Unlock your style in 14 days | 10 Essential Wardrobe Basics | www.stylingyou.com.au

Unlock your style in 14 days: Build your wardrobe on basics

Nikki Parkinson Fashion, How to 82 Comments

It’s Day 3 of the Styling You Holiday Style Camp.

I’m here to help you unlock your style – not in a scream-at-you-bootcamp kind of way – more in a gently-nudge-you-in-your-own-direction kind of way.

Now, if you could just come a little closer.

That’s better.

Want to know the secret to always having something to wear?


Build your wardrobe on basics

I know, seems a bit beige and boring doesn’t it?

But stick with me here.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that a lack of basics was seriously holding me – and my wardrobe – back.

I’d have all these lovely show pony pieces (more on the show ponies tomorrow) winking at me and shouting, “wear me”, “wear me”, and I’d have to reject them for lack of a suitable basic piece to serve as an outfit mate or outfit helper.

Now, as long as I have these 10 basics nailed, those show ponies can wink as much as they’d like. They know I’m good for it.

1. Bras that fit. It doesn’t matter what size you’ve got going on, a decent bra will do all kinds of wonderful to the way you put yourself and an outfit together. I’ve learned in the last couple of years that it’s not just my bosie size that needs accommodating, it’s the shape of them that needs attention. That was a big lightbulb moment during a professional fitting. When was the last time you had a proper fitting? If it’s more than a year, then get thee to a professional ASAP. You will not waste dollars on dodgy bras ever again. Pictured

2. Shapewear. No, I don’t pull myself into sucker-in-ers every day of the week but if you have the essentials sitting in your drawer then there is no barrier to wearing that dress or top that refuses to hide even the smallest lumps and bumps. Oh, and lose the stigma about shapewear. Yes, a Bridget Jones nana pants moment is the risk you take but hey it’s worth it for the smooth line. Any Hollywood celeb worth their red carpet pose is working those Spanx. I’d keep a slip, a girdle/top and a full pair of knickers on hand as your shapewear collection starting point. Pictured

3. Stretchy camis. Sussan, Country Road, Witchery, Basque (Myer) stock them. I own and have owned them all. In recent years t-shirts seemed to have got thinner and more flimsy in design, coinciding with my own design NOT getting thinner and more flimsy. Having these in every neutral and a few seasonal colours means that you can layer a top or tee over the top and have your shape show through … in a good, semi-controlled kind of way. Pictured

4. Plain tees. Show pony tops are great. But what about when you really just need something to work with jeans and a jacket so you can show off that stunning new necklace or scarf. I always have at least two tees in black, white and grey that I can call on to be a blank canvas for my accessory collection. Quality is important. And as soon as they start to show signs of wear, ditch them. Pictured

5. Slip dresses. These are to light cotton frocks what stretchy camis are to light tops. They enable layering (which is always an outfit enhancer) but like in this outfit here, they can also add length to a shorter dress. In fact, they will open up a whole wardrobe of opportunities that you thought you couldn’t do. I wear mine under sheer kaftans and under beach dresses all summer long. I prefer a cotton or bamboo fabric mix as in hot weather this keeps me from sweating where no woman should sweat. Pictured

Unlock your style in 14 days | 10 Essential Wardrobe Basics | www.stylingyou.com.au

6. Jeans that fit. This is a big one. It took me so long to find a cut of jeans that really works for my shape: curvy, but wide, flat butt and ok thighs. For me the answer is NYDJ … and now I have almost every colour. For you, it’s worth putting in the effort to find the cut/brand that works for you. Once you’ve nailed it, all the tops in your wardrobe suddenly have a mate. Wardrobe life is sweet. Pictured

7. A Little Black Dress. I know it’s very Chanel of me but HELLO … Coco really did know a thing or two about wardrobe essentials. If you have a dress-up/dress-down LBD in your wardrobe you are always good to go for any event. Just add accessories, hold your fashionable head high reach for a champers. Pictured

