Wardrobe basics; they’re the foundation of any good closet, and the building blocks for our personal uniform. And for me, timeless basics are a huge part of my style identity. I love drama every now and then, but I always find myself going back to classic silhouettes and designs which don’t date.
So today, I thought I’d run through 15 timeless basics worth having in your wardrobe, and share some of my top picks for each staple item. What I love most about these pieces is that not only do they work well interchangeably, but they’re also a nice complement to on-trend items that you might be loving for the season. Plus, you can go budget or high-end, and look “expensive” at both ends of the price spectrum. So let’s dive into it.
THE PERFECT WHITE TEE
I couldn’t do a round up of timeless basics and not include the humble white tee – or in this case, the perfect one. This is something I’m always on the hunt for, and I’ve found that the high street does t-shirts very well, so you don’t need to break the bank for this wardrobe staple. My preferred silhouette is something with a slim – but loose – fit through the body, short capped sleeves, and a crew neck, but you could go round neck, boxy and dropped shoulders if that’s your jam. I generally tend to tuck these into trousers or jeans, for a laid back look, but you could also knot your tee at the waist to show a sliver of skin, while changing up the silhouette. Plus, it’s a blank canvas for whatever you’d like to throw on over the top!
A PAIR OF SKINNY JEANS
Denim trends have really evolved over the last five years, but one style seems to continue to reign supreme: the skinny jean. These to me are the ultimate classic when it comes to denim, and something everyone should have in their wardrobe. I favour darker washes and crisp whites, but I also have a soft spot for that super soft lived in blue wash that Levi’s pioneered. I mean, it’s a classic with good reason. I don’t think you necessarily need to spend a lot to get a high quality pair of skinny jeans – Topshop for example, do a great basic style which you can always rely on. I’ve picked out a few of my favourite styles, from distressed hems, to mid and high rise, which I think would make a good addition to your wardrobe if you’re on the hunt for a new pair.
A WELL-FITTING BLAZER
Blazers were a massive trend in 2018, and it’s a style piece that I think we’ll still see a lot of in 2019. Trends aside, it’s such a classic – it’s the perfect tailored piece to finish off your outfit for the office, I love how a long-line style can look with a slip dress or evening wear, and it can make a basic casual outfit look smart. If you’re eying up your first blazer, I’d recommend going with black as it’ll be the most versatile and great to do double duty for the office too. I’m also quite partial to the checked blazer, too, which is a timeless enough print that it won’t look out of place five years from now.
THE BASIC CREW NECK SWEATER
Whenever I think of the building blocks to a chic autumn or winter outfit, a crew neck sweater usually emerges as one of my top picks – preferably in super soft cashmere. It’s undeniably timeless and while it might not necessarily be ‘fashion-forward’, it’s a great layering piece to have nonetheless. I like to opt for a trio of colours – black, heather grey and camel – which cover you off for most occasions, but mossy greens, rich burgundys and inky navy hues are gorgeous options too. To make things a little more interesting, you can add a collared shirt underneath, or a top with a peter pan collar, the details of which will act as a ‘necklace’ and add visual interest around the neckline. A more streamlined silhouette is a great double duty piece for work and weekend, otherwise for a more relaxed option, I love a style that is loose-fitting and slouchy through the body.
A WHITE BUTTON DOWN SHIRT
Years ago, I used to sit and make lists almost weekly of items I wanted to have in my wardrobe if I were to build it from scratch, and a white button down shirt always featured. I like to think of this as being a lifestyle piece; I currently have one linen and one silk option, which serve me well – the linen one being perfect to pair with denim shorts for summer, and the silk one being a great choice when I want to elevate my look or I have a more formal event. The only thing missing for me is a oversized white cotton poplin. Cut, texture of the material, and placement of pockets is everything, and you really don’t need to spend a lot to get a high quality cotton shirt – the high street does them really well. For a fresh but laid back vibe, I love the pairing with vintage denim jeans and a low block heel. It looks professional, but feels casual enough that you could wear it all weekend long too.
AN LBD YOU FEEL AMAZING IN
There’s not much room in my wardrobe for special occasion dresses; mostly because I’m a bit of a homebody, and tend to go for more relaxed silhouettes when going out for dinner or drinks. As a result, separates are usually my go-to as you can build so many more outfits and be a lot more creative with your styling. But, if there’s one thing I’ll always hold a hanger for, it’s an LBD (little black dress). I have one which I splurged on three years ago from Dion Lee and it’s still going strong. I feel absolutely incredible when I do wear it, and it’s simple enough that no one will notice if I wear multiple times in a row.
