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Anna G. Larson, Published July 04 2013

Create a great wardrobe with a limited number of staples

Fargo - The less she has, the better she feels.

Ajit Berg’s closet philosophy changed when she moved to Fargo. The former personal shopper and stylist at Barney’s New York in Beverly Hills accumulated clothing, shoes and accessories constantly. When it came time to make the move from California to Fargo, she realized that less is definitely more.

“I did have a gigantic wardrobe, and it was confusing even for me,” Berg says. “Moving here taught me more about not needing so many things.”

For instance, wearing a silk dress “feels like too much” in Fargo, but in L.A., it’s the norm. Berg gave her closet a heavy edit after she settled into her Fargo lifestyle.

“The more I condense down, the better I feel,” she says. “I learned the hard way that it’s too much and most of it, you don’t wear.”

Corinne Stefanson, owner of The Classic in the Moorhead Center Mall, also adheres to the “less is more” philosophy. Stefanson has worked in fashion for 40 years.

“To be well dressed is not to own many items,” she says. “You don’t need many items to have an outstanding wardrobe. It’s what you buy and your choices.”

Stefanson also believes in buying items that fit a person’s lifestyle. She considers a person’s career, activities and lifestyle when she helps them choose clothing at her store.

“Eileen Fisher once said that if you learn to know what you need in your basic wardrobe, you won’t go out and make a bad buy,” she says.

Both fashion experts agree that quality trumps quantity, too.

“It’s always better to spend a little more on one item and wear it over and over than to try to buy several pieces for the same price that won’t last as long,” Berg says.

High-quality clothing typically has a better fit and uses better fabric, she says.

“That really makes a difference in how you feel,” Berg says.

Stefanson remembers how one of her professors at Minnesota State University Moorhead explained quality. He told her that it’s not snobbery to know the difference between good cotton and cheap cotton, great art and not-great art, great chocolate and bad chocolate.

Knowing the difference means a person has grown in their taste level, Stefanson recalls.

“I feel that picking your wardrobe shows growth, just like understanding good literature and good food. They all coordinate together,” she says.

Stefanson adds that it’s not about spending the most money but rather buying the best a person can afford. She says a big supporter of the viewpoint was the late Stanley Marcus of luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus.

“Some people buy five blouses and could have bought two very nice ones. What difference does it make if you wear it all the time?” she says.

Having less also means items need to “mix” well so they can be worn in different ways, Berg says.

“Versatile pieces can mix, and you can wear them over and over,” Berg says. “You can always feel put together and like you spent your money on something good.”

Paring down can be challenging, so Berg shared a few tips for a successful closet edit.

Use plastic bins or space-saving bags to store clothing that isn’t in season, Berg says. It makes choosing outfits quicker and more efficient.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525

Closet Staples

1. A feminine, fitted blazer.

A great blazer can go with a tank and jeans or a dress for work, stylist Ajit Berg says.

She recommends a feminine blazer for its tailored, “non-work” look.

2. A silk blouse.

“It’s timeless and never, ever goes out of style,” Berg says.

Designers reinvent the blouse every season, she says.

It’s also versatile and can be worn with jeans or dressier items like skirts.

3. Pumps

Stefanson and Berg recommend a classic, high-heeled pump. Berg prefers patent leather because it picks up the colors of whatever a person wears.

4. Dark denim skinny jean.

One pair of jeans that fit a person’s body really well go with almost anything, Berg says.

“They really make any body shape look longer,” she says.

5. Trench coat.

Berg says a trench has “a little more style” than a regular jacket and can be worn with jeans or dressy apparel.

6. A scarf.

A lightweight, medium-width scarf adds elegance to T-shirts and dresses, Berg says.

7. Something red.

“I know a lot of people are scared of red, but I feel like if you have one thing in red, whether it’s a dress or handbag, it will be that one uplifting item that makes you feel like, ‘I’m adding a little punch of something,’ ” Berg says.

8. A statement handbag and clutch.

“A purse tells a lot about you,” Stefanson says. “It does give an image of your taste level and understanding the difference between leather and plastic.”

A quality bag in a classic color like camel, black or another color that mixes with everything in a person’s wardrobe is chic, Berg says.

9. Ballet flats.

Flats have been stylish for years, Berg says. They can be thrown on with casual or dressy attire.

10. Something studded or sequined.

Berg has a sequined jacket she keeps in her wardrobe because it makes her feel fun.

11. A T-shirt.

“They’re not expensive, but you will look up to date with just a T-shirt,” Berg says.

Black and white are staples, and she also favors navy and white striped T-shirts.