10 Core Basics You Should have in Your Wardrobe

Getting dressed in the morning can be taxing for even the most style-savvy among us. You want to be cute, and also comfortable, and maybe wear a pop of color, but all-neutral looks so cute too, but maybe sticking to all black is safer, fuck it just wear the same jeans and tee from yesterday. Sound familiar? Well here’s my solution: Have a core collection of fashion basics to choose from that work well with seasonal mix-ins. It still may be hard to choose between neutral and bright, but the process will be WAY simpler if your core is strong (and I don’t mean your abs - this isn’t that kind of blog). Here at ACG we lean towards natural fibers and slow fashion brands, but you can just use these recs as a guide for what to look for at your go-to stores.

FIRST. A little insight into how I’m approaching this list, to help you better tweak it for your own wardrobe. I’m not really going into depth about which colors you should buy to coordinate together. With a couple of exceptions, it’s way more about shape, form, and fabric. We each have our preferred color palette, and mine is clearly reflected below. Use your intuition and your current wardrobe color themes as guides for what you gravitate towards. Maybe you prefer navy to black, jewel tones to brights, or tight spandex to loose cotton. You can still follow this guide and make changes according to your preferences.

ALSO I don’t use paid affiliate links on this blog, so all of my recommendations are genuine. As I said above, Slow Fashion is my jam, and soon I will write a post about why. If the price points in my recs are too steep for you, I recommend checking out second-hand shops like Buffalo Exchange, Thred Up, and Poshmark. Local consignment stores can be real winners too, one of my faves in Minneapolis is Nu Look Consignment.

OKAYYYYY on to the good stuff.

1. A White Button-up Shirt

A nice white button-up is one of the absolute most important basics, IMHO. Whether you like the luxury of silk or the classic crispness of cotton, this wardrobe staple is so incredibly versatile. I like one that’s slightly oversized so it’s long enough to cover my tush and pokes out of sweaters in the winter, and is breezy with just a couple of buttons done in the summer. You can wear these loose over jeans, tucked in with a formal pantsuit, tied at the waist with high-waisted culottes, and countless other ways. Everlane is a great ethical brand with a variety of shapes and styles to choose from, but you can find a good white button-up practically anywhere.

P.S. Don’t let anyone tell you white doesn’t look good on you. So many women tell me they can’t wear it. I’ve never met ANYONE who doesn’t look amazing in a white button-up. It’s my fave garment on both men and women, of any age. ACG really should have one, but f*ck sewing a million button-holes. I’ll leave that to other awesome fashion brands.

2. Jeans. Duh.

This recommendation may seem obvious, but a LOT of women I know - my self included, at times - overlook the importance of well-fitting jeans. Before just going out and buying any old jeans, or just assuming you’ve already checked this one off the list, think about the outfits you feel best in and what style of jeans compliment it. For me personally, slim-cut, high-waisted jeans in a medium or light wash with heavy distressed details are the winners. I like layering them with flowy tops like this, oversized dresses, or with just a basic tee. I like how I can dress down silk pieces and blazers with the destroyed denim look. But you may be different! If you like a tight stretchy top most days, you might like a smooth, stretchy dark denim pair. Or maybe you are part of the mind-boggling gen Z and want the frumpiest dad jeans on the market since 1990 to pair with your throwback ribbed crop top. Whatever floats your boat - just think ahead of time about the style that makes the most sense for your wardrobe.

I’ve linked here to Levi’s, because they are great when it comes to affordable, versatile denim with a good environmental policy. They have done a lot over the years to reduce their environmental impact, and we love that. Plus they have such a great variety of high-quality styles. A+

Everlane also has some great denim styles made with ethical practices.

3. L.B.D. yeah you know me.

Ahhh the Little Black Dress. Again you might say, “Anna, DUH.” But the question really isn’t whether you should have a LBD in your wardrobe. It’s WHICH ONE? There are literally millions to choose from, they don’t always have to be “little,” and it can be overwhelming to approach this wardrobe acquisition with intention. Many of us simply end up with one we picked up somewhere at some point, and it may or may not be the perfect one. So how do you choose? Here are some questions you should ask yourself.

  • What length are you comfortable with? You probably have a few dresses already in your preferred length, take a look in your closet and see what you gravitate towards. You want the LBD to be one of the easiest feel-good items you own, so choose a length you are sure works for you.

  • Tight or loose? You probably had a knee-jerk reaction reading those two words, and already know your answer. If not, go for one of each.

  • What’s your vibe? This may be a harder one for some of you to answer, but it can help narrow down your choices when you’re out shopping. I like a lot of different styles objectively, but when I’m honest with myself about how I like to dress up, a looser, arty-type dress with some asymmetry is def my perfect bet. (I love my Winsome Goods Covil Dress, pictured above, and my ACG Immersion Dress, soon returning to our webshop)

    My sister might choose a stretchy body-con midi, since her style is a bit more tight-and-sexy than mine. My tall, willowy friend might choose a looser, longer, boho dress in a lightweight fabric, while another might choose a feminine wrap dress. Be honest with yourself about what you feel best in, and don’t talk yourself into getting something just because someone else likes it.

4. L.B.P. (Little Black Pant)

As with some of the other suggestions, it’s likely you have a version of this already. But the key to having a successful core of basics is that each piece should be great. You want these basics to make you feel like a million bucks, so that when you layer in seasonal fashion pieces you are starting from a positive place. Your little black pants are no exception.

The most important part of the LBP is the fit- you want it just right. This might mean something a little different to everyone depending on your favorite cuts, but you really want it to be perfect. For this I recommend the antiquated-but-not-outdated services of a tailor. It does not cost an arm and a black-clad leg to get your pants altered to fit, and it’s well worth it for something you’ll be able to own for years to come.

