How To Build A Five-Piece Wardrobe

By Bruna Volpi
27th Jun 2016

Planning that perfect, well-curated wardrobe that ensures you always look your best while always looking like yourself is not that easy.

And, apparently, you’re meant to achieve the above while only buying five pieces per season—and by season I mean summer and winter, so don't get all excited thinking about pre-fall, resort, autumn and spring. In fact, if you are really good at it, some say you can do the trick with only five pieces a year.

Supposedly, many major editors, bloggers and fashion icons do the five-piece thing—although some do get their sneaky fix by the way of sponsored freebies along the way, but that shouldn’t mean us common mortals can’t have a go at it.

The rules are simple: for it to work, you must own a good-quality base wardrobe (what’s considered the base will change depending on your personal style) to which you are only allowed to add 5 pieces every 6 months.

Underwear and socks don’t count, which is great because you wouldn’t want to run out of those and have to resort to going commando! The replacing of basics doesn’t count either. That being said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t scratch that rule out—you can always get creative, patch those jeans and work them as is.

Base-wise, a good place to start should include a few basic tees, a warm chunky knit or two, slim tailored pants, a good dress, a white shirt, a black blazer, a flat shoe option and a wear-anywhere heel. You should also add a great pair of mid-rise, straight-legged jeans in black or vintage blue.

Your base should be made of those kind of simple items you can’t live without. The point is that the base should be kept classic and neutral colour-wise, so that season after season all you need are five pieces to refresh and update your existing wardrobe.

Those five pieces are the time to go all out—weirdly fabulous flares, ceramic buttons, double-face cashmere, kaleidoscopic prints, exotic leathers—anything goes as long as something about it (the shape, the cut, the feel of it) is classic enough that it won’t date so fast.

Accessories such as sunglasses, jewellery, watches and bags are a moral grey area as some like to include them as base, and some like to exclude them altogether—I say a good rule of thumb is that if it costs more than a house, then it should probably count.

In the end, the five-piece wardrobe is meant to make you think carefully about your purchases, to plan ahead and to limit credit card heartbreak, bad outfit days and pieces hanging out sad at the back, tags still attached.

So if you make it, congrats. If you don’t, call our support team—we promise we won't judge. In the meantime, here are the top picks that made our five-piece hit list:

1. Outerwear

If you’re committing to the five-piece thing, a good place to start planning one of your five purchases of the season is outerwear. A coat, blazer or jacket can easily transform a look, and are likely to stay in your wardrobe for a very long time. Bonus points for a mid-length style that goes with everything (and has the capability to hide not-so-glorious outfit days).

2. The Bag

So here’s where we blow our budget. But hey, at least a bag has the potential of carrying your whole life in it. It lasts a very long while. It also has the very real potential of carrying off your entire outfit with ease to that special happy place where hearts go to melt and girlfriends ooh and aah with sighs of admiration and sheer envy. And, you know, they only get better with time.

3. The Top

One epic, differently detailed top is all you need to change up your look from meh to fancy. An impractical open back white shirt or denim halter neck would pair well with all of your hard-earned basics, and lend themselves well to late night chilling with friends, cheese and too much wine—minus the danger of spillage over white shirt.

4. Pants

Here is where we start to have fun: the humble pant, which seemed to have been relegated to its purely functional form in past seasons, has now come fully out of the closet. It’s as if designers have all recently come to the conclusion that our bottom halves were FOMO’ing on all the fun our top halves were having, so then everything just went kind of mental. We appreciate it.

5.  The Accessories

To finish and polish off an outfit, nothing does the trick quite like the right accessory. Right now, we’re lusting over a fair few boots, angular-framed sunnies and sizeable chunky knit scarves. On the bling front, we recommend a men’s watch and a pair of gold earrings with just the right amount of panache—classic shapes reinvented in styles that will stand the test of time.

And that, my friends, concludes our five-piece wardrobe exploration. Try it, test it, tell us how it goes. Show me yours if I show you mine?

Want more style-advice? Here's How To Style The World's Most Awkward Pants: Culottes.

Image credit: Who What Wear

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