know how to build a wardrobe. Most of us just buy pieces we like and think we'll wear, without giving much though to how it fits in an entire wardrobe. Its important to pay attention to the utility of an item you're getting: how much you will wear it, what you can wear it with, and does it live up to its value?

This is my guide for finding and buying your basic items: the bare necessities for a wardrobe. Stay tuned for how to mix and match them!

1. The Jean:
Finding the perfect pair of jeans can be tricky, but it is so crucial. A lot of women get discouraged really quickly after trying on a few pairs and they don't fit right. Keep in mind that all jeans fit all bodies differently, but once you find a brand you like, stick with it! Jeans are also an investment piece: you don't need to spend $300 on a pair, but buying one for $20 isn't going to cut it. They won't fit as well and they won't last as long. Try going to outlet malls (the Joe's outlet is my favorite!) or dept. store outlets (like Nordstrom Rack). They tend to have a ton of basic jeans from all the designers (J. Brand, Citizens, etc.) for half the price! Some of my favorite jeans have come from designer outlets and have been under $75. They may not have the most current styles, but you can bet they'll have some basic skinnies, bootcuts, and straight legs.

2. The White Button Down Blouse
This can be one of the most versatile pieces in a wardrobe. It always looks polished, it never goes out of style, and it can be worn with anything. A lot of college students approach the white blouse as solely a work piece, but this is a HUGE fallacy. Wear it with a pair of skinny jeans and boots instead of a t-shirt! Admire how much more grown up and sophisticated you look (but still young and cool)! 

3. The Blazer
My friends know how much I disdain certain forms of outerwear (um, the sweatshirt?). But I love the blazer. If you have ever read my blog, you probably have realized this. A blazer will always look polished. Like the white blouse, many confuse it for a work-only item. The blazer is insanely versatile: wear it to work, wear it with jeans to class (yes, you can do that and you won't look too dressy but perfectly appropriate), or with an LBD when going out. Plus, it is one of the few items that you can find at all price points that still looks good. Again, take off your sweatshirt and try a blazer. It is only mildly less comfortable (but still can be very comfortable) and looks infinitely better. Do the math!

4. The Leather Riding Boot:
I'm going to be honest. I cannot stand the sight of those horrible slouchy boots with all the rouching and fake leather. Boots are and should be an investment piece. While you often don't need to spend more than $150 to find a good pair, you shouldn't be wasting $70 on a pair that will last you 1/4 of the time. Invest in a classic, streamlined, leather boot that will last you years, look polished, and go with anything. You will be amazed how much better your feet and legs look and feel. 

5. The Trouser:
As amazing as a good pair of jeans is, sometimes you are in a situation when you have to wear something other than jeans. A nice dinner, a more professional environment, or just a laundry day. I prefer a good pair of basic cropped trousers, because they can be dressed down. You can wear them with a cute t-shirt or casual top, a sweater, and flats. They add instant polish to a look and are just as easy as jeans. Like blazers, you don't have to spend a ton for them to look good. You can find cute pairs at Mango and Zara for $50 that are quality pieces. 

6. The Nice Top:
Like the white button down, college students tend to think that the cute tops they buy should be reserved for the weekend, leaving tees and tanks the only appropriate going-to-class attire. This is false. I once heard a girl call a floral, cotton, racerback tank "fancy" (you know who you are). One day, we will have to live in the real world and dress like real people. We can start practicing by pairing the nice tops that we already own with jeans or casual pants for a day-to-day look. It's as easy as putting on a t-shirt, and looks so much more chic.

7. The LBD:
Every girl knows the importance of an LBD. This importance cannot be overstated- the perfect LBD should be a lifesaver. When looking for an LBD, look for one that is simple with a great fit. Something with more structure will be able to transition better from day-to-night and casual-to-fancy. If you find one of the right length, you can dress it down with boots, flats, and a blazer. Then, its just that simple to dress up with a pair of heels. In terms of $$, you should look for value and quality. Don't skimp, or you may end up looking cheap. But, there are a ton of options that aren't a fortune, either (see below).

8. The Pencil Skirt:
Like the LBD, find one that is structured and fits well. You want to find a length that is appropriate for a more professional setting (if you were to wear it with a blazer and button down) and party attire (pair it with that nice top of yours and heels when going out). 

9. The Grown-Up Flat:
Like the slouchy, rouched boots from your tween years, the over-embellished, ill-fitting flat is another one of my shoe-peeves. You know which one I'm taking about: its faux suede, it has jewels that are falling off, and the toe is so round and wide its basically spherical. Embrace your adult years and step into something more streamlined and simple, like a classic loafer, simple ballet flat, or hybrid (as seen below). The pointed cap-toe is both grown up and still cool. Wear them with jeans to up the chic factor of your outfit and make your feet and legs look even better!

10. The Pump:
The pointed toe pump has re-emerged the last few seasons as the go-to heel. Its classic, beautiful, and elongates legs. To see an example, just look at Miranda Kerr who has been wearing them of late: she's young, hip, and insanely stylish. If you think they are old and stuffy, then you probably need to try a pair on with a casual outfit and see the effect they have. They are, of course, a perfect transition shoe from work-to-play, as they will add sophistication to your work wear and a chicness to your going-out attire. 

**A final note on shopping. My favorite places for good, affordable basics are outlet malls, designer outlets, Nordstrom (and Nordstrom Rack), Zara, J.Crew, and Madewell. I would suggest staying away from places like H&M, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters. They may have some cute, basic-looking clothes, but these aren't pieces that will last. Basics are the building blocks of a wardrobe, and you want them to last more than a few seasons. Take the time to find items that are both affordable and good quality, and that work for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

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