These days, basic has become something of an insult, but we’ve never used it that way. To us, basics are a good thing — wardrobe building blocks, like the flattering white T-shirts, the leg-lengthening jeans, or the white sneakers that kick up everything. Below, the very best of your closet fundamentals.
Best white T-shirt
After Elizabeth Rose, a server at Café Gitane, recommended the Everlane Cotton V-Neck as one of the best white T-shirts for women, it became a quick favorite among Strategist readers. Rose said that this lightweight shirt works well with her everyday style: “I wear a lot of necklaces, so the depth of this V shows them.” However, if you’re looking for a classic cut crewneck or a more heavyweight white tee, we’ve got 16 other options here.
Best black T-shirt
When we went on a hunt to find the best black T-shirts, this cotton box-cut tee from Everlane came up twice. First, from black tee expert and fabricator Chelsea Scott, who named the Cotton Box-Cut Tee among her two favorite black tees. Scott said the boxy fit lives up to its name, and the fabric is in line with Everlane’s promise of high quality materials: “The Everlane is more of a square fit and feels like it’ll last forever.” Strategist writers also vouch for its perfect fit and reasonable price. Writer Liza Corsillo said she loves the “slightly cropped but still modest cut.”
Best white button-down
Among the various linen, Oxford, and moisture-wicking shirts that stylish women named as the best white button downs for women, one shirt reigns supreme (or at least, comes highly recommended across the Strategist): this silk button-down from Equipment. Celebrity stylist Jasmine Caccamo — who has “scoured every inch of the internet, department stores, and boutiques looking for the perfect white button-down” — says that the cut of this chic, silky shirt “perfectly flatters the bodice.” In fact, writer Jen Doll loves the slim-cut version of this shirt so much that she owns it in four colors.
According to Of a Kind founder Erica Cerulo, the Re/Done High-Rise Ankle Crop Jeans deserve the title of best women’s jeans. “The fit and rise are just right for me (no waistband-gapping or super-tight calves), and the frayed edge is appropriately chill—but not skin-exposing,” said Cerulo. Re/Done is all about well fitting denim; in addition to their original label, the brand alters handpicked, vintage jeans for one-of-a-kind fits, which New York fashion-editor-at-large Amy Larocca told the Strategist are “as close to perfect as I’d ever allow myself to imagine.” If you prefer wide-leg or ripped jeans, we have recommendations for those styles too.
Best petite jeans
Five-foot-tall fashion blogger Kileen Valunzuela writes that these Madewell jeans boast a “petite-friendly” 26 ½ inseam, and super stretchy-soft material, making them one of the best petite jeans for women. “The woven Tencel lyocell fabric not only stretches to accommodate that food baby but also sucks you in to make those legs look super slim,” she writes. This fit is a part of Madewell’s petite denim line (called “Short”), but the High-Rise Skinny Jeans also come in a wide range of sizes, and are a favorite pair of denim for lingerie addict Cora Harrington, along with veteran fashion writer Plum Sykes.
Best plus-size jeans
The Lane Bryant Super Stretch Skinny Ankle Jeans with Power Pockets are such a popular pair of plus-size jeans that two women recommended them to the Strategist as the best plus-size jeans. Lifestyle blogger Annette Richmond vouches for the Super Skinny’s superior fit, explaining, “They have just enough stretch to be comfortable and supportive without being restrictive or so stretchy that they lose shape easily.” Other popular styles include bootcut and high-waisted.
Co-founder of cookware brand Great Jones (and former Grub Street senior editor) Sierra Tishgart used to think sweatpants were strictly for lounging, but her outlook changed after purchasing Outdoor Voices CloudKnit sweatpants. These slim-fit, tapered sweatpants are “as flattering as they are comfortable” and make her feel “outrageously confident.” In fact, she once strutted around the West Village in the pants and a sports bra, and wore them the night before launching her company. (And these pants have since been perennial Strategist best-sellers.)
Best petite pants
4-foot-11 Strategist senior writer Karen Adelson has avoided the complications of petite pants shopping (read: hemming) thanks to Aritzia’s Babaton Cohen Pant Terado — and seven other pairs that she nominated as the best petite pants for women. With a pull-on waist, and shoe-skimming length, Adelson recommends these chic, pleated Babaton Cohen pants as the best petite pants for work. She writes, “they’re secretly super comfy and they come in a variety of colors and fabrics.”
