Let’s get one thing straight: There’s nothing wrong with being basic! I’m the first to admit that I love statement pieces and trendy items, but in reality, I know that simple basics are the building blocks of any stylish, versatile wardrobe. By simple basics, I mean the perfect jeans and crisp white tee that make every wardrobe complete. Other basics in my closet include neutral camisoles, black slacks, sweaters and black leggings. They are the easy, wearable pieces in my closet that I know will be in style forever.
These pieces tend to be my first go-to items when trying to put an ensemble together – they look sleek on their own, but you’ll thank yourself for stocking up when you go to style Miu Miu’s latest ballet flats or a bold statement coat. These basics make wearing statement pieces a breeze!
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the basic pieces I wear most are those that are transitional and easy to pack for travel. Layering pieces are essential, so I like to keep certain colors and fabrics in mind when shopping for my basics. It’s common to have days here in LA where the temperature fluctuates 20 degrees, so I rarely leave home without a sweater, a wrap or a jacket.
Keep reading to explore some tried-and-true basics that are my wardrobe staples, along with a list of stores where you’ll be able to score these ‘must have’ pieces for your own capsule wardrobe.
The trend du juor in the denim world is, well, not exactly a trend – look for perfect jeans that fit well, are cut cleanly and most of all, flatter your body type. You will LIVE in them. Skinny jeans are still in the forefront and among the most popular because of their flattering fit. Slim, polished and classic, a dark wash denim is perfect for day or night. They are practical and versatile and will be your go-to style for every season. With the addition of raw hems, frayed hems and step cut hems, denim fatigue is currently a non-issue. Big yay! For the past ‘I don’t know how many years’, it’s been the same ol’ same ol’ in the denim world. Every pair looked exactly the same and there was no reason to buy anything new. That was until now, and I have found it fun getting to purchase these interesting new styles and add them to my denim collection. I rarely get rid of jeans, because unique styles tend to come back around!
The great thing about a white tee is that it won’t go in-and-out-of-style in the blink of an eye. It’s about as basic as you can get when it comes to clothing. It is that one item that you can mix and match, layer and travel with and enjoy wearing season after season. The key here is whether to splurge or spend. I’ve had bad luck over the years with a few well-known brands who have brick and mortar stores in my neighborhood and in shopping malls across America. Their tees come in all different styles (crew neck, v-neck and scoop neck) but friends, the quality is just not there and they’re not exactly cheap. Several years ago while visiting New York City, I ventured into a Uniqlo store on 5th Ave. It’s a flagship store and happened to be packed with people and loaded with merchandise. Everything they offer is basic, but well made. There is nothing at all exciting about their merchandise other than the quality, easy laundering and good prices. But it turns out, that’s actually pretty exciting! I have so many white tees from them (and black tees too). If you need to update the white tees in your wardrobe, then Uniqlo items are a win-win deal.
*By the way, I love their ribbed cotton camisoles with lace straps. I’m always layering these basics with jackets or sweaters. In addition, I think their airism hoodies are the best and so easy to pack for travel.
The other brand that I’ve seen splashed across the internet is Everlane. I’ve never tried their white tees, but they’ve gotten rave reviews on their high quality, affordable and sustainable pieces. This company prides itself on simple, basic pieces. Their items are classic, not trendy, and can only be ordered online. Plus, they’re worn and loved by Meghan Markle – what more testimony does one need?
Petit-bateau is another t-shirt brand that uses high quality cotton, launders well and can be ordered online if you can’t find it in department stores.
As I mentioned above, Uniqlo is one of the best spots to find any key basics at below market prices. They’re just the best at what they do! They are currently sold out of my favorite lace trimmed cotton ribbed camisole and I hate to even tell you how cheap I got it for. I bought multiples and have so many of them that I wear them all the time. I found the exact same one online at Nordstrom, but it’s just not as good of a deal. This style looks great paired with any jacket and can be worn layered all year long. I happen to love the lace detail that adds just a little bit of oomph to what would ordinarily be just another basic piece. Another great cami / tank to take a look at is this one by J.Crew.
I think it’s a great look at a reasonable price, and the neutral colors are easy to wear with just about anything.
Every woman and every closet needs at least one pair of black pants. They are timeless, and a high quality pair can last for years. I prefer to shop at Theory when I’m in the market for a new pair. I know I can go into their store and come out with what I need. Their quality is good. Their price point is within reach and they have a great selection of different styles to choose from including skinny, flair, cropped and relaxed fits. Their different fits will take you from work to weekend and from day to night, which make this brand the perfect one-stop-shop for professionals of any sort.
For me, sweaters are the trickiest and most challenging item in my wardrobe. Why, you might ask? I’m allergic to wool, which poses a huge problem when shopping for sweaters. Most sweaters are made out of merino wool or cashmere and both of them irritate my skin. Yes, even cashmere gives me an itch! So, If I need to buy a sweater as a layering piece, I have to resort to cotton, which is generally more difficult to find. I’ve had the best luck buying cotton sweaters at both Uniqlo and Zara.
The price point at both stores is incredibly reasonable and the quality is good. A solid color sweater will never be an exciting purchase, but I was able to find a Zara pullover that has a cute side slit so you can achieve a high-low effect. This detailing makes such a basic piece a bit more interesting. It’s lightweight, comes in many basic colors and is perfect for our weather here in LA. I actually just packed this sweater in two different colors for my trip to Houston last week. One was black (of course it was!) and the other was an oatmeal color. The great thing about this particular sweater is that because of the fabric, it hardly takes up any room in a suitcase.
Black leggings are a wardrobe staple for me – you can find me in a pair several days a week. In fact, I think they’re a staple for all Angelenos! I not only wear them when I’m working out, but also when I’m running around doing errands or at home working at my computer. With our casual culture and athleisure so popular among women of all ages, the basic black legging is now considered one of those necessary items for any wardrobe. Lululemon still has the most basic, high quality and no longer see-through black leggings. I am always guaranteed that their “wunder under” style will give me the support and hold me in where I need it to. Lululemon leggings are not cheap, but they are durable, launder well and last. In addition, they are flattering to the figure and in my opinion, worth the investment. There are many other brands out there with fun black legging styles like Alo, Sweaty Betty, Rese and Ultracor, but when it comes to a basic black legging with no design, stick with Lululemon.
Other brands you should check out when you need to add to or update the basics in your wardrobe are Aritzia (now in Westfield Century City Mall in LA), Topshop, Vince and IRO.
A funny quote I saw the other day goes like this: “I could give up shopping, but I’m not a quitter.”
So when the going gets tough, just remember, the tough go shopping!