The Cult Affordable Basic Every Fashion Person Owns

If there’s one piece that has defined fashion in 2020, it’s the padded shoulder tee. Yep, the wardrobe basic officially rose to cult status this year and it’s easy to see why. By adding statement-making shoulder pads to a standard tee, the ‘80s detail instantly updates a regular basic, making it the perfect Zoom-ready piece to slip into. While it started out as a trend we first saw with sleeveless muscle tops, shoulder pad details have since made their way to sleeved T-shirts as well as dresses.

Fashion people are definitely on board and have been debuting plenty of must-repeat looks wearing the upgraded basic. From outfits with sweatpants and sneakers to tailored trousers and boots, there’s lots of inspiration for how to style the cool staple ahead. And yes, you can count me as a big personal fan of the trend. I always have my eye on the best new fashion finds and this one has stuck with me all year. Trust me, you’ll want to get shopping.


(Image credit: @fakerstrom; Pictured: Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75); Chanel shoe; Celine bag)

Does it get any more simple or chic?


(Image credit: @camillecharriere; Pictured: Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75))

For fans of bold color.


(Image credit: @greceghanem; Pictured: Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75); Bottega Veneta heels)

Paired with Bermuda shorts and heels, you just have the perfect outfit.


(Image credit: @littleblackboots; Pictured: Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75); Cafune bag)

Just add slouchy trousers.


(Image credit: @honeybelleworld; Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75); New Balance sneakers)

Looking for a fresh way to wear your sweatpants and sneakers? This is it.


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols; Pictured: Frankie Shop Eva T-Shirt ($75); Tove Lourdes Pants ($310); Manu Atelier boots; Krewe sunglasses; Bagatiba necklace)

Remember how I said I was a big fan of the trend? Here's the proof.


(Image credit: @thevisuelofgrace; Pictured: Frankie Shop T-shirt; Carolina Santo Domingo bag)

Now I want this sleeved tee version.


(Image credit: @the_attico; Attico Padded Shoulder T-Shirt ($325), blazer, skirt, and heels)

Yep, the perfect piece to wear with a miniskirt.


(Image credit: @fionazanetti; Pictured: Bottega Veneta bag)

Ugh, this is just so good.


(Image credit: @naomigeorgeo; Pictured: Frankie Shop Sean Dress ($140))

And yes, this comes in a stunning dress as well.


(Image credit: @pernilleteisbaek; Pictured: Frankie Shop Sean Dress ($140))

To pair with fall boots and top off with a trench coat.


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols; Frankie Shop Tina Dress ($125))

More proof that I'm a huge fan of the trend.

Next, shop 25 cool fashion finds I'm obsessing over right now.

Associate Director, Special Projects

Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She oversees luxury content and wedding features, and covers fashion within the luxury market, runway reporting, shopping features, trends, and interviews with leading industry experts. She also contributes to podcast recordings, social media, and branded content initiatives. Kristen has worked with brands including Prada, Chanel, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her style has been featured in publications including, Vogue France, WWD, and the CFDA. Before Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in New York.