Ever since I did a little Q&A for Shopaholic (read it here), in which one of the questions was which five items I think belong in every woman's wardrobe, I've been giving a lot of thought to basics. Basics can be a dirty word in fashion, implying pieces of clothing that are necessary but not really very exciting. But I prefer to think of them as timeless, classic pieces that go with everything and stand the test of time over the changing fashion seasons. After all, those items that you wear more than any others should surely be those you love more than any others. And these days I find myself more and more inclined towards simple, higher-quality pieces that will last rather than throwaway trend-led clothes. All you need to do is invest a little time and money into finding great basics that will form the building blocks of your essential wardrobe. So with that in mind I've decided to write a series of posts, approximately once a week, dedicated to those can't-live-without items I think every woman should have. First up: t-shirts.
If there's one thing every woman should own, it's surely a simple, classic t-shirt. As someone who has a lot of statement jackets, I find myself reaching for an understated jersey tee nearly every day. Besides, there can be no easier route to simple chic than a pair of well-fitting jeans and a classic white tee. You can, of course, choose any colour you like, but everyone should own at least one in white, grey marl, navy and black, because they will go with everything. Try to avoid fussy details, because the basic t-shirt is all about simplicity. Stay away from prints, slogans, buttons, zips and unusual sleeves, because they will date the piece and reduce its versatility. (The only exception to this rule is the Breton stripe, because it works with everything). A small pocket or an unusual hem or cutout, however, will add interest and prevent all your basic tees from looking exactly the same.
The main issue that I have with jersey tees is the quality. I absolutely love my white Topshop v-neck but unfortunately after a couple of washes it stretched beyond all recognition (I still wear it, but it usually needs a top underneath now, which sort of defeats the object). I had heard good things about Gap's t-shirts but I had the same misshapen problem there. The other day I invested in a superbly soft, sheer Whistles tee which so far I'm extremely pleased with, but I've yet to see how it stands the test of time. Anyway, I wouldn't recommend spending ridiculous amounts on basic t-shirts, but at the same time don't assume that because they are basic, they should be cheaper than trend-led items. After all, most of the time you'll get what you pay for in terms of quality. When buying my Whistles tee I was umming and ahhing about spending £32 on it, when I realised that I would have dropped that without thinking on a Topshop shirt, so why on earth wouldn't I pay the same for something I'm guaranteed to wear more often? Try to think of the cost-per-wear, and don't pick up three for a tenner in Primark: they really are unlikely to last. Also, as I also thought when considering the Whistles tee, if I hadn't have bought that, I'd probably have spent half as much on something I'd have loved half as much.
Fit is the other thing that's crucial when buying basic t-shirts. Obviously it's a personal preference when it comes to how you like it to look on you, but personally I like mine a little loose and a little sheer. You certainly want to steer away from skintight, stretchy tees: they aren't flattering on anyone who isn't a model. Plus a little bit of give makes it more comfortable and more wearable, which is surely the name of the game with a basic. As for whether you prefer a v-neck, a round neck, sleeves or no sleeves, that is of course up to you.
So below I've selected a few of my favourite basic t-shirts from the high street (yes the Topshop Boutique one is probably better classed as a vest, but they're just tees without sleeves, anyway). Some of them are very classic, some with a subtle point of difference. I can't vouch for the quality of many of them, except to say that the Whistles tees are super-soft, and the Topshop Boutique vests are incredibly flattering and versatile but very delicate, so be extremely careful when you wash them. But in staying away from the New Look/H&M end of the market I've hopefully selected pieces that will last more than a couple of washes. And if you have a particular favourite t-shirt or brand that I've missed out, I'd love to know about it, so do leave me a little comment.
Don't forget to check back next week for another post on basics.
1. Whistles Freida tee, £40
3. Zara striped v-neck t-shirt, £17.99
6. Chinti & Parker standard t-shirt, £30 at ASOS
7. Zara v-neck t-shirt, £17.99
8. ASOS cold shoulder t-shirt, £18
9. Whistles seam back tee, £35