A few years ago the word basic was getting a bad rap. I think Kate Moss started using the term to describe everyday women in everyday outfits, and it stuck.
Basic meant boring, and it was more than a little mean, in my opinion.
After all, what’s the matter with basic?
I use this term to refer to the neutral, effortless everyday pieces that many of us live in, day after day. They are chic and timeless and versatile and, best of all, readily available at prices to fit every budget.
Today, I wanted to highlight 3 of my favorite basics tops, and show you my choices for versions at every price point. You’ll find items on this list from $6 to $265, so there truly is something for everyone.
The White Shirt
Style stars old and new, from the Hepburns to Carolina Herrera, have elevated this basic from everyday to iconic. A buttoned-up white shirt, menswear-style, is a favorite of some, but for the rest of us, you can find a white shirt in linen, silk, cotton, or a synthetic. It can have buttons or not, be short-or-long sleeved, crisp or relaxed. It can be simple and streamlined or embellished and interesting.
Since the most common version of this staple is a button-down basic that can be dressed up or down, here are my favorite versions, at a price to please any shopper.
(Note: The best quality white shirts feature a back yoke, so look for this detail when shopping one of the higher end brands).
(Click on each pic to shop the item, or find them all right here in my Essentials Capsule Catalog).
High: Anne Fontaine
If you like your white shirts French and fancy, then Anne Fontaine is for you. From formal blouses to effortless everyday chic, no one else has quite the same selection of high-end white shirts.
Medium: Frank & Eileen
A small step down from Anne Fontaine in terms of price, but certainly not in terms of quality and style, Frank & Eileen was founded in Ireland in 1947 and has become synonymous with effortless elegance since then.
Low: J. Crew (and others)
These are not really low-end by most measures, but on this list, they are on the lower end of the price range. J. Crew makes a Perfect Shirt that is flattering, timeless, and relatively affordable. The Factory store is a great source for an even better price, and Amazon and Old Navy also offer great options.
The White Tee
Even more basic than the white shirt, but in a good way, a white tee (or honestly, a tee in any solid neutral color) is the perfect piece to pair with all of the interesting, quirky, and hard-to-style bottoms in your closet. It’s an instant update.
Finding the perfect white tee, however, can be tricky, and maybe that’s because everyone has their own idea of perfection. The perfect fit and fabric for one woman may not work on another. In spite of this, however, there are brands that have managed to rise to the top of most women’s lists, creating reliably perfect staple tees that are perennial favorites to thousands of women.
This elevated and elegant tee in luxurious pima cotton can be dressed up or down with ease. The shape and fit are perfect, and the neckline is flattering but not plunging. Perfection.
The Bombas tees are buttery-soft (even at the seams), pre-washed, and so comfy you’ll want to wear them every day.
Madewell and Amazon are always head-to-head in the popular vote for the best affordable tee, and while the finishes and quality of Madewell is slightly better, they are both great choices. The tried-and-true Hanes tee, for $6, is a favorite of many looking for a quality no-frills tee at a great price.
The Madewell Pocket Tee, $19.50 Amazon Essentials tee, $14.50 Hanes tee, $6
The Striped Shirt
Another classic wardrobe staple, this has been spotted on everyone from Jackie O. to Alexa Chung, and truly transcends style personalities, ages, and decades.
Pair it with a floral skirt or pants for an interesting twist, or layer it under solid basics for a shot of subtle pattern.
High: La Ligne/Kule
The originator of this French sailor staple is arguably a company called St. James Minquiers, and they still make a fabulous tried and true version of this shirts, as does Petit Bateau, another French standby.
Newer brands devoted to stripes include Kule, with stripes to suit every style, and La Ligne (The Line) in French, which offers chic striped tees as well as other elegant staples.
St. James Minquiers classic Breton Kule Modern Tee, $68 La Ligne Tommy Tee, $96
Boden is a reliable source for this classic tee, turning out season after season of stripes in various colors, as well as embellishments and even sprinklings of other patterns.
Low: The Gap/Amazon
You can find this classic tee almost anywhere from Old Navy and H&M to Target and WalMart. My favorite budget versions come from reliable sources like The Gap and AMAZON.
The GAP Modern Long Sleeve Striped Boatneck T-Shirt $30 Amazon Essentials Store Amazon Essentials Women’s Classic-Fit Long-Sleeve Crewneck T-Shirt $14.90
Do you have these staples in your wardrobe, and why or why not? Let me know your thoughts (and your favorite sources!) in the comments!