Basic Versus Essential

We often over use of the term basic versus essential – since they are quite literally alike, but do we really understand the difference between the two? Thanks to years of note-taking from countless women’s magazines, I understand the notion of that “every woman needs in her wardrobe”. And I will be honest, it took me years to get it right through trial and error. But this is also what differentiates a true fashionista versus getting it for the sake of, well, getting it.

We are all guilt of it, buying something without trying it on, or just because you saw it somewhere (person, model, magazine, mannequin, etc.,) but when you tried it on, it just didn’t look ‘right’ and this affects you psychologically which will make you self-conscious. So I am going to share something with you, that is no big secret, but often overlooked because it is the obvious – is it really though? While I know it’s somewhat unrealistic to do that kind of deep-dive for every single ‘basic’ piece you own, trust me, after your assessment you will be surprised by your findings. And if you are not, well, I guess you are just that good! Think about all the clothing that you own; what you wear everyday, and what you wear occasionally, and what may be forever lost somewhere deep under the mounds of forgotten. Now ask yourself, what does a ‘basic’ piece mean to you? I used to be a firm believer in not spending money on clothes, because trends come and go. However what I do believe in, is investing in 5 key pieces which are the basics but that is suited specifically for you, which makes it your essential.

Think about it, a basic is something we can find in any clothing store, think about all the different styles of jeans when you head to the denim section. What makes the basic become an essential is from the fabric, cut and most importantly the fit. (I underline ‘fit‘ because I cannot stress this enough). Not every white shirt looks right on everyone – because that would make it too easy! So it is about finding the right fabric, cut and fit that suits you. For example, just because it is 100% cotton, doesn’t necessarily mean you have found your perfect shirt. If you are the type that cannot stand the heat and prone to perspiring more, than a looser fit in 100% pima cotton or viscose may be a better option. And that is just one example, but it takes time to figure out what does and does not work for you.

Here are my top 5 basic items you should have in your closet. Now shop around to see out of those basics what would make it your essential.

1. First up, The White T-Shirt:
A no-brainer, right? The most basic piece that makes a foundation to any wardrobe, because it is probably the most versatile item in your closet. With the right one, you can easily go from casual to dressy by pairing it with trousers or a sharp looking skirt. Now you may be wondering who’s crazy enough to spend $100 on a simple basic T-Shirt, but the answer to that is, if the 3 rules of fabric, cut and fit (the FCF) is right, and you can wear it over and over, it is worth the price versus buying multiple items to make up for the one.

2. The Denim:
If there is any piece of advice I can give when choosing denim; are the 3 rules (my FCF); fabric, cut and fit. You may even be wondering ‘what about the fabric? isn’t denim, denim?” And the answer to that is no. There are denim with stretch, and without the stretch, which can mean hugging the curves or giving no air to anything below the waist. And this really sets apart a premium jean from a subpar jean. You don’t want too much or not enough stretch, so that they are still intact at the end of your day. Try them on, have a seat, crouch, and see how they feel when you do those actions. It will save you loads of embarrassment with ‘plumber’ and ‘roll’ puns. Skinny jeans is a great cut for all shapes and sizes, finding the right rise: low, medium, or high; and  how tapered they hug your calves and ankles, will make or break the look. But when you find the right one, it becomes pretty versatile, including the tucking into your boots for the winter look.

3. The Shirt:
Another ‘basic’ and the natural piece after the White T-Shirt. The perfect white shirt is all about finding the right proportion – especially for the ladies. Whether it is for the office, or just for the clean and simple look, it is one piece that you should have in your closet. If you are not into the crisp office-y feel, opt for a poplin slightly oversized (by going one size up, you could go for a men’s shirt, but the shoulders, armholes, and sleeves fir wrong). A nice shirttail hem also makes a difference, one that covers your bum. And the next step up would be a Chambray Shirt, for that classic denim on denim look. If you don’t like how denim feels as a top; there are other fabrics, like Tencel, that drapes like a silk but looks like denim.

4. The Little Black Dress (aka LBD):
Or for men, the Classic Black Suit (aka CBS); for essentially any occasion. Again the 3 rules of ‘FCF’ come to play, this will be the ultimate piece in your wardrobe. When choosing your ultimate, refrain from embellishments (sequins, feather, jewels, etc.,) and special add-on fabrics (lace, leather, brocade, etc.,) as this can make it look dated very quickly. Pick a simple piece, ones with sleeves are preferred, but sleeveless are okay too. The length is important as well, it should be at knee’s length so that it is appropriate no matter what event. And once you have your ultimate, you can add ones of different fabric and length to build your wardrobe. (Velvet one-piece are always fun and festive for the holidays!)

