Your hit list of wardrobe staples

When the going gets tough, the tough still go shopping, but they invest in wardrobe staples that will look good for years to come, says Carola Long

When Kate Moss turned up for her appointment with the Metropolitan Police after that scandal, she relinquished her usual rock-chick attire for an ultra-classic belted camel mac, wide black hairband and big Jackie O shades. Of course, she was avoiding the connotations of rock'n'roll excess evoked by her usual groupie get-ups, but her 1960s Catherine Deneuve look also showed that, when under pressure, there's nothing like taking refuge in the classics.

Similarly, it may be uncertain whether capitalism will last much longer than the X Factor losers' careers, but one can be certain that a well-cut, skinny leather biker jacket will look good for years to come. Personal liquidity issues (ie being skint) won't necessarily stop people shopping, but it makes sense to buy things that don't induce the heart-sinking sense of consumer guilt that comes from a wardrobe stuffed with cheap clothes. The sales are the perfect time to stock up on classic investment pieces rather than trends that go out of fashion before you even reach the till.

That's not to say that classics should make up the whole of one's wardrobe – just the bulk of it. Think of items such as straight indigo jeans, a white or striped shirt, and sleek riding boots as being like the carbohydrates in a diet that can be spiced up with other food/fashion groups. And don't wear them all at once, unless you want to resemble Katie Holmes on her Stepford Mom setting, but mix them in with seasonal accessories. Last year, or even last decade's little black dress can work for current Christmas parties if combined with chunky costume jewellery, or tough platforms. At the autumn/winter shows, typically an opportunity for the fashion industry to wear the new season's trends, many on the front rows shunned "it" pieces in favour of recycling a well-cut blazer with jeans and a fine jersey T-shirt.

On the catwalks, Bottega Veneta showed why it is fast becoming the stealth-wealth label of choice, with a collection of timeless, simple shifts in luxurious fabrics; and the little black dress was back at Balenciaga and Lanvin, albeit with a futuristic twist, with a futuristic twist, and there were sharp tailored suits at Jil Sander.

Classic needn't mean boring. Rather, it describes something that flatters and has its own distinctive, timeless charm instead of pandering to a trend. As Moss herself has said, "Clothes go in and out of fashion, but that's not real style. Style has to be classic".

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Crazy cover-ups

Fake fur, sequins and feathers are the only way to top off your dress this party season. With marabou trim and other flirty Twenties looks on the catwalks at Marchesa and Christian Lacroix, take inspiration from 'Vile Bodies', and 'The Beautiful and Damned', and make like a capricious starlet in a striking shrug. Try Topshop's ostrich-feather bolero for £85.


Boring boleros

If you find yourself adding a sensible shrug purely for the purpose of keeping warm, you've got it wrong. The cover-up has stepped into the limelight, and now demands as much attention as the dress itself. So don't kill an outfit with a boxy bolero, or colour co-ordination, or anything remotely demure. Harriet Walker