What's the anatomy of a staple piece? What components combine to create something you're inexorably drawn to season after season? As fashion editors, these are the questions that occupy our minds, and we're always searching for those mythical items of clothing that will both deliver now and still look fab in two seasons' time. I doubt even the most ardent fast-fashion lover would say they buy pieces hoping to never wear them again. Everyone wants more bang for their buck.
With sustainability at the forefront of our minds in 2019, we thought it was high time we take a moment to critically appraise our wardrobes. We wanted to uncover the pieces we return to again and again; staples that really deliver on cost per wear. We also wanted to highlight items we probably won't be wearing in five years' time. The hope is that by reflecting a little more and mindlessly shopping a little less, we can create wardrobes packed full of fashion that stand the test of time.
So what are the characteristics that united our winning staples? Versatility, a flattering fit and quality. The pieces that got the thumbs down from us were predominately impulse purchases and ill-fitting items. We're compiling a mental checklist as we speak. Scroll down to see the style lessons our editors have learnt, and then see the pieces we will still love in five years' time. Successful shopping trips, here we come.
Hannah Almassi, Who What Wear Editorial Director
"I was very lucky to have received this Harris Wharf London coat two winters ago as a gift from the brand. I could never have guessed just how often I'd wear it. I'll put it on probably every other day throughout autumn, winter and into spring. It's a lightweight double-faced felt, so it's warm (good for bulkier knits underneath) but still quite slim-fitting and has a belt. As someone who has a wardrobe filled with browns, reds, oranges and black, it was the perfect accompaniment to almost everything I already own. It's just a what a coat needs to be: flattering, versatile, hardwearing and joyful to actually wear."
"The thing that hasn't worked out so well for me? When I buy jumpers oversized! The truth is that I am petite and better suited for tops that are fitting and define my waist. I love this Isa Arfen jumper, but I should have bought it smaller to be a more snug fit!"
Joy Montgomery, Who What Wear Acting Assistant Editor
"I never could've predicted that this Zara jumpsuit would end up being such a staple in my wardrobe. Firstly, it's white (I don't usually like high-maintenance colours) and secondly, it felt like quite a statement piece when I first bought it. While it's not exactly a 'wear every day' item, I've been amazed at how versatile it is. I wear it with chunky boots and a white roll-neck during the weekend, and snakeskin skin boots and a camel coat for work. I think the secret to its success lies in the combination of comfort, low-maintenance style and instant cool factor (if I do say so myself)."
"I came across this beautiful vintage midi skirt for a mere £5 at a market in Shoreditch in the summer. While I absolutely love the colour and length, I mistakenly turned a blind eye to the fact that it didn't fit around the waist (this tends to happen when I get overly excited about a secondhand bargain and ignore basic requirements). The result is many safety pins and spending all day tugging the waistband. Whether secondhand or new, this is a lesson I need to learn: If it doesn't fit, you're not going to wear it."
Maxine Eggenberger, Who What Wear Contributor
"If you were to peer into my wardrobe, you'd instantly see three pieces dominate it: jeans, jumpers and blazers, particularly of the double-breasted variety. My waist may be small, but with big boobs and wide hips, I find the silhouette of double-breasted blazers suits my shape to the ground while making any outfit look polished. Layered over dresses or paired with my favourite denim, they'll forever be my sartorial secret weapon."
"Before Christmas, like so many others, I fell hard for Topshop's Peggie tote. Made up entirely of faux-pearl beads with a statement round handle, I thought it would make the perfect finishing touch to my various party attire. However, as soon as I snipped the label off, I felt a pang of regret in the pit of my stomach. The bag just wasn't 'me.' I'd hastily jumped on the trend, which I immediately regretted. I've kept it, though, as I live in hope that something I wear in the future will call for it. Until that day comes, I'll be admiring it on others from afar."
Emma Spedding, Who What Wear Deputy Editor
"These boots are probably the best thing I've ever bought. I got them in a Christopher Kane sample sale for £90 about five years ago, and it's been tempting to wear them every single day since. The Chelsea-style boots go with everything, and the croc-effect leather means they're a little more interesting. I've had them resoled four times, and I'm not sure I'll ever find another pair of boots I love this much."
"I bought this satin slip skirt from & Other Stories in September and thought I'd live in it throughout winter, but it just didn't quite work. The fabric creases massively, so it always looks crumpled, and the wrap fastening is hard to secure, so I'm often in danger of losing the skirt while walking. I've resorted to wearing another slip skirt under it to solve the problem. It's safe to say I'm never going to buy a silky wrap skirt again."