37 Wardrobe Staples Every Thinking Woman Should Own (But Only If She Wants To)

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

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It has to be loose in a flattering way, and it must be kept spotless at all times. Who said effortless style was effortless?

Try LAmade V-Neck Boyfriend Top, $62, Amazon

2. A black turtleneck

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For international intrigue and rainy days when you feel a little bit beatnik.

Try Splendid Long-Sleeve Turtleneck Sweater, $44.95, Amazon

3. Your brother's blazer

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It won't be perfectly worn-in and oversized unless you sneak it out of an innocent relative's closet.

Try Ark & Co Oversized Two Pocket Blazer, $62, Amazon

4. A cool sweatshirt

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For brunch outings where you wouldn't mind being photographed.

Try Spiritual Gangster Stay Rad Sweatshirt, $75, Amazon

5. A worn-in plaid button-down

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Don't worry, it's only as grunge as you make it.

Try Legendary Whitetails Cabin Retreat Plaid Flannel Shirt, $29.99, Amazon

6. A light blue oxford

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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.

Try Lee Long Sleeve Oxford Blouse, $16.99, Amazon

7. A fancy shrunken cardigan

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To dress anything up.

Try Lark & Ro Cashmere Cropped Cardigan Sweater, $50, Amazon

8. A grungy oversized cardigan

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To dress anything down.

Try SAYM Loose Cardigan, $29.99, Amazon

9. Nautical stripes

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How else will you become an honorary French citizen?

Try Humble Chic Classic Striped Sweater, $47.99, Amazon

10. A quality sweater

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Love it, wear it with anything, remember to get it dry cleaned.

Try Theory Kralla Merino Wool Sweater, $225, Amazon

11. A trench coat that actually fits

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It's impossible to look like a femme fatale if the belt doesn't hit at your natural waist.

Try BCBGMazAzria Laurin Trench Coat, $298, Amazon

12. A truly classic coat

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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.

Try Trina Turk Bailey Lambswool Toggle Coat, $393, Amazon

13. At least one colorful scarf

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Pick a scarf in a color that makes your skin glow, a pattern that makes you happy, and a texture that keeps you warm.

Try Badgley Mischka Wool Floral Wrap, $125, Amazon

14. The perfect jeans

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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.

Try 7 For All Mankind Kimmie Straight Leg Jean, $198, Amazon

15. Extra-bright pants

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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.

Try Clover Canyon Riviera Sunrise Printed Pant, $215, Amazon

16. Not-horrible leggings

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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.

Try BCBGMazAzria Faux Leather Leggings, $138, Amazon

17. A day-to-night skirt

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Something that can move between t-shirts, button-downs, and low necklines without batting an eye.

Try Rebecca Taylor Vegan Leather Skirt, $350, Amazon

18. An unfussy maxi skirt or dress

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Never underestimate the casual elegance of something that sweeps the floor.

Try Young Fabulous & Broke Hampton Jersey Maxi Dress, $128, Amazon

19. A shirtdress or shift

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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.

Try Lucky Brand Everyday Shirt Dress, $64.65, Amazon

20. A dressy dress or formal suit that you really love

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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."

Try Ted Maker Eilah Scroll Print Dress, $375, Amazon

21. A not-too-tight pencil skirt

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Because one day, you'll have a job interview.

Try Rachel Zoe Ikat Pencil Skirt, $140, Amazon

22. Pants that show off your ankles

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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.

Try Joe's Jeans Boyfriend Slim Ankle Jean, $179, Amazon

23. Slouchy denim shorts

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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.

Try True Religion Slouchy Denim Shorts, $178, Amazon

24. Flowy pants

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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."

Try Townsen Quest Wide Leg Pant, $50, Amazon

25. Your spirit animal in sunglass form

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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.

Try Mirror Revo Oversize Cat Eye Sunglasses, $12.95, Amazon

26. Clean white sneakers

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Whether you opt for Keds, Converse, or an off-brand pair, white sneakers are perfect for channeling cool summer heat.

Try Vans True White Skate Shoe, $45, Amazon

27. Leopard print shoes

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You've got to let out your crazy cat woman somehow.

Try Dolce Vita Brannon Leopard Print Flat, $90, Amazon

28. Louboutins — or heels that can pass as Louboutins

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In other words, an idealized pump.

Try Christian Louboutin Blake Pointy Toe Pump, $795, Nordstrom

Try Love Moschino Scarf Dress Pump, $250, Amazon

29. Loafers or oxfords

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Anything that can conceivably be called "borrowed from the boys."

Try Loeffler Randall Metallic Oxford, $395, Amazon

30. The leather boots that speak your language

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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.

Try FRYE Cierra Short Bootie, $298, Amazon

31. Shoes with attitude

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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.

Try Dr. Marten's Lace-Up Boot, $100, Amazon

32. A non-funereal little black dress that would still be appropriate for a funeral

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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.

Try Rebecca Taylor Short Sleeve Lace Dress, $495, Amazon

33. Solid-colored underwear

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You want a pair that really hits that trifecta of sexy/functional/comfortable.

Try Calvin Klein Invisibles Hipster Underwear, $12, Amazon

34. A bra that genuinely has your back

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And your front. (Here are 7 signs you're wearing the wrong bra.)

Try Wacoal So Sophisticated Underwire Bra, $52, Amazon

35. A whatever tank top

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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.

Try Splendid Long Fitted Layer Tank Top, $48, Amazon

36. The color that makes you glow

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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.

Try Halston Heritage Boatneck Top in Clover, $345, Amazon

37. At least one piece of clothing that's completely indulgent

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There will come a time when you want to be the brightest thing in the room.

Try Badgley Mischka Cowl Back Sequin Gown, $615, Amazon