BEYOND THE BASICS: Building an Intermediate Wardrobe

Zegna Clifton CharlesSo, you have built a solid foundation of suits and shirts after reading our previous post on creating a basic wardrobe. Your focus now shifts towards expanding your wardrobe. As previously noted, this is a career/life long journey. With the change in season, now is an appropriate time to consider your intermediary wardrobe.

Your objectives should be to extend the life of your existing clothes, provide a variety of choices for different occasions, and to acquire clothing that will be more comfortable for wearing in a broader range of temperatures. With strategic planning and purchases, you can accomplish this without investing large sums of money. Now that you have the basics, you will simply need to add in the key pieces you have already mapped out. The temptation to make impulse or emergency purchases will be removed, which ultimately saves you time and money. Your closet will contain only quality garments that you will wear for years to come and not be filled with unnecessary items you will later regret. Below, find a sartorial road map to continue building your wardrobe:


Now that you have the five basic, and perhaps a sixth suit, you can begin shaping your wardrobe to cater to all of your needs. Depending on the climate you live in, you may want to select suits of different weights or fabrics than your existing suits. A man should ideally have at least one suit for each day of the week that he wears one; multiply this by two seasons if necessary for the climate he lives in. If he wears a suit every day, the sixth suit will add variety as well as maintain the rotation should one suit need repairing or alterations.clifton-charles-custom-made-suitsPicture source:

  • Cold Weather Suits:
    • 13 ounce wool/flannel will provide durability, warmth, and shape
    • Selecting darker, richer colors
  • Warm Weather Suits:
    • Open weave 10 ounce cloths
    • Quarter lining, which means the sleeves are lined so your arms slide smoothly in and out, but most of the rest of the coat is unlined
    • Lighter shades of blue and gray, as well as tan, because lighter colors look better in and reflect bright sunlight

As your wardrobe grows, it is important that you continue to balance it. This will provide you with a better selection of clothing for any weather and occasion. For men living in a temperate climate, a medium-sized suit wardrobe might be comprised of two-dozen suits:

  • 5-6 professional suits in perennial weight fabrics
  • 2 to 3 suits for Spring/Summer
  • 2 to 3 suits for Fall/Winter

The seasonal suit wardrobe should be of the same style of conservative stripes, solids, and semi-solids that make up your basic wardrobe. However, when expanding, it is possible to be more playful with patterns and materials. Just make sure your selection is still appropriate for everyday wear. One or two suits should be slightly more elegant. The remaining suits for each season can be more relaxed and fun to accessorize.

Additionally, fabric selection can also vary by season. Pattern and color can add a lot of variation to your suit wardrobe. We recommend these fabric choices:

  • Plaid in dark colors for fall/winter
  • Chalk or fancy stripes for fall/winter
  • Seersucker for summer
  • Mid to light blue windowpane for spring/summer
  • Tan for summer
  • Fun plaid for spring/summer


While suits are definitely the more costly garments in your closet, you should continue expanding your shirt selection on a regular basis. Having a variety of shirt colors and patterns will provide you with more options to create different looks with the same suits. When selecting a new shirt, consider current fashion colors that are popular or change the style of your shirt. You could try adding a few shirts with French cuffs, or a few with button down collars instead of spread. Keep in mind that you will always need to replace your daily white and blue shirts, as they tend to wear out faster than the others.

Once you have obtained the 12 shirts in a basic wardrobe, you can benefit from a little thought about how you would like your collection to grow. Similarly to expanding your suit wardrobe, men should begin selecting shirts of different weights for better temperature control. Purchasing shirts in more patterns will enable a wider variety of looks. Bright colored and patterned shirts are great for spring/summer. Shirts in deeper shades with minimal patterns are best for fall/winter.

Of course, there is no upper limit to the shirt collection, but cotton ideally requires several days of rest after each wearing. So, one shirt for each day of the month is a reasonable middle ground.