8. Jackets. Jackets are the wardrobe work horses that make me look polished. Every. Single. Time. Since doing this work-from-home-gig, they have become the one item I reach for should I need to take my coast casual outfit on a city excursion. In one easy move I can take a jeans and tee or frock and lift it so my metropolitan fashion sisters are none the wiser to my lazy-beach-girl ways. Pictured

9. Nude and black shoes. No matter whether you’re a flats or heels girl … or, like me, all of the above and in between, these are your go-to neutral shoe colours. Nude is the hero shoe colour as it works with everything – including black – and extends the length of your legs. Pictured and pictured

10. Winter coat or trench.  Whether you need one of these or what warmth you’ll need from a winter coat or trench will depend on where you live. (Even here in Queensland, if I go out at night in winter, it can be in near-freezing conditions.) Choose a classic style that will go the wardrobe distance. Pictured


Style work

Look at the list above. Do you have these basics nailed? Any other basics your wardrobe just can’t live without?

  1. Make a list of which basics you need to buy.
  2. Make a list of which basics you own but could do with an update.
  3. Keep that list handy. You’ll need it when we go shopping.

PS. I’m loving how everyone is letting me know they’re on the Unlock Your Style in 14 Days train. Received some lovely photos of tidied wardrobes yesterday. If you’d like to share any of your Unlock Your Style photos with me, please Tweet or upload to Instagram with the hashtag #unlockyourstyle. My Instagram and Twitter handles are both @stylingyou – you can also upload a photo with your comment or direct to my Facebook page.




** The Styling You Holiday Style Camp {Unlock Your Style in 14 Days} is based on the Styling You Manifesto. If you don’t have your own, you can download it here. I’ll also be giving away a proper printed Styling You Manifesto from The Smile Collective every day to the reader who catches my eye with their comments and participation.

Unlock Your Style in 14 Days (Day 2 manifesto winner): Karen Mortimer, Karen could you please email me your postal address: nikki@stylingyou.com.au

  • Erin

    Wow, no wonder I struggle to put outfits together! The only thing I have on this list is LBD (8 years old) and black heels. As a SAHM, I have a number of cheap, poor quality, poor fitting t-shirts & a pair of ripped jeans. How did that happen? Talk about letting myself go!! 🙁 Looks like I need to go for a darn good shop. I loathe clothes shopping! Especially by myself. I find I second guess everything, which is why I never go, which is why my clothes are so limited & shabby. hmmm, Anyone else have this problem? 🙂

    • So many of us have this problem, Erin. You are not alone. It kind of snowballs till we lose all confidence at the shops. Make an appointment with yourself to re-stock these basics and you’ll find your confidence coming back.

  • just come back to this as I realise I have too much colour and not enough basic 🙂 off to the big smoke today – wish me luck ! Le xox

  • Elizabeth

    I am loving this 14 day course so far and your list of basics are awesome. I am always on the hunt for plain basic tees – why are they so hard to find these days?Elizabeth – http://www.yourhighestself.com.au

    • Thanks Elizabeth – I am too – I always snap up when I find. My faves of late have been the linen blend ones. Love the shape of them.

  • Janet Purcell

    love the slip dress from Sancerre. I am 150 cm (5ft) and this dress gives me so many more wardrobe options especially longer style shirts.

  • Dian

    I love this list. The slip dresses are such an asset – even on those really hot evenings, something to pop on for lounging.

    • I can’t get away with that with my body shape but perfect for those who can!

  • So….. I have one true-fitting pair of jeans that I bought 10 years ago and eleventy-billion stretchy camis….. But what I really want to know is HOW do I have eight formal dresses and not ONE plain tee….?! Basics FAIL. No wonder I have nothing to wear!

  • Rebecca

    A great way to always have your basics list handy would be to input it as a note in your phone … another list for show pony wants/needs!!

  • Such a timely reminder! I am in desperate need of jeans and more plain tees. Can you recommend any good maternity jeans that don’t cost the earth? x

  • Jo P

    uh ohhh…turns out that I am all show pony…..shocking.
    Off to write my list…

    • Not necessarily if all the show ponies work for you. It’s just if your wardrobe is full of them but you feel you have nothing to wear!

