How to build outfits from wardrobe basics

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 23 Comments

There is more than one way to put together an outfit but the formula I’m sharing here is one way that will help take the stress out of getting dressed for good.

This is an outfit formula based on wardrobe basics and it’s a formula I’ve been sharing at my Unlock Your Style events since my book was released last year.*

It’s super simple but it does rely on your wardrobe having all the wardrobe basics that you need for your lifestyle.

Don’t know if you have the basics covered?

If a wardrobe edit is long overdue, then set some time aside this weekend to complete these steps.

From there it will be clear what basics are missing from your wardrobe and what you need to shop for STAT.

In my book, I list 11 wardrobe basics but not all of these will necessarily apply to you.

In general, wardrobe basics are in neutral colours. They are timeless pieces that if you buy well will serve you for many a fashion season to come.

They are your wardrobe work horses. They are always (hanging) there for you.

For me, those wardrobe basics are:

  • jeans that fit and flatter
  • pants or shorts that fit and flatter
  • black tees and tops
  • white tees and tops
  • nude or tan shoes – heels and flats
  • black shoes – heels and flats
  • little black dresses

The formula

My simple outfit formula starts typically with a pair of jeans and a tee or top.

Worn on its own it’s an ok outfit. It fits. But there’s nothing else going on.

This is my blank canvas.

From this canvas I can create any outfit for just about any occasion.


It comes down to what show pony pieces and layers I add on to those basics, as well as what accessories and shoes I wear to complete the outfit.

Adding even just one layer lifts the whole outfit by giving it a point of interest.

If you’ve attended any of my Unlock Your Style book events you will have seen me strip off to demonstrate.

For those who haven’t, I promise that it’s all G-rated.

The below graphic gives you an idea of the types of layering I demonstrate and how you can create a stress-free outfit formula for yourself.

I started with the basics of a white tee, indigo denim jeans, black heels and tan flats.

Styling You wardrobe basics stress-free outfit formula

 BASICS: 1. Bird Keepers tee $39.95 @ Birdsnest | 2. NYDJ jeans $219 @ Birdnsest $219 | 3. Walnut ballet flats $99.95 @ Styletread | 4. Skin heels $189.95 @ StyleTread

ACCESSORIES: 5. Sussan scarf $39.95 | 6. The Adorn Collective necklace $50

LAYERS: 7. Country Road cashmere knit $299 | 8. Target navy ponte jacket $59 | 9. Urban Prima sequinned jacket $155 | 10. Metalicus long vest $149.95 | 11. Witchery soft trench $189.95

Outfit combinations

Using the above clothing and accessories pieces, below are just some of the many combinations you could put together for particular occasions, events or just your casual #everydaystyle.

All based on basics of jeans and a tee.

1 + 2 + 3 + 5

1 + 2 + 3 + 6

1 + 2 + 3 + 5 + 8

1 + 2 + 3 + 6 + 8

1 + 2 + 3 + 5 + 7

1 + 2 + 3 + 5 + 10

1 + 2 + 3 + 5 + 11

1+ 2 + 4 + 5

1+ 2 + 4 + 5 + 7

1+ 2 + 4 + 5 + 8

1+ 2 + 4 + 5 + 10

1 + 2 + 4 + 5 + 11

1 + 2 + 4 + 5 + 7

1 + 2 + 4 + 6 + 9

1 + 2 + 4 + 6 + 10

1 + 2 + 4 + 6 + 11

Is this an outfit formula that you already employ? What are your go-to wardrobe basics? Your favourite show-pony pieces to layer on top?

* I’ve had a lot of inquiries about when more Unlock Your Style events are happening. At the moment none are booked in but that can change. I have delivered 27 0f these events in the past 12 months. Future ones are dependent on bookstores or libraries wanting to host them and my availability. Last year I had sponsorship to cover travel costs specific to the book tour (as this is not something a publisher funds) – this year events need to fit in around my existing work schedule. The easiest way to stay in touch and not miss an opportunity is to subscribe to my weekly e-news.

^This post contains affiliate links. I you happened to buy one or two of the outfits, I’l receive a small commission. Full disclosure policy here.

Comments 23

  1. Hi Nikki. I love following your blog. And I loved your photos in Paris. One day I will get there.
    But in the meantime we have just booked a holiday to Darwin in September and are also taking in an adventure tour to the National parks.
    Could you give me some tips or ideas on what to pack? I’m from Melbourne and often pack items for just in case, you never know what the weather will bring you in Melbourne. I know it will hot and I’m going to try and pack light, we can only take a 10 kg backpack on the tour.
    Thanking You.
    Leanne Harmer

    1. Hi Leanne. Yes it will be hot and you’ll need loose, light layers for sun protection. Shorts and tops will be the go if you wear shorts. Good sneakers, hat. You won’t need anything dressy I’d imagine unless you’ve got time in Darwin. Even then it will be very casual.

    2. Hi Leanne. Yes it will be hot and you’ll need loose, light layers for sun protection. Shorts and tops will be the go if you wear shorts. Good sneakers, hat. You won’t need anything dressy I’d imagine unless you’ve got time in Darwin. Even then it will be very casual.

  2. I am in the midst of packing list refining for my upcoming 5 weeks in Northern Europe, and this is pretty much my plan. No way can I do carry-on only, but nothing is going in the suitcase that can’t be layered with multiple other pieces.
    I have been on the lookout for a light top layer for awhile and yesterday I scored with a Mela Purdie french navy long duster in the technical fabric. Tied up (over a tank and tube skirt) it looks like a dress, too. Oh and it was 70% off because it’s from spring 2014.

  3. Great tips Nikki ,yes these are the formulas I look for in my wardrobe,I find getting dressed so much easier when you have good basics and I love scarves for winter and necklaces when it’s warmer or when I don’t want to wear a scarf! I do regular wardrobe edits and also try ons of outfits that I think will look good together.I recently did a wardrobe edit for my sister in law and showed her how a scarf can change the way an outfit looks and also finish it off and look more stylish,thank you Nikki Xx

  4. I need to put time in to have a huge wardrobe clear out Nikki. As spring is around the corner it will happen, as I often spend time at this time of year to make room for new fabulous pieces. V x

  5. I am an over-packer and have the challenge of a week in Brisbane next month taking just a carryon. I have been attempting to create a capsule that will work. These tips and suggestions are spot on. Thanks Nikki. x

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