To choose your LBP, think about the rise (low-waist, mid-waist, or high-waist) and the leg cut (skinny, boot, tapered, wide, cropped, etc) that you tend to prefer. For this garment you want to think sophisticated, a bit dressy, and not anything too much like jeans or leggings. I love the ACG Boss pant pictured above, these pleated silk pants by independent label Elizabeth Suzann, and these slim trousers by Everlane.

5. A Classy Blouse

This garment suggestion is fairly open- there is a lot of room for interpretation and for most people I would suggest owning several tops that would fit into this category. Generally what I mean here is a top that has a bit of structure and a classic cut that you can use to dress up your jeans or dress down your skirts, in an easy color that will mix in with everything else. I like choosing a luxe fabric like silk, cupro, tencel, or maybe a heavy-weight jersey, but shy away from stretchy t-shirt like fabrics for this one. You can go with a more vintage look if that’s your thing, modern and minimal like my picks above, or a longer, more tunic-length top. Regardless of which you choose, make sure you feel put-together and a bit luxurious in this top.

6. Blazer

Even those of us who work by ourselves listening to crime podcasts all day should own at least one blazer. A blazer is arguably the best way to turn a sloppy outfit into something intentional. A grubby old t-shirt and jeans all of a sudden look chic under a blazer, while a blouse and trouser combo becomes downright powerful. Choosing a blazer is fairly simple- do you like oversized or trim? With lapels, like the Everlane examples, or without, like our ACG Drape Blazer? A neutral black, grey, or white is perfect here, and choose the fabric weight based on what makes sense where you live. Here in MN a wool blazer is great (we can even wear them in the summer sometimes god help us) but if you live in CA you might want to stick with linen. Any questions? Great, moving on.

7. Pullover Sweater

Can you tell I’m a sucker for cashmere? There are several sustainable sources out there now for new cashmere sweaters, like Everlane, Reformation and Pure Collection. I’ve also had great luck finding nice cashmere sweaters on consignment. But you don’t have to have cashmere - other wools, cotton, or even linen might be preferable, depending on your climate. The important piece here is that you find a basic sweater in a cut you like, that works for layering with the tops you selected.

One thing I’ve learned to pay close attention to for layering purposes is how the sweater fits at the bottom hemline. Lots of classic sweaters are tighter at the hip, which is great for warmth and if you like shorter, tighter-fitting tops underneath. But since I gravitate towards looser, longer blouses, I like to find a sweater that hangs straight at the hip, even sometimes with slits at the side. Also consider the neckline. I find boatneck sweaters to be flattering, but difficult to layer nicely with a variety of tops because of the oblong shape of the neck opening. I find a v-neck, crew-neck, or turtleneck to be more versatile.

Again, follow your intuition as to what styles speak to you. I like an oversized minimal look, but others may prefer a vintage look, a simple slim cut, or a chunkier fisherman style. Just make sure the color fits with the rest of your palette, the weight fits with your climate, and the hemline fits with your blouses.

8. Day Dress

The Day Dress is an easy staple you throw on with sandals, or dress up with heels, or layer with socks, boots and a jacket. It’s definitely versatile, but above all it’s COMFORTABLE. You want this garment to be a joy to take off the hanger, with no doubt you’ll feel amazing. For me, this means an oversized silk number like the ACG Caftan or the Elizabeth Suzann Georgia Midi. For other folks, this may mean a jersey A-line, a reversible wrap dress, or a cotton shirtdress. I generally imagine this wardrobe staple as a mid-length dress, but go with what works for you. The important piece is your comfort.

9. Leather and/or Denim Jacket

You may be wondering why denim jackets and leather jackets are in the same category, when clearly they are so different. First of all, you can absolutely get both. I have both, and they’re both great. My leather jacket is from Blank NYC from like 5 years ago and my denim jacket is from local MPLS maker Mezame Designs. They are listed here together because I didn’t want to make this a list of 11 and also because they essentially serve the same purpose in your wardrobe. Both are shorter jackets made for cool - not freezing - weather, and will bad-ass-ify your outfit the minute you put it on. Personally I like the black denim jacket as an in-between, a way to get the vibe of both worlds.

This piece is great in your wardrobe for a lot of reasons. As I mentioned, it adds immediate attitude. Plus, it keeps you warm. It’s great for layering with lightweight sweaters, great with either pants or dresses, and will (probably) never go out of style.

It can be hard to find sustainably made leather jackets, especially for less than $500, so I recommend looking at consignment shops for your motos. It’s a fairly ubiquitous fashion item that has been around for a while, so if you keep your eye out chances are good you can find something great. Ditto denim jackets - vintage stores are full of them and you can really show your personality with which one you choose.

10. Modern Jumpsuit

Over the last 10 years the jumpsuit has made its way back from the 1980s and into the everyday modern wardrobe. There are so many styles now from practically every clothing company, you should be able to find one you like. I’m including a jumpsuit on this list because it’s the ultimate one-and-done outfit. Even more than a dress, because it is easier to work in for cooler weather. The biggest drawback is that it’s hard to pee in a jumpsuit, but it’s made up for by the convenience of your whole outfit being in one piece.

There are plenty of glammed-up, slim and sexy jumpsuits out there, if that’s your thing. But I prefer a more modern look with wide legs and fashion details like a waist tie, flutter sleeve or back cut-out. I’d stick to neutral colors that are easy to work in, or perhaps a solid bright like Everlane’s Tomato Red pictured above - just make sure it coordinates well with your jackets so you can wear them together. If you’re still new to jumpsuits try a drapey jersey one in black, like this one from Minneapolis brand Tessa Louise.

Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts, favorites, and suggestions, comment below! XOXO, Anna, owner/designer at ACG

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