The Basics Of Basics; How To Build A Weekend Wardrobe

One way to dress with style is to build a wardrobe from nifty pieces, accessorizing with flair. Or, you can focus carefully on basic, fundamental, quality of even the most casual clothing. Optimize a uniform, if you will.

Let’s look at the weekend, shall we? Given that another one is just around the corner? I live in black tees.

But black tees are a dime a dozen. What makes this basic better than any other black tee, and why has it found its way into my weekend uniform?

A wardrobe based on basics, if you will, has to do a few things absolutely right.

  • Define the desired silhouette
  • Fit like crazy
  • Perfect fabric
  • Shine with just a few details

Getting dressed is, for all intents and purposes, drawing a picture of your silhouette with cloth. You may want to accentuate the silhouette you’ve got, or you may want to presto change-oh it up a bit. In my case, at the silhouette level, I’ve got broad shoulders, a long torso, and what was, before children, a small waist. I still pretend about the waist. So when I define a Katherine Hepburn-ish silhouette, I feel especially stylish, having drawn the picture of myself that I want to inhabit.

Fit is fit. Nothing too tight, nothing too lose. Perfect fabric is perfect fabric. And details should be seen just at the edge of perception, visible on close inspection, the effect felt at a distance.

For black tee optimization I rely on Petit Bateau. Their cotton is knit to just the right thickness and stretch. I hear they don’t work so well on more curvy people, but for us angular folk they are perfect. I can’t estimate how many I’ve owned over the last couple of decades.

I have been known to switch up my black tees with a white shirt. So adventurous like that.

But this really isn’t just any white shirt. It has a slightly low neckline, a graceful collar, and little white stripes in the weave. Audrey Talbot, in case you’re inspired.

I also wear khakis. I’m very picky. I’ve been wearing my son’s for a year or two now. Because everyone’s in denial about one thing or another. So I finally bought a new pair. To create the afore-mentioned silhouette, I need my khakis to fit tight at the hips and then fall straight to the ground without stopping to chat with my thighs. No stretch. It’s quite hard to find nowadays. These just-purchased L.L. Beans fulfill the fit criteria, but the fabric is a little too unrefined. Oh well. It’s the journey. And I love the little blue striped waist detail, even if no one sees it but me.

As anyone does who tends towards the classics, but lives in Northern California, I wear jeans a lot. A lot. When I go to San Francisco, it’s Seven for All Mankind’s Ginger version. Tight at the hip, dark wash, wide leg. Elongating short legs and balancing the long torso for all I’m worth. But on the weekends, I pull out my Levi 501s. Those buttons just slay me.

You might be wondering, how does a 53-year old woman wandering around in white or black shirts, khakis, and jeans, lay claim to any style? That’s what shoes, belts, and earrings are for.

Nothing elaborate. The quilt of the shoes (Manolo Blahnik), crocodile skin of the belt (Wilkes Bashford private label), and diamondness of the diamonds, provide as much subtle effect as I feel like taking on come the weekend. And if I fall from grace, and wind up in black Aerosoles, or flipflops – because Sturdy Gals cherish happy toes, if I leave off the belt because those two kids expanded my ribcage enough that my waist abhors restraint, the outfits degrade pretty gracefully. Graceful degradation is key, on weekends.

Have a lovely one. Weekend, I mean. In whatever uniform suits you.

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  • Magnificent, and so very proper, yet eloquently crafted! I will check this page often and well!

  • The classic uniform – never goes out of style. That reminds me, need to order some khakis from Bean…

  • LPC, you're killing me by not mentioning COLOR here.

    I think it's especially important when building and/or living in a wardrobe of basics to know which darks suit (black? some variation of dark brown? navy? a shade of grey?) and which lights (white? ivory? cream? beige? oyster?).

    While accessories can help offset the result of a draining shade, they aren't miracle workers. And alas, the "wrong" color is so much worse on me now than at 20!

  • Great post! I have noticed that every truly stylish woman I have ever come across had at least one go-to weekend 'uniform', regardless of whether it is a white shirt and khakis or something more exotic, as a caftan a la Diana Vreeland. I will join you on the hunt for the perfect weekend khakis, not a fan of the 'stretch feel' either!

  • I love wearing jeans with great shoes. I've always wanted to be one of those women that can rock a white shirt like you obviously can. I can't. Maybe it's coloring or maybe I haven't found the right one.

  • I feel about white tank tops the way you feel about black t-shirts. Mostly because of the whole separates thing, you know – they go with just about anything. I'm short, short-waisted and have a curvy, abundant figure so I layer everything, and white tanks are a great base for those layers.

  • Dustbowl, thanks! And Vix, yes, color is important. I look best in blues, whites, pinks. Cannot let yellow near my skin. So it's true white, etc. Maureen, if you are colored at all like my redheaded daughter, white won't work, it would have to be cream. Lily and JMW, do keep me informed of the khaki hunt. We're all in this together:). And I know there are some who replace jeans with caftans. Jill, where ever you are, I'm looking at you.

