What should I wear? Arguably, one of the more frequently asked questions even outside of the fashion industry.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) collaborated with Coursera to offer a course titled Fashion as Design to examine fashion, its modernity, and our ability to understand more deeply with awareness why we wear what we wear. The course indirectly responds to the infamous question what should I wear by delving into seven weeks of fashion themes that are categorically connected to the origins of fashion’s basics. Among the themes are heroes, couture, lifecycle, and expression and the course takeaways contribute to fashion’s undeniable existence in every aspect of the socio-economic and political conversations occurring in the world today.

So, next time you are contemplating what to wear, here are MSM’s roundup of the 5 wardrobe pieces that never go out-of-style and are inspired by MoMA’s Fashion as Design:


Originally introduced in 1939, the tracksuit was designed for athletes to offer flexibility and comfort. However, the tracksuit gained widespread popularity in the 1970s when martial artist, Bruce Lee, wore a red tracksuit in the infamous Longstreet. Throughout the decades, the tracksuit gained cultural notoriety outside of athletics in hip-hop music and across sub-cultures. Predictably, it is on track to remain a wardrobe staple as brands continue to reinvent and reimagine the tracksuit.


Another iconic garment is the motorcycle jacket which dates back to 1913 with its creators, Irving and Jack Schott. While the first Perfecto One Star jacket was actually released in 1928, only motorcyclists embraced it at the time as a functionally mobile and built-to-last jacket. Yet, by the 60s, the biker jacket had become a mainstream fashion staple through subcultures of music and art. While, the classic and timeless perception of the biker jacket is part of its appeal, the fact it that the wearer can revamp how to wear it is what makes it an indispensable wardrobe addition.


Without slipping into too much detail, the slip dress actually originated as an undergarment in the 1920s. In a time when society required women to dress a certain way, the slip dress became a rebellious fashion testimony – this idea of wearing underwear as outerwear. In the 90s, Calvin Klein, among other designers, dressed the runways with variations of the slip dress. And in respect of variations, it is that very reason that the slip dress is a wardrobe staple. Paired with a tee and sneakers? Perfect casual-day outfit. Pair it with strappy sandal heels and some accessories? Ready for a night on the town. Its versatility allows it to seamlessly transition between every decade as a timeless wardrobe must-have.


Even though the trench coat has been around since 1916, it wasn’t entrenched in mainstream fashion until the 1930s and 40s. And even though Burberry immediately comes to mind when thinking of classic trench coats, since the mid-1960s, designers have re-imagined and will continue to reinvent the trench coat.

THE WHITE TSHIRT Given life around the time of the Industrial Revolution, the white t-shirt quickly manifested itself as an essential wardrobe piece over the years. From an oversized to relaxed fit, logo print, or even boxy and cropped – even the type of fabric is endless. One thing is clear, when in doubt, you can always rely on dressing up or dressing down a white tee.

For more, go check out the MoMA course.

By Sandy Aziz