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Let's Start At The Very Beginning

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Imagine if you lost all of your clothes and had to start again. Terrifying thought I know. For the purpose of this exercise I'll give you a starter pack of twelve items. Pants, socks and bras are gratuitous. So what would you choose? Would you buy replacements for items that you already have? Or would you take advantage and reinvent yourself? I think the answers to these questions says a lot about you. If you're very much a yes to the first question then you obviously feel very confident in your existing style and no doubt enjoy your wardrobe.

If it's a no to the first question, then are you still searching for your style? Do you sometimes struggle to put an outfit together?  Do you have lots of items in your wardrobe but they only go with one or two things. Do you buy items that are not practical for your lifestyle? Chances are, you'll take advantage of reinventing yourself.

Just a theory I have, not backed by science or anything.

Anyway, I did this exercise myself and was surprised to note that all twelve pieces are replicas of everything that I already have. As my Dad would say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Here is my starter pack:

1. A Plain White Shirt

I have several white shirts but one firm favourite. It's an old one that I pinched from the hubby about 5 years ago. He asks for it back every time I wear it. Obviously jealous that I wear it so well 😜 So a like-for-like replacement would have to be:

- slightly oversized but not voluminous because I like to wear them under a blazer ( a man's slim fit seems to fit the bill)
- minimal creasing
- a collar that isn't too tall (because no one wants to see grubby make-up stains)
- must lie flat across the bust without any gaping

Mine  is an old Charles Tyrwhitt shirt. It's taken me years to wean the hubby off his beloved Hugo Boss because their shirts are pretty rubbish. Have you ever tried to iron one? God. Charles Tyrwhitt are 100% cotton and 100% better than Hugo Boss (in my humble opinion).

Brilliant for layering under knitwear and blazers.

This is a similar style to mine.

Charlies Tyrwhitt slim fit Non-Iron Poplin White Shirt was £60 now £34.95

**Tip: try hubby's on for neck size and go up or down as required. Your own hubby not mine!

2. A Breton Top

I'd be lost without stripes so in at number 2 is a Breton top. And a long sleeved one at that. My favourite by far is the Boden classic that they do year after year. Ok, I know some people have mentioned that the quality isn't as good as it was, but there's no complaints coming from this end. They spring back in to shape when washed and iron beautifully. Love the neckline which is very flattering. Mine is a size 10. Something else to note as well is that Boden do a navy and ivory stripe (mine) which is much more flattering than a stark white.

Boden Navy & Ivory Long Sleeve Breton £28

3. A Posh Top

I really wanted to put a white t-shirt here but then I'd be stuck if I needed something slightly dressier. See how serious I'm taking this exercise! A block colour is more versatile than a pattern and texture is more interesting than flat fabric. So let's do a lace top which will cover a multitude of events.

The top above is from Ichi Fashion and is rather ancient and no longer available but Monsoon is a great place to pick up something a bit special in lace. And they stock a great range of sizes from 8 - 22. Well done Monsoon!

Monsoon Jenny Lace 3/4 Sleeve Top £59

4. A Jumper

Well I didn't really want to waste item number 4 on a jumper but seeing as it's spring and I'm in the UK, sadly it's a necessary evil. I bought this one from Winser London last year and it's been bloody brilliant. Totally practical to wear in spring because it's 100% cotton which of course means it's breathable and non-itchy. The downside is that it's hand wash and of course that means it's in the 'special' pile along with 4 navy blue cashmere jumpers, 2 black ones and 3 random grey ones. Hubby's jumper drawer isn't looking too healthy at the moment. That said, I'd still replace it with another one because it's been so useful. Winser London come up on the generous side so this is a small.

By the way the leggings are the navy Ponte ones that I talked about last year (I ordered regular as I wanted a crop). And if you remember, I sized up to a 12 as I didn't want them to look like leggings. Here's the link. They were pretty useful until the cold set in.