  • Fabulous list. I purchased some great basic t’s from w.lane today. Never been in there before and was pleasantly suprised at the quality basic t’s and tanks at resonable prices. next stop undergarmets 🙂

  • Blythe

    Basics I need to buy: bras that fit, shape wear (I have one pair of pants but I think they just emphasise my tummy!), stretchy camis, plain tees. I ahve a black slip dress and a skirt. I ahve an OK pair of jeans, but this could be improved. I ahve a dressy LBD and a more simple, flowy LBD. Both are OK. Jackets – I have boring old suit jackets, I could definitely improve and upgrade these! I recently bought a great pair of black heels, but I need black and nude flats. Although, nude? I still am not sure about these! Winter jacket – I do not have this. Agree that even in QLD this is needed, albeit rarely. This is even more reason to buy a classic. Would you suggest a black?

    • You’re on the right track Blythe – with the coat/jacket for QLD winter black or a stone colour is classic and will do you for most outfits. Nude shoes are the perfect neutral to take the heaviness out of a black outfit plus also to balance out an outfit bursting with colour.

  • I am taking this list seriously. I have mostly ticks but my shoes are letting me down. I will also be looking around for some basic plus size tees.

    • Check out Virtu for tees and tanks in plain colours and yes, shoes can bring an outfit together so super important.

  • There are definitely a few on there I need to update a a couple I need to buy to begin with. Though I have always looked atrocious in winter coats so I’ll have to do some research I think, I always need something nice for my Easter holidays to cold Toowoomba.

    • Definitely need to cater for a cold Toowoomba weekend! More coat possibilities will find their way into stores February/March.

  • Happily, have most of these basics sorted. Need some nude shoes, but have never found the right pair. A question on shapewear, I have a bike pant style and a skirt style, and both continually ride up my thighs. Very frustrating when you are trying your darndest to look all elegant. Any tips??

    • The only thing I can think of because it’s happened to me (so embarrassing!) was when I was wearing shapewear that was too small for me. I’ve also got some bike pant ones by Spanx that are more of a heavy panty-hose-like material and they seem to slip less. Maybe some readers have other suggestions?

      • I wouldn’t have thought they were too small. I’m a 12 normally, bought these with a post baby bod, so both are 14’s. Any bigger and I might as well not be wearing them if you know what I mean.

        • I do know what you mean – doesn’t make sense – sorry. If you want to share the brand and styles I can offer some more suggestions!

  • Kat

    I also really want to add more jackets to my wardrobe, but price seems to be the off putting thing on one wage and as a sahm. I will keep looking though.

    • Yes, that is tricky as it’s a higher than usual upfront investment but they do get a lot of use over a period of time. Check stores like Target though and layby when it’s still summer as you won’t need till it cools down again. Opt for black or stone as your first colour choice.

      • Kat

        Great idea to layby. I have black and olive green, need a stone and have been wanting a red one for ages. I guess that falls into the show pony category? 🙂

        • Except if red is one of your main colours – then it counts as a basic too!

          • Kat

            Yes it is a basic for me.
            Excited to reply and tell you that I managed to pick up a stone coloured jacket today in Brown Sugar. Was $120 down to $47!! Talk about a bargain.
            Thanks for the suggestion. Red will be next on my list 🙂

    • Kelly

      Hi Kat. I have found some really great light weight summer ones lately at places like Temt and Valley Girl and the most expensive one was $40. The also usually have some trench coats in winter. Hope that might help. Kelly

      • Kat

        Thanks so much Kelly. I will check them out

  • Kat

    Great list Nikki.
    Hm, it seems I need to add more shapewear, a slip dress and stretchy cami’s and actually come to think of it I don’t own a pair of nude shoes.
    A work in progress 🙂

    • Love a work in progress … carry the list with you in your bag so it can be a shopping work in progress!

  • Minna

    Thank you Nikki. I have printed this list and it’s in my bag ready for my next shopping expedition!!

    • Excellent … and you can keep it with you over the next couple of months. Doesn’t have to all be done at once.

