Wardrobe Essentials: Historical Classics to Daily Basics (Part 1)


Find out what makes a classic fashion piece, the stories behind them and why they are here to stay. Words and photography by Zinah Nur Sharif.

Ever wondered what completes a wardrobe? What fashion items are every girl’s must-haves? What’s comfortable, yet timeless and stylish?

I have often pondered these questions myself, and am always on the hunt to compile the classics and the basics that will live on in my wardrobe.

Let’s start with the classics – the fashion items that everyone knows, but hardly considers wardrobe essentials. These items are classics for one main reason: they are timeless. They are not limited to seasons, trends or era; they are adaptable for every style; they are everlasting!

The Trenchcoat

The ‘trench’ first came to light in 1901, when Thomas Burberry submitted a design for an army officer’s raincoat to the United Kingdom War Office. People in power and authority wore the trench back then to give them an air of business-like respectability. The trenchcoat reached the fashion mainstream after the end of the Second World War, and has since remained fashionable over the decades.

The classic trenchcoat colours are tan, beige, khaki and black. Both versatile and elegant, it has the ability to make a woman feel like a million dollars. It adds sophistication to any outfit, whether casual or formal, so if this timeless piece is not hanging in your wardrobe, then a fashion cornerstone is not there either.

The Chinos

Chinos should be every girl’s fashion comfort; you will never feel out of place in the fashion world with these beauties.

Believe it or not, they also originated from the First World War, having been developed as uniforms for the British and French militaries! Yet again, khaki and beige are the classic colours for chinos.

The Breton Stripe

The classic Breton stripe is commonly associated with the French. This is no surprise, since it was an 1858 French law that decreed all its sailors must wear these striped shirts so they’d be easier to see if they fell overboard.

The stripes can be of any colour, but traditional ones are navy, blue or even red. The Breton stripe will be very happy to reside in your wardrobe, so you’d better find a good one to invest in!

The Ray-Bans

Let’s not forget the classic Ray-Ban sunglasses.

These mainstays were born in 1937 after American pilot John A Macready complained about the sun permanently damaging his eyes. He obviously had great fashion sense when he asked Bausch & Lomb to design sunglasses that provided protection and sophistication at the same time. A timeless accessory that is worth investing in, for complete wardrobe satisfaction!

The Chucks and The Levi’s

Chuck Taylor and Levi Strauss would also like to join your wardrobe.

Yes, that’s right. Converse All Stars (aka Chucks) and jeans should be there too, even though some may consider them ‘masculine’. But why should they be part of your wardrobe, you wonder? Simple – they are comfortable, casual and adaptable to all seasons, weather and even styles.

Jeans, first invented by Levi Strauss, came about in 1873. His initial idea was to patent and sell durable clothing reinforced with rivets. Meanwhile, Converse All Stars debuted in 1917 as the premiere shoes for elite professional basketball players.

The Satchel Bag

Our dear friend satchel is a classic bag that was born in the 17th century and is not to be missed. It’s more casual than most bags, suited for those days when you carry documents, books, or simply your makeup bag and your phone.

The White T-shirt

I almost forgot the basic – and classic – white T-shirt. Also born pre-1940s, it was originally worn as an undergarment, only achieving its fashion status after Marlon Brando wore it as an outerwear garment in A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951. The white T-shirt is no doubt a stand-alone, timeless piece.

The Ballet Flats

Let’s move on to another timeless piece: the ballet flat, which has actually existed since at least the 16th century. These shoes were popular in medieval times, but  they were later buried by the trend of high heels. Luckily, they made a comeback in the 19th century, and in the 20th century Hollywood actresses further fuelled the ballet flat’s popularity.

Not only can ballet flats be casual, they can also be elegant, colourful, made of different materials and even adorned with jewels. We all know that they’re comfortable, but need I remind you that they must be a part of your fashion world?

Who knew that clothes intended for war, battles, invasions, culture and sports would turn into timeless pieces, even more than 100 years since they first appeared? I can only say one thing: if you wear pre-1960s attire, you are doing us proud (merely in a fashion sense)!

Now it’s time for you to grab these classics and feel the nostalgia of rich fashion history decorating your wardrobe!

Next up, part 2 – wardrobe essentials!

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