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October 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Back to basics: Invest in these 10 wardrobe pieces to achieve lasting style


By Bree Coven Brown / Special to Sunday Market

Every closet needs the perfect basics. Fashion guru Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” fame distilled these to 10 essential items every woman should own. Invest in these classics instead of trends, and you’ll have everything you need for a polished look that will never go out of style.

Basic black dress

Seattle designer Mia Fioravanti’s Tulip Dress ($185 at Clementine, West Seattle) is the little black dress redefined. A feminine drape of black rayon falls into an unusual but flattering tulip shape, while leather cap sleeves add edgy urban appeal. H&M’s Sleeveless Dress ($50) has a fitted bodice, well-defined waist and softly pleated, flared skirt.

Trench coat 

The right trench is equally at home atop a dress or jeans — and is vital for Seattle’s rainy season. Banana Republic’s Flared Trench ($225) improves upon the classic with a flirty flared hem and a trim waist.

Ted Baker London’s Wool Blend Wrap Trench Coat ($525 at Nordstrom) takes things up a notch in bright red, with a full swing skirt and a cutaway collar. The 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target Trench Coat ($80) comes in classic khaki with contrasting baby-blue lining.

Classic white shirt

A tailored white button-down is a wardrobe workhorse. The White Poplin City Shirt ($74 at White House, Black Market) has a trim fit with feminine details like princess seams and grosgrain ribbon. The Gap Fitted Boyfriend Shirt ($50) is clean and simple, with a patch pocket on the front.


The perfect blazer doesn’t have to be traditional. The minimalist Wilfred Exquis Jacket ($195 at Aritzia, U District) is made of double-cloth crepe from Japan and has no front closure. The versatile Cartonnier Dotside Blazer ($98 at Anthropologie) has a casual, contemporary feel, thanks to its playful elbow patches and a polka-dot print, and the H&M Fitted Stretch Blazer ($50) is classically shaped with a slight sheen.

Dress pants

According to Gunn, pants that fall straight from the widest part of the hip offer the most flattering fit. The Martin-Fit Black Lightweight Wool Straight Leg pant ($98 at Banana Republic) achieves this elegant silhouette. The Blue Herringbone Wide Waistband Flare Editor Pant ($80 at Express) is a youthful version, sporting a wide, low-rise waistband.


Never underestimate a single standout skirt that can be dressed up or down. The sophisticated Lace Overlay Ponte Pencil Skirt ($79.50 at Loft), in gunmetal gray, has a contrasting olive lace overlay and a scalloped hem. The rsvp Eilat V-Striped Skirt ($45 at is crisp and chic in bold diagonal black-and-white stripes.

Day dress

For the office or a lunch date, Gunn favors the classic shift and the universally flattering wrap dress. The Dear Creatures Elizabeth Dress ($98 at Frock Shop, Phinney Ridge) has an A-line skirt, laser-cut scallop detail and contrasting red bow belt. Pair it with a cardigan and colored tights. The Purple Rain Wrapped V-Neck Dress ($68 at Dream, Fremont) has a retro-chic print that looks great with knee-high boots for fall.

Cashmere sweater

A classic soft cashmere sweater is the ultimate in luxury. Case in point: the Cullen Crossover Draped Cashmere Sweater ($285 at Neiman Marcus, Bellevue), which has a crossover shawl collar and cutaway hem.

The Halogen V-Neck Cashmere Sweater ($79 at Nordstrom) is perfect for layering with your classic white shirt. You can also score quality cashmere on a budget at consignment shops such as Le Frock on Capitol Hill and Labels in Phinney Ridge, or at thrift shops such as Goodwill in Bellevue and Value Village in Redmond.

A good pair of jeans

Jeans that fit well are the holy grail of the shopping experience. Gunn advises choosing a straight leg and a dark wash, since these are the most forgiving. The Paige Denim Skyline Straight Leg Jeans ($179 at Nordstrom) are just right. J.Crew’s Bootcut Jeans in Classic Rinse Wash ($115) offer a similar cut.

Sweat-suit alternative 

Gunn recommends a comfortable alternative to a sweat suit for quick morning jaunts to the coffee shop. In ultra-casual Seattle, this could mean swapping your yoga pants for Leg 4 Leg shirred organic cotton leggings from Seattle designer Prairie Underground ($106 at Show Pony, Fremont).

Top them off with Prairie Underground’s Spindle Hoodie ($268), a new fall staple with an A-line shape, ruched neckline and puffed shoulders. Or try cozy Fleece Leggings ($19 at Bliss, Fremont) and the Airport Greeting Cardigan ($55 at for carefree style on the go.


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