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Tim Gunn’s Ten Wardrobe Essentials

June 5, 2009

Some days I stare at my bulging wardrobe and think, “I have nothing to wear.” It’s ridiculous, and yet I feel it from time to time.

Part of the issue, of course, is simply that we have forgotten, in our overly affluent society, how to be content with the little things. But the other issue, I think, is that maybe we’re buying all the wrong stuff.

So I have decided to do a checklist against fashion guru Tim Gunn’s list of ten essential wardrobe elements, to see whether I have at least the basics covered; instead of buying more silly frilly blouses that you can only wear during Chinese New Year and never again. Descriptions of each item below are from his guide to style.

Tim Gunn’s Ten Essential Wardrobe Elements

1) Basic Black Dress – It is often called the “Little Black Dress”, and it’s true that shorter skirts on the basic black dress, when they hit you in the right place, can be more flattering than a long black dress.

CHECK. I have two in fact. Neither is completely appropriate for big dinner events, but they’re both good for work, for cocktail parties, and funerals. Good enough! Here’s my nice origami dress from Banana. (Bought in the US! Much cheaper..)


2) Trench Coat – The trench coat is one of the pieces that is both classic and currently a hot fashion item. Most any store sells this piece now. It is great for fall and you can pick it up in a wide range of lengths.

CHECK. I don’t have this, but it really isn’t necessary in Singapore’s climate, and I have a black fall coat that I love which I use when I travel, so CHECK!

3) Dress Pants – Although it doesn’t say black, this is probably what you want to look for. Black is flattering on all figures and goes with everything.

NOPE. I have several pairs of black pants, but they really aren’t dress pants per se. I don’t think any of them are nice enough to pair with a snazzy top for a nice dinner. The fabrics just aren’t right. I’ve always wanted a good pair of dress pants actually.

4) Classic Shirt – The white shirt is a definite classic. But it can also come in many different styles to make it look trendy and not dated or like a man’s piece of clothing. Find one that accentuates your best attributes and minimizes trouble spots.

CHECK. Actually I’ve never found my perfect white shirt, mostly because I am long-torso’ed and have tons of trouble finding shirts that are long enough for me. I do have one I can wear for work, but it doesn’t fit that well and looks a little stained now. BUT, I just very recently got the prettiest off-white shirt from Max Studio at a massive discount, and it’s not your typical white button up shirt but eh, I love it! CHECK!


5) Jeans – Everyone has a pair of jeans, but does everyone have a pair of jeans that make them look great? The wider leg, low-rise jean style has been popular (and still is) but a narrower leg is coming back along with a higher waist, which eliminates the unflattering “muffin top” look.

CHECK. I’ll never look like Cameron Diaz or Angelina Jolie in a pair of jeans, but I have two or three pairs of jeans that work pretty well with what I have and they’re very comfortable.

6) Any Occasion Top – Find something you look great in that can look respectable under a jacket but bring on the fun after hours.

CHECK. None that I’m completely crazy about, but I have a few that are reasonably nice and can go day to night. I also don’t do the club scene so there’s really no need for anything very snazzy.

7) Skirt – If you need dress pants then you also need a skirt. A skirt is womanly and can be flirty or businesslike. Nowadays women do not wear many skirts or dresses, which makes a lot of them fall into a rut of dressing sloppily or like men. See number 8.

CHECK. Don’t have that one perfect skirt, but yup, lots of skirts. I love dressing girly =)

8 ) Day Dress – Women also are not wearing as many dresses anymore. It was certainly liberating to go from the ’50s when women wore dresses every day to wearing more practical pants for gardening, exercising, and so forth. But the dress does not have to be abandoned altogether. They can be very flattering, and there is nothing wrong with “dressing up” for daytime.

CHECK. I definitely have two or three that I really like. Here’s a newer one, from Mango.


9) Jacket – A jacket does not have to be masculine. Find one with a proper, fitted shape. Women’s jackets should follow the silhouette of a woman’s body and accent the hourglass curve at her waist. It is also a perfect piece to put with the skirt or dress pants, and white shirt. Or make it casual with a pair of jeans.

NOPE. Definitely never found a well-made comfortable jacket that fits me right. I mean, I kind of did once, at Hugo Boss in Paris, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for it even though it was on the sale rack. It’s hard finding an inexpensive great jacket.

10) Sweatsuit Alternative – As mentioned before, women wear fewer skirts and dresses these days. But some women have taken casual to the extreme and spend days on end in sweatsuits. It is possible to be casual and comfortable without looking like a slob. Find a comfortable material (that’s why this doesn’t say jeans again – denim is not as comfortable as a nice soft cotton) that you would want to wear every day. It could be khakis, cords, a cotton dress, or much more.

CHECK. I guess in Singapore it would be more T-shirts & shorts than sweatsuits. But anyway I have many many sweatsuit alternatives! In particular, I have a pair of capris from GG<5 that I love and they look cute with most things.

11) Bonus: One Indulgent Trendy Item


Hey that’s not too bad. I’m just missing good dress pants and a nice-fitting jacket. Maybe this will give me a bit of focus when I’m out shopping since this year’s Great Singapore Sale really is GREAT and the temptation to senselessly buy many frivolous pieces of clothing is very very high! Recession sales are fantastic… all those poor retailers…

And yes ok, I don’t have a reason to feel like I have nothing to wear…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lazy Susan permalink
    June 6, 2009 10:36 am

    indeed, i open up my wardrobe on most mornings, lamenting that “i’ve nothing to wear!”

  2. mrsmultitasker permalink*
    June 6, 2009 11:26 pm

    Haha you also another one with no reason to think you have nothing to wear!! Welcome home =) =)

  3. Non cooking gal permalink
    June 19, 2009 10:20 am

    Most females have the “I have nothing to wear” feeling often enough actually.

    I think the key is many of us do not have a large enough organized wardrobe. if you can’t clearly see what you have, you’ll probably forget it exists.

    Dreaming of a large walk in wardrobe….

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