Whether beginning your career or only packing for a business trip, knowing how to mix and match your wardrobe can alleviate a lot of clothing (and packing) angst. The rules aren't complicated, but thinking ahead is key.
Marion White, a former fashion director for J.B. White's who runs her own company specializing in fashion events and public relations, said color should be the first consideration.
For men, Stan Reynolds, owner of The Boardroom, a men's clothiers on Verandah Drive, said the number one choice is navy.
To begin building a basic work wardrobe, choose two of the following neutral colors: black, white, gray, beige, brown or navy, Ms. White said. "They are always in style and can mix and match with everything."
Get a couple of basic pieces in the color you choose, such as a pair of slacks, a skirt and a jacket.
"You can wear it to all occasions and its very easy to accessorize," he said. "The whole idea is that he can grab a suit and almost any shirt and tie and it will match."
And if your job doesn't require a suit, a navy sport coat will take a professional man to just about any occasion, said Todd Rowland, manager of Jos. A. Banks Clothiers in Surrey Center.
The next step is to choose other pieces that will complement your basic items.
For men, virtually anything will go with the navy, Mr. Rowland said.
Ms. White suggested women get a patterned skirt and blouse set (one that includes your basic color in the pattern), a simple white or cream top or blouse, a top in an accent color, and a dressier sweater or top that will carry the wardrobe to social occasions.
"Always buy the best quality you can afford, especially in your jackets and bottom layering pieces," she said. "They will hold their shape and color better and longer."
Mr. Reynolds said when it comes to suits, a little more money up front will pay off in the long run.
"A good-quality suit, if taken care of, will last seven or eight years or longer," he said. "But wearing one every day, that is going to wear it out faster."
Other ways to stretch the life of a suit: dry clean your suit only once a season and never wear the pieces separately.
"If you wear the pants with odd coats you're going to wear them out more," Mr. Reynolds said.
Once you establish the foundation for your wardrobe, you can slowly add accessories to change the look of each combination.
"Styles of accessories change often, but keeping abreast of new trends is an inexpensive way to add color, interest and variety to your wardrobe," Ms. White said. "Scarves can replace blouses for color and the neckline, and add dramatic flair to jackets. Jewelry also is a great way to add zip and express your personality, or change the mood of your outfit."
In men's apparel, accessories include the shoes and belt, which should always match, and the shirt and tie combination.
"If you're working with these basics, it's just so easy now," Mr. Reynolds said.
Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org