Against The Trend: Building a Wardrobe From Classics
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
The world belonged to me. And in my world, the entire kindergarten class marveled at the surprising prowess that came from my portly, gender-ambiguous 5-year-old frame and silky bowl haircut. Everything I touched was mine - magic markers, stickers and every Nabsico snack under the sun made their way into my stubby fingers like it was my birthright. The school yard was my kingdom, and the only one who was not yet privy to this was Nick, a beautiful, blue-eyed, cherub-like creature. I would win him over and he too would belong to me. Today would be no different - I had an outfit on that would have made my 80’s trend queen Punky Brewster blush.
L.A. Gear light-up high tops? Affirmative.
High-water, confetti-spackled jogger pant? Affirmative.
Armpit-stained New Kids on the Block Tour of 1989 top? Affirmative.
He was alone. As I approached, he looked nervous. I could tell he had questions, like how soon was too soon to share lunches or when it would be appropriate to run his fingers through my perfectly symmetrical bowl cut. All things I would answer in time. It began:
Nick: Do you know where Lawrence is?
Kat: No, I don’t know where Lawrence is. But… (hands lock onto what I understood to be “hips”) …are you looking for anyone else? (eyes widen and eyelashes bat to implicate self)
Nick: Hmm… well, I guess if you don’t know where Lawrence is, do you know where Mikey is?
Kat: No, I don’t know where Mikey is. But… (changes posing position as light-up high-tops begin to flicker) …are you sure you haven’t just been looking for... ME?
Nick: Nope. I’m sure.
I was never the same after that day. My first brush with rejection resulted in that blind, unapologetic version of self-confidence separating from my DNA. How did an on-trend outfit and my meticulously chosen lines not whittle Nick into an infantile state of admiration as it did for so many before him?
5-year-old Kat still had a few things to learn. First, my romantic destiny would likely not align with Molly Ringwald’s, no matter how many of her films I watched. And secondly, and perhaps most importantly, cramming my outfit full of all of the season’s latest trends is not a winning strategy for gaining the affection of the most sought-after kindergartner in all of Alameda county.
Trends are the great impostors of style. While they can be whimsical and adorable, they will leave you broke and naked on an unincorporated city curb if you listen to them. My deep disdain for them is rooted in the myth they perpetuate: “follow me and you will be on the cutting edge of style.” But the underbelly of trends is that they change as quickly as they are created. While the plaid blazer was understated and beyond chic last week, venture to put it on today and you will look like Kermit the Frog on a Muppet special circa 1975. The blazer will then sit in storage and the 70 dollars you spent in hopes of being on the cutting edge of style will have been squandered. There is a better way.
While trends force you to look outward and anxiously chase after “what’s next” in the retail world, classics invite you to stop the chase, take a breath and be creative with the clothing you already have. Neutral colors and timeless silhouettes are the bedrock of classic style. The understated nature of classics will allow you to utilize them as foundation pieces to build a wardrobe that will stand the test of time. More than any other genre of style, classics offer versatility, multi-functionality and multi-wear. And most importantly, classics will work in collaboration with you to tell a story you want the world to hear.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
Classic vs. Trend: The Dress
Classic: The Little Black Dress
The little black dress is made to be all things to all people. Whether it be a first date, a coveted job interview or an underground cat convention, this dress masters every occasion. Its neutral color and clean-cut lines bring unparalleled versatility in its ability to create outfits for every occasion. This dress can be worn to the office with a pair of stiletto heels and can instantly be transformed for a night on the town with a caged-foot heel and a pair of colorful earrings. And if your excursions from a night on the town leave you with a brain fog the next morning, pair this dress with a long colorful cardigan and a thin belt along your waist for a morning of brunch festivities. When you have this multi-functional piece in your wardrobe’s arsenal, “I don’t have anything to wear” will no longer be a viable excuse.
Trend: Floral Throwback Dress
Think of the floral dress your second-grade teacher wore on your first Easter egg hunt - this is the brainchild behind this trendy floral throwback dress I found at H&M this week (seen above). I’m not sure how this piece snuck its way into retail departments; maybe the buyers of H&M are attempting to rally an army of thirty-somethings to dress like modern-day colonial women. This dress might be appropriate for visiting a local farmers market, running through an open field or posing with freshly picked sunflowers, but that’s about it. Dresses like these are guilty of draining your bank account without giving you a worthy return, and when a dress cannot be reinvented to be appropriate for multiple occasions, I’d veer towards the classics instead.
Classic vs. Trend: The Skirt
Classic: The Black Pencil Skirt
At first glance, you might not think of the pencil skirt as the powerhouse behind an outfit. But look a little closer and you will see that it is a style-chameleon that can tell the world anything you want. Professional. Polished. Understated. Sexy. Playful. Modern. The list is endless and completely controlled by the top and accessory of your choosing. A button-up, tie-neckline top coupled with a pair of stilettos is an example of an ideal professional powerhouse option, or a crisp, tucked-in V-neck tee with a pair of colorful heels is the perfect way to invite a weekend of play.
Trend: The Pleated Skirt
Don’t be hypnotized with this skirt’s perfectly carved pleating (seen above); this skirt isn’t meant to tell anyone’s story but its own. This skirt only speaks one note: whimsical. When you are feeling powerful or want to appear professional and polished, this skirt won’t go the distance. And while the pencil skirt goes with virtually any body type, this pleated skirt is limited to only flattering a tall and slender frame. Pleat with caution.
Classic vs. Trend: The Blazer
Classic: The Fitted Blazer
There is nothing more forgiving than a fitted, neutral blazer as it seamlessly brings together any outfit. Put it over a fitted tee with jeans for a polished weekend brunch ensemble as we have done here or couple it with a colorful, fitted skirt for the office. Its re-wearability is unmatched; you could wear it twice in the same week with different accompanying separates and it would go unnoticed by even the most astute observer. Classic pieces like this bring cohesiveness to your wardrobe while offering infinite outfit combinations.
Trend: The Plaid Blazer
If I was stranded on a desert island and could burn one item as a desperate call for help, I and everyone on the island would reach for this green plaid blazer. The color conjures memories of a 1970’s newsroom or a Muppet show extravaganza. My point of tension with this blazer is that its involved pattern will not play nice with most items in your closet. Unlike the classic fitted blazer that you could inconspicuously wear multiple times in a week without anyone realizing, dare to wear this plaid blazer twice and that day will live in infamy.
Classics: Trending Upward
Trends eat away at your pocketbook year after year in a futile attempt to chase after “what’s next”, but classics help you tell your own style story through providing your wardrobe with a customizable foundation. Your classic pieces aren’t going out of style any time soon, and the possibilities to personalize your look with accessories or different layering separates keep them working for you until they literally fall apart. While the occasional trendy item has its place, constructing your wardrobe primarily from classic pieces will set you up for making lasting impressions for years to come.
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