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Back to Basics.
When a good white tee is hard to find.
Let’s cut to the chase today, no wordy intro since I saddled you with plenty of those earlier this week (thanks for the amazing response on that newsletter, btw).
I want to talk about a topic that’s always been a pain point for me: good basics. And I mean basics. Not “investments” like a great coat or boot. I’m talking about the foundational layers that make or break the way you wear a blazer or a pair of jeans: t-shirts, tank tops, camis, socks, and the like.
Like the drummer in your favorite band, these pieces are easy to overlook, but incredibly important, because they keep the beat in your wardrobe. While the star of your outfit (a pair of shoes, a statement coat) might be taking lead, there’s no real performance without the beat of a good basic to give it harmony.
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Diving right in, I want to start with tank tops because they seem to be the base layer du jour. While it’s tempting to reach for a Hanes tank here, the neckline, material, and torso length are key in ways that prevent you from dipping into the Walmart bin.
Toteme Curved Rib Tank: lightweight but not sheer, has plenty of give without being full of elastic, buttery soft, and has a scoop neckline that’s cut in an interesting way that looks expensive. Paired with relatively bra-friendly straps, this one ranks #1 for overall quality, fit, and style.
Wardrobe.NYC Scoop Neck Tank: I think this is a great piece for the shorter-waisted among us, especially under oversize blazers and coats, because it hits the waistline of trousers and denim in that sweet spot below your belly button and above your lower tummy. It’s got loads of stretch so if you like to show some tummy, you could size down and don this with an oversize button-down, as well.
Re/Done Rib Tank: Really great if you’re not concerned about bra straps (which can be sexy when intentionally styled to show) or have a smaller chest.
Hey there Delilah, the plain white tee is going nowhere.
Everlane Box-Cut Tee: Top marks from me for its shorter length and sturdy cotton makeup. More importantly, the crew neck holds its shape and doesn’t look sloppy and over-stretched after a few washes. My favorites for under a jacket.
Re/Done The Classic Tee: I reach for these when layering over sweaters and sweatshirts. The collar is a teeny bit slouchy and imperfect, and the cotton has a soft vintage wash that makes it feel like you’ve owned it for 15 years right out of the box.
I could do a whole issue on ways to style leggings. Something folks used to poo-poo as anything but workout wear has come into its own as pants in its own right. As a society, we’ve gone from reticent acceptance of leggings to a full-on enthusiastic embrace. Most would tell you they’re the first thing they reach for in the morning, simply because they’re easy to style, widely available, and forgiving.
Wolford Scuba Leggings: These are thick enough to qualify as a pant, in a material that’s just about everything resistant. If you prefer a more basic cotton legging, the same style comes in “Perfect Fit”, as well. I love them both.
Wardrobe.NYC Side Zip Leggings: The slit at the ankle is high-drama which takes this legging into night-out territory. I love it with the coordinating black blazer, but it would look good styled with nearly anything. Best worn with your pointiest toe, baddest-bitch heel. I love them in navy, too.
Uniqlo HeatTech Leggings: the best inexpensive thermal layer you can buy, full-stop. Indispensable for winters in New York, imo.
Toteme Zip Leggings: According to our data, one of the all-time best-selling pieces The Love List has ever covered. Social proof! It’s easy to see why: constructed from thick cotton, they’re truly warm on their own. While they have tons of stretch, the tight weave of the garment holds all your bits in. And the little zipper at the bottom, while not as intentionally statement-making as the Wardrobe.NYC pair, allow for a variety of styling options that offers a lot of styling versatility. These tend to sell through quickly, so if they’re in stock in your size, pounce.
Bras: Fun fact, this brand ghosted me! But I love their bras so much I don’t even care. Cuup just makes a fabulous undergarment, and every time I try something else, I always come back to Cuup — specifically, the Balconette style. The cup isn’t padded which I appreciate (though if padding is your thing, then the Spanx Bra-llelujah bra is it). It’s got enough support without venturing into push-up territory, and it’s actually comfortable. Skims, for example, feel like it’s going to be such a comfortable bra when you try ‘em on, but as the day wears on, I notice myself tugging and adjusting because the bra is eating into my sides. Oh, and did I mention the Cuup bras are gorgeous? It gives me joy just to see them all lined up in my underwear drawer.
Tights: Tights seem like they shouldn’t be such a tough thing, but black tights, especially, can be really difficult to get just right. If they’re too sheer, your leg looks weird and inky. But you don’t want a fully saturated black leg sock either. It’s got to be exactly the right amount of sheer, which is why Wolford’s Neon 40 tights are my go-to, or as the influencer set likes to say, my “holy grail”. They fit beautifully, they’re comfortable enough for all-night wear, and you don’t have to be terribly delicate with them for fear of running.
Bodysuit: You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find a simple black bodysuit without a lot of busy bullshit on it. Or maybe you would believe it. Shopping for one is a universal nightmare. But I found her, I found the one: the Commando Butter Tank. Great as a base layer for just about anything when you’re reaching, stretching, or otherwise — from Pilates to the airport security line.
Unitard: I almost gave this one to the Skims uni, but that one has a weird mesh lining that I don’t think is necessary unless you’re going to wear it like Kendall Jenner — all by itself. (And God bless you, you legend, if you are confident enough for that.) For the rest of us non-supermodels, I like Girlfriend Collective’s for its sheer versatility. It’s single-layer cotton with a little elastic, the neckline is neither too low nor too high, and it pulls on and peels off easily, extremely key when the moment comes to dress out at the gym or use the ladies’ room.
Sweatpants: I have never waivered here. The best sweatpants are by Hanes, they are roughly $14, and they are on Amazon. They’re not bulky, the waistband is nice and soft, and best of all, there are NO POCKETS. Streamlined, simple pants! You love to see it.
Socks: Note to Millenials: no-shows are deeply uncool now. You gotta show some sock! Hanes also gets this one for me. Their tube socks are so great that even mega-stylist Karla Welch uses them for Justin and Hailey Bieber. Buy in bulk!