Basic apparel doesn’t have to be boring. You can dress up your plain wardrobe staples and adapt them to almost any occasion, and we’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you do just that.
If you don’t already have one, building a capsule wardrobe can make it faster and easier to choose your daily outfits. Plus, because capsule wardrobes contain basic apparel pieces that are easy to accessorize and mix and match, you can put together many different outfits.
First, consider your lifestyle. Do you wear business-casual clothing every day or are you the athleisure type? Maybe you fall somewhere in between—regardless, you can create the right capsule wardrobe with basic pieces that fit well, suit your daily activities, and are made from comfortable materials.
When shopping for capsule wardrobe basics, go neutral. Whether you’re choosing a pair of women’s jeans, dress pants, or a skirt, opt for black, navy, or khaki for optimum versatility. White tops go with all these colors, although you can also branch out to other versatile neutral colors. With a collection of neutral jeans, slacks, and skirts, you can even go for tops in fashion hues and prints—such as on-trend blush pink and retro-inspired polka dots. Now let’s look at how to dress up these basics.
One of the easiest ways to dress up a basic outfit is with bold shoes. Not sure where to start? Slip into leopard-print pumps with a black dress or khaki skirt. Or wear strappy platform sandals with a women’s white blouse and navy shorts. It isn’t just the heel height that makes shoes attention-grabbing. Even if you prefer flat shoes, choose a pair in an unexpected color. You can coordinate your belt and shoes with your bag or contrast your accessories for a modern look that’s not too matchy.
Handbags are another functional accessory for the basic outfit. Like with shoes, you can dress up any look with a bold bag. Go for one with a vibrant print, or choose an oversized bag in any bright color. If you prefer a small handbag or clutch, it’s even more important to opt for one in a look-at-me color or print. Even the addition of tassels or rhinestones on a bag can add style to the simplest outfit. Handbags aren’t just for looks, so choose one with enough compartments for your belongings and an adjustable strap for comfortable carrying.
A little sparkle goes a long way. If you’re wearing a shirt style such as women’s scoop-neck tops in a neutral color, accessorize with a wide herringbone chain or a necklace with a bejeweled pendant that falls right below the neckline. For a high-neck top, stacks of bracelets on each arm can make the look fashionable. Or wear oversized earrings in a hoop or chandelier style. Even a pair of small stud earrings can add the perfect amount of dazzle, especially if you opt for a diamond or gemstone (whether real or simulated) pair with facets that catch the light.
Another way to dress up basic outfits is with fashion scarves. Even in the spring and summer, you can wear scarves with everything from casual tunics to a women’s Oxford shirt. In warm weather, choose a light, floaty scarf made from sheer fabric. You can tie it around your neck like a kerchief or wear it more loosely draped. Even tying a scarf around your neck into a simple bow has an upscale, Parisian-inspired look that adds a dressy look to anything you’re wearing. This particular scarf-tying technique works best with lower necklines, while the loosely draped look is great for any neckline style.
You can also dress up basics by adding a formal piece to casual apparel. For example, if you’re wearing a pair of skinny jeans that look too casual for the occasion, a silk blouse and blazer are two pieces you can layer on to dress up your denim. Or wear a pleated skirt in a satiny fabric with a form-fitting cotton tee for an eclectic yet beautifully balanced look. Or slip on a jean jacket over a simple black jersey dress and add canvas sneakers or wedge sandals for a look that’s both casual and dressy at the same time.
Get inspired with the above ideas for styling basic apparel pieces, then come up with some of your own. It’s possible you can dress up your understated outfits with accessories you already own, or you can pick up a few new pieces to refresh your current wardrobe. Instead of following trends or outdated guidelines—like don’t wear white after Labor Day, for example—come up with your own outfit-accessory pairings to create a fashion style that reflects you.