Strategist writer Hillary Reid can’t stop buying turtlenecks, and the J.Crew Tissue Turtleneck T-shirt is among her favorites. She writes that this “face-framing shirt” earns top marks because it is “thin enough to layer without added bulk.” Also, when writer Joana Avillez took to Facebook to find the best women’s turtleneck, her friends pointed her towards this supersoft, perfect-for-layering shirt, in addition to a luxe pullover and a cotton base layer.
Best cashmere sweater
The Cut’s fashion director Rebecca Ramsey is certain that the cashmere crewneck sweater from Neiman Marcus is the best women’s sweater — which is why she’s asked for it as a holiday gift seven years in a row. She writes that it has a Goldilocks-like style and fit: “It’s not too tight nor too big. And it pretty much works with any winter outfit of mine.” This classic-cut, extremely soft sweater is also a Strategist go-to for the best, affordable cashmere sweater to give as a holiday gift.
According to managing editor Maxine Builder, Five Rock Unlined Coveralls are the basic of all basics: the best jumpsuit. Builder writes that a “surprisingly formfitting” elastic waist and “practical” design (front zipper and pockets), earn this jumpsuit the title of “best outfit for uniform dressing.” Also, in the years since Builder named these affordable coveralls the one-stop-shop for a fashionable outfit, utilitarian jumpsuits have been glorified in cinematic style.
When we asked experts about the best women’s raincoats, Jen Martin — a Seattle resident and the director of expedition development at Lindblad Expeditions — vouched for several jackets, but said that the minimalist jacket from Marmot is her favorite. Marmot has some enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon, and this lightweight, monochromatic style has kept Martin dry around the world. “It has good waterproofing that lasts for a long time, and an adjustable hood,” she said.
Best winter coat
It’s not often that an Amazon winter coat becomes a status symbol among stylish New York City women, but when it does you know it’s a wardrobe essential. The Orolay Women’s Thickened Down Jacket is that coat: a $140 piece of outerwear that can now be spotted across the country.
When Hannah Goldfield wrote about the Baggu Leather Drawstring Purse that she’s carried nearly every day for the past several years, it became an instant bestseller amongst Strategist readers. According to Goldfield this black bag is the best purse because of its “buttery” leather and versatile size. She writes, “the simple construction and total lack of hardware meant it transcended eras and styles to be actually timeless.”
Best work bag
Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen can’t live without the Madewell Transport Tote. “I can shove it over my shoulder while wearing a puffy jacket,” said Perelman, plus it holds “a laptop, water bottle, and all the toys my kids swear that they want to play with that I get stuck carrying home.” That versatility makes it one of our best work bags for women (but if you’re looking for something a little smaller or leather-free, there’s lots of other options).
Best sheer pantyhose
Although you might think that sheer pantyhose are a thing of outdated dress-code manuals, writer Alison Freer stands by them as a “great life hack.” Amongst the seven best pairs of sheer pantyhose that she can’t stop buying, Freer suggests the $12 pair from Hue (available on Amazon) for those looking to buy at the “intersection of style and price.” “They aren’t scratchy, provide great coverage without making it obvious that you’re wearing them, and don’t slowly shimmy down as the day progresses,” she writes.
Best black tights
Alison is also a self-proclaimed black-tight obsessive, and recommends the H&M Control-top Tights 200 Denier as the “holy grail” of black tights. She gives these opaque, $12 tights top marks in style and practicality: “They have a little bit of sheen that makes me feel like a ballerina” and “don’t pill or snag, no matter how many cocktail rights I accidentally drag across them.” Her other recommendations for the best black tights for women include a slightly sexy pair, and black tights to wear when it’s cold out.
Best white sneakers
When it comes to ever-on-trend white sneakers there are sporty, high-top, even ugly varieties, but according to stylish and ethically minded sneakerheads, these shoes from Veja are among the best white sneakers for women. Fashion and beauty editor at Teen Vogue Michelle Li praises the shoe’s “streamlined, but still classic” design, and says they strike an aesthetic balance between a “modern” and “chunky feel.” Plus, a lot of folks at New York (and Meghan Markle) are known to wear this brand.