  • Loved reading this & I'm totally with you on the accessories – I would like to subscribe to the school which says 'only high heels or no heels' – alas my 50 year old tortured feet tell me otherwise. Jeans, a beautifully cut white shirt/black T with good shoes and accessories – the perfect uniform, whatever the day of the week. Have a happy weekend…..x

  • Weekend wears may be my favorite!

  • I love having a weekend "uniform" makes it so much easier to not have to worry about outfits!

  • Weekend uniform: khakis, a knit top, Anyi Lu flats and except in July and August, a structured jacket. Even in July and August, I bring a jacket along in case the A/C is set on high. I usually add earrings from the Museum of Jewelry although if the Grand Dame needs to be in charge, I'll wear pearl studs. Occasionally, I'll swap the khakis for dark wash or balck jeans.

  • i can't tell if the comment I just left got eaten or will appear later. won't try to replicate it but know that I was here and I enjoyed this post very much. Thanks. Now to try again. . .

  • classic and chic. i like.

  • Lisa, great minds wardrobe alike!

    Most of my clothing are simple basics in neutrals although I'm always befuddled by navy. I should note here though that QoC sells more navy cashmere than black these days.
    Vix- Hard as I try, I put on color and think "who's clothes are these?" before I take them off.
    Even though my the clothes are simple, I'm a freak about fabric and cut. Prewashed and broken in anything makes me crazy.

    This week, I bought the cutest khaki mac pea coat from Canvas. Canvas is Land's End new line. If you haven't found it yet, I'm turning you on to something really good…
    This weekend Conrad the man/boy is in the Chicago St. Patricks parade. The weather is forecast to be 50-ish and rainy.
    So my wardrobe this weekend is a khaki mac, black long sleeve, deep V tee with white under layer peeking out, dark, dark jeans and, sadly, still sneakers (real shoes soon). I agree the true styling is all in the accessories.
    I will add some great big button earrings, a good purse and blowout. I'm a firm believer that a great haircut properly styled goes a long way and is indeed an essential fashion accessory — for me it's dark, sleek Louise Brooks bob. Oh, don't forget good sunglasses!
    Have a great weekend!

  • Oh yes, the haircut is key. I'm glad to hear that so many others have a weekend uniform. I never bothered when I was actually working:). Mater, just knowing you were here is enough…

  • Love this post!! I find that now that I'm retired, I have "uniforms" for several different occasions/times. Like yours, mine go to the nth detail: jewelry, shoes, etc. Those are the things that really make us fabulous, right . . . hehe . . . and . . . Makes dressing so much easier! ;-)

  • Hi, I have trouble with weekend wear. I tend to be too casual. This weekend we are going to Hot Springs, AR. Plan to do allot of walking so I am going for comfort. I wear jeans to work all week and they can be uncomfortable and when I go to my congregation I dress a little better than dressy but just cant seem to get the weekend wear just right. Weird huh?
    Thanks for the compliment! :)

  • Hi LPC
    Thanks for this post.

    With your endoresement, I will now go seek Petit Bateau. I will succumb to The Hype.

    Living in Australia, I am somewhat starved in the khaki department. My Gaps are falling apart. I will go in search of LL Bean.

    The thing I love best about US stores is that pants are available in 3 leg lengths and different kinds of cuts. You won't know pants angst until you come to Australia and try to shop. There is only one kind – trendy and too long or short.

    Have a lovely weekend.

    SSG xxx

  • Levi's 501s. Yes. They are the best. I also have a particular penchant for Wrangler's. They look like 'real' jeans before jeans became an expression of one's commitment to exercise. The black tee is my weekend foundation garment. Great observations!

  • Perfect-o! Add a denim jacket with the khakis and a black Barbour(-ish) one with the jeans for chilly days, and I'm all set!

  • Dear LPC,

    I call weekend wear Play Clothes, and I think this can be harder to get right than Work Clobber.

    I would never ever wear a white shirt but am a massive fan of Knits. They don't need ironing and they hide figure flaws. What's not to love?

    Pls do a post on what you mean by WASP and High WASP and whether you agree with me that Jackie (Our Leader) certainly wasn't one. For that matter neither is Martha (Our Domestic Leader) but by God they tapped into the lifestyle trappings.

    Meanwhile I always think of you when I flick through a lovely coffee table book I own with CZ Guest on the cover called Privilege. Now CZ was definitely a WASP. High or not I don't know. She always had very nice hair.

    It's a beautiful day here so I might action some gardening. x

  • Expensive shoes do wonderful things to a $10 Old Navy dress and or a five dolla Target skirt when you're 23 as well.

