Creating a basic wardrobe with Wendy Mak

posted in: Style advice | 7

Australian image consultant Wendy Mak suggests a very limited wardrobe of 30 items can create 1000 outfits. She also admits that this is the “basic” wardrobe which can be supplemented. I haven’t read the book, but I have watched the video.

Wendy Mak in pink
Wendy Mak


Here is the list of “wardrobe staples” she recommends. Let’s not even think about colour or style at the  moment. I am just interested to see what a “basic” wardrobe might contain. Here is the list.

  1. Black long-sleeved T
    Black T and jeans
    Black T and jeans
  2. Blue long-sleeved T
  3. White tank
  4. Black tank
  5. Yellow/Colourful blouse 1
  6. Orange/Colourful blouse 2
  7. White tailored blazer
    White tailored blazer
    White tailored blazer
  8. Black tailored blazer
  9. Black cardigan
  10. Grey trench coat
  11. Grey sporty jacket
  12. Black trousers
  13. Stone tailored trousers
    Stone trousers
    Stone trousers
  14. Stone casual trousers
  15. Dark indigo jeans
  16. Knee length tailored shorts
  17. Black pencil skirt
  18. Denim skirt
    Denim skirt
    Denim skirt
  19. Black tailored shift with cap sleeves
  20. Black shiny evening dress
  21. Patterned, colourful summer dress
  22. Black clutch for evening
  23. black tote
  24. Tan bag
  25. Black knee boots
    Knee boots in black and other shades
    Knee boots in black and other shades
  26. Black ballet flats
  27. Black patent court shoes
  28. Black strappy heels
  29. White/gold dressy summer sandal
  30. Nude wedges


My first reaction is that, despite the absence of “thongs” ie flip flops, this is a decidedly Australian list.

Let’s boil it down to its basic proposition:

  • 11 tops
  • 7 bottoms
  • 3 dresses
  • 3 hand bags
  • 6 pairs of shoes

What do you think? For me I do not need three handbags, and could probably manage with less shoes if I had to. But I would need warmer layers and an outdoor coat to protect me from rain and snow.

Westwood coats
Westwood coats

So, if restricted to 30 items, I think I would go with

  • 14 tops
  • 7 bottoms
  • 4 dresses
  • 1 coat
  • 1 bag
  • 3 pairs of shoes

I will see if I can do this with my existing wardrobe and report my findings.

7 Responses

  1. felicia

    A denim skirt?? That’s a hoot. I had one in, um, 1976 I believe. Haven’t felt the need since. Does anyone north of the equator wear white jackets?

  2. Ruth

    And if you look like death wearing black near your face? Item 1 already cast from my basic wardrobe. White jacket?? -special occasions only and that’s still a maybe.
    What about our favourites and staples like silk scarves and coloured belts? Kate, you can come up with your own “basic” wardrobe, not someone else’s.

  3. Lesley Scott

    I clicked through to Wendy Mak’s site, she seems so approachable. She clearly states you can substitute another core colour if black isn’t your thing. She is asian and asians do seem to look good in black!
    Love that white jacket you posted – designed in London I see, someone up there must be wearing white jackets!!

    Its weird how I get palpitations when I think about limiting my wardrobe, but in reality I probably wear far less than 30 items – still it seems so limiting! Might just buy that book!

  4. Bunny

    Seems a bit regimental. For our climate I would definitely need a winter dress coat, much like what you show, but also a real storm jacket, a la L.L. Bean. Because it never gets truly hot here after dark, a lightweight jacket is mandatory, even in the summer. It covers those roads to and from work when the chill is barely fifty, even in the summer. The shoe requirement needs boots, one black pair, one brown pair, both for dressy. Then a third pair of boots for trudging through daily winter life up here. In other words, the black and brown boots are for inside, the storm boots are for outside. Layers are required up here daily from October to late April. A black and blue long sleeve tee would never get you through winter up here. And what about the sweaters that go on top? You are right. Her plan is clearly Australian and wouldn’t even begin to work where I live. But it is great to have a plan, lesser amounts of clothing that give greater options for wear. Her idea is really good but needs to be tailored to the individual. And how does she know what are my best colors? She does look wonderful and her plan would be great in her homeland but not here.

  5. Stephanie

    I think this is quite interesting, as I find that I get into periods in which I have the same fifteen or so pieces in constant rotation and wear little else. I think I enjoy having limited choice and in particular being able to immediately see what I have to choose from. That said, given the 50 to 60 degree temp variation here I have at least four coats and four pairs of boots or shoes that I would consider necessary, just to get from point a to point b, not to mention sports clothing for different seasons.

    PS I love the coats you posted (would wear either shape) and I really love the denim outfit. I can’t remember the name of the girl in the pic but she is a stylist or editor who appears on the big industry blogs. I always have a denim skirt and love the chambray top with it. I am going to copy that look, as I don’t have a skirt that buttons like that and I love the fabric the shirt is made from. I find denim skirts to be quite versatile and great for travel.

    PPS I don’t know why, but knee-high boots have felt quite dated to me for a while and so I haven’t worn them for maybe six or seven years. Everything comes back in my mind though so I’m sure eventually I will come back to them.

  6. Brenda Marks

    I like your idea of creating your own list of the “must haves”. Others’ lists just don’t work for me. I can’t see myself ever wearing a white shirt, for example.

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