  • This is such a practical and easy to read list. Thanks Nikki. Am feeling a little smug because I have many of these things already… I think I now need to find some bold but stylish pieces and work out how to be creative with the basics!

    Am also loving the slip dress idea! This is something I would NEVER buy (too many lumps and bumps) but it so obvious now how they can be used.

    Don’t think I’ve ever been excited about fashion- love looking at other people being stylish but have never applied it to me. Thanks!

    • So glad you have these basics sorted Marti – it means you’re ready for the fun pieces. And I really love that you’re excited by fashion right now!

  • I’m glad to say I have all of these basics in my wardrobe, though my LBD is not the perfect one I long for (isn’t it hard to find that perfect balance). However, in the interim I have a basic, knee length T style that I can throw on for casual or dress up for work (sometimes with shapewear!) and an ‘Audrey’ style with a full skirt and belt, though it is sleeveless so the ‘bingo wings’ usually get a cover up with that one.

    Oh for the glorious day I find that perfect mix of chic and simple 🙂

    • Oh having several LBDs to cover all manner of occasions – I think that’s the go. I have a black casual maxi dress that can be dressed up or dressed down depending on where I’m going and it’s just as useful (if not more) than my dressier LBDs.

  • Kelly

    I have most of the basics sorted … just need to get onto that bra fitting. I also find good quality tshirts/thick strap singlets are a bit of a challenge. More money does not always mean better quality but I have found a bit of lycra seems to mean they last a bit better. I am loving this series and the comments from everyone are awesome – the recommendations people are sharing are such as good place to start when looking to fill in some of the gaps.

    • I love all the recommendations and suggestions too Kelly! Everyone is different and has different lifestyles and needs.

    • Bec

      I’ll preface this with a disclaimer – I love these guys so much I’ve just started my own biz as a stylist here in WA so rather biased! Intimo not only have lovely, quality bras and multipurpose wardrobe basics (including an amazing LBD!) but offer professional measure & fitting at your home (party plan style). As someone who hasn’t been able to shop (let alone bra shop!) alone since before the birth of my first child nearly 6 years ago, I think that’s downright brilliant. You’ll be able to find a stylist in your area through their website http://www.intimo.com.au (hope it’s ok to post the link Nikki)

  • Kathryn

    This is a fabulously practical and useful post Nikki. Many thanks. I need a few things – some new t-shirts; some better shapewear and to continue my search for the elusive best jeans for my shape. I’m size 12 – 14 and a classic pear shape with lovely round curves from the waist down 🙂

    Thanks too for including links to great products. I’m home-bound for a few days as we’ve just found out that both kids have whooping cough (good grief), so am planning to do some online shopping. Every cloud has a silver lining!

    • Yes, every cloud does! And re the jeans – NYDJs are good for your shape, as are Levis curve id range and the jeanswest curve embracer. These ranges are designed to accommodate hips! But jeans are the only thing I suggest you first do a good try on before buying online – unless you’ve bought that brand before.

      • Kathryn

        Thanks for the tips re jeans – I’ll try them out!

  • Rachel_W

    I have most of these basics – but no plain tees, most have prints or something and the jacket thing, I have a grey one but hardly wear it, I’m always a cardi girl! Some of my shapewear may need updating, I have just a few sets of suck me in knickers and that’s all. My little black dress is cocktail style and has gold neckline…does that count?

    • That LBD sure does count – not as changeable accessory wise – but a reliable wardrobe work horse for sure!

  • Nikki! I think I love you! What a fantastic list. I have 10, 6 and 1 covered and have added the rest to my shopping list.

    • Oh brilliant Jodi … having this list with you over the next couple of months will keep you on track for building your wardrobe.

  • Stacey

    I think I’m pretty sorted when it comes to basics but one area I really need to work on is bras. Must get fitted properly in the first couple of months of this year.

