Q&A: What Is Strategic Wardrobe Planning?
We recently spoke with Howard Brown, a costumer, vintage clothing hunter, and menswear specialist in our D.C. Pattern Room, about what he calls strategic wardrobe planning.
BL: Tell us a bit about your background:
HB: I do a lot of costuming for reenactments and comic book conventions. I also have an Etsy shop where I sell vintage pieces that’ I’ve found on my own. I have been at Blank Label for one year.
BL: How you would define strategic wardrobe planning?
HB: If someone doesn’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend on their wardrobe, I want to make sure they’re getting the best value for their dollar. That’s part of it, strategically planning where to put those dollars.
For instance, don’t just think about how a suit looks together as a two-piece suit. Start mixing and matching it with the pieces that are already in your wardrobe. If you have a simple, glen plaid suit, you can pair the pants with a navy blazer and it will look fantastic. Or you can take the jacket from a glen plaid suit and wear it as a sportcoat with jeans or gray slacks. So now you’ve got three outfits from just one suit.
ET: If you had a client whose wardrobe was a blank slate, where would you tell them to begin?
HB: You can’t go wrong with a solid navy or grey suit, which you can personalize with details like contrast lining, slant pockets or a ticket pocket.
ET: Where would you tell them to go next?
HB: After your navy or grey suit is taken care of, you can do one of two things. You can expand into a color that not everybody has in their wardrobe, such as mid-grey or brown. Or something with a little bit of pattern. I really like the simplicity of glen plaid, which can be worn separately with pieces you already have. You can wear it as a sportcoat, even with jeans and a T-Shirt to be very casual. Or you can dress it up very nicely by wearing it with a dress shirt, with or without a tie.
ET: What would you consider the basic man’s wardrobe to be?
HB: Three suits: a navy, a mid-grey, and either another color or a simple, go-to pattern. Having those first three suits also increases your rotation, so you’re not wearing the same suit every day.
After that, I would say a white, a blue and a lavender shirt. You can’t go wrong with having those in your wardrobe. Past that you can be a little more unique: I always recommend something with a little texture, like an oxford or something with a herringbone weave. They’re not crazy, but just a little bit more unique than your average shirt.
For pants, you can’t go wrong matching navy or grey slacks with pieces you already have. Next, you could branch out with some patterned pants in a very bold or a very simple pattern. Following that, I would say it never hurts to have a really well-fitted pair of khakis
ET: What would you say is the most versatile piece in a man’s wardrobe?
HB: Probably a navy blazer, whether that’s your standard, traditional blazer with gold-plated buttons or just a nicely fitted navy jacket. If you are going to do a plain navy blazer, I recommend using a fabric that has a little texture to it. That makes it a little bit more distinctive than just a navy suit fabric. And you can dress it up very nicely with a shirt and tie. I wear my navy blazer a lot with jeans and a t-shirt. It’s a little bit shorter so it doesn’t look like it’s a piece of a suit that’s missing.
ET: Can you give me an example of how you get clients to think of new and different ways to wear the pieces they have?
HB: Not a lot of guys would think of doing a navy blazer with a t-shirt. You certainly can, and it looks very handsome. Whether that’s just a plain white ringer t-shirt or a v-neck, that’s just one way that you can wear something a little differently.