Dry Clean Only: Get back to basics with these style tips

(Demetrius Freeman/HERALD)

Kae Holloway

The time has come to talk of many things — of shoes and dresses and denim, of little black dresses and basic tees. 

The time has come to talk of wardrobe basics.

Good style requires a good foundation. You can be the biggest fashion queen (or khaleesi, as I prefer) at heart, but it just won’t translate without having those casual and dressy essentials.

Price tags for these pieces range from the cheapest of the cheap, to a little pricey. Some of these are worth a little splurge though. Granted, don’t blow $120 on a plain white t-shirt from Kanye West and A.P.C., but a good little black dress will get more use than you’d expect. It’s worth spending a little more to get longer lasting fabric.


Little Black Dress

Speaking of the LBD, let’s start there.

This wardrobe staple has been around for years, but it was Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy satin dress in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” that made the little black dress one of the most timeless looks in history. 

The little black dress is slimming and stylish. Dressed up or down, it adds a bit of class and sophistication to the day’s ensemble.

Call me crazy, but I’m sure Hubert de  Givenchy is out of the budget of your average college student. Great alternatives can be found at any retail store. If you’re an online shopaholic, check out Asos for your LBD. Shopper’s secret: they don’t charge for shipping and sometimes you can get student discounts.



Denim has evolved from it’s early days in the 1800s to become an essential part of every person’s wardrobe. 

It has become such a coveted, beautiful material that designers such as Yves Saint Laurent have expressed their envy of the inventors.

Every wardrobe needs at least one good pair of well fitting denim jeans, a denim shirt, a denim jacket and a denim vest. Obviously, wearing all of these at once would make you look like you stepped out of the early 2000s, but with the right pairings and combinations, denim can do wonders. Denim on denim can be done in moderation. The key is making sure your denim doesn’t match

Pair dark wash denim jeans or shorts with a basic top and a lighter wash denim jacket or vest.

If you’re adverse to this, however, there are endless options. Pair your vest or jacket with a good dress or top and skirt combo, and pair your jeans with a good top.

American Eagle has a good reputation of selling cheaper, well fitting jeans for both genders. If you’re willing to spend a little more, however, I have put my faith into jeans from Urban Outfitters. They fit wonderfully and have lasted me years with little signs of wear and tear.

For your jackets or vests, Levi makes both well, and makes them long lasting.


Basic Tees

Every wardrobe needs two things: a white t-shirt and a black t-shirt. Cuts and fits may vary, but if you don’t have one, find the perfect one and get it. 

White t-shirts go with everything. They can be worn with jeans and your favorite sneakers, tucked into a skirt and paired with sandals or worn under a blazer with heels. If you’re clumsy, like I can be from time to time, just make sure you have a stain remover pen at hand when you take the risk of wearing white.

Black, that perfect color, can make your casual look a bit more refined and classic. It’s also easily paired with every color of the rainbow, every shoe style and every skirt or pant in your closet. 

The beautiful thing about these basics: they are cheap. Cheapest of the cheap. 

I met my perfect white and black tees in the depths of Old Navy’s sale section some time ago, and for a mere $5 each, we’ve been together ever since. 



Great wardrobes start with great shoes.  

Christian Louboutin once said that “a woman can carry a bag, but it is the shoe that carries the woman.”

Your shoes define your look. They can make your dress sexier, your flannel grungier or your jeans and T-shirt more classic.

Every woman, or fabulous man, should own a pair of black heels, nude heels, basic flats, boots and a good pair of sneakers. Each shoe allows whatever outfit you style for yourself to have a completely different feel. 

Example: if your LBD is a less flashy material, heels can make you look dressier, but swapping for a pair of Chuck Taylors can give your look a more casual and trendy feel.

If you read my “Ode to black” column from a few weeks ago, it should come as no surprise that most of my standard, basic shoes are mostly black. Now my fun shoes range from floral to cheetah, but those basic flats and heels all come in that beautifully transitional black.

Once you’ve decently checked those shoes off your list, then go for those adventurous, patterned little numbers you’ve been eyeing. Some shoes will require a little more splurging. But paying for shoes means getting a good pair that will last you years, versus one or two seasons. So, let’s get some shoes.


Beef up your wardrobe with these transitional, versatile, easy to style pieces Real Simple provides a literal check list to complete your “basic” wardrobe, and it’s free.  

Take your wardrobe to new heights.

Basically, be basic.