In order to have a complete and balanced wardrobe not everything is going to be exciting and novel.  Basics, while not exactly earth shattering, are like the glue that binds all the interesting stuff together.  In today’s “What am I going to wear to work tomorrow?” post I want to touch on the work t-shirt, an important, yet snoozy, item that every closet needs.

How to achieve basics balance

In the closets of clients’ I usually see one of two problems- either too many basics and not enough novelty or vice versa.  Both types of wardrobes are equally difficult and unbalanced.  In the cases of too much novelty, women find themselves staring at all this wonderful stuff and no idea how to put it together simply because they don’t have anything to wear with all the excitement.  A very novelty driven wardrobe is the equivalent of a really cute girl without a lot of substance.  Conversely, totally basics driven wardrobes have their own share of challenges and are typically boring and dull.  Unlike novelty driven wardrobes, there is usually no personality.  Plus, women with closets and not enough interest get bored with their clothing really fast.   Basics driven wardrobes are like the equivalent of that cautious woman who freaks out at anything spontaneous.  The goal, therefore, is to find the right balance of basics and novelty.   If you look at most outfits there is usually a balance of both the novelty and the basic.

I would say a wardrobe should 60% basic 40% novelty, and much of that novelty can be found in your accessories, like your jewelry, shoes, bags, scarves, etc.  No doubt, you will get more use from your basic items, but don’t forget to have the novelty in your wardrobe in order to change up your basics and get more with less.  Additionally, novelty tends to rotate out much quicker than basics do, which is why it is also important to have the larger part of your wardrobe be basic.  As you cycle in new novelty and get rid of the old you’ll find that your stalwart basics get instantly refreshed.

The importance of a basic work t-shirt

I wanted to touch on the basic work t-shirt today because I think it is not only an important piece to have on hand at all times, especially for work, but I think it is far more versatile than a work tank.  For one, wearing a tank usually means you can’t take your jacket or cardigan off, so they’re limiting.  Secondly, most women freeze at work in the summer time and those sleeves can be an added layer of protection from hypothermia and, third, few women like showing off their arms, especially at work.

A work t-shirt can be one that you can wear on the weekends, especially if your work environment is casual, however, if you work in a more conservative workplace, special attention should be paid to the types of t-shirts you wear to work.  Typically, work tees aren’t 100% cotton, and if they are they are of really fine quality, or without a little Lycra, the finishes, like the hems and necklines, tend to be a bit finer and the fabrication is beefier.  That cotton white Hanes tee will not cut it under a suit.

How many work t-shirts do you need?

You don’t need a lot of basic work t-shirts, a few in some basic neutral colors and maybe one or two flattering face colors will be just fine.  If you are one of those women who loads up on basics, be careful not to go too crazy, just a few is all you need.  Often, the reliance and ease of these types of tops can case women to buy one in every color under the sun and it’s not long before they realize that they basically wearing a t-shirt to work every single day.  Yes, basics are important but don’t allow yourself to get in a rut with one singular look.

How to style a basic work t-shirt

Using this long sleeve work tee from J. Crew in navy I am going to show you three very different looks using this one piece.  The top is a beefy cotton spandex basic, with a flattering neckline, that can be easily be worn alone or under a jacket.

Outfit #1- With a pencil skirt

A great summer work look is to pair a t-shirt with a pencil skirt.  Additionally, a printed skirt is a nice change up for the season and a piece to wear with a basic long sleeve t-shirt.  Here, this top works well with this pencil skirt from Boden and the navy adds some professional edge to a softer coral pattern.

For most women this is where they would stop, with the t-shirt and the skirt.  Yet, in order to not get bored to tears with a top that is so basic some last steps are necessary in giving this outfit some chicness.  All it takes is a Stella & Dot necklace that introduces a third color to the outfit, mint green.  With that, I added a mint green tote bag, from Fossil, and finished the outfit with a pair of nude wedge pumps.

As you an see, the basic top is an important player in the overall outfit but it is a background player, the glue that binds the novelty together.  Basics crave excitement.

Outfit #2- With a pair of tailored pants

If you have left for work wearing a pair of tailored pants and a basic long sleeve work t-shirt then you are only dressed 75% of the way and also probably wondering why you are bored to death.  The base of a pair of tailored pants and a basic top is a mighty fine way to start an outfit, but if you don’t finish it with something interesting the look is has no personality.  Don’t forget to add some personality.  If you don’t, you’re relying too heavily on such basic pieces to do more than they are capable of.  And keep in mind, you don’t have to do much to make basics look exciting.

To give this outfit some creativity and novelty, all I did was add a pair of work appropriate (meaning not too bold or too big) purple and blue earrings from Anthropologie, that bring together the colors of this top and the purple pants from Alice + Olivia and finished the look with navy, a handbag by Badgley Mischka and a pair of flats.  Lastly, a gold necklace (you know how versatile a long gold necklace can be, remember?) and, if needed, a white blazer from TopShop.  Now the outfit looks styled, vs. just a pair of pants and a top.

Outfit #3- Under a suit

If you’re a suit wearer, how many times have you thrown on a suit with some sort of a tank or t-shirt underneath?  This look is possibly the most common look among corporate women, and with good reason, it’s easy, fuss free and understated.  However, just how many times can you wear the same suit with a top underneath it before you want to kill yourself from boredom.  There isn’t a lot of style wiggle room for corporate gals, making finishing the look with novelty even more important.

To show you how drastically just adding some accessories can change up this suit from Reiss and the basic long sleeve t-shirt, I am showing it two ways, the jacket with trousers and the same jacket with the skirt.  On the left, the outfit is styled with a grey multi-strand beaded necklace from Bauble Bar, a pair of grey Circa Joan & David pumps and a pop of novelty through the shocking pink bag from MICHAEL Michael Kors.  On the right, the suit is changed up through accessory changes, a pair of coral earrings from Banana Republic and a coral handbag from Aldo.

Basics are the base, it’s the accents that give you the variety.

Shop for long sleeve work t-shirts

A wardrobe is never complete without some good basic t-shirts, for both work and fun.  Here are some to shop for.  Just don’t forget your novelty.  And if you have too much novelty in your wardrobe, see these tops as the glue that will bind a look together.