Foundation Wardrobe (Part 3 Of 3): Advance Level

Congratulations!… You’ve completed both your foundation wardrobe basics and intermediate levels. Complete this level, and you’ll graduate after this. But before you start strutting your stuff around, realise that you’ve only completed the foundation. Your sartorial journey is merely beginning. How far, and how fast you go from here is ultimately up to you… and your bank account, obviously… But enough of all that wet blanket stuff. Let’s get on and complete your advance level foundation wardrobe.

Author pointing to the right, indicating the title card of Foundation Wardrobe - Advance Level.
Hey, it’s me again. Let’s get on to the advance level and complete this quest.
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Advance Level – Your Last Ten Pieces

The previous ten pieces have you covered in most of your professional working attire. In fact, we’ve even touch a little on the less dressy side of things too. And today, we’re gonna have a little fun, and venture deeper into the more casual side of your sartorial journey.

(1) Your First Sport Jacket

As expected, we’re starting with another big ticket item again. Whilst we’re cranking down the formality level even further, we’re still keeping with the overall classic look. And yes, we’re still keeping things business appropriate as much as possible. So let’s start your advance level with your first sport jacket.

Medium grey, two-button, single breasted sport jacket, in hopsack coarse weave. This is the sartorial advance level jacket.
Solid medium grey, hopsack weave, two-button, single breasted sport jacket. Typical of summer casual jackets, it’s unstructured, half-lined, and sport the quintessential casual patch hip pockets.
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Unlike the suit jacket or blazer, sport jackets generally come in coarse texture and/or loud patterns. And this particular example is no exception. To dial the formality level down further, it has no shoulder or chest paddings to speak of. You can literally crumple it up and pack it into your luggage. It won’t suffer any creases like other jackets made with more delicate fabrics. Best of all, you’re still business appropriate. And you can still patronise a jackets-only fine dining restaurant too.

(2) And (3) Expand Your Shirts Range Further

You’ve got a solid white dress shirt, two solid pastel dress shirts and a subtle stripe dress shirt. You’ve covered all your bases for dressy situations. But for your not-so-dressy shirts, you’ve only got an OCBD shirt. Whilst it’s still a “casual” shirt, it sits on the dressier end of the casual spectrum. So it’s now time to bulk up with “less dressy” shirts in your foundation wardrobe. It’s time to introduce more saturated colours and bolder patterns to your shirts collection.

Two dress shirts, one solid red, and one light blue, with bold stripes of dark blue, white and pink. These are advance level shirts.
Left and right – Solid red shirt, and light blue shirt with bold dark blue, white and pink stripes.
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Bright and bold colours, like crimson red, magenta, chrome yellow, forest green, etc. will call more attention to yourself. It’s time to start dressing for the Fridays’ fun-days, and start injecting a little more life into your ensemble.

Likewise with patterns, enough with the subtle and “tame” stripes. It’s time to bring out the bolder stripes or checks. It’s okay to have a bit more fun with your dressing. Just make sure you don’t go overboard. You still need to keep things business appropriate. This is, after all, still your foundation wardrobe.

(4) And (5) Bring In The Casual And Fun Shirts

There will be times when you need to dress it down even further. Say for the office barbecue party, or something similar. And for that, even wearing the bolder shirts from above will still make you overdressed. You may need to venture slightly further away from being business appropriate. It’s time to bring out the “fun” shirts.

Two shirts, light wash denim in OCBD style, and dark grey roll-neck jumper. Another addition to the advance shirt collection.
Left and right – Medium wash denim shirt in OCBD style, and dark grey roll-neck jumper.
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We’ve mentioned in Classic Menswear: Casual But Elegant that denim has the magical quality that turns anything it touches casual. Hence, wearing any ensemble with a denim shirt will automatically make it casual. Yes, you can keep things casual and comfortable. Just make sure that it’s not sloppy.

And for the even more dress-down days, consider swapping a shirt, any shirt, for a roll-neck jumper. It’s outright casual, yet maintains a hint of being classy. Try layering a sport jacket over it too. No surprise if you’re still the best looking chap on your Saturday night hangout with the boys.

(6) And (7) Bring In The Staple Fun Trousers

At this stage, you’ve got all the trousers you need to assemble a dressy outfit. Now it’s time to inject a little more fun in your not-so-dressy outfit. It’s time to introduce denim jeans, and the summery white or off-white trousers.

