Article by Laurelin Au
There are two kinds of people when it comes to wardrobes: those of us who could always use more closet space, or who have closets so bare that they serve as extra storage for a vacuum, a big suitcase, and all of the junk you’ve been meaning to throw away. Although I identity with the former, it doesn’t mean that I can’t relate to those of us whose closets are practically empty. I get it—shopping for clothes isn’t for everyone. If you dread shopping and truly want the wardrobe essentials, then read onward. Alternatively, if your closet is full and you’re trying to decide which clothes to donate and which to keep, then this piece can help you. The items I selected below were influenced by my time spent living and working in Xi’an. So, without further ado, here is a gender-neutral list of wardrobe essentials for the “not-so shop enthusiasts” and shopaholics alike:
1. A White Collared Button-Up Shirt
This item is possibly the most essential. Many of us work in Xi’an, and our jobs often require us to dress to a certain standard. The great thing about a white button-up is that you can dress it up for work and dress it down for a fun night out with friends.
2. A textured coat
Winters in Xi’an can be brutal, especially in the early morning hours when many of us start work. Whether you’re lucky enough to find a taxi, or brave enough to ride on the back of a moto, you can dress for the weather but still keep it fashionable by choosing a fitted textured coat. Wool or tweed blends are the way to go. Neutral colors are sleek and professional, but you can definitely make a statement in a textured coat that comes in a solid, vibrant color.
3. Black fitted pants
This is another go-to item that everyone should incorporate into their wardrobes. Not only do they pair well with every color imaginable, but I’ve found that I can wear black denim to work and get away with it. If you’re worried that your workplace may be more stringent on acceptable attire, then try a nice fitted trouser. Trousers don’t necessarily have to be skinny, but that should be tapered in the leg. The great thing about black pants is that they can be worn to work or to your favorite local hangout spot.
If you’re an expat living in Xi’an, it’s safe to say you like adventure. China is diverse, beautiful and worthy of being explored. If you have the time (and money) to travel, then why not do it in style? Joggers are the classy version of sweatpants. They’re incredibly comfortable and great to wear for a long plane ride, or if you’re meeting a friend at LeBan for breakfast after a late night out. Joggers allow you to give off the illusion that you’re all about style, when you may just want to escape judgment for wearing pants that are comfortable enough to sleep in.
5. Basic Tees
Say it with me: “One Black, one white and one gray.” If you’re a bare minimum type of person, then these three shades are the only t-shirts you need to have in your closet, and they can be found practically everywhere.
6. Comfortable sneakers
Props to the many Chinese women I’ve seen standing in heels on the always-crowded subway. However, if you still want to maintain some amount of comfort in that environment, stylish sneakers are essential. Make sure they’re mostly a solid, neutral color. White, black or light gray are your safest bets.
7. A messenger bag
Not only are they spacious enough to allow you to fit your teaching materials, camera and laptop together in one bag, but they’re generally safer than backpacks when traveling through crowded places. You can slink your arm over the top for extra security. Semi-distressed brown or black leather or cool, neutral-toned fabrics are the best choices for this item.
8. A bomber jacket
If there’s any trend you should be paying attention to not only in China but abroad, it’s the bomber jacket. I’ve seen them at almost every boutique and every major clothing store in Xi’an. They look great on every body type and can be worn in practically every shade. Bomber jackets are especially great for the upcoming spring weather, because the material is light and breathable.
Whether you’re looking to add to your wardrobe or not, these are the essential items that will help you tackle your HSK test or a long day of teaching in style. And while we may have different outlooks on the importance of style, there’s nothing wrong with knowing that no matter what you have in your closet, you’re guaranteed to look good.