Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Back to the basics

Valerie McPhail

(1/2016) Reconsider the basic pieces of your closet. The plain and simple V-neck pocket t-shirt that is lost in your drawer filled with graphic tees and sweatshirts, or your 90’s Gap light-wash jean jacket that stays hanging in the back of your closet. Out of sight, out of mind. Despite the uninspired influence, these items remain a portion of your wardrobe. As we approach 2016, consider how simplicity is the key to brilliance; let us start with fashion.

The following is a shopping list of staple pieces that will bring your wardrobe back to the basics. I found the power of such pieces when traveling abroad two years back. While living in Dublin and traveling to Europe’s largest cities, I lived in a duffel bag packed with basic pullovers, jeans and t-shirts. Basics are easy to match with one another and in return, easy to wear. (They also allow for traveling light.) Since my time abroad, I have become more adventurous in my style. I have been experimenting with menswear inspired pieces such as blazers and cigarette pants, aside from reconnecting with a bohemian sensibility by wearing floral prints and pleated maxi skirts.

In the past, I have felt that I have lost touch with the simple, minimal style I once was devoted to. However, each time I discover a well-made basic piece, my heart warms with happiness and I fall in love with fashion all over again. Such moments remind of the luxury these essentials possess. These sorts of experiences rekindle my devotion to impeccable quality. Thus, as I share from personal testimony, here are some staple items to aspire to enjoy this new season. These pieces can be styled in a countless ways, as layers to keep you warm through winter but as single, statement pieces as well. They will quickly become a resource because not only will they help simplify your wardrobe, but first and foremost get you organized for this New Year, putting your closet in order with style.

1. The Perfect T-shirt

The "Perfect T-shirt" is the one of the most sought-out pieces of fashion. Its popularity reigns in the curiosity for the search for its discovery. In part, its attraction lies in its mystery, and in the hope for the comfort it will bring. It is a term undeniably discussed in conversation across fashion blogs, fashion magazines and newspapers alike. The Perfect T-shirt is a hot topic. It is sought-out for with keen interest. However its mystery and chatter remains undiscovered until tried on.

Its design comes with variety: 100% cotton or jersey, a fitted or slouchy look and perhaps a front pocket. Despite this, one thing remains; that is, its fit on the body. When sizing a t-shirt, look at the shoulders of the body. The shoulder hem of the t-shirt should fall right at the shoulder of the body, extending around the armpit. The stitching that follows from the neck to the shoulders of some shirts should extend from the neck of the body and trail towards the shoulder hem. This attention to such details will help with fit, and with fit comes comfort.

Such a comfort originated as an undergarment commonly worn underneath sweaters and dress shirts. Since its original design, the common t-shirt has become a novelty item of fashion. Despite this change, the t-shirt remains an undershirt known to the menswear industry and yet has grown to a staple of sportswear, and an item that completes an outfit, rather than merely assisting.

Hanes Value Pack, Roots XL Collection and T Alexander Wang offer a classic t-shirt. From to austerity to luxury, these are all brands that I would recommend investing in. Not only have these brands developed my wardrobe of basic t-shirts, but they have stirred an appreciation for simplicity in clothing.

2. Jeans

The hunt for jeans is similar to the search for the perfect t-shirt: extensive and time consuming. The experience is as tough and coarse as its fabric; it is notoriously frustrating and exhausting. As a result, shoppers have resorted to spending their daily lives in leggings and yoga pants. However, as a jean queen and denim enthusiast, I dare to encourage the search for perfect pair of jeans— in the end, the discovery is a rich reward.

When shopping for jeans, the inseam lining of the jean must run along the inner thigh, past the leg, trailing to the foot, while the outer lining follows along the hip, trailing the mid outer thigh along the calf until it meets the hem of the pant. This detail affects the fit, an attribute that defines the style and comfort of the jean. Overall, when the seams of clothing follow the frame of the body, the design of the article of clothing allows for comfort in mobility.

J Brand, TEXTILE Elizabeth and James and Rachel Comey are brands that design my favorite pairs of jeans. In my closet, denim is synonymous with comfort. The reason for why I continue to regularly wear jeans is because they are comfortable. It is no wonder why this staple has remained a consistent image and influence of American fashion since the 1950s, a time when jeans became a cultural symbol of comfort.

3. Jacket- jean spring/summer into fall, or leather fall/winter

Overall, jackets are a great piece to layer. They are a great option that accompany any outfit. Jean jackets offer a great daytime look, especially during the spring and summer time, when the weather is warmer. Leather will provide for the cold weather months.

Although a popular staple in New York City, I find that a leather jacket is the ultimate evening coat. It has a dressy personality. In the end, jackets of great quality age well over time. When shopping for jean and leather jackets, consider the fit while consulting the design of the styles you explore.

The most important attribute of a jacket is breathability. There must be freedom to move in the jacket. The size of the jacket should look fitted, however not to the point of constraint. Similar to a shirt, the shoulder hem of the jacket should hit the shoulder and it sleeves should be long enough to cover any long sleeved shirt sleeves.

Both jean and leather jackets are a top layer upon an outfit. These pieces should be an asset to any outfit. They should be easy to add and remove from a look; which means a jacket should be easy to put on and to take off without hindrance.

Jean jackets are a style I have recently reunited with— my twin surprised me with a vintage Tommy Hilfiger coat she spotted at her favorite thrift store in Brooklyn. In the last few months, her gift has proven a good asset. I love my jean jacket. It is a great coat when the weather is mild and a fashion statement in Soho.

For a night-time look, the leather jacket is always a great option. Belstaff and Roots are brands to explore. When investing in leather, consider the cost and construction. Great leather will only get better with age. Jean and leather jackets are classic pieces because they offer references of icon fashion statements— from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Grease to Brigitte Bardot and Robert Redford.

4. The Dress Shoe for Men

The dress shoe is a classic shoe for men. Dress this shoe up or dress it down; there is always a need for this style. The only exception to this rule is the Birkenstock, which is acceptable during the summer months. Aside from this point, the dress shoe fashions in all situations.

Despite its high functioning role in the menswear industry, I am unapologetically obsessed. Memories of Andy Warhol’s photography that captures his collection of loafers and my dad’s vocal appreciation for his Cole Haan (Warhol wore Roots and my dad said that his Cole Haan dress shoes were his best pair thus far.) I appreciate the dress shoe for its practicality; it is a style a man can use in countless situations. Therefore, it must be a fundamental to every wardrobe.

5. Cross Body Bag for Women

The cross body bag is the style of the season. Its function institutes freedom. In construction and design, this handbag frees your hands. Let us hope it does so in fashion and style of course! Michael Kors and Liebeskind are two brands that have helped me appreciate this trend. Michael Kors’ Fulton Cross Body was the bag I carried with me when studying abroad. Its built-in wallet provided great access for the essentials I typically carry in a bag. The cross body style was an additional benefit because it hangs close to the body without disrupting the hands and arms.

Liebeskind is a German brand from Berlin that I have recently discovered. Not only do I like the style of the brand, a relationship of sophistication and grunge expressed in hand bag design. I have also noticed that majority of the bags are offered as cross body bags. The cross body bag is a trendy piece. Its functionality, style and great fashion sense will make this bag even more special!

Start off 2016 in style. These basic items will help structure a new wardrobe while providing staple pieces that will bring a fresh eye for fashion this New Year.

Read other articles by Valerie McPhail