29 Basics That Women in NYC, Paris, and London Can't Live Without

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(Image credit: @sylviemus_@iliridakrasniqi)

No one can deny that every city has its distinct energy. History, art, food, music, and various cultural identities intertwine to lay the groundwork for each one's unique personality. While no two cities are the same, the stylish people living there are no different. No matter the zip code, you can always spot the local fashion set donning a few similar things. The crossover you see reflected in street style can partly be attributed to the ever-expanding global fashion industry and a boom in social media. But what resonates globally isn't just trends. More often than not, basic clothing is what you'll see crossing borders more.

The universal appeal of staples is proof great style isn't limited by geographical location. Instead, an arsenal of great basics determines it. And the girls that get that foundational truth can be found wearing their staples in the streets of Paris, London, New York, and beyond. But what exact pieces are making the cut? In search of the answer, I did hours of image research to identify 29 basic clothing items that women worldwide wear on repeat. Considering each item's timelessness, functionality, seasonality, and popularity, these are undoubtedly the best foundational basics. So, without further ado, let's get into it.

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(Image credit: @emnitta)

One staple that's a necessary building block of any wardrobe? A tank top. Don't be fooled by how informal this piece seems, as it will be the workhorse of your wardrobe—it can be styled as both an undergarment or a top year-round. What's more, this staple comes in so many different styles (e.g., scoop neck, racerback, spaghetti strap, etc.) that it makes it one of the most versatile items you can invest in. 

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(Image credit: @sylviemus_)

The pencil skirt has long been considered a consequential part of women's work wardrobes. But the version of this staple we've seen the fashion set donning isn't the skin-tight jersey versions of the past. Rather, recent runway collections gave this skirt a modern touch by emphasizing tailoring—e.g., adding traditional waistbands or opting for a maxi hemline. The subtle twists we've seen prove that with a little alteration, even the most boring of staples can be exciting again. 

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Capsule wardrobes aren't limited to clothing only; all well-curated closets start from the ground up. Investing in elegant footwear you can wear repeatedly is a must, but if you're unsure where to start, turn to a pair of simple strappy sandals. Not only does this style lend itself to outlasting many trend cycles. But its innate versatility allows it to be styled with just about anything for almost the majority of the year (weather-depending, of course). 

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(Image credit: @stellasimona)

In the past few years, we've seen a deluge of handbag trends that veer into impractical territory—e.g., mini bags or oversize carryalls. And while I'm never opposed to a fun purse, the fact is that every wardrobe requires at least one functional option that can be used as a work bag. Enter the structured handbag. Considered a more elevated take on the commuter tote, these handbags are typically made from more luxurious materials (i.e., leather versus canvas). And they are usually big enough to fit a work laptop without being capriciously large. 

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(Image credit: @lefevrediary)

You can't round up fundamental wardrobe items without making mention of the button-down shirt. Heralded as a universal basic for both men and women, the poplin button-down shirt is a piece that's wearability is its selling point. You can wear it for just about any circumstance in your life with just about anything—e.g., it can be worn with trousers for work or jeans and sneakers during the weekend, or with linen shorts and a swimsuit on vacation. Basically, there's no better piece you can buy for your closet than this. 

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(Image credit: @dinahansen)

While it may seem obvious, it's worth re-iterating that T-shirts are an everyday staple worth investing in. But don't be fooled; the version of this shirt we've seen donned by stylish people isn't the baggy version with logos or typography. Instead, it's all about opting for minimalist T-shirts with a focus on fit, tailoring, or luxe fabrics. 

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It's no secret that suiting has been trending for a few seasons now, but make no mistake, it's a perennial favorite. Sure, we've seen various suiting separates surge in popularity, but none have stayed in the fold as long as tailored trousers. Partly that longevity has to do with its utility as they can be paired with matching suit separates, trendier tops, or other staples. But it's also because it's a piece that can make any outfit feel more put together. The key to reaping the full benefits of this basic is to opt for a pair of trousers with tailoring that falls on the more formal side (i.e., pants with dart pleats or wide-leg hemline). 