  • Love the post. Like the idea of 'optimizing a uniform' very much… so this morning just after I read your post I "channelled", to use a term from the marvellous Faux Fuchsia (see she has commented two up), your wasp style for weekends. Except that with the white shirt I wore khaki straight shorts (to the knee I hasten to add,) added the diamond studs – should really have worn my Chanel ballerinas but instead went a little 'Sturdy Girl' and wore my very comfortable Bensimon canvas 'runners'. (Plimsolls as I call them) …. Love your LL Bean Khakis – may have to purchase a pair. Good weekend to you!

  • I'm so sorry to hear about the LL Bean khakis, I was awaiting your review in great anticipation. They do have that "washed" look in the photo, which I avoid – just doesn't looked dressed on anyone over a certain age. Or perhaps, "aged" fabric just ages us? I wear the weekend uniform as well. Khakis – for some reason my J Crew khakis aren't working as well for me lately. It may be the slash pockets. I like Three Dots tee shirts – great fabric and fit and not too long. I'm fairly tall, but I have a shorter torso and long legs, and some tees fall too low on my hip. I have several v-neck Three Dots in white, navy and black. The navy tee is wonderful with khaki and Tods chocolate brown driving shoe.

  • Thank you for all the additional brand suggestions. I'm thinking of adding some Tom's flats for summer. They are hippie plimsoles:). I have tried Three Dots – the sleeves are always too long for me. We are all, in fact, different shapes. Who knew:). And I have always coveted a barn jacket of some sort another, probably influenced by all the Italian women who look so chic in theirs. Faux Fuschia. OK. Definition post in the works.

  • What a great weekend wardrobe, comfortable and classic. I haven't worn khakis or 501's in such a long time but I feel inspired to try them again by your post.
    My weekend wardrobe is cargo pants (Union Bay) and a wife beater (Hanes not Petit Bateau)and sneakers. I probably need to step up the style a bit.

  • I like having a "weekend" uniform although I don't know why I worry about it now that I am retired. I am in search of perfect chinos but have not yet found them, they seem to be much harder to find than jeans. And I realize that I prefer and want a perfect white shirt, but have not found the perfect fabric/fit combination. Simple, classic, with classic accessories that are of elegant quality. This is what I strive for. I however haven't achieved it yet. I am still assembling the pieces.

  • Just to clarify, when I said "consider color" when choosing basics I didn't mean color-color, but what are commonly referred to as neutrals. For many women this means stepping away from black and white and toward warm brown and ivory (or whatever shades flatter more).

    Around here, I see so many women defaulting to black and white tops/jackets and unfortunately they aren't well-served by their choice(s); those two shades are tough for most complexions to carry off. My coloring means I do pretty well with them, though of course for some reason I often see things I love (and can't wear) in a beautiful champagne-y tone!

    [And Queen of Cashmere, I hear you–though in the past several years I have moved heavily into color-color and am having a blast with it, grey and black are my "comfort-food" hues.]

  • superb posting!

    maybe FF reads the comments here –
    Jackie can't be a WASP – since she was a Bouvier – french. And the A in Wasp stand for Anglo Saxon …

    I have to admit to you, Privilege, I did not like the way you point out being a Wasp or even High Wasp at the beginning when I first visited your blog … since it seems to be labeling, classifying to me. As the high in high Wasp says: high, not low. So if you are high, there must be some other being low.
    Around here in Europe the really high ones are often the really boring ones, I was not sure if I like what you write. Especially in Hamburg, you find the "high" ones, with Barbour jackets, khakis, white shirts. They bore the designers to death. Wolfgang Joop
    once said funny ironic things about them in an interview.

    Nevertheless I admire this style and way of living. impeccable.

    One thing brought me to peace with the titel of your Blog: you transport everyhting with humor and distance. To abilities I moistly lack. ;-)

    Have a great sunday with your kids!

  • I´m a bit late with my comment, sorry. Jeans are my everyday wear, also on weekends. This winter though, I have worn a skirt indoors. Jeans. I change tops as seasons change. Cotton, silk,cashmere. Accessories change as seasons change. I must wear my studs. Jewelry according to my mood. Thank you for your lovely post. Quality time with your children!/m

  • Love this post, those Levis take me back to my very first pair and the grosgrain ribbon I sewed on the hem. (That matched the red clogs.)

    May the week ahead with your offspring be outstanding!

  • I would LOVE to know your method of preventing the black from washing out in your tees! I wash mine in cold and they still end up washing out quickly!! Regardless, love your taste, I am younger but dress the same way as it is SO classic, and my mother does too (and she is older than you)! It just goes to show that classic IS classic. Can't go wrong with the basics.

  • Looked at the tee shirts but a little too small for me, Three Dots works better. I do have a suggestion for the most comfortable sandals on earth, though. Taryn Rose Tyra available at Zappos. It's like walking on a cloud. See blog "The Non-Blonde", as she agrees. Thanks for the reviews.