You don’t have to stuff your closets and drawers with separate wardrobes for every season to look great all year round. With a little advance planning, you can build a wardrobe that’s in style spring, summer, fall and even winter. The advantage: You get to wear the pieces you love 12 months a year, you save money, and you invest your fashion budget in versatile, luxurious fabrics.
Head to the store with the three t’s in mind: tanks, T-shirts and tights. “The trick to any great wardrobe is layering,” says Shane Cisneros, a fashion stylist who has dressed stars, including Zoe Saldana and Vanessa Minnillo. And keep in mind that you can layer under as well as over. For example, slip a long-sleeved black cashmere or jersey T-shirt under that brightly colored summer dress to give it a cold-weather feel. Complete the look with leggings, chunky boots and a green army jacket, leather motorcycle jacket or structured tweedy blazer.
Choose a Consistent Palette
Every season, Jacqueline Krafka, designer of the casual chic line T-Los Angeles, builds her collection with a core group of basic colors (black, white, nude and heather gray) and adds a pop of color (orange, purple or turquoise) in items like tanks and pocket T’s. Follow Krafka’s example with cardigans, skirts and jackets in interchangeable neutral colors, reserving more vivid hues for accent pieces like scarves, handbags or lower-priced T-shirts.
Aim For Natural Fibers
Few fabrics are truly seasonless, but such natural fibers as silk and wool come close. New weaving and knitting techniques allow manufacturers to create light but strong fabrics with a luxurious feel and a built-in resistance to wrinkling. Krafka adds that luxury versions of natural fabrics, such as fine-gauge cashmere and silk georgette, can offer polish along with the comfort of a T-shirt. Even better, these multiple-personality pieces are easy to dress up or down.
Invest in Classic Fashions
Some items are more or less disposable: white tanks, T-shirts in the hue of the season, trendy pieces from low-priced retailers. Core wardrobe staples, however, will last season after season, always looking polished and feeling great against your skin if you choose superbly tailored pieces in beautiful fabrics. “Every woman should have a little black dress,” says celebrity fashion stylist Nicole Chavez, who has dressed Scarlett Johansson and Catherine Zeta-Jones. “It should be special, so invest in one with a really great neckline, sleeve or embellishment.”
Women’s accessories are the cornerstone of a fashionable, adaptable wardrobe. Whether she’s shopping for her red carpet clients or for her own weekend wardrobe, Chavez selects a few statement accents that she can pair with any fabric, season or style. “The best thing to have in your closet is a leopard scarf or a leopard shoe,” says Chavez. “Leopard is almost a classic color, and it goes with every color,” she says. Krafka also keeps a supply of belts handy that can turn a long summer tunic into a neatly cinched blouse-and-tank combo.
Train Your Clothes to Play Well with Others
With today’s ultralight knits, tanks with gaping armholes and show-every-curve leggings, it’s trickier than ever to build outfits that don’t require 15 other pieces. “Make sure each piece can stand alone as well as works as a layer,” says Krafka, who suggests looking for high-quality fabrics and modest-enough cuts that provide sufficient coverage.
Valli Herman has covered international fashion, beauty and travel for the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News and other print and online publications.