Custom suit, shirt, and tie from Clifton Charles

Custom suit, shirt, and tie from Clifton Charles


The only true limitations to a man’s shoe wardrobe are storage space and budget. Continue to expand by adding more variety for each season. For example, as warm weather arrives, you should move boots and dark colored brogues to the back of your closet and replace them with shoes that are both lighter in weight and color. Summer shoes wear cooler and complement light colored clothing, so swap your black, dark brown, and oxblood choices for chestnut, light tan, and white. Try these recommendations for the seasons:

  • Fall/winter Shoes:
    • Ankle boots in brown suede
    • Ankle boots in cordovan (keep your feet dry in rain/snow)
    • Dark Brown brogues
  • Spring/summer Shoes:
      • Light Tan Punch Cap Oxford
      • Tan Quarter Brogues
      • Spectator Oxfords
      • White Bucks
      • Switch one paid of Oxfords for unlined slip-ons


While mastering the basic wardrobe, you probably obtained a good variety of basic neckties in your collection. Now that you are ready to expand accessory choices, we suggest selecting the following ties:

  • 4 two-color stripes
    • Block stripes and ribbon stripes are flexible styles that coordinate well with patterned shirts or suits
    • Navy and gold, navy and pacific blue, navy and red, and red and gold are classic color combinations
    • 2 mini dots
      • White/silver dots on black or wine are useful combinations
      • Small Checks
      • Paisley in large print
      • Non-directional foulard or club ties
      • 4 Seasonal Ties
        • 2 Linen (or silk and linen) with tan and blue grounds for summer
        • 1 Gray and 1 Blue cashmere or wool challis for cooler weather

Expanding from your basic wardrobe is all about options. It is important to ensure you have items to wear for every occasion and in all different kinds of weather. There is no real limit when adding to your wardrobe. Be sure to select pieces you are comfortable wearing, and you will have the opportunity to wear. Once you have mastered the basics, building an intermediate wardrobe is all about your personality and style!

Ready to build or add the necessary pieces to complete your wardrobe? Take advantage of our Annual Professional Suit/Shirt Package Offer (extended through Columbus Day) and get fully custom suiting on sale with custom shirts included for free!

How To: Make the Most of Your Wardrobe

It’s that time of year! Our Annual Fall Suit & Shirt Package Sales are available for a limited time! Do not miss out on this tremendous opportunity to add some beautiful, luxurious custom suits and shirts to your wardrobe. Take a look at our graphics below that explain how you can make the most of your wardrobe with one of our packages.

How to maximize the items in your closet with 3 suits and 6 shirts

How to maximize the items in your closet with 3 suits and 6 shirts

How to maximize the items in your closet with 5 suits and 12 shirts

How to maximize the items in your closet with 5 suits and 12 shirts

If you would like more information about these packages, please leave a comment or email

12 Shirt Theory

In our last post about Building a Basic Wardrobe, we recommended that you have a minimum of 12 shirts in your collection. Why? It is based on a simple equation…

The magic number of twelve allows a man to wear a fresh shirt each day of the work week, as well as on Saturday when necessary. Sunday, he takes these six shirts to be dry cleaned, and while they are at the cleaner’s, he wears his remaining six shirts. The process continues to repeat so he is never left without a clean shirt.

If he doesn’t wear a dress shirt on Saturdays, these sixth shirts provide another option or an alternative in the case of a ruined or worn out shirt. By following this advice, a man will be able to wear a fresh shirt every day for two weeks.

We have previously explained this theory, but we felt our visual calendar was due for some updates. Clifton Charles shirts are tailored exactly to your measurements, and can be customized to fit your personality and lifestyle. With hundreds of luxurious fabric choices, various options for style, and complimentary monograms, we are confident you will find exactly what you need.

12 Shirt Theory(1)

How to Build a Basic Wardrobe

There comes a time in a man’s life when he needs to elevate his fashion game to the next level. Most men are unaware of their ability to be well-dressed with a relatively modest amount of clothing. Depending on your occupation, only a couple of basics are necessary, like a charcoal or navy suit. However, others wear suits every day of the week and therefore require a more substantial wardrobe. Your wardrobe should offer a choice of appropriate clothing for a variety of occasions, and it is easy to build one sufficient to your requirements. Click here for our Visual Guide, or continue reading for further detail. By understanding these tips, you will possess the first building blocks of impeccable style.


