Shop Like an Editor: My 15 Holy-Grail Wardrobe Basics

Shop Like an Editor is a Who What Wear column where our managing editor, Kristen Nicholsshares her latest fashion finds.

No matter how I'm getting dressed, great basics are at the core of my wardrobe. Pieces like gold hoops, white T-shirts, and sneakers are really the building blocks for what I wear day to day—whether I'm working from home or planning outfits for anything else.

I've spent a good deal of time finding versatile wardrobe basics because they truly make getting dressed foolproof and have allowed me to build a closet of pieces I can wear over and over again. Yep, putting on an outfit each morning is remarkably easier when you really love the pieces in your closet and know you can pair them with just about anything—whether it's something comfortable or a more trend-forward look I'm testing out.

Plus, it's always compelling to me that the cost per wear for the basics I've collected is extremely low. Since I bought a pair of black high-waisted leggings earlier this year, I would estimate that I've worn them at least 20 times. At $59, that brings them to just $3 per wear. Then, take a more expensive item like the chain-link necklace I ordered at the end of last year. It's become part of my uniform and I've worn it practically every day (about 150 times) since it arrived, which brings it to less than $6 per wear. The same could be said about any of the other basics I've acquired over the years, which makes me even more convinced they're all great purchases.

Ahead, I'm breaking down my 15 holy-grail wardrobe basics—from affordable items to investment pieces to smart buys.



(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

Admittedly, leggings haven't really been a wardrobe staple I've worn outside the gym, but while working from home, I've been living in them after I embraced them as pants and challenged myself to put together some polished looks with them.

I ordered this pair from Zelle after seeing they had over 6500 reviews on Nordstrom. The high-waisted leggings and equal parts comfortable and chic, so I can see why they have such glowing opinions about them.

Shop the leggings:

Gold Hoops


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I discovered L.A.-based jewelry brand Young Frankk earlier this year and instantly fell in love with its beautiful pieces that have classic shapes and cool, sculptural lines. These double hoops have become one of my most-worn jewelry staples.

Shop the earrings:

Muscle Tee


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Regular crew-neck T-shirts have been a staple in my closet for as long as I can remember, but right now, I've been swapping them out for the muscle tees that are everywhere at the moment. They feel fashion-forward and cool but aren't a huge investment, so it's a fun way to play with trends without spending much. This one from Mango keeps landing on the sellout ist.

Shop the T-shirt:

Throwback Sneakers


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There is no doubting the throwback-sneaker trend and the rise of New Balance shoes on Instagram. A personal favorite trend of the moment, I was excited to add a pair into my closet and truly can't say enough good things about them. Not only do I love the retro look of this 990v5 pair, but I can also confidently say they're the most comfortable sneakers I've even worn.

Shop the sneakers:

Matching Sweatsuit


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Even before working from home, sweatpant outfits were bubbling up as a cool trend at the beginning of this year. But now, there's no better time to wear them. Entireworld is a brand I love for its cool matching sets and one of my most-worn outfits at home right now. I have the gray set but have my eye on some of its other cool colorways to add to my WFH wardrobe.

Shop the sweatsuit:


(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

Not only is chain-link jewelry a cool trend of the moment, but it's also one that has true staying power. This bracelet and necklace from Monica Vinader have become everyday staples that go with practically anything in my closet and lend a bit of fun to my outfits at home, even if I'm wearing sweatpants.

Shop the jewelry:

Voluminous Collared Shirt


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I love the idea of updating staples with trend-forward takes on them, like this collared shirt from Totême. With voluminous sleeves and crisp cotton that lends it a sculptural shape, this top is a cool take on a wardrobe classic.

Shop the top:

Printed Dress


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Australian brand Réalisation is one of my absolute favorites for pretty dresses. While usually tend to stick to solids, the brand is seriously masters of cool prints that I want to wear over and over again.

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Wide-Leg Jeans


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While skinny jeans used to be my favorite denim silhouette (I still wear them with knee-high boots), wide-leg jeans are what I've been gravitating toward in the last few years. They have a trouser-like look that pairs perfectly with blazers, plus they're practically as comfortable as wearing pajamas. The Annina cut from Citizens of Humanity is my holy-grail pair that I own in multiple colors, including this black pair as well as a light-wash blue shade.

Shop the jeans:

High-Waisted Jeans


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Of all of the jeans I own, this high-waisted pair from Agolde get the most compliments. Fitted on top with a slight flare, they truly fit perfectly and have become a style I recommend to everyone.

Shop the jeans:

Black Blazer


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Blazers are a piece I always rely on to tie together my outfits. Even when wearing something very simple like a T-shirt and jeans, throwing on a great blazer makes them read as instantly polished. More recently, it's become a key piece I'll throw on whenever I have a conference call. What I really love about this blazer from Anine Bing is that it has a slightly oversize fit but still looks tailored.

Shop the blazer:

Structured Bag


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Handbags are one piece I tend to spend more money on. One of my first big purchases was a Prada bag I bought after saving up from my first job and I still wear it to this day, so I'm convinced a classic bag has real staying power. This structured bag from Tory Burch has become my favorite everyday bag since I started wearing it years ago. It's one of the pieces I get the most compliments on.

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Faux-Croc Boots


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In my opinion, a great pair of ankle boots is essential. My favorite pair are these from Miista—a brand that always has cool takes on the latest shoe trends. This pair has a luxe faux-croc finish and sleek heel shape that pairs perfectly with jeans and trousers.

Right now, these are 30% off on Moda Operandi with code BEST30.

Shop the boots:



(Image credit: @kristenmarienichols)

If I want to instantly feel pulled-together, I'll throw on a turtleneck top. Whether simply paired with jeans or worn with a blazer on top, it's the easy piece that is as comfortable as a T-shirt but feels a bit more polished. This one from Splendid has been a staple in my closet for years and years. Right now, it's on sale for $45, so I'm buying a brand new one since mine is very worn-in.

Shop the top:

Tailored Jacket


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I consider this one of the most special pieces in my wardrobe. From rising London-based brand A.W.A.K.E Mode, it takes a classic piece like a blazer but makes it instantly feel cool and modern with details like an asymmetrical hemline and sharp tailoring. I'm wearing it here with the matching legging-like pants, which are another favorite piece in my closet.

Shop the jacket:

Next, discover 11 emerging brands I'm backing 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.