Behind every immaculate outfit or fabulous wardrobe is an arsenal of reliable basics. It’s all well and good having the latest It bag or trend piece, but getting dressed will always be difficult if you don’t have the foundations right too. Once you find the perfect black blazer, pair of jeans or pair of boots, you never need to find another one again. So it’s worth putting in the time to find the best versions of these staples—when you own the perfect tee or white shirt, there’s no need for mediocre duplicates that won’t ever make you feel as good. This only-go-for-the-very-best approach to shopping leads to not only a tighter wardrobe that is made to last but also a more polished look overall.
Together, our Who What Wear editors have over 30 years of experience in the fashion industry, and so we have learned first-hand the best places to find all of these basics. And it’s not just a case of spending more money on things—our list includes investment pieces by Gucci, Joseph and Burberry, but many of the items we are championing are also under £100. This list will also help you to identify the gaps in your own wardrobe, as we believe that these 35 items make up the complete capsule.
It can be difficult to find the perfect white T-shirt, as they are often a little too sheer, tight or have a neckline that doesn’t sit quite right. This slightly heavier cotton COS style has none of these drawbacks, and the premium-feeling material stays crisper for longer. Size up if you prefer a boxier fit.
As we know, the best wardrobes are made up of great staples, and there’s nothing more classic than a striped top. Take it from the French girls, this is a top to rely on for years to come, and Boden is famous for doing the best quality styles. Again, size up if you prefer a looser fit.
Trust me when I say I’ve tried all the tank tops out there, from expensive designers to the cheapest high street. And I can confirm it’s H&M’s £7 number that takes the cake as being the very best style. It’s thick cotton, so you don’t need a bra if you don’t want to wear one and it doesn’t go flimsy or out of shape after a few washes. I’ve bought one (read: a few) in every colour—they’re the fashion industry’s best kept secret. Thank me later.
A cashmere jumper is a wardrobe classic, for all year round (I always throw mine over my shoulders on cooler summer evenings too). While there are numerous beautiful knitwear brands working in higher price points, we don’t think you can top M&S for value. It creates quality, durable cashmere that—if you look after it properly—will last for years.
With Nothing Underneath has quickly become the fashion crowd’s go-to brand for shirting of all kinds. Their most popular Boyfriend fit is the perfect oversized style to tuck in or wear loose.
A camisole can be worn on its own, and it’s the perfect partner for a suit, but it’s also really useful for layering. The silk fabric adds a refined feel. If you’d prefer to spend a little less, Arket has some beautiful classic options.
Casual, cool and endlessly chic, Arket’s linen shirts are the best I’ve ever tried. Available in plenty of colours, from neutrals and stripes to bright, bold hues, and in both a short sleeved and long sleeved iteration, it’s a high-street item I really recommend investing in.
A.P.C. creates its iconic moon-shaped crossbody bag in every colour you could hope for, but the classic brown and black leather versions will always remain chic. They’re simple enough to go with every single outfit and practical too thanks to the size and compact shape.
Most importantly these are solid gold, so they won’t oxidise or discolour. You can literally wear these all day every day. They also come in a smaller size as well as a thicker option, too.
A leather tote is an item that everyone needs for carrying laptops, makeup bags, kids toys and the kitchen sink for work or travel. This Saint Laurent style is a timeless classic which comes in 5 colours to suit your wardrobe. Serapian also does a beautiful, modern, oversized style that insiders love, Chloé’s canvas Woody tote is another brilliant option and Everlane does the best affordable version.
A gold chain is the perfect addition to any outfit all year round. I personally have this necklace and I’ve not taken it off for a good couple of years—it still looks brand new!
For summer, a basket bag has become an absolute essential whether you’re heading to the beach or not. Of course, Loewe is the gold standard. If you’re looking for something more low-key with less logo, though, Dragon Diffusion’s woven styles are completely timeless too.
Buy a good belt, and you never need to buy another one again. Celine’s Triomphe style is timelessly elegant and will elevate any outfit you wear it with. For one without a logo, try COS’s classic leather belt.
Ray-Bans are flattering on almost everyone. Whether you’re an aviator or wayfarer type, there is bound to be a silhouette to suit your face shape.
Cartier’s iconic ‘Tank Must’ watch can be dated back to 1917 proving just how timeless the shape is. The brand is world-renowned for its timepieces and offers the kind of investment watch you’ll wear for the rest of your life. The black is probably the most classic, but I also have a soft spot for the incredibly elegant tan Aligator version.
A silk square scarf is a classic wardrobe item. We recommend you go straight to Totême.
