I'm Convinced These Basics Are Worth Every Penny

Once people find out that I write about clothes for a living, it's not uncommon for me to be immediately inundated with a bunch of wardrobe questions. At the top of the list is the concern of staple pieces that are actually worth the money. It's here where my shopping habits aren't unlike most people's. I enjoy a good sale, and I typically wait until things are discounted to scoop them up. However, there are definitely instances where I click buy regardless of whether I'm saving a few bucks. And it's usually because those pieces are so good, and I end up wearing them so often that the cost per wear justifies the price tag. On the other hand, items that fit into that category are few and far between—I've vetted them thoroughly, so it's not as if I'm throwing out my money for something that's doomed to reside in the back of my closet forever.

Below, I'm outlining the six key basics that, no matter the year or the situation, are worth every penny. I've also included splurge-worthy and more affordable options for each, so you can decide whether you're ready to go headfirst or test out the waters. Keep scrolling to see and shop them all.

Oversize Poplin Shirt


(Image credit: @jiyoungdorner)

It's hard to imagine what life was like before Valentino reintroduced the extremely oversize poplin shirt to the world, but I suspect it was much less chic. While not new, the popularity of the big button-down has seemingly reached a fever pitch to the point where I consider it a timeless staple. I first experimented with the style via Zara's version and realized that I picked it up for everything—from casual outfits to office looks and dressy occasions—so it made sense to upgrade to a version that's more substantial. Undoubtedly, these shirts have so many sartorial applications, and I suggest snapping one (or two) up, stat.

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 Black, Structured Designer Bag


(Image credit: @leiasfez)

No, I'm not telling you to go ahead and buy Hermès, but a similarly structured black bag is well worth it. Years ago, I would flock to trendier handbag styles, but after their moment of buzz, I found that I'd hardly pull them out again. After realizing that my collection of classic bags was slim, I invested in a black Prada bag that, while costly, has been my go-to for everything. I recommend structured shapes, as they will always look more polished and generally weather the fickle trend cycle better than their counterparts. A classic black bag is also less risky on the resell market. 

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Loose Tailored Pants


(Image credit: @veneti.a)

As someone who abhors tight pants, I've been on the loose-trouser wave for a minute. An icon of '90s minimalism, tailored pants are honestly a year-round staple that works with everything from denim jackets and classic tanks to fancy going-out tops and sweaters. You'll be wearing them so much, and even if you invest in a more expensive pair, it will make sense in the long run. 

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Straight-Leg Jeans 


(Image credit: @anoukyve)

Denim trends come and go like the wind, but I'm convinced straight-leg jeans are the most timeless of the bunch. And while a big budget isn't necessary for good jeans, I think it's important to think less about the price tag when it comes to finding the right pair that works for you. Few things look chicer than a pair of jeans that fit and hug all the right places, and sometimes, you have to put the price on the back burner to achieve that.

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Ribbed White Tank Top


(Image credit: @sylviemus_)

As the basics of all basics, white tanks hardly go on sale. This means I bought the ones I do have at full price. Fancy tops with elaborate cutouts and embellishments will always have a place in my heart, but they still don't rival the understated cool factor and elegance of a white ribbed tank. Since I like to wear them with pleated trousers for a minimal office look, I go for tanks with sturdier fabrics so I don't have to worry about bra lines and sheerness.

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Oversize Boxy Blazer


(Image credit: @fakerstrom)

Five years ago, I paid what I thought was an obscene amount of money for a Sandro blazer. Now in 2022, I'd say it was one of my best purchases yet. The oversize and boxy silhouette has not gone out of style, and slipping it on makes everything look infinitely cooler. I've been eyeing more designer blazers, and I'm certain I'll wear them for years to come.

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Next up: My Friends Always Ask Me What to Wear to Weddings—I Tell Them This

Fashion Market Editor

Indya Brown is a fashion editor, stylist, and writer living in Los Angeles. While going to school at Columbia University in New York City, she got her feet wet in the fashion industry interning at Elle magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and New York magazine's The Cut. After graduating in 2016, she joined The Cut as a fashion assistant, eventually working her way up to fashion editor. There, she worked on a multitude of projects, including styling inbook feature stories for New York magazine's print issue, writing and pitching market stories for The Cut, and serving as fashion lead for The Cut's branded content. While New York has been her home for over 10 years, she moved to Los Angeles in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 for a new chapter. Now she is a fashion market editor for Who What Wear, focusing on emerging designers, rising trends on and off the internet, interior design, and BIPOC creatives and brands. Aside from her duties as a fashion market editor, Brown is also a freelance stylist and writer, working on national print and video commercial campaigns for Sephora, The Independent, and Cadillac. Her bylines also include Harper's Bazaar, Vox, and The New York Times. But once the computer goes down and the emails turn off, she's likely eating her way through Koreatown, hunting down vintage furniture, scoping out new outrageous nail designs to try, or taking a hot cycling class.