For all the times I've nagged you to buy high-quality plain t-shirts, denim and more... that's it, I'm going to do the very same thing again. While I love all the different types of garments I can use to create several outfits, I strongly believe that any outfit can easily fall flat if it doesn't have a good foundation. If you ask me – that foundation consists of a good lingerie capsule, basic t-shirts and some denim.
Until probably 2018, I would buy the same cotton t-shirt from Zara in all my favourite colours, and while I'm still not immune to the occasional impulsive purchase – I've learned to differentiate between a trendy purchase and one that's going to be a classic and a wardrobe staple for years to come. With whites, blacks and the occasional classic Breton stripes, I began to save up my pennies and buy from brands that made 100% cotton t-shirts, because I know now that those would last longer than the cotton-blend ones from the high street.
As much as I try to maintain a 'fits-in-one-suitcase' rule for my capsule wardrobe, my search for the perfect basics continues to expand across shapes, brands and budgets. For about 3 years now, whenever I'm asked for an opinion about what to buy or what basics to invest in fashion-wise, my answer has always been the same – items like plain cotton t-shirts, a pair of straight-leg jeans, or even leather jackets can elevate your everyday outfits by so many levels when styled right. Read on for my Top 20 Basics list, suggested colourways, details to look out for and where to buy them!
one black, one white, one striped
I always like to have a short-sleeve, a long-sleeve and a bodysuit in my closet and prefer to buy these from brands like COS but you can buy them anywhere as long as the fabric is 100% cotton.
one white, one black, one sky blue
I recommend going for a poplin shirt because it's a lighter version of cotton and is stiff enough to add texture to an outfit. Anne Fontaine is known for making the best white shirts, but if you're looking for a budget-friendly alternative in a range of colours, M&S do some excellent ones.
One of the most versatile pieces in my wardrobe, an oversized shirt works brilliantly with jeans, layered under knitwear, or belted over an outfit as an open shirt. My most favourite one is from Zara, but ARKET does a really cool one too.
one sleeveless, one long-sleeve, one bodysuit
one light-wash, one dark-wash, one white
I follow the rule-of-3 with denim: three colourways, three variations. Colour-ways are mentioned above, and a straight-leg pair, a skinny pair and a pair of shorts give your wardrobe some variety in the denim department. I buy my denim from TOPSHOP, ARKET or Uniqlo at the moment but aspire to collect pairs from Re/Done and Frame.
one black, one printed, one from a co-ord set
There are days where you just can't wear jeans, wide-leg trousers are for those days. The black pair will be smart enough to wear to work, the printed paired with a top in the same shade could be an evening outfit, and the co-ord set matched with platform trainers or pumps makes for a very chic day-time look.
one cashmere, one wool, one mohair
If you're in a position to invest in your knitwear, look straight at brands like Max Mara (for all three), Paloma Wool (for wool), or Johnstons of Elgin (best for cashmere). If you're saving up, look at Uniqlo or M&S. Mohair is relatively cheaper, wool is an in-betweener in price, and cashmere is your top-tier premium fabric and will be the priciest.
structured, or oversized, but no shoulder pads ever
It can be a basic black, printed or checkered, or a pop of colour – either way, I cannot stress enough how versatile a good blazer is. As much as I'd say there are some great options in the market at the moment, I would really recommend investing in a vintage one, to it a little 'worn-in' look.
full-length, knee-length, but always double-breasted
I've always preferred a full-length trench coat, mainly because I like to have it flaring up behind me like a cape in the wind when I wear it belted but not buttoned – although a knee-length one would look much smarter. Whistles do a great, budget-friendly piece and while I can't afford the iconic Burberry trench at the moment, any double-breasted alternative mimics the British design well enough.
belted or buttoned, one dark, one light
I've always aspired to own day be able to pull off a buttoned coat without it making me look like I'm wearing my dad's hand-me-downs and should that day arrive – this is the one I want. Until then I continue to style and restyle my belted wool coat, whether it's my treasured Max Mara one, or this & Other Stories one.
buy a plain one, but consider iron-on patches to make it your own
I never thought this would be on my must-have list, but a well-weathered leather jacket looks so cool over dresses, knitwear tucked into skinny jeans and leather boots. AllSaints hands down make the best leather jackets and are reasonably priced for the incredible quality and durability you get with your purchase.
QUILTED / PUFFER JACKET
one cropped, one gillet, one full-length
Not always the prettiest piece, but definitely a statement to keep you warm and dry during the rain and high-speed winds. Canada Goose, Moncler and Rains are known for their quilted down jackets, but any high-street alternative will do the same job as long as it keeps you warm.
one solid leather, one silk, one statement
I still maintain that one needs a minimum of three belts to elevate any outfit in their closet. A leather one is a standard, preferably with a gold buckle, a silk scarf makes a very chic belt when pushed through belt-loops and a statement one like the Isabel Marant knotted one just becomes a conversation starter over any outfit.
not higher than 70 deniers
Tights often go unattended to but we all have at least two pairs in our wardrobes at all times. After careful consideration, and purely from an aesthetic point of view, I wouldn't recommend going over 70 deniers, otherwise, they start to look like thin leggings and make one look stocky. My go-to for hosiery has always been M&S but Heist Studios do a wide shade range.
fits: keys, phone, wallet, covid-essentials, small notebook, perfume and lipstick
Your off-duty best friend, a cross-body bag should be able to fit all your non-work essentials and preferably leave your hands-free from adjusting the straps on your shoulders. My everyday cross-body comes from H&M, but my ultimate cross-body is supplied by Gucci.
fits: laptop, A5 notebook, small beauty-bag, water, snacks – think Mary Poppins but chic
This one doesn't have to be expensive, but I wouldn't recommend buying this online (unless you've got an option to return or refund). Check for: fabric quality, space, a strong base and finishing of stitches and handles to make it look more polished and work-appropriate.
all variations are acceptable
I spent years searching for a dupe for the iconic Gucci horse-bit loafers, and after almost giving up, I came across these from & Other Stories. They look almost identical, usually replace my boots in the warmer months and pair beautifully with 95% of my outfits.
all variations are acceptable
If I could, I would wear white trainers with every single outfit I could put together – I even considered wearing them for my cousin's wedding just because they're so comfortable, and a clean pair can look as fancy as a pair of sandals. There's no one brand I'd recommend for white trainers, but a common consensus reports that Adidas do the best ones.
one black, one party, one casual
The real question is: will we once again wear heels? Should that fateful day arrive, I'd recommend stocking up on a smart black pair, one pair you'd be happy to wear to a day-time event and one show-stopper for party-time. Mine are Kurt Geiger, Dorothy Perkins and Topshop in that order.
one combat, one ankle, one knee-high
We might not wear all of these through the next few months, but it's always good to have a pair on hand. I recommend these Dr. Marten combat boots (the holy grail of cold-weather shoes), these Dear Frances ankle boots that have practically taken over many Instagram feeds and these DUNE knee-high boots simply for their simplicity (and the gold zip of course).
What are some of the closet staples you can't do without? Let us know on Instagram!