Getting dressed is usually easy. Sometimes it’s even a reflex action and we do it without thinking. It’s simple and not something we give much thought to. Not that we need to. But some of us do. We obsess over the clothes we wear and the outfits they form and how we look in them. We struggle to choose what to wear and bemoan the lack (whether true or not) of choices in our wardrobes. Why the obsession? We all, at some level, want to look good. We want to know that we look good. We want others to recognise that we look good and we want to revel in that recognition. It’s good for our self-esteem. It’s also cool to know that you have a good sense of fashion and a great sense of style and that others think so too.

But looking good can be a little challenging. It can be hard to know what goes well with what and what looks flattering, especially if there isn’t a wealth of knowledge or experience to work with. It can be hard to know where to start in the first place, or even how to start. Places of reference may not be of much help. The magazines, the models, the stylists, the designers, all the glitz and the glam, even the clothes themselves, can be intimidating. Not everyone looks like Rihanna and Kendall Jenner, or Chris Hemsworth and Michael B. Jordan.

It can be tough keeping up with all that’s cool and sexy and even tougher to find a place in all of that where you fit in. But it doesn’t have to be as hard or as tough as it seems. Sometimes we’re in our heads too much and need to get out of our own way to shine. There’s a path to looking good and making it so that the clothes do not make the man or woman, but the other way around.

Where to start then? With the basics.

There’s a saying: master the fundamentals so you can forget them. Experts in different fields around the world usually have this down. They have the basics covered and in doing so they can concentrate or worry about more complicated and difficult things. Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t worry about what string to play on his cello for a particular note, that’s second nature to him. He worries about how he can make that one note sound just the way he’d like it to, to make it as sonorous as possible and deliver as much emotion and feeling to the listener as he can. It’s a simplistic example but you get the idea. The boring basics are the building blocks for other wondrous things.

Let’s start with the fit. No, not the outfit. Fit as in the way the clothes fit on you. It’s important to get clothes that fit properly. A well-fitting outfit, no matter how simple, can do wonders for the way you look. Clothes that don’t fit, and not because they’re part of a look someone’s going for but because they’re too big or too small, can spell chaos in capital letters. The oversize fit can be a look too, and it works, but it might not work for everyone. Maybe start with properly sized clothes, then work your way up from there. The jury is still out on the undersized look. Approach it with caution and with reason.

Something cool is missing here.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a capsule wardrobe, or maybe you haven’t. A capsule wardrobe consists of pieces that are relatively neutral and can be used interchangeably with other pieces in different ways over and over. The plain t-shirt is one such piece, in pretty much any colour. The cut is up to you. V-necks might be more your style, or you might like the look of crew necks better. Denim is another capsule piece. No wardrobe should be bereft of jeans. Get a pair you like, or three. Get them in fits you like and in colours you like. The more common colours of denim (boring, we know) are more timeless and easier to style.

Denim shirts are nice to have too, a denim shirt would look very good on you and in your wardrobe. We have an article on denim shirts, check it out. Button-up shirts should be a staple piece as well, and not because you work in a corporate environment. They can be casual but would help if you want people to take you a little more seriously. Neutral colours work best for them. For some reason, loud colours don’t scream seriousness; but you could get some (or one) in a loud colour just for kicks.

Shoes are part of the wardrobe too and a good pair (or five) is essential. White sneakers are casual, comfortable, and go with anything. So do black ones, but sometimes they’re not as cool as white sneakers. They’re more formal too, so they’d work better to dress up an outfit. Regardless, both are very versatile. They can both work with a formal outfit and can help to make it more casual and dressed down. For the ladies who love heels, the more neutral colours are safer, to begin with. We’re also biased against wedges. Flats work too if you’re not into being a few inches taller, and the same rule applies for colour. For the men, it’d be nice to have a pair of dress shoes in the wardrobe, black and brown, just in case. Accessorise simply as well, lest you risk looking gaudy and like you’re trying a little too hard.

When the weather is in a mood, simply layer up.

You already have the basics covered, so add another basic on top of them. Outerwear is good to have too because the weather doesn’t stay sunny and warm all year.  A coat works for both sexes, but so do jackets, hoodies, and sweaters. Again, keep the colours neutral, so they can match easier with whatever it is you’re wearing. But that’s not to say a canary yellow overcoat doesn’t look good. It’s fire, with the right pieces under it and sometimes with the right person wearing it (that’s you, whoever’s reading this). It could be the pop of colour your outfit needs. Know too what works with what and where – coats tend to be more formal, sweaters less so, jackets (depending on the type) even less so, and hoodies tend to be much more casual. Pick what’s appropriate.

This article isn’t a prescription to follow. If you don’t agree with anything it suggests or if nothing in it works for you, pay it no mind. Do what works for you. But we do think that we’re on to something with it. Remember that there is greatness in simplicity. Part of finding our individual greatness is in having the basics covered and then finding where we can add our own personality and colour. So start simple, keep it simple, and stay simple. The basics won’t fail you. Above all keep it true to yourself and do what works for you. Trends are temporary, but style is forever. Fashion is cyclical anyway, so it’ll all come around at some point. Find what’s yours and run with it. You’ll be better for it and the world will be better because of you.