Start 2020 With a Wardrobe Do-Over
Break out of a fashion stalemate with these new basics
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, January 2, 2020
En español | "I have nothing to wear.” We all say this from time to time wallowing in the archival pit generously called “my closet.” Maybe you've lost a ton of weight or gained some, moved from urban life to small-town USA or realized that your wardrobe feels more vintage, like The Crown or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, than leading edge like Killing Eve or Schitt's Creek. Whatever the reason, this is a chance to break out of a fashion rut and shake up your look. Here are 10 forward-thinking basics you'll wear till they're worn out:
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1. A stylish athleisure outfit. Joggers, fleece hoodies, down vests and sneakers are now everyday clothes for many of us. We wear them to run errands, walk the dog, go to the movies, grab coffee with the girls, hang out at home or chill out with family on the weekends — whether we work out or not. Unfortunately, this “look” is usually an oddball mash-up of leftover pieces and pilled leggings. Buy one pulled-together total look that's color-themed from head to toe (a black/white/gray outfit is your best bet), from sweat-wicking top and hoodie to running shoes, and add all the extras, too. You'll thank me.
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2. A fresh dress in a cheery color or print. A hard-working dress will always save you. But this time, don't opt for one in black. While the color may make you feel and look a bit slimmer, it's not going to make you smile, light up your skin or make you memorable. And while you're at it, rethink that dress's style too. Maybe it's time to try a midi or a swirly A-line, ruffles or pleats, a color that used to get you compliments or a new-for-you print.
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3. A dressy black blouse. A festive black blouse will get you through cocktails, parties and dinner out. It will give tailored work clothes a quick change and even sub for a fancy dress with glam heels and some statement jewelry. Look for lace, ruffles, sheer sleeves with cuff detail, a draped front or cold shoulder cutouts that elevate the blouse to star status.
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4. A jumpsuit. Jump on this practical one-and-done outfit that multitasks from casual to sophisticated with a change of shoes. The jumpsuit visually stretches your torso and legs to create a taller, slimmer silhouette. It can't miss, especially teamed with some kind of heel (though wedge and platform sneakers fill the bill, too). Just choose a style that's relaxed in the leg, not a skintight catsuit. Wear a basic black or shirt-style jumpsuit day or night as a base for a blazer, leather jacket or long cardigan. Consider a shimmery nighttime version as a leg-camouflaging alternative to a dressy dress or even a big-deal long gown.
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5. Black jeans. Faded blue jeans always look cool but black jeans give an edge to whatever else — without adding a black leather jacket. Black jeans always look dressier than blue ones yet they tone down any dress-up top, so you hit the dress-casual sweet spot looking like you tried. They make a quick tonal, monochromatic look possible with all our black tops and accessories without having to wear “real” black pants. All your black tees and sweaters will instantly have a new partner. Opt for a high-rise style with slim straight legs for a modern classic shape that's flattering to all.
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6. Wide-leg pants. If you love midi skirts, these are going to be your new basic. While slim pants will never die, trousers with a slouchy fit through the leg and waist-sitting high rise are making women happier and more comfortable than they've been in decades. Try a pair cropped just above the ankle bone for versatility with any shoe from flats to block heel booties, or get maximum swagger with a ground-skimming style (but know the extra length needs a higher heel or wedge to keep the line and legginess going). Extra-long looks good in photos, but stick to below the ankle bone and breaking on the shoe.
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7. A new pantsuit. The new relaxed pantsuit is anything but corporate — it goes from cool to polished with a few tweaks. Go for updated proportions like a slouchier longline jacket and pants with a cigarette or drapey leg that in no way resemble the boxy man-tailored versions of the ‘80s. Dress it down with a white tee and sneakers, make it edgy with a black turtleneck and booties, fun with a leopard blouse and wedges, dress-casual with a chambray shirt and suede loafers, trendy with mules and a message tee and, of course, sophisticated with a silk blouse and sling-back pumps. The color is up to you but I suggest pink or red for a gutsy look and white, gray or black for a more classic vibe.
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8. An updated trench coat. This is your perfect lightweight outer piece for nonstop style, rain or shine. It transitions between climates and pairs with anything from jeans to cocktail dresses. Look for structure that's not boxy or stuffy. A lightweight but generously sized trench layers easily over blazers and the chunkiest sweaters but is cinchable to show off a waist, too. Wear it knotted at the waist (do not buckle!) or open (tie the belt in back or slip into side pockets). A trench with a removable lining is pricier, but amps up the all-season appeal. No matter what you wear beneath (even your oldest jeans or leggings), you'll look fashionable, polished and cool as an ex-supermodel.
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9. Hoop earrings. Studs are fine to sleep in. Now trade up to hoops — and the bigger and lighter the better. Thin round hoops in gold or silver in a medium to large size are classic but never boring and those studded with “diamonds” (fakes but super even for day) always rock. Once you get these basics, you'll be ready for next-level hoops with drop stones, heart and slightly geometric shapes.
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10. A long, full skirt. What started as a trend is now a comfort and style basic. Wear a longer, wider skirt all summer with sandals, all winter with boots and never worry about crossing your legs or wearing pantyhose. The extra volume and swishy hem do camouflage bulges and pounds but the defined waist keeps you shapely. Just be sure to pair it with a tucked-in top. In the “midi” category, choose a length anywhere from a few inches below the knees to a couple of inches above the ankles, depending on your preference and style. The volume, length and shape make it a “star” piece that elevates other basics from ballet flats and tees to boots and a sweater. You won't regret it.