Remember the food pyramid from nutrition class? If you apply its principles (variety, moderation, portion control) to what you put in your closet, you'll have a well-balanced wardrobe that makes getting dressed easy. Load up on your basics, go easy on the patterns, and indulge in one showstopper for special occasions.
Follow these guidelines to the wardrobe essentials you need to satisfy―and streamline―your daily dressing requirements.
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Build a strong foundation with a strategic selection of basics that will mix with almost everything in your closet.
Shown, left to right: Black tank: A white tank looks right at the gym and for casual outings, but a black one can be worn with everything from khakis to a cocktail skirt.
Crewneck sweater: Opt for thin knits in cotton or wool that layer easily.
Jeans: It's worth paying extra for jeans that actually fit and flatter. Your best bet? Stretch denim with no more than 2 percent Lycra (the fabric will follow your curves and keep its shape).
Long-sleeve white T-shirt: Looking thin in white doesn't have to be difficult. The trick? Choose a slim-fit T-shirt that skims over your body (but doesn't cling).
Khakis: Forget the pleats (a flat front is more flattering) and forgo the front crease, too. After all, these are casual pants.
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Shown, left to right: Black turtleneck: Cashmere is worth splurging on―you get more warmth with less bulk.
White button-down: A fitted one will get the most use, because it's easier to tuck in and looks neater when left out.
Long-sleeve black T-shirt: A surprisingly sophisticated layering piece, this works well under a dress shirt―or even a dress.
Cardigan: A neutral shade offers the most versatility; a longer style that hits at the hip is the most attractive cut.
Short-sleeve white T-shirt: White tees become unwearable quickly―so skip the designer versions and buy a bunch of cheap ones, then replace as needed.
Black pants: Get the most out of these pants by selecting a style made of an all-season fabric, like tropical wool or viscose.
Denim jacket: A darker wash and a slimmer fit look more polished.
Short-sleeve black T-shirt: The best short-sleeve length is about 1/2 to 1 inch longer than a typical cap sleeve―it shows just the right amount of arm.
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Daily rations of these wardrobe workhorses will help get you through the week. Maximize versatility with neutral shades and classic cuts.
Shown, left to right: Wool skirt: An A-line style suits most figures, and pockets add practicality.
Black suit: Splurge-worthy? Definitely.
Pinstriped oxford: Update this classic by choosing an unexpected color.
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Shown, left to right: Black dress: A shirtdress style can be worn every day, every season.
Silk blouse: A jewel tone accentuates the luxuriousness of the fabric.
Gray trousers: Charcoal pants look dressier than heather gray.
Fitted jacket: Leave enough breathing room for a sweater or a camisole.
Camisole: Go for an unembellished style and leave the lace trim for your lingerie.
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The Statement Pieces
No closet is complete without a few signature pieces―the kind guaranteed to garner compliments (and attract notice if you wear them two days in a row).
Shown, left to right: Printed dress: Bold is beautiful, but large patterns work best when you keep the colors subtle.
Patterned jacket: Don't get overpowered by a print; show off your shape with a close-fit style and a shorter cut.
Bold blouse: Give a printed shirt top billing by pairing it with solid pants or dark jeans.
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More Statement Pieces
Graphic sweater: Pattern shy? Start with a neutral knit in a geometric design.
Tweed pants: In brown or black, they're a classic, but cream-colored tweed trousers are pleasantly offbeat.
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The Evening Standards
Even die-hard homebodies need a couple of after-dark pieces, but you can also let these stunners see the light of day by pairing them with casual wear.
Velvet jacket: Whether you choose a modern or classic style, this piece will instantly upgrade your outfit.
Ruffled shirt: Don't go for all the frills. When wearing ruffles, skip the rhinestone buttons and fussy bows.
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More Evening Standards
Shown, left to right: Cocktail skirt: What makes a skirt party-ready? It's in the details: Go for volume and embellishments such as beading.
Sparkly top: Sequins aren't the only way to shine: Metallics can be just as dazzling.
Velvet pants: With a heavier fabric, like velvet, black is the most slimming way to go. You can choose to save or splurge―there are styles to fit every budget.
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Formal events may roll around only once a year, but it pays to treat yourself to a dress that guarantees a grand entrance every time.
Party dress: The rules of selection are simple: Choose a timeless style that is figure-flattering and, most important, makes you feel fabulous.