As a fashion editor, I get asked a lot about which wardrobe staples are universally worth buying. It can be a complex question given the idiosyncrasies of personal style, but there are a few prime pieces I do believe should have a space in everyone's collection regardless of sartorial tendencies. While closet staples should be timeless to a certain degree, practicality should also be an integral part of the equation—what good is a piece if you don't wear it enough? That's the point in thinking about things like cost per wear. The aim is to get the most use out of it as possible.
Most people know about the timeless basics that make up practically every well-curated closet, like the classic button-down and trench (don't worry; those are on this list), but 2020 also brought about a crop of unexpected style MVPs we couldn't imagine getting dressed without. Below, I'm imparting some of my editor wisdom to share the style heroes that get you the most bang for your buck. No matter the season or occasion, these are the items that will never let you down.
It's easy to forget the magic of a blazer during the seemingly abrupt transition from puffer coats to barely-there tops, but I promise this piece is truly worth it. Blazers take up a good portion of my closet because they're so effortless and functional. At this point, I have one for every mood: black for a classic look, pinstripe for my menswear-inspired outfits, and plaid for casual moments.
2. Trench Coat
This basic has been showing up a ton on my feed lately, which could be a testament to its everlasting utility. I find that I get so much use out of trench coats all year round just by layering rigorously come fall and early winter and then easing up on the layers once spring hits. Although it's a sophisticated topper, it can also be a sporty-chic piece when styled with all of your athleisure, like a trendy sweatsuit.
3. Cropped Jeans
So many cuts and rises, so little time. At Who What Wear, we constantly report on the several denim trends popping up, but cropped jeans will never leave my side. There are a few reasons why this style beats out all of the others. The shorter length leaves enough room to properly showcase a cool pair of shoes, like sandals in the summer (and an anklet if you're so inclined!) or booties in the winter. You also don't have to worry about that awkward tucked-in look you get from super-long hems. If you're on the petite side, cropped jeans are also your friend.
4. Not-So-Basic T-Shirt
Once a trend, tops with quirky necklines have become some of the most valuable basics in my wardrobe. I style them as I would any plain T-shirt, so it doesn't take much brainpower to figure out what to wear with them. I find that they add an extra oomph that a plain tee simply doesn't have.
5. Wide-Leg Pants
As someone with "rounder" assets, I thoroughly stan wide-leg pants for their flattering effects, but I think they're a staple all body types should own, too. When office life was a thing, wide-leg pants were the trousers that I reached for most often, but even while I'm working from home, I still find myself wearing them frequently, as they're so effortlessly sophisticated. Even though my everyday look is way less formal right now, I wear my wide-leg pants more casually with a cropped tank and white sneakers.
6. Tank Blouse
With the rising popularity of the padded-shoulder tank, I feel like my eyes have been opened to how versatile this piece truly is. Fashion girls around the globe have been wearing these shirts with everything from leather pants to skirts and high-waisted trousers, so needless to say, it's a top that can be worn with a multitude of 'fits. Who What Wear's version opts out of the shoulder-pad detail, which I think will increase its shelf life once the '80s inspired trend fizzles out.
7. Long-Sleeve Button-Down
The usefulness of a classic button-down doesn't really need much explaining, but if you don't already own one, I'm here to tell you that it should be next on your shopping list.
Our dear friend from pandemic times past, the humble sweatsuit has become a bona fide wardrobe staple for me this past year. Pre-lockdown, I was never really into them, but fast-forward to today, it has easily become my most-worn outfit. (Even as I type this, I'm wearing a pair of sweatpants.) If you're looking to dress it up a bit, it can be amped up with a few sartorial tweaks like adding a leather blazer or casual strappy mules.
This is somewhat of a broad category, but there are a few key things to look for when shopping for a dress you plan on wearing a ton: go for classic neutral shades (they'll be much easier to incorporate into your existing wardrobe), stick with a midi to maxi length for increased versatility, and look for modern, not-too-trendy necklines and details that feel fresh.