How can you describe the modern woman's wardrobe? Is it full of crisp office wear or slouchy self-employment separates? Does she wear floral dresses in the spring or stick religiously to androgynous silhouettes? The options are as diverse as women themselves, making it almost impossible to identify a single set of staples that's foundational for everyone.
And yet! Some things never change. A pair of razor-sharp black heels looks just as fiercely stylish as it did in the 1980s, and my time-traveling sources tell me black heels are wildly en vogue during the 2080s, too. If we try to pick out the keystones of the modern woman's wardrobe (and of course we're going to try), the picture that emerges is a little bit serious and a little bit flashy and a little bit devil-may-care cool. So if any of you thoroughly modern women need help shopping for basics, well, we've done the legwork for you right here.
1. A surreally perfect white t-shirt
It has to be loose in a flattering way, and it must be kept spotless at all times. Who said effortless style was effortless?
2. A black turtleneck
For international intrigue and rainy days when you feel a little bit beatnik.
3. Your brother's blazer
It won't be perfectly worn-in and oversized unless you sneak it out of an innocent relative's closet.
4. A cool sweatshirt
For brunch outings where you wouldn't mind being photographed.
5. A worn-in plaid button-down
Don't worry, it's only as grunge as you make it.
6. A light blue oxford
Let the rest of society obsess over their crisp white button-downs that are impossible to clean. You already have your white t-shirt that's impossible to keep clean.
7. A fancy shrunken cardigan
To dress anything up.
To dress anything down.
How else will you become an honorary French citizen?
10. A quality sweater
Love it, wear it with anything, remember to get it dry cleaned.
11. A trench coat that actually fits
It's impossible to look like a femme fatale if the belt doesn't hit at your natural waist.
12. A truly classic coat
Whether it's a pea coat, a camel coat, a leather jacket, a cocoon coat, or just that perfectly fitted trench from #11, this really is the type of piece you can wear for the rest of your life.
13. At least one colorful scarf
Pick a scarf in a color that makes your skin glow, a pattern that makes you happy, and a texture that keeps you warm.
14. The perfect jeans
Skinny? Boyfriend? Boot-cut? Bellbottom? Dark wash? Acid wash? Gray? Patterned? The answer is: whatever works for you. Unfortunately, this is a path you must travel alone.
15. Extra-bright pants
I know a writer who always wears bright blue pants when she's being workshopped. "Even if my story gets torn apart," she says, "at least I'm wearing amazing pants." We all need a pair.
16. Not-horrible leggings
Everybody's got their $5 Target pair, but ideally you'll find leggings that are infinitely stretchable, endlessly comfortable, and high quality enough to maintain their shape through yoga, napping, and sitting cross-legged — while still looking good enough to double as "skinny black pants" during nights out.
17. A day-to-night skirt
Something that can move between t-shirts, button-downs, and low necklines without batting an eye.
18. An unfussy maxi skirt or dress
Never underestimate the casual elegance of something that sweeps the floor.
19. A shirtdress or shift
There are a few moments in life when it feels like the only appropriate thing to wear is a casual dress. (See: lunch with significant other's parents, coffee with former boss, interviewing a cool older actor.) You won't regret having one of these effortless silhouettes in your closet when those times arise.
20. A dressy dress or formal suit that you really love
Look for something you like enough to wear to multiple weddings and fancy dinners, so that you don't randomly blow your budget on a glitzy, ill-fitting jumpsuit because you "have nothing to wear."
21. A not-too-tight pencil skirt
Because one day, you'll have a job interview.
22. Pants that show off your ankles
Whether it's cuffed skinny jeans or the perfect cigarette pant, ankles are sexy — and they weren't always as liberated as they are today. Celebrate them.
23. Slouchy denim shorts
Romp around through fields of daisies wearing tiny cut-offs as often as you want, but slightly longer shorts with an insouciant fit will work in so many more situations.
24. Flowy pants
Whether harem or wide-legged or vintage, you need something that tells the world, "I'm bohemian and choose to dress like this," while secretly meaning, "It's that time of the month, and I can't bear anything fitted."
25. Your spirit animal in sunglass form
Is your sunglass soulmate a pair of mirrored aviators or oversized vintage cat-eye glasses? You're destined for the pair that transforms you from a sad, hungover failure to someone who could easily be mistaken for a movie star.
26. Clean white sneakers
Whether you opt for Keds, Converse, or an off-brand pair, white sneakers are perfect for channeling cool summer heat.
27. Leopard print shoes
You've got to let out your crazy cat woman somehow.
28. Louboutins — or heels that can pass as Louboutins
In other words, an idealized pump.
29. Loafers or oxfords
Anything that can conceivably be called "borrowed from the boys."
30. The leather boots that speak your language
Not everyone feels at home in a knee-high pair of Frye boots, despite their cult status. Maybe you're a cowgirl, maybe you're a Coachella-worthy ankle boot type of girl, or maybe you live and breath vegan leather. Find the boot that's been looking for you all its life and never let it go.
31. Shoes with attitude
Sometimes everything goes wrong, and it's not your fault. These are the moments when you pull on your motorcycle boots, your gothic heels, your Doc Martens, or your thick-soled skater shoes, stomp around in a rage for a few minutes, and then get back to running your small corner of the world.
32. A non-funereal little black dress that would still be appropriate for a funeral
The Little Black Dress that works for any occasion is one that doesn't look like it belongs next to a hearse, but one that wouldn't necessarily get you kicked out of the funeral service for showing too much skin.
33. Solid-colored underwear
You want a pair that really hits that trifecta of sexy/functional/comfortable.
34. A bra that genuinely has your back
And your front. (Here are 7 signs you're wearing the wrong bra.)
35. A whatever tank top
Smooth enough to fit under transparent shirts like a second skin but chic enough to stand on its own if other layers become too repressive.
36. The color that makes you glow
Everyone has that specific hue that looks amazing on them. Figure out which shade makes your skin look incredible and alive, and hop on that bandwagon as soon as possible.
37. At least one piece of clothing that's completely indulgent
There will come a time when you want to be the brightest thing in the room.