Basics vs. Classics


I’ve been thinking about the concepts of both basics and classics a lot, ever since Jess started to write about the classics (parts 1 & 2). Ever the astute scholar, she definitely gave me a whole lot of food for thought. It made me deeply question why exactly am I so utterly bonkers for trying to find “the right basics” (you may chart my journey starting from the summer of 2011). Are those two the same things, or they different? If so, how then?

I won’t be delving into what are the classics in particular or how did certain items became part of the classics canon – that has already been written thoroughly by Jess herself. From my understanding of “the classics” in general, they are definitely shaped (ironically) by a certain paradigm from the fashion establishment of the day. (I did not find the idea of paradigms from which we view society and vice versa apparent until I started taking my ‘History of Economics’ class FYI.) Classics are supposed to be considered timeless staples that can withstand the ephemerality of fashion, however it makes complete sense that they should conform to an ideal. Namely, that ideal has to fit within a certain framework that is dictated by the society and culture of the time period. As socio-economical structural changes occur (i.e. corsets), the canon changes accordingly to adapt to the new era. So while classics may withstand the changes over the short term (in weeks, seasons and even decades), it’s hard to say what is going to constitute as a classic over the longer term (over a century – or does it matter since we won’t even live that long). Thus, it is possible to see that there is a certain standard the classics does deviate towards to and how one might to begin to differentiate the classics from basics.

The reason why I propose that classics and basics are two fundamentally different things is because basics don't necessarily conform to some kind of canon. It is most certainly not a style like classics can be defined as such (due to the canon), but rather as a genre of foundations for the wardrobe. Basics does have classic connotations, in that basics can be seen as simple pieces, which in turn can be seen as classics because they are so simple and “basic” that they would outlast the fickle nature of fashion cycles. If one were to draw a Venn diagram, basics is one circle while fashion as dictated by designers, stylists and editors another circle, and classics would be where the two overlaps.

Most people will benefit the greatest by seeing the basics as a mere label for clothing that serves as the workhorse staples in your closet, regardless of what your style is. For most women living in Western society, what is deemed “the classics” would constitute the majority of your basics (the LBD, white button down etc.). This is the easiest method that I use in explaining to friends and family my shopping habits and also to correct them (hur hur) when they think building the wardrobe from scratch via the basics is utterly boring and conformist. It would be conformist should you choose to build a wardrobe strictly with basics as defined as “the classics” to the dot, but depending on your lifestyle (sedentary vs. active), age (not defined by the number per se but the mindset and attitude), industry (creative vs. conservative) and location, it can differ wildly from one individual to the next. Basics is what you make of it.

For more on my own personal take on basics: coming soon.