I’m a firm believer in having all the basics. Basics are the foundation for any outfit. Before you can put stylish pieces together, you need to have all your basics down pat.
The most basic of the basics are tees and tanks. You will wear these items more than you can even imagine: under cardigans, sweaters, blouses, henleys, sheer tops, low cut garments, tucked into skirts and jeans and shorts, and (of course) on their own. The easiest (and yet oh-so-chic) outfit you’ll ever wear is a pair of jeans and a plain white tee., with the right accessories that combination is incredibly stylish (just as Tina Chow).
You should have basic tees and tanks in white, black, and grey and/or nude (nude can loosely translate to tan or beige as well). Black and white are infinitely useful, that needs no explanation. Grey is also incredibly versatile and (I think) kind of a cool-girl neutral color, while nude is great for wearing under sheer garments because it doesn’t show through like white does (and, if you ask me, I think nude is also a great color to wear!).
As for the different types of tees and tanks you should get, I’ve divided them into three easy to remember categories!
#1: The “Boy” Tops: Crew Neck Tees, V-Neck Tees, Wife Beaters
We can’t let the guys have all the fun! These “boy” shaped tees are great casual wear and create an instant outfit over jeans and shorts (once again I reference the immortal Tina Chow). Just remember, “boy” shaped doesn’t mean a huge tent, just slightly looser fit and a very traditional cut (no cap sleeves allowed!). Toss on a sweater over them in the winter or tuck them into a high-waisted skirt for a carefree summer look. These tees are the epitome of casual chic, the kind of style that says “no, I didn’t try but, yes, I look great”.
Warning: these tees can throw you into slob-ville if you’re not careful. Avoid wearing these tees with sweats unless you’re working out (or want people to think you’re working out).
Fashion tip: ACCESSORIZE. Avoid looking boring with accessories! Bracelets, necklaces, earrings, cute shoes, a cardigan, or a cute bag will complete this casual chic look.
The Savvy Buy: Hanes. Yes, you can buy the same shirts that your fathers, brothers, uncles, and cousins buy at their local Targets, Walmarts, Meijers, or Costcos. They’re inexpensive and well-made (just ask the men in your life) and easy to find. These shirts are in men’s sizes so go down a size or two (ex: f you’re a medium, try a men’s small or children’s large), but because of children’s sizing options these tees come in an abundance of size options. Also, they come in bulk (usually 6 tees in a package) so you can stock up or split them with a friend who is your size.
The Popular Buy: American Apparel. American Apparel is hugely popular, especially amongst the college set, for crew neck and v-neck tees. They have a huge selection of sizes and colors. I have a large number of American Apparel tees and, while I do like them, I don’t recommend them for you guys. First of all, they’re quite pricey (between $20-24 per tee) and the quality is hit-or-miss. I’ve had certain tees last years and others either 1) have the seams unravel or 2) twist awkwardly after washing. So, while the fit and fabric are quite nice, I would be cautious when purchasing American Apparel products.
The Splurge Buy: just don’t splurge on this type of garment, please? Inexpensive brands like Hanes, Forever21, H&M, and Uniqlo have great “boy” shaped tees.
Danqing’s Buy: I have purchased a lot of tees in my life (all the types listed above and more) but my favorite are from Uniqlo’s +J line (+J is designed for Uniqlo by Jil Sander). These tees are a reasonable price, have a great cut and great fabric, and are quite durable. The only downside is that, in the U.S., only big cities have Uniqlo.
#2: The Skimpy Tanks: Spagetti Straps and Dress-code Tanks (you know, the ones with straps as wide as two fingers that you could wear to high school!)
Skimpy tanks are great for hot summer days but they’re also useful in cold, blustery winters. Great for layering under sweaters (I always wear a tank under a sweater to avoid having a gust of wind penetrate straight through my sweater to skin) and under anything sheer or too low cut.
Warning: watch your plunge. Yes the point of a tank is to show off some skin (why else would you tone those arms, right?), but remember to stay a lady. I like a bit of cleavage as much as the next girl, but there’s sexy cleavage and there’s “oh my god that’s too much” cleavage. Keep in mind your bra size when you buy tanks. A-cups and B-cups look super sexy (yet still appropriate) in super low-cut tanks while C-cups and D-cups look better with higher-cut tanks.
Fashion tip: experiment with color. You definitely want your neutral colored tanks for wearing under clothes (definitely get a nude-colored tank), but also try out different colors! I know many people have trouble wearing colors, but tanks are a great way to overcome that mental block! Colorful tanks are very fun in the summer and in the winter you can be a breath of fresh air by wearing a colorful tank under a neutral cardigan or sweater.
The Savvy Buy: H&M. H&M has a great color selection and a great price (around $8 per tank). Don’t be deceived by their sparse online offerings, in the store they have tons of colors! I love the fit of H&M tanks. Their durability is a bit hit-or-miss (some of my tanks have lasted for years and years, others had issues quickly) but the price is so great I don’t really care.
The Splurge Buy: J.Crew has high-quality tanks in a variety of colors. Their favorite tank and perfect-fit tank are both great options. Their original price of $18 is a bit too much for a tank, but J.Crew often has a two for $25 offer. Considering their exceptional quality, that’s not a bad buy!
Danqing’s Buy: I have tanks from J.Crew and H&M that I wear all the time, but I got my favorite tanks (CK Underwear) at Loehmann’s. Discount stores like Loehmann’s, TJMaxx, Nordstrom Rack, etc. have high-quality, high-priced brands for quite cheap. From Michael Starr to James Perse to Calvin Klein, they have it all at great prices. Try different brands on to see which you prefer. It’s important for your basics to fit well and be comfy because you’ll be wearing them all the time.
#3: The Baggy Tee
Recently, a new basic tee has emerged: the baggy tee. This is an ultra stylish choice popularized by celebrities like Ashley Olsen, Kate Moss and Ashley Greene, to name a few. These ladies show of their California cool in baggy, semi-sheer tees. Ashley Olsen even created these tees for her ultra-popular clothing lines: Elizabeth and James and The Row.
Warning: these tops are sheer and clingy. Keep that fact in mind and if you’re uncomfortable with sheer layer over a nude tank! Also, be sure to wear a nude colored bra. A nude bra won’t show under a white tee, a white bra will.
Fashion tip: be a little risque. Shift your top off of one shoulder, don’t wear a tank underneath, or (for those of you truly daring) wear a black lacy bra under your baggy white tee. Celebrities and fashionistas are making their white tees a wee bit sexy, you can try it too! Just don’t go too overboard!
The Savvy Buy: stores like H&M and Forever21 have loads of baggy white tees for great prices. The downside? You get what you pay for in terms of quality. While these stores have mastered making great crew necks and v-necks, the baggy tee is a bit harder to get right.
The Popular Buy: American Apparel’s Unisex Viscose Sexuali-Tee is an incredibly popular, mid-priced baggy tee. I have a few myself, and they’re a great option. They’re pricey, but a great fit and high-quality (American Apparel has a hit with this one!)
The Splurge Buy: T by Alexander Wang tees are incredibly popular amongst the rich and famous, and for good reason. They’re stylish, comfortable, and well made. If you’re willing to spend $76, you’ll get a good product.
I hope you guys found this helpful! Check back every other Monday for more “Every Girl Must Have” features!
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