    As for the rest, I have a solid wardrobe of shapewear now, quite a few camis in black, grey and nude, a few plain tees and one or two slip dresses. I recently invested in some new pairs of jeans – I can recommend Jeans West Curve Embracer in slim/straight for those looking for a cost effective solution. I have multiple little black dresses but am always on the lookout for the perfect one. Last year I bought a black tuxedo blazer, which has been a great investment and lives alongside a cream coloured blazer and a number of printed jackets. These Nine West pumps in black and nude got me through most of last year http://www.ninewest.com.au/pumps/rocha/w2/i1465043_1433822/ and I have a number of winter coats for the colder months.

    Need to work on those bras though!

    • You are so sorted Stacey but yes, add a bra fitting to your list for this year!

    • Kathryn

      Stacey, thanks for posting the link to the nine west shoes! They are exactly what I’ve been looking for, so I just bought a pair. Best wishes, Kathryn

      • Stacey

        You are very welcome! Great price with the current sale too!

    • I love my Nine West nude pumps – been wearing them for years! I usually get them reheeled every 2 years and a good polish about once a month (depending on how much I’ve worn them) to keep them looking fresh.

      As for the bra fitting, I totally agree with Nikki on that one! For years I thought I was an apple shape with a DD bust; after a professional fitting it turned out I’m an hourglass shape with an E-F bust!! It’s amazing what one can hide under ones ‘boozies’ 😉

      • Stacey

        I wear either my black or nude pumps most days to work and they are still looking good after 12 months of wear. Such great value.

      • Hahaha – yes, I was surprised about my sideways bosies too!

  • christine walker

    Love the list shows were i have to shop!good ideas too!!Now i’m exciteded,new year new me thank you Nikki.

  • Love your list but for me rather than a black dress, I prefer a black pencil skirt. I work as a corporate trainer and pencil skirts generally are my go to basic for standing up delivering training as I can add and subtract different layers (tops, jackets and tights) easily, especially when I’m travelling.
    I add jackets for a formal corporate environment and have a lovely long wrap front cardigan from Scanlan & Theodore which is excellent for flying or throwing over everything in a less formal environment.

    • You’ve got it sorted! For me the LBDs are essential because they can be dressed up for evening or cocktail events as well.

  • OMG light bulb moment, you are right, not a plain t shirt in sight in my wardrobe/drawers/anywhere! For those necklaces, exactly what I need. Mmmm time to shop…thanks Nikki

    • Exactly. Those necklaces need wardrobe friends. Aim for good quality so they wash well.

  • bebebebe

    Great list. I have always found jackets ‘too much’ for me and opt for cardigans. Can they be my basic? please?

    • They can be but they are never as polished as a jacket. So it comes back to your lifestyle – for me I need the jackets for certain events and meetings – but it may not be want you need for yours.

  • Great basics post, Nikki! And I should really know right now because I’ve written something really similar for my upcoming Little Black Dress Project book! Great minds think alike, down to Bridget Jones references. Eek! That said my list includes a few more basics for the working woman, phew!

    Also personally the shapewear I go for are the high waisted bike pant variety; the bike pant part smooths down lumps and bumps on the thighs. Winner!

    Ps: I am tempted to send you my book now do you don’t think I’ve copied you!
    Pps: I’d like to comment from @busichic instead of my blog handle, @BusinessChicTV – is there anyway I can switch accounts now I’m already logged in. I comment from my phone…

    • Hi Cheryl … LOL – can’t wait to see your book and no, I would never think that! And we commenting, you can log out of your disqus Business Chic TV account and log in with Business Chic I think. Do you have two accounts?

  • Ana

    What a great list. Thanks Nikki. Apart from the wonderful content, the thing I love about your blog is that your posts are ready to read with my morning coffee. A perfect way to start the day. I began my wardrobe edit yesterday and found some great pieces and was able to put two new outfits together. Very exciting!

    • Oh, I’m really pleased the edit unveiled some new outfits Ana. I love that! And I love that you have a read with your morning coffee!

    • Hi Ana, congrats – you’ve won a Styling You manifesto print – please email me your postal address – nikki@stylingyou.com.au

  • Where would you recommend getting a professional bra fitting? Either Sunshine Coast or Brissie…