7 Tops Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe

by Lauri Apple

Fashion styles come and go, but some basic clothing items qualify as wardrobe essentials. These items may be straightforward and not terribly glamorous, but they’re often life-savers for those “what to wear?” mornings (which, for some of us, is every morning). Make sure your closet has these shirt and sweater basics — they will help you get the most mileage out of the rest of your clothes.

A black cardigan sweater. A black cardigan is one of the most useful clothing items you can own. Black matches nearly every other color, and has staying power because it obscures stains and spots. Black also adds a touch of sophistication to many looks.

Layer your black cardigan over a T-shirt for a fast, fuss-free combination, or wear it with a dress shirt as a substitute for a jacket. Survey your wardrobe and consider how and when you might get the most use out of a black sweater: During the winter months, during the spring, or both? For the winter, a chunky or wool-blend cable knit will keep you warm; a thinner cotton blend works well for warmer temperatures or in an air-conditioned office.

A cream-colored cardigan. This piece is almost as versatile as a black one, though cream tends to match fewer colors. It’s a must-have if your clothing palette is heavy on brown, orange and other fall shades.

A fitted, black, V-neck T-shirt. This item is as versatile as a black cardigan, and will take the hassle out of hunting for a top to match multi-colored skirts or pants. A black T-shirt paired with jeans is basic yet timeless; likewise, a black tee under a sweater or jacket of a brighter color.

A T-shirt in your favorite color. We tend to prefer clothing that comes in the colors most appealing to us, so you’ll get a lot of wear out of this item.

A navy blue tank top. Black and white tank tops are also great to have on hand, but a blue tank top can go just as far. Layer this item with red, gray or black shirts or sweaters for a classic look, or experiment with yellows and greens for something more eclectic.

A red shirt. This item will add a bold dash of color to your wardrobe, which comes in handy when you want to make a strong fashion statement, but don’t want to think too much about it. Wear it with a black pantsuit to liven up a work outfit, or pair it up with a black skirt and an eye-catching necklace. A fine-gauge cotton shirt with a cable-knit design or rib adds texture and complexity.

A white, button-down shirt. A crisp white shirt can be worn with a business suit or matched with a pair of jeans. The least-trendy style will be cut to fit, long-sleeved and made of basic cotton.

Cuts and styles do change, so you may need to renew your staples after a few years. But a very basic version of any of these items will likely last several seasons.

Lauri Apple is a Chicago-based writer and editor.


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  1. The tips were good, and as a retiree, it helped me to know just what is going on as far as styles today.