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Whether or not you identify as athletic, there's no denying that sneakers are an essential part of building a functional wardrobe. The secret to making this footwear feel more fashion-forward lies in forgoing the athletic sneakers and instead investing in a more trendy pair. They can come in any form you choose, but we recommend going for a more retro-inspired silhouette in a neutral hue, as it's the most worn style by the style set in New York, London, and beyond.

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(Image credit: @cassdimicco)

Again, basics aren't just limited to clothing; it includes jewelry too! As counterintuitive as the idea may sound, having a collection of jewelry staples you can turn to add a little shine to your everyday ensembles is a must-have. But if you're unsure where to start, begin by investing in earrings (or clip-ons if you don't have piercings). Whether you opt for chunky hoops, trendy oblongs, or simple studs, you'll want to make sure it's a pair of earrings you love enough to wear daily. 

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(Image credit: @iliridakrasniqi)

There's a common misconception that you must spend a lot of money on your clothing to give off an air of elegance. But that's far from reality. One only needs to invest in solid basics, such as a pretty blouse. Unlike the aforementioned other types of tops, this staple airs on the more formal side and doesn't necessarily fall into the categorization of a traditional staple. However, a blouse with more feminine design details (e.g., draping) can make a great addition to your wardrobe because it can elevate other everyday essentials like trousers, skirts, or jeans. 

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(Image credit: @chiarasatelier)

What's another type of skirt that's a beloved staple with the fashion set? The slip skirt. Originally worn as an underpinning, this style wasn't worn solely as a skirt until it soared in popularity in the '90s. Since then, we've seen various iterations of this silhouette not only trend among the fashion set but become a year-round staple. 

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(Image credit: @daniellejinadu)

For those who work in an office environment or consider their personal style to air on the side of formality, having a pair of polished shoes is non-negotiable. Luckily, slingbacks exist. Defined as a heel with a strap that wraps around the back of the foot, this style has been around for a long time. That longevity is due to all the variations of this footwear you can find—from pointed kitten heels to sculptural edges; there's no shortage of ways you can wear this style.

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(Image credit: @taniceelizabeth)

It would be a travesty to create a list of the best basics and not include tailored blazers. As much as this staple may seem overplayed, the fact of the matter is that it is one of the most foundational items you can add to your closet. Its continued popularity can be attributed to its utility. It can be worn for various settings, styled in multiple ways, and works for every body type. It's the unsung hero of wardrobes around the world.

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(Image credit: @tylynnnguyen)

In addition to blazers and trousers, another unexpected suiting separate that cemented itself as a staple is a waistcoat. Previously categorized as a basic for men, this piece has caught on over the past few seasons as a staple that anyone can wear, no matter how they identify on the gender spectrum. We've seen the fashion set style this piece in various ways—from donning a matching three-piece suit to pairing the vest with contrasting bottoms like maxi skirts, jeans, and shorts. It's proof that the best staples aren't bound to one gender or one way of being worn, for that matter. 

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There are some basics you don't realize you're missing until the moment you need them—belts are one of those items. Typically an afterthought, this accessory is overlooked and underestimated, but it shouldn't be. Not only do belts make that baggy pair of pants or dress fit your body better without having to take your clothing to a tailor. But as recent runway collections have shown us, belts can add visual intrigue and a touch of luxury. A simple belt may not seem essential, but it proves otherwise when you're caught trying to pull together an outfit quickly without one. 

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(Image credit: @nlmarilyn)

In the warmer months, you must have a few basics on hand that you can rely upon to stay cool without bearing it all. Sound like an oxymoron? Please reacquaint yourself with pleated shorts. This more formal take on this bottom is the ideal addition to any wardrobe because they can be dressed up for an office setting or styled down for a vacation. Just be sure to opt for a pair that either passed the knee-length test (aka Bermuda length) or longer to ensure they're modest.

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(Image credit: @chanelmckinsie)

During the transitional time from season to season, the hardest thing about deciding what to wear isn't related to clothing but rather footwear. After all, what do you wear when it's too warm for boots? But too cold for strappy sandals? Enter preppy loafers into the chat. One of the benefits of opting for loafers (besides how posh they make every outfit look) is that they're one of the few types of shoes that could be considered seasonless. For example, you can wear loafers with a summer dress or a sweater and skirt in the fall. They're the footwear that will solve all your shoe-related problems, should you choose to invest in them. 

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