The most expensive garment in a gentleman’s wardrobe, suits should be made from high quality fabrics in conservative colors and patterns. Your basic wardrobe should consist of 5 suits to offer a full week’s worth of clothing options. By utilizing accessories, you are able to achieve multiple different looks with the same suits, and they provide flexibility in personal style. Your basic selection of suits should include:

  • Dark Grey Solid
  • Navy Blue Solid
  • Medium Grey Semi-Solid
  • Grey Pinstripe
  • Navy Blue Chalk Stripe

Once you have built your wardrobe with these basics, you can further expand with a less formal sixth suit, for wear on Fridays or less formal weekend occasions.


Men constantly wonder, “What shirts do I need in my closet?” While a gentleman can never have too many dress shirts, there is a magic combination of shirts that each man should have in his wardrobe. This is to ensure you are prepared with fresh shirts for any situation, whether that be a regular day at the office, a surprise business meeting, or a much-anticipated date.

For the greatest flexibility, choose an assortment of shirts in semi-solids and simple patterns. A palette of blues from pale through periwinkle to navy, blue stripes or checks on white, gray stripes or checks on white, and pink shirt fabrics are the most basic and easy to wear. The magic combination is as follows:

  • 3 White Shirts
  • 3 Blue Shirts
  • 3 Stripe or Check Shirts
  • 2 Pink Shirts
  • 1 Fun/Casual Shirt

We have tested it out and arrived at the magic number of 12. Twelve shirts give you a range of choices and also minimizes your trips to the cleaners. Wear 6 one week, drop them off, and pick up the next 6 for the coming week. Repeat.


At this point, you are able to use accessories to creatively expand your wardrobe, even if it is modest in size. By changing shoes, ties, pocket squares, and cufflinks, you can transform your 5 suits and 12 shirts into a year’s worth of outfits.

To start, every gentleman must have good shoes. Generally speaking, you should have at least 3-4 pairs of dress shoes that you can rotate through. However, the total number of pairs a man should own entirely depends on his personal needs. The essentials a gentleman should possess are:

  • Black Calf Oxfords
  • Brown Calf Shoes
  • Brown Calf Monk Straps
  • Brogues
  • Slip-on Casuals
  • Evening shoes

For ties, gentlemen should work towards a robust collection of at least 12 ties. Blue, green, red, and gold are classic tie colors, while striped, dot, plaid, club, foulard, and paisley are classic patterns. Start with simple solids and stripes; when you move past a half dozen ties already in your wardrobe, it is safe to purchase more fashion-forward ties.

Cufflinks and pocket squares are a creative way to show your own personality and style. Bright pocket squares can illuminate a generally boring grey suit, while heirloom cufflinks can be a conversation starter. Don’t be afraid to be stylish – just choose your investments wisely!

Building a wardrobe does take time. In order to expand, you will need to acquire more suits each year than you wear out – a formula that varies according to the frequency that you wear each suit and the quality of its construction. As you expand your basic wardrobe, keep in mind the objectives: extend the lives of your existing suits, provide choices for different occasions, and acquire clothing that will be comfortable in a broad range of temperatures. You may want to add a flannel winter suit or a linen summer suit once the basics have been covered, for example. And, of course, don’t forget that every gentleman needs a tuxedo for those special occasions! (Related posts: 5 Reasons to Invest in Custom-Made & BITNB)

Similarly, you should also continue expanding your shirt wardrobe by acquiring new shirts on a regular basis. When selecting new dress shirts, consider current fashion colors, and mix things up by adding a few options with French cuffs. Keep in mind that your daily white and blue shirts will need to be replaced more often, as they tend to wear out faster.

Remember, professional wardrobe acquisition is a career-long routine. It will continue to build over the years, and you will constantly need to replace items you already own. To stay ahead of wear and tear, you will need about three new suits and six new shirts per year. However, once you have covered the basics, you will have plenty of options to continue dressing for success while your wardrobe slowly expands.