5. The Outerwear:
The pieces you see below are items that you may want to eventually build into your wardrobe. They are five of the most basic outerwear’s that you can wear season after season. Investing in a great piece is key. You don’t necessarily have to splurge when I say invest, but a great piece will at least cost you a couple hundred dollars.

  • The Blazer, (or Sport Jacket for Men) is probably something great to have to throw on with jeans, your LBD, trousers or a skirt. When trying them on, extend both arms straight across your chest and look for the tug under your arm and the back. Some blazers come with an inseam, and that sometimes give the extra snugness you may or may not want.
  • The Pilot Jacket, such an effortless piece, like the Leather Jacket. Throw it on to any casual look with some aviator sunglasses and it gives you that cool vibe.
  • The Leather Jacket, if it’s your first one, opt for the classic ‘moto’ or ‘biker’ style. This is probably one outwear piece you should have in your closet. You really can do no wrong.
  • The Oversized Coat, you may recall from my last week’s top 5 on “Fall Style Ideas” the example with the cocoon silhouette coat, but because of the oversized look it is super versatile and ultra low-maintenance. Opt for a solid wool colour (black, grey, beige, navy, etc.,) and when you want to build, add some fun herringbone to it.
  • The Trench, and owning a Burberry is not necessary, this is all about the ‘CUT’ some silhouettes are not meant for everybody. Like this classic trench you see below, is not meant for all body types. There are so many different types of cuts,  there are also great ‘drape’ cuts that fit looser made of lighter materials just to give it the trench look. So look around and most importantly, try it on and don’t be easily influenced by the brand or trend.

Hopefully this gives you a better insight to something ‘basic’ becoming that ‘essential’ piece in your wardrobe. I know that the simplest things are truly sometimes the hardest to find.  But just remember the 3 rules, FCF; fabric, cut and fit. And this will help you in deciding and set “a basic” apart from an “essential.”  Your essential will be a piece you cannot live without and that lasts forever – wear after wear, trend after trend.  Definitely worth the investment, because you get so much value out of versatility.

What are some of your ‘essentials’ that you just cannot live without? Share below!

Thanks for reading!


For the week of November 6th, IFB took a look at the sensible side of fashion and asked “What do we really want to wear?” and rounded up the best of their 20 links for this week, and was selected alongside these talented Bloggers. I invite you to check them out as we can never have enough of inspiration!

IFB Links à la Mode:


Thank You IFB for your selection and including me as part of this week’s round-up. Some of my personal favourites are highlighted in red <3

Thanks everyone for your support!

Yvette xo

  • Diva JJ

    great advice! it’s definitely not an obvious one because people don’t usually think about this, and I’m speaking of the majority.
    I definitely believe in investing in a good outerwear jacket. My fav and default is the leather jacket. No fuss and forever cool.

    • sostyling_sg

      I am guilt of this also as majority.

  • Lauren Goodman

    this is definitely a handy post! need to share this with the World! lol

  • sostyling_sg

    Hm quite interesting. I don’t think Singaporeans or Asian people in Asia think like this. We just buy what we want. Building a wardrobe would definitely be a new concept even for me.

  • GraceNg

    I like the helpful advice! I was thinking about cleaning out my closet so this was very timely! :)

  • SoSashaxo

    easy breezy tips! so good!!

    • fancydaint

      lol! hilarious!

    • NDG_fashionista

      omg lmaooooo

  • Great post! I really want a leather jacket even more now >___<


    (IG: @TheStardustBohemian)

  • SheelaGoh

    How right you are. The two terms have been intermingled so much; they’re often used in place of each other. That’s where the lines start to blur. That said, would you believe out of your five basics, I only have the LBD and the jacket? And several of those to boot? That said, I understand that what are my basics-turn-essentials may not necessarily be yours so, for instance, my list would include a pair of boots and a silk black v-neck tee. Perhaps some gravity-defying jeans are in order next :)

  • fancydaint

    it is soooo helpful and I get it. You are right that most of us don’t think about or go into great depth on this topic, but it’s certainly worthwhile, atleast for me. xx

  • fancydaint

    I definitely still need to find the “perfect” little black dress!

  • fancydaint

    are you going to cover the bascis of shoes separately? that is my guess? I need some great selections of boots please!!

  • NDG_fashionista

    this is really good and helpful! I actually still need to find a good leather jacket that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, but will last awhile. I bought an H&M “leather” jacket but the black part ended up peeling off like wallpaper in humid weather LMAO anyways it was a total fail and since then I haven’t replaced it because I want to make sure that I am getting my money’s worth.


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  • Erika Sorocco

    Skinny Jeans are my can’t-live-without – I own far too many pairs!


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