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Larkin Basics  June 20, 2017

Take Your Closet from Basic to Badass in 5 Easy Steps


by Larkin Clark

I generally receive one of two responses when I experiment with a new look or statement piece in public: Weird looks (which I ignore, unless I get a lot of them) or “I wish I could pull that off!” Clearly anyone can pull off a fashion-forward piece that’s bolder than the norm – you just have to change your mindset about what you can and can’t pull off.

Along with hair and makeup, changing your outfit is the easiest way to completely transform how the world sees you and, more importantly, how you see yourself. Looking back, I think this is one of the reasons I originally fell in love with dance and theater: I got to wear awesome clothes and try on another skin for a while.

That being said, I wasn’t always into making statements. Despite an early interest in fashion (my dress-up play dates were lit), my wardrobe up through high school was pretty conservative, save for a few edgy vintage finds. I didn’t really experiment with statement looks or pieces until my college years. Early endeavors included a red bowling-inspired messenger bag and shoes (don’t ask), bright colored sweatbands that I wore as bracelets, and low-slung linen mermaid skirts inspired by the Olsen twins’ mid-2000s boho phase. Having worn Banana Republic neutrals for most of high school, I was just throwing things at the wall to see what stuck (as it turns out, not much).

At that point in my fashion journey, my thinking was, “If you’re bold enough to wear a head-turning, statement-making, IDGAF-that-I could potentially-look-like-a-clown-but-this-is-fashion piece, it says something about you as a person. It says you’re willing to take risks and be different than everyone else.” Clearly, I really wanted to be different than everyone else.

Now, my mindset is a much simpler: “Fashion is wearable art. Why not have fun with what you put on your body?” Besides, you can always take it off.

People tend to think they need to wear over-the-top, super trendy, or eye-blazing clothes to make a statement, but the key is to start small and be willing to weather some fashion fails every once in a while (case in point: my college style). If your usual look is pretty low-key, something as simple as a top with fun sleeves can give your closet the kick in the butt it needs. Even if you’ve been experimenting with your look for a while, keep trying new things that are just outside your comfort zone.

I know from personal experience that expanding beyond your basics that “go with everything” can feel like losing your sartorial virginity, so here are my tips and some picks to ease you into cultivating a wardrobe that makes your heart palpitate every time you you open your closet. Rock on.

Start with a single piece.
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One head-turning top is a good place to start: low commitment and easy to cover up if you suddenly get uncomfortable in public. Choose something with a bright color, fun print, or cool accent (think: unique collars, sleeves, or hems) and pair it with more neutral pieces from your wardrobe.

Zara Blouse with Flared Sleeves

zara.com, $36

 Stay true to yourself – but deviate a bit.
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Don’t get some over-the-top ensemble just because I told you to, it’s “on-trend,” or it looks cool on a heavily styled celebrity, because you’ll probably end up feeling awkward and/or looking like a weirdo. A big part of pulling off a new look is the confidence you project wearing it, which sometimes takes time to cultivate. To start, find something you’re naturally drawn to on someone else and try it on yourself. If you feel a jolt of excitement mixed with fear and you like how you look, you’re on the right track. Take these pants, for instance: Part of you is probably thinking, “Those kind of look like clown pants,” but another part of you is thinking, “Fuck, yeah!” Go with the Fuck, Yeah.

Mara Hoffman Tie-Front Pant

 

revolve.com, $295

Mix things up.
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As you build your collection, make sure each new statement piece has a different shape, color, print, or texture so you have some options to sprinkle into your regular rotation. Unfortunately, you can’t wear the same statement pieces every day without people noticing, so slowly integrate new ones into your wardrobe over time. This also gives you a chance to see what you like and don’t.

Delfi Roma Embroidered Blouse

anthropologie.com, $360

Don’t just save this stuff for “special occasions.”
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The goal is to truly feel as comfortable in your statement pieces as you do when you wear something on the safer side, like your favorite black leggings or button-down, so try wearing them while you’re doing everyday things, like running errands. Over time, they’ll eventually feel like part of your signature look (you’ll also get more overall bang for your buck).

Reformation Veronica Skirt in Capone Stripe

thereformation.com, $178

Beware the haters.
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Look, not everyone is going to be supportive of your style experiments right off the bat, and that’s okay. If you’re Amy Who Always Wears Neutrals and Maybe Stripes When She’s Feeling Crazy, showing up in a yellow origami dress may elicit some snickers of “OMG, what are you wearing?” or “Wow, that’s … different.” Don’t get all weird and insecure about it: Remember that every time you step outside your comfort zone, it forces someone else to examine their personal boundaries as well. Just add some Bey to your sashay and share this article so Regina George, too, can get the look.

COS Dress with Frill Detailed Sleeves

cosstores.com, $115

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Words and styling: Larkin Clark
Photography: Stephania Stanley
Wearing: Paola Hernández coat, Reformation dress, and Target slides (all past season)
Product images: Courtesy of Zara, Revolve, Anthropologie, Reformation, COS

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