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Is there one piece of clothing every woman should own?

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The question

Is there one piece of clothing every woman should own?

The answer

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My instinct was immediately LBD: little black dress. A simple, fitted black dress that goes to just over or just under the knees can take you anywhere (particularly to dress-up events) and can be businessified with a jacket or tarted up with jewellery.

Expert female advice confirmed my instinct. Loretta Chin, a well-known fashion stylist, said, "A great black dress can get you through any occasion, day or night. Whether it's a business meeting, a date, a luncheon or a funeral, a simple change of accessories can change the dynamic when it comes to this wardrobe must-have." Okay, but that one's kind of obvious.

What, I asked her, would be the second-most-essential item? "A well-fitting bra," Chin replied without hesitation. Other answers from female sources: a pair of comfortable, well-balanced, high-heeled shoes (because they can make a casual outfit magically dressy) and a good pair of jeans – meaning ones that fit fairly snugly and flatteringly without discomfort. I would add a proper (i.e., wool, non-parka) winter overcoat.

Russell Smith is a novelist. His recent memoir, Blindsided , is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com .

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