A TRENCH COAT
My early twenties were peppered with a desire to dress like a Parisian, and one of the basic tenets of that style uniform is a great trench coat. Arguably, this might not be for everyone (at which point I’ll say, a lightweight jacket in general is a must), but it’s one of those timeless basics I can’t ever see myself being without. I love how it transcends those boundaries between work and play; I’ve worn my own trench coat to work, as well as on the weekend when it’s raining. The penultimate trench is of course one from Burberry, but you can definitely pinch your pennies and get a chic and similar look for a lot less too!
BLACK POINTED TOE PUMPS
Back when I worked in corporate, I used to keep a pair of black pointed toe pumps underneath my desk at all times. I’d walk to work in ballet flats, and switch them out when I got to my desk, and it would instantly transform my outfit. They’re simple, professional, and more importantly, they never go out of style. I personally prefer a pointed toe, however an almond toe is lovely too – it draws the eye down further and will elongate your legs which is incredibly flattering.
SIMPLE LEATHER TOTE
If I was starting my wardrobe from scratch, the first bag I’d look to purchase would be a classic leather tote. I’ve got a few in my handbag collection now, and they’re ones I always return to as they’re not only practical, but they look chic too. Classic black is always the safe choice, but I think a rich saddle brown, or a dusty nude is great too, as they’re neutral complementary hues which work well with most outfits. My favourite tote of the moment is from Cuyana, and I’ve done a full review on it here if you’d like to have a read.
BALLET FLATS OR LOAFERS
A great flat pair of shoes are a wardrobe necessity, and personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with either a delicate ballet flat, or a pair of masculine-inspired loafers depending on your style preferences. They’re a good building block for more casual outfits, but can also be worked into a look for the office too, depending on how you pair them. For ballet flats, a rounded toe is the more classic option, however a pair with a pointed toe will look a touch more sophisticated and are a great choice if you want a dressier looking shoe.
It took me years to finally stumble across a pair of trousers that worked for me, but once I did I made a point of stocking up. These are a great reprieve from wearing a sheath dress or pencil skirt to the office, and I love how they can be worn with more casual items to achieve a relaxed look like I’m wearing above. Personally, I think a style that cuts off about a centimetre or two above the ankle will be the most flattering, as they’ll visually lengthen your legs by making the trousers look like they’re slightly too short for you.
A LEATHER BIKER JACKET
A great leather biker jacket is one of those timeless basics that really comes into its own during the transitional seasons. Particularly if you live in a more temperate climate, you’ll probably find that this is an incredibly outerwear piece for those days when it’s a little cool, but not cold enough to warrant a coat. What I love about this wardrobe staple is that it is a key piece in extending the longevity of your summer wardrobe (pair it with a floral dress and you’re good to go), and that it can be used to lighten up the layers at the tail end of winter when it’s starting to get a bit warmer.
A FITTED ROLLNECK SWEATER
If you’ve ever watched one of my winter styling videos, then you’ll know that a fitted rollneck sweater is one of my ride or die winter wardrobe staples. It’s the perfect piece to have to layer under dresses, blouses and sweaters to lock in the warmth, but it also looks chic worn on its own. I have a couple and I think it’s worth snapping these up in a couple of options and opacity. Sheer ones look great and are generally quite thin, so really easy to layer under slimming fitting tops.
I’ve built up a bit of an ankle boot collection over the years. These are my shoe of choice during the colder months, and as much as I love my classic black pairs, it can be really fun to mix things up and throw in an ivory or tan pair too for a bit of variety. Pointed toe boots tend to be my preferred, and I love a little detail like a visible zipper pull on the side, or the elasticated panels you get on a pair of chelsea boots.
A BRETON STRIPE TOP
The final piece in my list of timeless basics to have in your closet is a classic breton striped top. I mentioned my fascination with Parisian style earlier, and this is where it really comes into its own. A good mariniere never goes out of style, and it’s a piece that you’ll be able to wear for years to come (especially if you invest wisely in a high quality piece). I love a classic white and navy stripe, but black and white stripe is also stunning for extra contrast, or for a softer take, a rich brown and ivory combo is pretty too.