Have you ever been shopping and said to yourself or to a companion, "What a great basic," or perhaps, "You should get it. It's a basic." Using the word "basic" in relation to a garment means it is a timeless piece that will either compliment numerous items in your closet or it will be worn constantly. Basically the same thing.
What it doesn't mean is boring. Yes, the word basic in fashion implies simplicity and necessity, but I want to make sure you know that it does not mean plain jane. The reason we get basics is to compliment the wilder things in our closet. If you have a printed skirt you want a solid colored top. If you have a complex top on you want to pair those with some basic cigarette pants.
Many books have been written about the must-have basics every woman should have, but that doesn't really make much sense. I have one client that, prior to hiring me as her personal stylist, tried to master her look by herself via fashionable self help literature and she ended up with a closet full of clothes she didn't wear and a shelf full of books to blame. Each women has her own set of basics. Granted, many pieces she will have in common with other women, but not all and sometimes not most. For instance the perfect pair of jeans is a basic for numerous women, but many women find jeans uncomfortable. This means jeans are not a basic for them.
In the professional world black slacks are considered a basic, but if office attire is not part of your occupation, black slacks are no longer a basic, especially if you are not a slack kind of person. Basics begin with your lifestyle, comfort and taste.
Do you adore leggings? Yes? Then a pair of durable leggings in a versatile color like black or brown are a basic in your wardrobe. This will also mean that a flattering tunic to compliment your numerous pairs of leggings is now a basic. No to mention the shoes you will most often pair with those leggings is now a basic.
So skip buying or keeping that perfect basic white button front shirt when you are an elementary school teacher who adores dresses. Don't buy that essential Tee when you prefer pairing patterned tops with plainer bottoms. Don't feel like you need to acquire a basic suit when you have a secure job with a loose business casual dress code. You don't have to own a little black dress if black is not your color.
Next time you are tempted to buy something because it is deemed a "basic" or "must-have" by fashion experts, don't forget to ask yourself the same questions you ask yourself when buying anything:
1) What will I wear this with? Will I actually wear this a lot?
2) Do I love this? Or a more appropriate question when discussing basics: Will I love the outfits this piece will complete?
3) Do I feel comfortable wearing this?
4) Can I afford this?