ACNE is the ultimate label for luxury basics, and the wool and cashmere scarves are close to perfect. The brand makes the classic scarf with a fringed hem in every colour you could want, from grey to the brand’s signature dusty pink.
Gucci’s horsebit loafers were first launched in 1953 and are a classic piece worth investing in because they will last for decades. According to a feature on the loafers on Mr Porter, “All of the artisans involved in making Gucci loafers are located in a single workshop in Florence. They wear traditional leather aprons over white lab coats and use a personalised tool kit to hand-make each shoe.”
Undeniably, the best heels in the world come from Manolo Blahnik. Whether you’re looking to invest in a wear-with-everything pair of simple, comfortable court heels like the BB 90s (a favourite of Meghan and Princess Kate), or you want a bit more sparkle in your life with the Hangisi, you just can’t beat them. On the high street, Kurt Geiger’s Bond heels are the best alternative.
Vejas have a lot going for them. These trainers are French and sustainable. They are made using fish leather, which would normally be thrown away, and the brand works on projects to help protect the Amazon rainforest. Plus, they are really stylish, too. Everyone from Emma Watson to Meghan Markle has been seen in Vejas.
When it comes to ankle boots, you really can’t beat Aeydē. Whether you’re after a round or pointed toe, Western suede style or classic leather, Aeydē has them all, and they aren’t ruled by trends.
Sandal trends come and go, but Ancient Greeks Sandals are always classic. Whether you want a leather slider or a pair of gladiator sandals, it’s probably created the perfect pair. My feet are like tissue paper, and so I am very fussy when it comes to shoes, but these sandals always pass the no-blister test for me.
We all agreed that Agolde is the best for designer jeans, as it has really flattering cuts and uses very soft, comfortable denim. The ’90s Pinch Waist style have been raved about by so many influencers and editors as the perfect classic straight jean.
All our editors are in agreement that Arket does the best affordable denim. It’s all organic and recycled cotton and there’s a mix of comfortable stretch styles and vintage-inspired rigid versions. The cropped designs are perfect for petites, and the loose wide-legs feel incredibly fresh for right now. It’s the Jade straight leg jeans that I wear on repeat, though.
A simple slip skirt might not be the most exciting purchase, but they are really useful, especially for transition dressing. They look just as good with a strappy top and sandals as they do a cosy knit and boots. Ghost’s satin pieces are famously good, and we love their Luna skirt which comes in eight different colours—the black is evergreen but I love the white for spring/summer.
Trousers are always tricky to find, but we think the best place to start is at Reformation. Wide-leg, linen, cargos, petites, extended sizes—you name it and Ref has it covered. The Mason pants have to be our absolute favourites though.
For those days when you need a discreet layer underneath your outfit, Uniqlo is the go-to. The seamless style cami top is made to go unnoticed but will also keep you warmer on cooler British days. It’s my hidden secret I’m willing to share.
It should come as no surprise that Skims is our number one for bodysuits. We love that you can choose a nude colour shade for wearing underneath your clothes, but they also look great worn to be seen as well. This one will hug you in all the right places to smooth, sculpt and support. It’s a stylish, useful and practical addition to your wardrobe.
Arket is our winner for socks, as it has each style in a rainbow of colours and will stay looking new for longer than other pairs I’ve tried.
There’s so many lovely smaller labels doing pretty lingerie (we love Beija, Dora Larson and Hanky Panky) but if it’s reliable comfort, practicality and long-lasting quality you’re after—no one can beat M&S. Personally, I rely on the flexifit range—even the thongs are incredibly comfortable, and they don’t show under any of my clothes.
Say goodbye to ladders, Falke’s tights are stronger than ever.
A classic tailored blazer is a wardrobe essential, and you can call off your search for the perfect one with Arket. We can’t recommend this jacket enough, partly because of the exquisite tailoring and partly because there are plenty of ways to style this.
The original Burberry trench was designed for soldiers for the first world war and uses the gabardine fabric, which was created by Thomas Burberry in 1879. According to the Burberry website, the fabric is now created at a textile mill near Keighley, England, and there are 127 stages in producing one coat. It is quite simply timeless. We rounded up everything you need to know about choosing your perfect Burberry trench here, but you can never go wrong with the Chelsea style.
Agolde’s denim jackets aren’t cheap, but they are all beautiful quality and have an unbeatable fit. The standard is always high across the entire collection, and Agolde’s timeless denim pieces are so classic they are reissued each season.
Our editors have tried a lot of leather jackets in our time, and season after season, AllSaints always has the perfect biker. I have had my AllSaints biker for 11 years, and it is still in good condition.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.