How Non-Dull Basics Make Your Whole Wardrobe Exciting


How Non-Dull Basics Make Your Whole Wardrobe Exciting


I have a question which is around knowing which pieces will make a real difference to my wardrobe- most mistakes I make – apart from buying clothes for a fantasy life- are buying ‘sensible” pieces, as in good quality, items that will ” be useful’ but are dull. And realising that it is easier for me to buy tops than bottoms so I have a lot of tops.

Being a Soft Cool and Light colouring I have bought a lot of grey rather than black as a basic. This is fine, but it can be a bit dreary. I like to wear trousers or jeans and the one colour column approach works well as I have a biggish bust and have put on a bit of weight- now an H I think , but then that leaves me with  only scarves, necklace or earrings in more of my best colours.


non dull basics


Basics are an important part of your wardrobe.  You need some supporting acts to make your heroes shine.  But they don’t have to be completely dull and boring.  We need a good set of basics that work with our more fun pieces.  Having a colour swatch will make it way easier, but you don’t have to have a wardrobe of grey (or black, or camel or whatever colour is your great neutral) to have an interesting wardrobe.

It sounds like you have too many basic tops in neutrals, rather than colours, and that your tops are too basic, rather than looking for a little detail on the top to take it out of the boring zone.

When we find one part of our body harder to dress, then we tend to avoid trying to find it, and that definitely makes dressing harder as we don’t have options.  When that is your bottom half, that can make it truly tricky.  You don’t need as many bottoms as tops (because we don’t wash them as often), but you need to have a few to create your outfits.

In general, unless you like your bottom half to be your focal area, I’d look for bottoms in neutrals overall (apart from a few hero pieces).   Avoid buying tops that are completely plain, unless you are happy to always dress them up with scarves and jewellery (and it’s fine if you do, but if you tend to not accessorize, avoid tops that are too basic and dull).

Non dull basics


Look for garments with some detail in construction, not too much embellishment, otherwise it’s hard to accessorize, but a little of something different will go a long way to making your outfit more exciting.

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  • I think I am more self conscious about my top half. I carry most of my extra weight through my hip, thigh, lower waist area and find it hard to find tops that don’t cling in the wrong places. I thought i understood that i needed items with drape but a light weight option I bought just seems to want to show every bump. I was thinking a weightier item with drape would do the trick but that just does not work for humid Georgia summers. Furthermore, if a wear a pant that fits, I get the muffin top effect but if i go up a size I am pulling my pants up all day. Adding a belt again brings me back to the same muffin top effect.

  • This is a bit funny/odd, because (one) It seems like I tends to buy more pieces to the bodyparts I dont like on myself and (two) the advice “you should need more tops and bottoms” is the complete other way around in my wardrobe, hah! =P
    I dont like my (broad) shoulders and my (skinny) calves, but I tends to buy more bottoms than tops (have double as many bottoms compared to tops) and quiet a collection of toppers/completer pieces as well. Its not because I dont like tops, I just dont find them that exciting to buy no matter the style (plain or bold, neutral or colored, solid or print, structured or not). Its just a shopping habit that I wont break (I dont there is *something wrong* with it and I love having variety with pants and skirts). I like defininig my waist but having broad shoulders, medium bust and tiny waist, its very hard to find Shirts that dont gap at the neckline/bust area but I dont really “avoid” them.

    But there is one shopping problem Im always doing – buying all my basics is SAME fabric. Fortunetly there are statement pieces, accessories and those pieces that are neither basic nor statement pieces (its similare to your “dull basics”, but these I call them for midrange, because they are not always basics, but they are not bold enough to be considered being “hero” either. A neutral lace trimmed blouse or bright colored “plain” top/skirt is a “midrange piece” to me, not an hero, but they are less versatile when it comes accessorizing) that can make them look more exciting.

    This habit make it a bit difficult to create small capsules, because the fabrics are so similare (jersey and visouse/rayon mainly and who wants to dress in jersey from top to toe, except for shoes/outerwear?), but it also hard to resist because its the kind of fabric Im most comfortable wearing and easy to take care off (I avoid dry-clean and other garments that hard to clean the regulare way).

    • It sounded like this question came from someone who had very few bottoms (because they find them hard to buy). Normally we need more tops than bottoms, but if a wardrobe has lots of tops and no bottoms, then that will also create issues.

  • This sounds like my question- thank you Imogen. I was travelling and missed it. time.

    Astute comments as always. My lack of interesting tops in term of colour and pattern is certainly a factor. I had a tendency of avoiding patterns almost completely, based on an old idea that they were less versatile.

    Putting on weight after an illness, after always being slim, I also went through a ‘cover me up and hide me’ time.

    Without sounding too defensive can I say that my bottom half is not hard to fit. I think part of fewer bottoms comes from working at home and transitioning from spending a lot on suits, which of course provide both halves. Also I like jeans/trousers which don’t look that interesting in the shop, and more of a deliberate quest. I have come to realize how emotionally prompted a lot of my shopping was, not based on what wardrobe gaps I needed to fill.

    I have also had too many clothes, which perhaps meant I was less selective and spent less time mixing and matching what I had. I am working on developing the confidence to buy only things I love.

    There are money memoirs – how attitudes we grow up with influence us. Our clothes memoirs would be just as revealing. Novelist Linda Grant’s The Thoughtful Dresser, considers what clothes mean to us, ranging from ridiculous shoes to a fashionista gesture in Auschwitz.

    Thank you so much for this great blog- and your generosity, Imogen.

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