How to Mix & Match Clothing

1Cindy McCarthy is the owner of Diva (a consignment boutique in Old Town Alexandria Virginia) loves to shop and is here to give you tips on the best way to create an affordable wardrobe through mixing and matching different “staple” pieces of clothing.

Build your wardrobe

She suggests that if you want to build a wardrobe that works for you without spending a fortune, then you need to begin with the basics. The good news is that you probably already have a lot of these basic in your closet right now! McCarthy suggests that you could even have five pairs of black pants as well as a number of different skirts, all of which can be interchanged with other pieces to give entirely new looks.

She notes that in the 1980s, designer Donna Karan rather famously said that all you need are seven pieces that were all extremely basic items and that could create an almost infinite number of outfits. McCarthy thinks this approach is the best way to build your wardrobe, whether you’re starting from scratch or whether you already have some of the foundation pieces.

2Basics for travel

This concept of having a few basics that can be swapped around to create different looks is essential if you travel. No one wants to lug five suitcases all over an airport! What you need is a way to travel light but with all the options that you need for every occasion you might encounter. In the same way, McCarthy says, it’s just a good idea for how you live. Less fuss, more time to do the things that you want to do.

McCarthy demonstrates what she’s talking about. Her assistant, Laura, starts out with a suit: a jacket, a pair of pants, and a skirt. Laura can wear the pants with an interesting eye-catching shirt. She can add the jacket for a completely different look. Then she can swap out the pants for the skirt. She can replace the short with a camisole and then add in the jacket if she wants. Or she can wear the skirt with something more edgy (McCarthy again turns to Donna Karan and an asymmetrical top). Then this can turn into evening wear with either the skirt or the pants once it’s dressed up with pearls and sandals.

So add to the basic skirt/pants/jacket a choice of tops: what McCarthy calls “one or two great blouses,” preferably one black, one white, so that any occasion is pretty much covered. She feels that a crisp white shirt is a must-have for any woman’s wardrobe.

3What feels right

Beyond that it’s a matter of taste. Some women feel comfortable with wearing something sheer; some don’t. The essentials stay the same; all you have to do is create something that works with your tastes and your lifestyle. The pattern remains the same while the specifics change. The important thing to do is make sure that you feel comfortable with all of it. You don’t want anything in your wardrobe that you won’t wear; it all has to feel as good as it looks.

The final touches

McCarthy has a couple more elements to add to the wardrobe: a cashmere cardigan and a wrap dress. Cashmere is important: it wears well, can be worn winter or summer, and becomes just a great all-purpose piece. The dress is versatile, travels well, and can be either dressed up or dressed down to suit the occasion.

And that’s it! There’s nothing mysterious about looking good: you just need the right foundation.