The 10 Commandments of Fashion, according to a designer who's dressed over 10,000 women.

“Here’s what you need to know,” fashion designer Jean Bas told me over the phone.

“I have dressed over 10,000 clients, over 35 years, and most women don’t have a basic wardrobe.”

To Bas, the information she was about to share with me seemed obvious. Didn’t every woman know she ought to invest in a trench coat?

The answer, of course, is no.

And I was undoubtedly the perfect interviewee.

What was second nature to Bas has never come easily to me. To be honest (I’m sure she would be horrified) I usually just look around me, on the street, in the office, even on Instagram, and just sort of… copy what they’re doing.

LISTEN: The wardrobe staples of every stylish person. Post continues below. 

Most mornings I don’t even bother switching on my light before placing my hand in my wardrobe as though I’m pulling out a lucky dip. Will it be the jeans I wore yesterday? Most likely. Will it be paired with a crinkled jumper Bas would maybe want to set on fire? Absolutely. Will the shoes I wear just be whatever is closest to the door? You bet.

And in 26 years, I’ve never owned a trench coat.

Bas has worked in the industry for over three decades. She runs her own masterclass, and owns a retail showroom named Jean Bas on Darby St in Newcastle, with an atelier (workshop) above. She’s also my aunty, and in my entire life I’ve never seen her wear something that doesn’t suit her.

If there is anyone who knows women’s bodies, and knows how to dress them, it’s Bas.

Bas has extensive experience dressing corporate clients, and has developed the pillars of the perfect working wardrobe. She says that for some women, it will take years to build up the basics, and advises that women invest in good quality fabrics, rather than shopping haphazardly, and buying dozens of disparate pieces that don’t necessarily go together.

Image via Tessuti.

"Stop buying rubbish," she said. "You'd be amazed how not spending will soon add up to a tidy sum saved. I'm not advocating taking the fun out of clothes, just delay the frivolous pieces until you get the framework up first."

Some of these items will sound expensive, but Bas says that you can buy these basics on any budget. And always, always have your eye out for a good sale.


  1. The essential classic three-piece black suit inclusive of jacket, skirt and pant. Alternatively, it can be purchased in navy or charcoal.
  2. A well-cut white shirt and/or styled white top. This includes black, white or nude t-shirts in quality knit, cut for your body type.
  3. A trench coat in camel or favourite highlight colour.
  4. A cool white linen three-piece suit.
  5. The indispensable L.B.D. (Little Black Dress).
  6. Cashmere sweater in camel, black, nude or winter white.
  7. A pair of jeans selected for your figure type.
  8. Essential accessories, the following in black and nude toned: Patent leather pumps and belt, matte bag; leather boots, evening stilettos and clutch.
  9. Professionally fitted bras with wider sides and seamless undergarments as required. (A Spanx bodysuit may be useful for sleek garments, etc.)
  10. “Pop” colours to be used liberally in shawls, scarves, gloves, millinery and jewellery.

NB: Once you have these staples covered you have the foundations of a wonderful working wardrobe. Go crazy with colour, add chartreuse leather gloves and scarf or hot chilli shot with lavender, the combinations are endless. My favourite hair clips are from Mimco in basic black and soft nude. Suggestions as additional ‘must-haves’ to be added to your wardrobe capsule are a cashmere and wool overcoat in basic black or camel and my very favourite, the perfect collectable leather jacket.

Jean Bas with her husband and business partner, Kevin Coffey. Image via Facon mag.

Bas acknowledges that many workplaces have different dress codes, and in creative industries you might get away with dressing less formally. But, she argues, the foundations remain the same. Invest in well-fitted underwear. Have jeans that suit your shape. And when you see a t-shirt that flatters your figure, buy it in black, white, and any other colour you like.

Bas also has one word for women who want to look flawless in their clothes: tailoring.

"Everyone should be tailored," she told me. It doesn't matter if you're six foot and stick thin, or five foot and curvy, every woman carries herself differently, and your clothes should flatter that.


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Her other tip was one I have learned the hard way; handwash. Good clothes need to be taken care of, and that's a mistake she often sees women making.

Her final word of wisdom was one I'd never heard before.

"When someone says you look fantastic, take a photo of that combination. It worked for you. Remember it." Perhaps it was a certain necklace coupled with a shirt, or a skirt you'd never paired with a particular jacket before.

Bas wants you to love your clothes. Enjoy the hunt. Delay buying until you find what you really want.

And always start with the basics.

You can follow Jean Bas on Facebook, here

Or on Instagram, here

Or you can visit the Jean Bas website, here