The most widely-used word in connection with minimalist style is probably basics. Every minimalist style guide will tell you that it’s essential to focus on high-quality wardrobe basics that will be the building blocks of a wardrobe.
Note, that basic in this case is a noun, not an adjective. If done right, there’s nothing basic about minimalist style.
That’s the reason I actually much prefer the term elevated basics.
Elevated basics are at the centre of a good minimalist wardrobe.
They are functional, high-quality, practical, beautiful, versatile, wearable, tailored, understated, chic, and totally effortless.
They may be simple in terms of style or color, but you just have a feeling that they are different. They are more – more luxurious, more unique, more stylish.
That’s because they take basic to a whole new level.
WHAT MAKES A BASIC ELEVATED?
There are a couple of ways to identify elevated basics. For me, these are the most important criteria:
Elevated basics are made of the highest quality materials. You can see from a mile that the fabric is long-lasting, comfortable, and oozes that luxury the way only well-made, high-quality fabrics do. When it comes to fabrics, I very much prefer natural ones.
FIT AND CUT
Be it slightly oversized or slim fitting, custom-made or off the rack, an elevated basic will always look like it was made for your body.
Often, it’s the details that take an item from basic to elevated basic. It may be an interesting, asymmetric cut detail, an edgy sleeve or button, an interesting pattern or color, or simply a belt – these are the details that make you take a double look.
A good elevated basic will be immensely versatile. You can dress it up or down or style it in different ways so that the world won’t even know that you’re wearing the same item again and again (not that wearing the same item is a problem).
We may be led to believe that price is the only telling factor of quality, and expensive pieces are always superior but that’s not always true. Sure, quality often comes with a higher price tag, but it’s still worth examining whether we are truly getting what we want. Quality is a little opaque term, but for me, it usually signifies a clothing item that has been made with care, is durable and will last a long time, the fabric feels nice on my skin and is mostly made of natural materials, the finishing touches and details are right, and the cut and silhouette fits me.
Style is about confidence. If you look at your favourite style icons, you’ll see that sometimes they can wear the simplest clothing ever, and it just looks different on them. Why? Because they wear it with confidence. This is not even a criterion of elevated basics, but an added bonus. Once you find the perfect items that tick off all the above criteria, it will give you such a sense of confidence.
MY 10 FAVORITE MINIMALIST FASHION BASICS
What the basics of a closet will be can vary from person to person. It depends on your style, fashion sense, lifestyle, among other things. I’d never include a skirt among my style essentials, simply because I rarely wear them. But for another woman, it may be one of the most important things in her closet.
For me, these are the three categories in my wardrobe
+ The basics – Good to have, always buy quality, but not my main style focuses.
+ The elevated basics – The most important items. The items I wear the most, and where I tend to spend a little more to get exactly what I want.
+ The accessories – Accessories in a sense that they supplement my main wardrobe. A vest, a special occasion dress, statement heels – the items I don’t wear every day, but still have important functions in my closet.
This is my list of elevated basics.
What makes it an elevated basic: The fabric and the cut
My choice is a slightly oversized shirt, which is still tailored at the back (to avoid that awkward puffy look when you wear them tucked in jeans). It also must have slimmer and longer sleeves that are still easy to roll up for that chic effortless look. The length is also essential – too short and it’s impossible to tuck it in, too long and it looks like a hospital robe. Mid-thighs length is my suggestion. 100% cotton is the best material, but the quality of the cotton matters a lot as well. Check how much it wrinkles, check how sturdy, lightweight, or see-through it is. The best choice is a thinner, but not see-through material – perfect for layering, but still good to wear on its own.
What makes it an elevated basic: Definitely the quality of silk and the cut.
The silk shirt is one of my favourite versatile pieces. It can be dressed up with a skirt, cigarette pants, and high heels, but also dressed down in skinny jeans. Once again, my go-to pair is slightly oversized, a little bit longer, with a straight, more tailored back. The quality of silk is essential: not all materials are the same. The silk should be soft, lightweight, but not overly thin and see-through. I love the feel of silk, but admittedly it’s not a vegan or very ethical material. For an alternative, I can recommend cupro, a well-known silk substitute. It’s a natural material made from a part of cotton, very breathable, quite durable, can be machine-washed, and has a luxurious satin finish. I have a couple of cupro shirts in my wardrobe and can vouch for the quality.
What makes it an elevated basic: The cut
In the summer, I basically live in a couple of summer neutral dresses that I keep in rotation. I like cotton, linen, or Tencel because they are breathable and comfortable to wear even in the warmest months. I go for white, ivory, light grey, or black, but my choice of summer dresses usually have an interesting cut or a unique detail.
What makes it an elevated basic: Cut and tailoring
The cut is essential when it comes to the perfect blazer. For me, it should either be very fitted (elegant office chic) or slightly oversized (for that cool, masculine/feminine look). A bad fit is what makes a blazer too bland and basic.
What makes it an elevated basic: Cut and material
The oversized sweater is my absolute favorite fall/winter minimal essential. It must be oversized, but not bulky. The fabric is the most important factor – and natural fabrics are way more superior when it comes to oversized sweaters, but even with those, we must be careful, as some natural fibers can be too coarse or itchy. I don’t like 100% cotton sweaters that much because they tend to shrink over time and can wrinkle. Cashmere is great (100% with at least a 2-ply yarn) as well as wool (merino and lambswool are softer, Shetland is coarser). I also love blends, because they usually maximize the benefits of each material. Look for blends with wool, cashmere, cotton, or even a little silk for the most luxurious feel.
What makes it an elevated basic: Fabric and fit
From September till March, I live in my ankle boots. I’m very particular about the leather: it should be soft, but still sturdy (not to be scratched easily), smooth, but not too shiny. I usually alternate between my genuine leather and nubuck leather versions.
What makes it an elevated basic: The quality of the leather
The quality of leather is the main thing that counts when it comes to buying loafers. It must be genuine leather, very soft so that it hugs my feet, but also durable, so not too delicate. I don’t like bows or tassels, the style must be simple, but the quality of the leather really takes it to the next level.
What makes it an elevated basic: cut, fabric, and details
The trenchcoat is a perfect example of the difference between a basic and elevated basic. The perfect cut (fitted in the waist and sleeves), length (slightly below the knees or mid-calf), fabric (100% cotton, or a smaller % poly blend for the classic, wool for a winter variant, silk or Tencel for an elegant version), great details (long belt, buttons, cuff strap, the back pleat, single or double-breasted), and even colors (ivory, grey, nude) can totally transform a very basic trench coat into an elevated basic item.
What makes it an elevated basic: The quality of leather, the fit, and the details
In my opinion, it’s better to wait (or save for) the perfect leather jacket, because this is one item that can actually be with you for decades – especially if the leather is the right quality (Leather jackets only get better with time, so, sometimes it’s worth shopping for them in vintage shops). I like leather jackets that are a little edgier, but it’s perfectly up to you which style you go for.
What makes it an elevated basic: Cut and fabric
I’d rather have one really good quality winter coat that I can wear for years than 5 different subpar versions just for the sake of versatility. When it comes to a winter coat, it must be wool or a cashmere wool-blend. After all, the main goal of a winter coat is to keep me warm. When I was a teenager, I gladly sacrificed comfort for the sake of style, but not anymore. Now high-quality wool is the only choice for me in the winter. Fit and cut are also very important – I like wraparound, belted versions, because I can wear them on their own or layer other clothing under them.