Question: How does your average item of clothing qualify for "wardrobe basic" status? I mean, what really is a "basic" anyway? These are the hard-hitting questions filling my mind at night. I would guess that, were it a fashion quiz, you would probably get full marks by answering a white T-shirt, jeans or a blazer. And rightly so. But I would argue that, maybe, a basic is in the eye of the beholder.
In simplest terms, all a basic really refers to is an item of clothing that you wear on a daily and weekly basis and something that acts as a building block for a variety of outfits. For one person, that will be a white T-shirt, but for another, it might be a pair of coloured tights or roughed-up sneakers. But therein lies the joy of fashion, and as much as some people would like to say otherwise, there aren't really any rules, just different interpretations, personalities and tastes.
To prove my point, I dedicated January's wish-listing story to the mighty basic and all the varying ways that people translate the term. You have the likes of Louisa Hatt and Alyson Walsh, who epitomise that classic minimalism that we best associate with basics. Then on the other end of the spectrum, you have Sara Brown, who turns to colourful separates to build her playful ensembles. Whatever your take on the basic, there's sure to be someone whose style you relate to. Scroll down to see and shop the basics 10 fashion insiders couldn't live without.
Franny Fyne, Digital Creator
"We often talk about silk blouses or T-shirts, but we don't talk enough about silk tank tops with lace. A light and ultra-chic piece, it gives a hyper-dressy look under a blazer. If you are afraid that the result will be too smart, you can also dress them down them a pair of sneakers."
Sara Brown, Fashion Designer
"A range of brightly coloured high-neck tops are the absolute key basics in my wardrobe. They are the start of pretty much every outfit from autumn through to spring and are my perfect way to add a layer of extra colour. I especially love the added texture of this Monki one with the rib fabric and lettuce hem."
"Colourful socks and tights are an integral part of my wardrobe. Black tights just don’t fit with my aesthetic. I am so thankful for the range of brightly coloured size-inclusive tights available now. I’ve been wearing this saturated red pair a lot over recent months."
Ellie Delphine, Digital Creator
Louisa Hatt, Digital Creator
"A merino polo-neck is a great wardrobe basic. It looks chic worn with tailored trousers or underneath a white shirt. It’s stylish but also practical for this time of year, as it's warm and thin so acts as a brilliant layering piece. I have them in a few colours, and they're a go-to piece for me."
"A belt is a great way to smarten an outfit. I love this belt by COS because the hardware is black, which gives it a clean-and-minimal look. It's also not too wide, which means you can easily wear it with jeans or trousers. As the hardware is black, it works well if you’re wearing gold or silver jewellery."
"Washed-black straight-leg jeans. They aren’t as severe-looking as jet-black jeans, so they look less fussy but also look good dressed up with a fitted top. They're also a less obvious denim wash than a stonewash. I find them easy to style, as they go with so many pieces. I love wearing mine with chunky black boots or converse."
Remi Afolabi, Who What Wear Video Content Creator
"There's something very comforting about an oversized cardigan with sleeves that graze my knuckles. I think that most well-made styles (crafted from materials such as wool or cashmere) add an element of luxury to a casual look. You can always find me in one throughout the year, as they're ideal for throwing on for cool summer evenings and layering for a cold winter's day."
"When it comes to my personal style, I tend to gravitate towards looks that have a sense of juxtaposition to them. I love the fun, flowy and feminine silhouette of an A-line midi skirt paired with some cool trainers during summer or tights and chunky masculine-style boots during winter. Right now, I’m obsessed with this wardrobe basic in dreamy satin finishes."
"From a wide-leg to a straight-fit jean, there are a few styles I like to rotate when it comes to my jeans. However, they must be high-waisted. High-rise jeans typically look much more flattering for someone of my height (5'4"). They elongate the legs and make me appear slightly taller, which is always a bonus!"
Alyson Walsh, Fashion Journalist
"I take a zero-tolerance approach to sore feet. Buy flimsy shoes, and expect to crank up the Uber account. Spend a bit more on well-made footwear that never goes out of style, and you're laughing."
Selena Williams, Vintage Seller
"My wardrobe basics consist of a pair of Levi's 501 jeans. These are definitely an investment piece and an essential, in my opinion. I feel a good pair of jeans sets up the foundation for many different looks. You can dress them up or down. The vintage gods may have blessed you, and you may be able to thrift the perfect pair."
"My second wardrobe basic is a pair of chunky Dr. Martens boots. I bought a pair a few years ago, and they're literally one of my most-worn items! I wear them through all seasons of the year and wear them for casual looks and also pair them with a dress for an evening look."
"My last wardrobe basic is a vintage trench coat. I have an incredible bottle-green 1980s Aquascutum one my friend found in a vintage shop. It’s the perfect shape, and I can pair it with lots of different looks. I tend to layer it up in the winter months. It gets the most wear through spring when I just need a light jacket."
Hannah Almassi, Who What Wear Editor in Chief
"Roll-necks in every colour! I can't get enough of them. I wear black and brown the most, but occasionally, I'll go wild and throw on a red, green or navy. They're the jumper I feel best in during the winter even though I'm hourglass and have boobs (many people will say steer clear). I find that a well-fitted, snug roll-neck just works for me."
"Stretch boots, especially in suede. I like a seamless, no-break kind of silhouette between skirts, jeans, trousers and my footwear. I think it's being 5'1'' and wanting to look taller! Having small feet but larger calves means that zip-up boots very rarely fit around my legs, so I've invested heavily over the years in long-lasting suede-stretch knee or over-the-knee boots. I have some from L'Autre Chose in two colours that I wish were still stocked. I'd just keep getting them!"
"Knitted midi dresses. I like knitwear. Sue me! If I'm not in a roll-neck + something else combination then you'll definitely find me in a knitted dress with the aforementioned stretch boots. Easy, comfy, flattering—I'll probably throw on a waist belt for definition, a long coat and a natty scarf when heading out of the house."
Bri Scalesse, Model
"Ffora is a brand designed with the wheelchair community at the forefront. For a long time, adaptive accessories focused solely on function and not fashion. Ffora bags and accessories blend the two so beautifully and are for everyone. Their essential bag, which attaches to my wheelchair, has truly changed the way I move around the city."
Katty Patterson, Vintage Seller
"An oversized wool coat is totally seasonless and eternally timeless. Wear it over sequins, casual denim or everyone's new fave, joggers, and you're still guaranteed to feel like you've got your business together. The '80s is always my go-to, as the shape tends to be more generous and you can find all the colours of the rainbow to suit your style."
"A statement belt: The bolder, the bigger, the brassier, the better. It can transform anything from a simple blazer or slip to layers of shirts and sweaters, pulling it all together and making you feel a little more finished. It also creates depth and dimension to the silhouette of your clothes and your own body and can be a total game changer on days you’re feeling a bit meh with your outfit options."
"I still remember the day I bought my first cowboy boots and there has never been a week since when I haven’t worn a pair at least once. There’s just something about that low, accessible heel and the sleek pointed toe that makes you stand a little taller! I especially love how they look peeking out from under cropped denim or a midi-length dress."