Winser London Audrey Cotton Jumper £89

5. Coated Leggings

Yeah, yeah, record stuck, I know I mention them lots. But I wear them loads. Some of my friends save them for best, some have every colour, some only one pair but everyone agrees that they are the comfiest bottoms they own. I have *cough* ten pairs in different colours and leg lengths but in my defence, they are my jeans. I wear a 10 (my usual size) and have them in long (these below) and regular to wear slightly cropped. They fit amazingly well and I've had so many comments from ladies who were worried about them showing lumps and bumps. They don't. And I know this because you've told me. The only thing I'd say is that the replacement navy ones from last season (no longer available) seem to slide down and yet the black replacements fit perfect. I'll leave you to figure that one out.

Talk about versatile. I wear them on nights out, for slobbing around the house, running errands, coffee dates, you name it, they're worn.

Next Pull On Coated Leggings £26

6. White Jeans

Oh gawd this was tough. I wanted to include the fab grey leggings from Next which I've loved wearing recently. They have a proper zip and fly button which makes them feel a bit more grown up. Like proper jeans. But far, far comfier. They're stretchy and yet they don't fall down. Got a lot going for them so it was a tough choice. In the end, I decided to go with white jeans purely because of the season. Do you remember these that I bought from ASOS around Christmas time? They were £12.50 in the sale and there are still a few sizes left.

Not that I want to encourage you to spend or anything but they are fab. They're a thicker denim than  leggings which is great for holding in any lumps and bumps (white jeans are not very forgiving are they?) and they don't bag after a few hours wear. My pet hate. Don't worry about the 'mid rise' description. I'd say they're pretty generous in the rise.

And this is exactly how I would wear them using my starter pack! But how bizarre that they've hidden the excess leg length half way up the model's shin!

ASOS Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans In Off White now £12.50

7. A Navy Dress

Because I'm not quite ready to break out the summer colours just yet. And navy is so useful. Chuck on a red blazer. Or add a yellow bag. Go tonal with navy on navy. Lots of options. It is of course much more flattering than black against the skin and the good news is, we all get navy in our palette. Win-win.

I bought this dress a while ago although I haven't had chance to wear it yet, but I can feel it knocking on the wardrobe door 'let me out, let me out'. It's a flattering silhouette and as it isn't uber long, is ideal for women who are slightly shorter than me. In an ideal world, I'd have liked an extra couple of inches. It's one of those funny ones where sizing up actually looks better. You know when a bit more fabric gives it a more luxe feel? That. The 10 was also gaping quite a lot at the neckline but the 12 seemed to sit much better. It ties at the side so you can pull it tighter if necessary.

No piccy of me wearing it yet, but ever hopeful that I might wear it this week (don't hold you breath though).

Here's what it looks like on the model.

Next Navy Spot Tea Dress £30

p.s. the print is made up of starts not spots.

8. A Navy Blazer

I'm sat here writing this bit of the blog post on a train to London in one of my trusty navy blazers. Navy side stripe trousers, Breton top, white trainers and red bag. Done. It's such an easy outfit and one that I replicate over and over again. So yep, a navy blazer definitely makes the cut. I guess my favourite is the Boden Emilia purely because it's so comfortable. It's very stretchy! But at a glance looks like cotton. It's actually a ponte fabric. And I don't know why I'm telling you this because they've stopped making it. Why? It's a wardrobe staple and the best jacket ever!

Soz, not the most flattering shot. This was taken after we got back from London yesterday (it was a very tense football match).

And here is a similar one albeit not Ponte. Now don't go getting all sniffy on me because it's 61% polyester. There are benefits, the main one being that it's machine washable.

M&S Grosgrain Trim Single Breasted Blazer £45

9. White Trainers

Regardless of what's in fashion on the trainer front, I kind of know what I like and that's plain ones. I know boring right! But every time I've tried the latest craze be it stripes or stars or leopard print, I walk away. Give me a plain white or black or nude any day. I also have this theory that the more anonymous the crep (my son will kill me for saying that word), the more grown up they are. These are my most worn ones.

Ok so they're Adidas but you'd have to have a bloomin good look to work it out. They're no longer available which is a shame because they've served me well and I would have replaced them with the exact same if I could. If you have the Adidas Honey Los, don't be afraid to chuck them in the washing machine on a 20 degree wash (spray them with stain remover first if necessary) and spin speed 1000. The leather comes up an absolute treat.

These Boden ones would be a good replacement and the heel stripe is very Gucci-esque.

