Friday, May 23, 2014

What do I really mean by basic wardrobe?

Considering that I don’t wear some of the things most modern women would consider basic, I feel the need to define what a basic wardrobe means to me. Finally this morning I came to my own definition.

My most basic clothing is: Something I feel comfortable in; suitable to wear for my daytime work and events; not at all difficult to coordinate; cleanable and durable; possible for me to at least walk briskly in if, say, late for a bus; and something I have worn for many years and/or can imagine wearing for many more.

The black clothing I have often fits at least some of these categories.

Here is a fine washable knit 1950s black sports top and a 1980s knee-length taffeta skirt with an elastic band at its waist. Those are probably 1970s-era U.S.-made dance shoes. Everything here fits my definition of basic. Once a friend asked if she could buy this black top from me when I was through with it—It has been 12 years and I’m afraid I lost touch with that friend but still have the top!

I have found it hard to find interesting basic vintage items looking around online. It helps to have a handful of keywords, and you might find those as you go along. Some more tips?

  • Don’t be afraid to try searching menswear for certain basics, like a fine cotton button-down shirt.
  • Consider decades you don’t regularly consider. A classic can look timeless from any era and can be of very good quality. Searching 1990s clothing suited my penchant for longer fitted black blazers.
  • Basic and classic doesn’t have to mean boring. Look for stylish and interesting elements as well as good quality.
  • Consider outfits that you can wear as separates, like a jacket and skirt suit with great cuts for going solo. 
  • Try lightening photos of black items if you can’t see the details.
  • You might have some luck looking at thrift and second-hand shops because so often these items are overlooked as being too ordinary.

I’ve learned something about myself while thinking about vintage wardrobe basics this month: I fall down every rabbit hole looking for basic items I know I need. If there is one flower or one color or one row of beading I get distracted and want to search for the more glamorous or ornamented. I end up finding everything I don’t need and few things I do need.

I did manage to find quite a few eventually. Here are some vintage basic items I am considering. These and more are on my Pinterest board, Vintage basics.

Got any good tips of your own for finding vintage basics?


Jennifer Rainey said...

I absolutely stick to thrifting when I'm buying vintage or vintage-inspired basics. Some of my favorite basics have been thrifted for practically no money, and because they tend to be those classic pieces, as you said, they could be from a variety of eras. The gingham top I'm wearing right now, for example, is probably only about 10 years old, but it fits into my vintage wardrobe so well. It was $2.99 thrifted.

Great post! I love your basics board on Pinterest!


Anonymous said...

"Don’t be afraid to try searching menswear for certain basics, like a fine cotton button-down shirt."

Oh dear. For many of us, even button-down shirts allegedly designed for women don't fit!

denisebrain said...

Have you considered alternate fits? I enjoy wearing oversized white shirts in various ways. Depending on your style, this Pinterest board by Kate Wood might give a few ideas:

I'm glad you like my basics board's certainly helping me orient my thinking about what I can really use!