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Everyone Should Own a Classic White Shirt

Spend as much as you can afford on staples, How to actually do it: First, a disclaimer. There’s no need to break the bank on the basics—tees, button-downs, jeans—of which there are plenty of quality options available at low prices. Instead, splurge (if you can) on the types of items in which even the cheapo versions aren’t exactly steals. For instance, bargain cashmere will still set you back $100. But that sweater will stretch out quickly, and then you’ll have to blow another $100 to replace it, rather than spending a little more only once. “When buying classics, like a great black blazer, it’s important to invest in better fabrics— say, wool—that will hold up better over time,” says Minkoff. Try calculating the price per wear to help stave off sticker shock.

Develop a signature style, How to actually do it: “Figure out your go-to, foolproof looks,” says designer Nanette Lepore, then seek out variations on that theme. Stumped? Picture the outfits that you feel most comfortable in. Or ask people close to you what you look best in. Once you’ve zeroed in on what works, find different takes. “I gravitate toward jackets, so I’ll do a bomber style, then a silk version, or a denim jacket with leather sleeves,” says Minkoff. “Whenever you feel the need to talk yourself into things, that’s a red flag that you shouldn’t buy them,” says Minkoff. If you have doubts in the dressing room, it may help to take a photo of yourself in the item, suggests Aerin Lauder, the founder and creative director of the lifestyle brand Aerin. “It’s much more accurate than looking in the mirror.”

How to actually do it: Opt for a pure white, rather than ivory, which may skew dingy. “But since white has the potential to make your teeth look yellow in comparison, consider wearing a bold lipstick with a blue undertone, like fuchsia, so teeth appear brighter,” recommends Florence Thomas, the creative director for Thomas Pink. Not sure which cut is best for you? A button-up with darting at the waist or curved princess seams can create a feminine hourglass shape on anyone. Be sure the seams of the shoulders line up with your shoulders and that there is no pulling across the front or the back. “Anything else can be tailored,” says Thomas. To keep all-cotton shirts from discoloring, don’t dry-clean them. Have them laundered and pressed, the same as men’s shirts.

Mix prints and patterns, How to actually do it: Doubling up on patterns can help you come across as confident and chic—or as if you got dressed in the dark. Achieve the former by following these guidelines. Stick to a similar color family—and preferably the same background shade. Some pairings are like PB & J—they just work. “Polka dots with stripes or florals typically go well together,” says Minkoff. The same holds for leopard print with a non-critter pattern or paisley with squares or checks. Near matches are a no-no. For example, says Vazquez, houndstooth and plaid are too similar to be simpatico. And two large-scale prints will compete for dominance—and give people a headache. Finish off the outfit with neutral accessories. Cautions Roe: “Don’t add another color into the mix.”

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