From hangover armour to ‘seduction uniforms’: the only five outfits you’ll ever need

Torch your wardrobe: a study by Oxfam has found that women only wear five outfits. Yes, mercifully, it seems that everyone has adopted a carousel method to dressing: at least a third of our wardrobes are defunct, while the same pair of jeans, four T-shirts and three jumpers are rolled out without ceremony, ad infinitum. Seven in 10 of us invariably wear the same dress for every special occasion.

Certainly, there is an element of laziness to this approach; obviously, few can afford to replace their whole wardrobe at the flutter of an invitation. But it is also canny, for there are only really five outfits that you need to proceed through life untroubled. Together they form a capsule wardrobe of sorts, although instead of being choreographed according to shape and hue, as outlined in gilded lifestyle magazines, yours is, of course, themed by routine emotional triggers. Here are the only five outfits you really need:

The ‘seeing an ex’ outfit

Do not affect that you are above this, no matter how “amicable” the split. You’ll want to look unshowy yet untouchable; best to aim for something in the area of “Scandinavian architect”. Ideally, your outfit should be comfortable, but more importantly it must not require regular repositioning to obscure a greying bra strap.

NB: it will not matter what you wear if you spend the evening scanning the room to locate said ex.

Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
 Fiona in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Photograph: Allstar/Working Title films

The wedding/funeral multitasker

Granted, the crossover here is difficult to execute, unless you have spent many years cultivating the arch eccentricity of Fi in Four Weddings and a Funeral: faultlessly, unfailingly shrouded in black. Typically, weddings call for froth and fancy, whereas funerals are rightfully sterner.

However, there is a sliver where the Venn overlaps, and deft dressers execute it effortlessly. Keep necklines high and hemlines long – you do not want to be trying to tug your dress down while throwing the confetti. Dark florals suggest both wedding bouquets and funeral wreaths. You are multitasking.

Your whole body is draped in a sheen of perspiration. In your dreams, you are in a cocoon or lying entirely naked on a cool bathroom floor. But, on hungover days, your outfit is your armour: to put the office off your scent, you must wear something “directional”, something that employs “clean lines”. Also, crucially, deodorant. Above all, it must also permit stomach space for the stodgy succour of a lunchtime McDonald’s. Red lipstick, the brighter the better, can distract from your red face.

The seduction uniform

Contrary to the pervasive imagery of popular culture, this isn’t a red or black dress. Outfits intended to seduce rarely do. But, in this health-conscious, clean-eating age, your best seduction outfit is, obviously, your gym kit. It is also perfect for channelling Beyoncé at a moment’s notice. You might be tempted to don Liz Hurley’s Versace safety-pin dress to impress, but leggings and a sports bra can have much the same effect, just with more structural support. Can also be worn to the gym.

Smart casual? Just pop on a jumpsuit.
 Smart casual? Just pop on a jumpsuit.

The ‘smart casual’ outfit

Aha! You have been invited to a “business lunch” or “engagement barbecue”. That’ll be your smart casual look then. Don’t worry – in centuries to come, archaeologists will still struggle to interpret this most loathed of modern dresscodes. For now, best to just stick on a jumpsuit and hope for the best.