Boden Hollie Trainers £75

10. Statement Shoes

I'm going to choose rinky-dinky red because most of my bright shoes and bags are either red or mustard. So these aren't the most comfy to wear, I always tend to skip over that fact when I'm buying new shoes. It must be an age thing though because lately I've been pining for comfies (more on that in another post as I've been asked to cover this whole subject by a lovely reader).

Apologies for bony feet shot! These were from River Island last year. I love them but I loathe wearing them!

But these are a much better option. I have them already in the white (think more stone coloured) and they're a great all day shoe. Read that as very comfortable. Mine are a size 6 and I'm normally a 5.5 to 6.

Next Red Leather Point Wedge Slingback £38

11. A Neutral Bag

I tend to change my bag often, sometimes daily but there's no denying that I use one a lot and that is a Rebecca Minkoff. It's what I call, my lazy option because it goes with everything! It's also very trans-seasonal and works equally well with black and the lighter shades of summer.

I knew when I bought it that I'd use it a lot. The size is perfect, it fits a phone, wallet and a bit of make-up no problem. And it's a good day-to-night option too. This is the same bag in a couple of shades lighter.

Rebecca Minkoff Chevron-Quilted Leather Shoulder Bag £350

12. A Coloured Bag

I'm a massive believer in using accessories to update outfits especially in the warmer months. A simple white t-shirt and jeans can be taken to a whole new level by adding a few choice accessories. So it was a no-brainer to include a coloured bag.

This is an old Fiorelli yellow-mustard bag and I love it because it resembles a Bottega Veneta (and a fraction of the price). I can't tell you how many people have asked if it's a Bottega. Errrrr no, it's Fiorelli. It's not about how much something costs!

 Which brings me very nicely on to this bag, a snip at £16. A perfect way to update your everyday neutrals. I'm looking forward to teaming mine with the navy dress.

Matalan Bee Charm Tote Bag £16

So, that's my starter pack. It's a really great exercise to do. Obviously you don't need to write it down with pictures but when you have a quiet moment, have a think about what your twelve piece starter pack would be. You might surprise yourself.

It's been non-stop here for the last couple of weeks. We've had people coming and going over Easter and I've stripped more beds than I care to count and washed dozens of towels. That coupled with our son's 17th birthday (he's now the proud owner of wheels - god help Cheshire). So, I'm looking forward to a bit of downtime this week before it gets busy again. Very busy. That's a story for another day.

Hope you have all had a fab break and thank you so much for reading the blog.

21 comments on "Let's Start At The Very Beginning"
  1. What a great post, very original and thought-provoking! I would replace what I have, pretty much, but exactly which 12 is a fascinating conundrum upon which I will ponder!

    1. As much as I have a uniform, I could never do a capsule wardrobe Rozanne so in reality those 12 things would expand quite rapidly but it is thought-provoking isn't it x

  2. Really useful and interesting idea, Donna! I would mainly replace what I already have and make sure that the fit, fabric and cut were perfect. I thought about the 12 items and my wishlist would be similar to yours. I'd include black coated jeans (Topshop Joni's), black capris, black leather biker, a grey leather bag, black suede stilletos, a silk or cotton ivory shirt, a black and white Breton, an ivory lace top, a cotton sleeveless dress, a grey cashmere jumper, a warm coat, and black trainers. That would make a good basis for me but I admit there are a few other items I would miss. However I think this is a great way to think about what we actually need.

    1. I was looking forward to your comment Elaine. Love love love your choices. And I knew you would mention fabric and cut. A biker jacket has been mentioned a few times, something I contemplated but you know what, the All Saints one that I bought 18 months ago (and then had to replace it) is very under worn. I always seem to reach for a blazer. It's really interesting to find out what other women would choose because we are all different x

  3. Would find this hard as need work and casual wardrobe but I’d stick with the shapes that suit me and upgrade some of the materials eg silk blouse!
    Dark rinse bootcut jeans
    Wide leg trousers
    Layered jumper (with the fake shirt underneath as I hate ironing)
    Shirt dress
    Midi skirt
    Pencil skirt
    Silk blouse
    Velvet pumps
    Leather bag
    Long sleeved t shirt (light colour)
    Ankle boots (nude)

    1. Your list sounds very dreamy. Are you very much a tactile kind of girl in that you like the feel of fabrics. I'm trying to assess your style personality here lol and the fact that you've included silk and velvet along with a couple of skirts makes me wonder if you veer towards the romantic personality?? I'm probably totally wrong lol x

    2. I’m a bit of a mixture - a hint of “arty” I’d say. I like those fabrics but in classic cuts and accessories in metallics (I don’t like frills or fussy patterns). I also have to balance being smart for work in Bristol but at home in the countryside trying not to get covered in mud or dog slobber!

