When it comes to the very favorite pieces in your wardrobe, they may be different from the ones you turn to time and again. Think of a vibrantly hued silk party dress versus a black cashmere pullover, a pair of strappy jeweled sandals, and your go-to, polished leather loafers. While the former might catch the eye, primed for special occasions, the latter is your wardrobe workhorse—in other words, your closet’s core essentials.
So, what constitutes an “essential”? It may differ for everyone, but generally speaking, it’s a well-constructed piece, isn’t incredibly trendy, and may come in a solid neutral or classic pattern like polka dot, camo, or stripes. It can encompass everything from women’s shorts and straight-leg denim to white button-ups and v-neck cardigans.
Because these pieces are timeless and streamlined, they’re also no-brainers when you’re getting ready in the morning, whether heading to work or meeting up with friends. Undoubtedly one of the best things about having a closet of core essentials is never needing to ask, “what do I wear today?” So here are some of our top picks if you’re looking to add some can’t-miss items to your current rotation.
Hiker & camo pants
This utilitarian staple has recently experienced an uptick in popularity, but the love is real—and enduring. Camo pants, especially hiker styles, are both of the moment and classic. From Army gear to counterculture stalwart to celeb fave, camo pants are undoubtedly one of those core essentials. While potentially dressing up this style and even comes in bold, poppy colors or dressier materials like silk, we love it in a neutral green, ideally in a classic, sturdy cotton twill. Hiker and camo pants look great paired with everything from roomy blazers to fitted tees and chunky loafers to create everyday wear style.
Ribbed & plain tanks
The quintessential layer, the humble tank is second only to the t-shirt in terms of versatility. Whether you opt for plain or ribbed iterations, this is one of those closet staples that take you from work straight to the weekend. Look for a fitted style in a neutral, like black or white, that hits at the hip or a bit below if you prefer to tuck it in. Most tanks come in halter or scoop neck cuts and team with everything from blouses and cardigans to jeans, mini skirts, and cargo pants. Invest in a few different styles of the tank depending upon the outfit and occasion: shorter for warmer weather and lower-waisted bottoms; and medium-length for higher waists and layering with sweaters.
Mock neck tops
Another of-the-moment core essential that’s been gaining traction recently? The mock neck. Part turtleneck, part t-shirt, this is a great transitional staple for fall and spring. (It’s also ideal for dressier settings and chilly temps when covering up; just a touch is necessary.) Most mock necks typically feature long sleeves, but sleeveless varieties are equally coveted and make ideal alternatives to shells and primary tanks. If you’re teaming your mock neck with a pared-back cardigan or blazer, we suggest adding some visual interest with a bright color or a hint of texture. Otherwise, keep it streamlined and make a solid mock neck your go-to.
Practical, flattering, versatile—and stretchy. Yep, leggings tick all the boxes and then some. Available in seemingly every color and pattern imaginable, this essential layer can also be found in low, medium, and high rises, with pockets, and made to mimic denim.
Take leggings beyond the gym (or the couch). Some of our favorite styles function like super slim-cut pants. We love an essential black pairing with anything from oversized sweaters to blazers and puffers. If you opt for a legging like this, add a pair of sneakers for casual looks or loafers for more elevated styling.
The workhorses of your wardrobe wear t-shirts on a near-daily basis. Ideally, you have a roster of favorites in regular rotation in colors like black and white, plus other neutrals like navy and gray. Plain crewnecks and v-necks are only two of the most popular cuts, but more recently, tees with details like ties, cutouts, and ruching have become increasingly sought after. So, when you rock one of the above styles, showcase the difference, swapping these for the plainer tees worn as strict layering pieces.