Planning the Basic Wardrobe

Basic colors are black, blue, brown (with all its variations, and gray, possibly green and wine. On the first four a good wardrobe can be built, allowing for much variety (although brown, itself, is difficult for formal clothes; the beige tones are better). The last two, as basic colors, are more limiting, except for a season or two. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't buy a plum or wine suit or a green on, but you should accept the fact that after two seasons such suits are readily recognizable if worn too frequently and that if accessories are bought to match them they will not be easily worn with other colors.

For summer wear, a loose-fitting white or natural camel's hair coat is a basic that will have years of use if it is bought in a classic style. A black evening wrap is a sound conservative choice, but it is surprising how well one in flame red will go with almost anything a blonde or brunette is likely to wear in the evening if she doesn't go out too much, and especially if she has a dressy fur coat for a change-over.

A classic camel's hair or a god simple tailored coat and a dual-duty raincoat will be of use spring, summer, and fall for many seasons. 

If only one fur coat or jacket is possible on your budget, let it be a dress coat - preferably three-quarter- or full-length, with a shawl or roll collar. Mink in good quality is a long-term investment.

Every wardrobe needs at least one good wool or tweed tailored suit. It should be cut on classic lines, so that with minor shortenings and lengthenings from season to season it will be good for from five to seven years - or even longer. A good tailored suit should cost usually at least seventy dollars and be sufficiently conservative in color, line, and fabric that it is entirely unremarkable. A tailored suit is a uniform.

Too sheer blouses look just as bad as too delicate shoes with tweeds. A slipover sweater or wool shirt or some heavy fabric with body is best with tweed for the country. In the city a simple, non-sheer tailored blouse with a round collar or a turnover collar on a shirt neckline is most appropriate. White is usually best, or soft pastel tones, but avoid brilliant contrasts which destroy the effect of the classic suit which should be unremarkable.

From Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette 1954

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