As someone who is sartorially challenged I have frequently appealed to the fashion gods for salvation. The most common solutions offered are the lists of Wardrobe Must-Haves. Let's try some of them on for size (sorry...)
The Little Black Dress
Without doubt, the LBD is the saviour of the fashion-inept. It lets you blend into the crowd, and can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion. But these lists often imply that it is possible to have one perfect LBD. Really? Have you ever seen one that you could wear to work and a holiday resort? Or to a funeral and a cocktail party? Generally, the ones for serious settings look uptight at a fun event, and the party ones look too fancy or flippant on a solemn occasion. No, the best solution is to have two or three (or, ahem, ten), to suit different occasions.
Unless you find black depressing. Or boring. Or it makes you look like you have spent a week in bed with a gastro bug. In which case, you should shrug off the 'must-have' advice and choose a colour you love (and that loves you back).
The Classic Trench
Sure, pop one of these on and you feel like you are channelling Catherine Denevue. But the classic trench is generally beige. Which means that if you are likely to be carrying objects, brushing against things, sitting down in public spaces, eating, drinking, hugging people...basically if you are going to be living a real life, then pretty soon your natty trench is going to be a tatty trench. Consider whether another, more life-friendly colour might be more practical.
Absolutely no argument here. Buy a classic style that flatters you and they'll serve you for years. If you can wear them to work they provide outstanding cost-per-wear value, so it is worth spending more on the perfect pair. If they aren't work-wear for you, they can still be a reassuring back-up for those times that you need to look smart.
Now, to that 'perfect pair' business. My experience is that it can be incredibly difficult to find trousers that fit like they were made for you. So be prepared to clock up some hefty shopping-miles finding the right ones. Or else seriously consider having some made for you.
Ditto for black trousers, especially regarding the dilemma of finding some that fit. If you do, buy several pairs and/or every colour, before the fashion changes and you can never find another pair as good, ever again, in your whole life (sob!).
My main grudge against blazers is that a well-fitted blazer almost always restricts arm movement. If I'm strutting down the street in a jaunty manner, a jacket may be a great choice. But if I'm driving, eating, shopping, or basically doing any activity that involves moving my arms, they quickly get annoying. The same applies to leather jackets.
My personal favourite is a velvet jacket, made with stretch in the fabric to allow for functional arm use. At work it looks smart-yet-not-a-corporate-clone, but it can also be dressed down to wear to the supermarket and dressed up to wear out in the evening.
I also love a good cardigan. A nicely shaped one can hint at the jacket look, while looking and feeling much more relaxed.
This is fine if you can keep it clean (see classic trench, above). I always find it hard to combine this with the black pants without looking like a waitress. Really, a well-cut shirt or blouse in any colour that suits you can do the job just as well.
See 'white shirt' above. You really only get a few wears out of these before they start looking tatty. My strategy is buy cheap, buy often. Or buy a colour that doesn't show the marks as quickly.
Have you tried to find a classic striped t-shirt lately?! There are ones with chunky stripes, diagonal stripes and teeny stripes that make your eyes dance. There are ones with random zips, weird fake pockets and all manner of bows and ties. There are ones that come almost to your knees and there are midriffs. But a classic Breton-style striped shirt? Good luck!
Do you have any 'must-have list' quibbles and bugbears?