By Sarah Carlson
Photography by Beth Dukes
Menswear sponsored by Drest by Scott Malouf
First impressions last a lifetime. Clothes make the man (or woman). Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
These phrases may feel cliché, but they’ve stuck around for a reason: When it comes to finding success in life – at work or at play – style matters.
Technology has changed much of the shopping game, from the ease of online buying and shipping to our instant access to what’s trending. But don’t let #sponsored #content guide your sartorial decisions, much less what’s cheapest and most readily available. Your closet – and you – deserve better.
If you’re in need of a wardrobe refresh, the key is to get back to basics, says Vickie Burdine, a personal stylist who worked as a wardrobe consultant with the now-closed Doncaster clothing company for 33 years. Building a wardrobe can take years, but purchasing quality pieces that can be mixed and matched ensures you always have classic looks on hand for any occasion.
“Your basics should be good for at least five years, and buying quality is one of the most important things,” she said. “People notice.”
Burdine developed a love for fashion as a child in Bowie, Texas, and her teenage years saw her sporting the latest trends at school.
“As I aged, I wanted a wardrobe,” she said. “You can always pick up something funky to add to your staples and totally change it, but you need the basics.”
Scott Malouf, owner of Drest by Scott Malouf in Lubbock and the third of four generations who have worked in retail in West Texas for almost 100 years, agrees.
“Buy fewer things but of greater value – that’s your most economical play in a wardrobe,” he said.
He and Burdine picked staples for two Abilenians to model and shared tips on how to take these looks and others from work to evening to the weekend.
For the Ladies
The first rule, Burdine says, when buying staples is to think versatility. She has always worked in “capsules” – pieces that can mix and match.
For our photo shoot, she brought eight items that easily create at least 12 outfits. Start with a nice suit, she said, preferably three pieces (a jacket, pants and skirt) in a lightweight, year-round wool. It’s hard to go wrong here when it comes to work looks as the mix-and-match possibilities seem endless, and brands like Calvin Klein are reliable and accessible at department stores.
Everyone needs a crisp, white collared shirt. Search for one that is non-iron and stain-resistant, instead, Burdine says, and you won’t regret it. Now, mix in several other shirts/blouses with colors and patterns, as well as a sleeveless shell for layering and a sweater set. We’re talking about basics here, so don’t overdo it; find a nice stripe, for example, instead of an intense floral. (You can add that pop of fun later, especially if it’s on sale.)
Invest in a nice pair or two of jeans. Dark denim and white can be dressed up or down most easily, and focus on fits that flatter – nothing too tight.
Dresses are a necessity in West Texas, so look for ones that can be dressed up or down depending on accessories. Burdine chose a piece for our photo shoot that works as both a dress and a jacket.
Don’t forget the accessories. You’ll need at least a nude pump and a handbag to start with, as well as a second pair of shoes that can work with a variety of looks, such as slides or flats. A scarf also makes a nice addition to looks. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing one, tie it to the handle of your bag for an extra pop of color.
With just these few items, you’re ready for a variety of events. Wear the suit to work, and then trade out the slacks for jeans for a polished evening look. Carry the jeans over to the weekend but swap blouses and shoes, etc. And if anything, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, Burdine said.
“Overall, people make an impression in the first 10 seconds of seeing you,” she said. “If you’re not dressed appropriately, down to your shoes, they’ll notice.”
- Buy quality fabric. Polyester is better than it used to be, but rayon tends to not hold up to wear and washing, Burdine says. “When starting your basic wardrobe, look for the highest quality,” she said. “It will last much longer, plus you will feel much more empowered when you feel good in your clothes.”
- Look at how something is made. Check the seams inside of a top, for example, and look for jackets and skirts with lining.
- Invest in nice undergarments. Burdine recommends the Abilene store Bra te da, where you can be measured and fitted to find the bra that’s right for you. As for shapewear, the trick is to buy one size larger than you need. “You want to smooth, not stuff,” she says.
- Don’t rely on trends when picking basics. For example, buy a suit with a classic trouser leg instead of wide or skinny. You’ll always be in style.
- Don’t worry about sizing. “Don’t look at the tag and think you have to wear a certain size,” she says. “It’s about the fit, not the number.” The confidence comes from knowing you look great.
- Don’t clean your clothes to death. If it doesn’t have stains, don’t wash it.
For the Gents
Malouf and Drest marketing and style consultant Brad Swaringen opted to skip the classic work suit for their basics tutorial and instead took things up a notch: Every man should have a well-fitting tuxedo in their closet, Swaringen said. You heard him. “It is the best investment that you can make,” he said.
OK, maybe not everyone will attend black-tie affairs in their lifetimes, but many will. And as basics should be investment pieces, a tux tailored to fit you is worth the price.
“Typically, it’s less expensive to own your own tux than to rent a tux three times,” Malouf said. “When you have your own tux, you wear it with confidence. It fits, you look your best, and no matter who you meet, you’re going to look great and be as well-dressed as anyone attending the event.”
For men looking for more basic basics, start with jackets. This is the easiest way to dress up an outfit for various occasions, from an evening out to a daytime wedding. Malouf recommends a soft jacket – a tailored garment with less padding and lining than a suit jacket that lands somewhere in between formal and casual. He chose blazers and sport coats in summer blues for the photo shoot – one solid and one plaid – that can be mixed and matched with collared shirts and bottoms.
In addition to dress slacks, a man needs a classic five-pocket pant, which is a jean style in a slack fabric, as well as classic cotton chinos. A trimmer fit is fashionable, everything from updated classic to extremely fitted depending on the age, lifestyle and comfort level of each customer, Malouf said. Dark denim jeans also are a must.
For casual looks, be sure not to go too casual. Gym shorts belong in the gym, and cargo shorts don’t belong anywhere. Shorts in high-performance fabrics that stretch and wick perspiration away from the body are good buys, Malouf said, and can be worn with short-sleeved camp shirts or polo shirts.
Shorts in a chino fabric are classic as well, although not as basic as they used to be, he said. “Men seem a little more comfortable now when they’re buying shorts, buying a lot more color and pattern,” he said. “It’s always a good call to have a basic pair of khakis, but it’s not as important.”
For shoes, you can’t go wrong with a suede or leather oxford or brogue, as well as nice sneakers with flat bottoms. Athletic shoes should be relegated to athletic activities.
Ultimately, confidence is king. Embrace patterns and colors, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice, he said. Online shopping may seem easier than visiting a brick-and-mortar store, but personal, professional service will ultimately save you time, money and hassle.
- Invest in nice jeans (think $50 or more). You won’t regret it.
- Wear pocket squares, especially if you’re wearing a jacket but no tie. “You’ll look a little more put together and styled to have that dash of color,” Malouf said. “We actually sell more pocket squares than we do ties.”
- Mix pattern on pattern – carefully. When in doubt, consult an expert.
- Don’t wear pleated pants. Just don’t.
- Don’t wear an untucked shirt with a jacket. Untucked is OK if you’re just in shirtsleeves, but with a jacket over it, “it just looks total goofball,” Malouf said with a laugh.
- Don’t wear baggy clothes. Fit is key to any successful look, no matter your size. A baggy fit doesn’t flatter anyone.
Scene’s “Style Basics” models: Stephen Baldridge, associate professor, director of baccalaureate social work program at Abilene Christian University; and Courtney Vletas, development and donor services director at the Community Foundation of Abilene. Hair and make-up for the photo shoot provided by Dana Lee, Carmen Hall and Chesney Rosol of Mãia Aesthetics.