    3. Ok, I got you totally wrong as Romantics do like frills and fussy patterns. I'd love to see your wardrobe x

  4. Great post! Lots of food for thought...

    DH has some Charles Tyrwhitt non-iron shirts and they really are non-iron - I can definitely recommend! Don't know why I never thought of buying them for myself. The fit might be a bit hit and miss though because he is a *lot* larger than me! Could you suggest what a size 10/12 might roughly correspond to in collar size?

    1. They really are good aren't they Nell and so reasonably priced as well. He always goes for the bundle!!! Definitely go for the slim fit. The one I wear is a collar size 15 (that's probably why I've got it because hubby is a 15 1/2). I could probably go down a size because mine is very roomy but because it's a tailored slim fit, it kind of works. To be honest if I could find a woman's shirt in the fabric that CT use, I'd grab it x

  5. Good post - mainly replace with the same. I've finally ordered some coated leggings as they were missing from my life!

    1. Yes Sammy!!!! I really really hope that you like them as much as me and the hundreds of other ladies that swear by them. Let me know how you get on x

  6. Hi Donna, I’ve pondered and made an ‘Autumn’ list for Oz.
    Black Eileen Fisher viscose tank
    White linen 3/4 sleeve tee. J Crew did a great one until last year when they increased the length about 3inches
    White cotton lace tee
    Leopard 3/4 sleeve tee (but I did find it hard to choose between this and a stripe)
    Eileen Fisher black washable crepe trousers
    Levi 312 dark indigo (new item and style as existing jeans now too large)
    Denim skirt
    Black long wool cardigan
    Navy wool blazer
    Tan hobo bag
    Black Aquatalia boots (I have a Chelsea style but would replace with a zipped style for ease)
    Red Gucci loafers (new, because they’ve been on my wish list for more than 10 years and I know now that I’d get my $ worth)
    And, having made a list, I also know what my next few replacements would be.

    1. Oh my this is one fab starter pack. I'll have one of everything please. It sounds so versatile x

  7. Terrific post Donna, exactly the sort of thing I love to read and which you're so good at. Looking forward to the comfy shoes post as, sadly, a dodgy left foot means no more heels for me. In the meantime, time to consider my basic 12.....


    1. Thank you very much Marian. So glad you enjoyed it. I've got a comfy shoe post coming today (featuring a pair that I've been asked to review) and then there'll be another post about styles of shoes that I consider to be comfortable and what to look out for x

  8. Loved reading this post )) my basics for summer would include skinny jeans , Bretons and blazers, linen tee shirts and shirts ( I have a fetish for the ones from whistles white company and Hush ) plain white tees from H and M , espadrilles in summer , ankle boots in the winter plus black polo neck sweaters . All very classic styles can pull them out year after year so don’t have to spend a fortune keeping up with current trends , My style icon is Emanuelle Alt !!! So nice your blog has taken a different direction from the rest ))

  9. If I lost all my clothes it would most certainly not be a terrifying thought, it would be happy days. My few clothes are all 15-20 yrs old, very old fashioned and dated and I would just love the luxury of owning a few of your starter pack pieces, never mind owning 12, what luxury you have!

    1. May be we should all take a leaf out of your book and hang on to our clothes for longer. I'm so over this fast fashion. Even my 22 year old daughter is making much more informed and careful purchases these days x

  10. Great post again Donna!
    About the lace top/t shirt,as a cheaper alternative Oasis do one very season ( I have three and my eye on a new one). I might try a man's shirt next, my other half wears the Charles T shirts too, but so far I have stuck with Jack Wills!

    1. I always forget about Oasis Julie. You're right, they do have great lace tops, off to have a look. My daughter has had a JW shirt since she was 15, she's 22 now and it's still going strong. Wonder how many times I've ironed it over the years!!! x