Two trousers, dark wash denim jeans, with zero distress of any sort. And off-white, summery chinos.
Left and right – Dark wash denim jeans, with no distress of any kind. Off-white cotton chinos, for that summery, nautical feel.
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Even denim jeans come in a whole range of dressiness. Generally speaking, the darker the wash, the more dressy it is. Hence, stay away from the light wash, or heavily distressed jeans. So if you still wanna project some semblence of classic outlook, just stick to dark wash jeans. And yeah, make sure there’s no (intentional or otherwise) tears or fades on the material.

Just like jeans, chinos also come in a whole range of dressiness too. Generally speaking, neutral colours are the most classic, and the dressiest. Khaki, olive, grey, navy, and all other “sensible” colours work best. But once you start introducing “wilder” colours, the formality starts to tank. Salmon red, mustard yellow, powder blue, bright orange, lavender, etc. are the usual suspects. Surprisingly, white, or off-white, whilst classified under “wild colours” aren’t really all that unacceptable. Hence, this is the best choice to rebel, and yet, still remain in the good books at the same time.

(8) Expand Your Advance Level Neckwear

You’ve covered all your staple neckwear bases by now. It’s now time to push the envelop farther out. Let’s introduce louder colours and patterns to your neckwear collection. And as a wild card, let’s throw a bow tie into the mix too.

Three ties, one peach coloured tie with small repeating pattern. One knit tie in block autumn colours. One bow tie in black and yellow regimental stripes.
Left to right – Small repeating pattern tie, but in a relatively bright peach colour. A bold autumn colours knit tie. And the wild card, a yellow and black regimental stripe bow tie.
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In the previous article on ties, we mentioned that brighter ties are less dressy than their darker counterparts. So to shake things up a little, let’s introduce a bright coloured tie into your neckwear collection. You didn’t come this far just to stick to the convention, right? Then a familiar face, the knit tie. But instead of the solid colour, how about some brightly coloured segments? It’s sure to draw some attention. And to really call attention to yourself, swap the regular tie for a bow tie. Before you ask, no, you can’t wear a pre-tied bow tie. Not unless you’re a seven-year-old, dressing up for his annual school concert.

(9) Bulk Up Your Advance Pocket Square Collection

Previously, introducing pocket squares to your foundation wardrobe was already a wild card on its own. But to push the envelop and qualify for the advance level, it’s time to introduce advance pocket square patterns.

Three pocket squares, one in red, with random colourful dots, one in a printed motif, and one complex geometric pattern. Another advance level addition.
Left to right – A red base, with colourful dots. A printed motif pocket square. And a complex geometric patterned pocket square.
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By now, everybody knows about the “power tie”. Yup, wearing a bright red tie is literally projecting the image of a dominant alpha male. What if you still want to project dominance, but less attention grabbing than with a power tie? Is there a more subtle way of projecting dominance?… Of course there is… Swap that power tie with a power pocket square. Next, project your artistic side by wearing a printed motif pocket square. And finally, add in another piece of complex geometric print pocket square too.

(10) Introduce Non-Leather Dress Shoes

Most people associate dress shoes with leather. Yes, it’s true that dress shoes and leather go hand-in-hand. But there are non-leather options for dress shoes too.

A pair of tan canvas, Derby shoes. This is an option of a non-leather dress shoes.
Derby shoes in tan canvas. This cranks the formality all the way down to the very bottom of dress shoes.
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Suede dress shoes tend to bring down the formality quite a bit, even for the same style of dress shoes. And then there’s also canvas too, which will crank it down even further. At the end of the day, you’re still wearing dress shoes, not some trainers or sandals. So if you don’t feel like wearing your leather loafers with your jeans, try something like the example above.

Foundation Wardrobe – Complete

Congratulations, you’ve amassed all the necessary pieces of garments to cover all of your professional needs. As a bonus, you’ve even covered a little on your not-so-professional needs too. But before you pop the Champagne bottle (or any other celebratory beverage), realise that you’ve only covered your foundation wardrobe. You’ve only managed to leave a mark in the room, perhaps even made an impression on the people there. But your sartorial journey is far from over. Where you go from here depends very much on you developing your own personal brand identity. This point onwards, everybody’s needs and wants will deviate greatly. If you have any questions, do leave a comment below. Or perhaps you’d like a personal opinion, and for me to take a peek into your current wardrobe. Then feel free to contact me.

Same as before, this is also an unsponsored article. Hence, I’d really appreciate it if you could support me by buying me a coffee.

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

Do you have a foundation wardrobe to cover all your needs?
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About CHOW Wei Ming

Brand consultant, photographer, creative director, storyteller, and a true believer of the power of visual communications. Outwardly expresses a friendly disposition, but hides a perfectionist nature deep inside him.

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