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What Makes a "Basic" an "Essential"?

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I have a good understanding of the items that “every woman needs in her wardrobe” thanks to many, many years of reading women’s magazines. But, I’ll be frank: shopping for basics has always been a slog – I even created a test kitchen of sorts to try to find the best white t-shirt, blazer, and boyfriend jeans for those who were in the same boat as me. Because it’s unrealistic to do that sort of deep-dive investigation for every single basic, I asked co-founders Maggie Winter and Jac Cameron of AYR – a brand-new essentials line that has already gained a cult following – what makes an essential, well, essential. Here, the things they recommend what to look for when shopping for a piece with lasting power.


“The simplest things are truly sometimes the hardest to find.  Fit, fabric, and design details set “a basic” apart from “an essential."  A basic is something you can find anywhere.  The essential is the thing you can’t live without.  A well-made essential lasts forever – wear after wear, trend after trend.  It’s worth the investment, because you get so much value out of versatility.” - Jac and Maggie


 1. The Perfect Tank

"The unexpected – and extra-versatile – thing about a tank is when it’s cut into an everyday shape, but in an elevated fabric. Look for a sleeveless t-shirt, or muscle tee, but in heavyweight silk crepe, so it will last forever. Bonus: you can dress it up or down."

2. The White Tee

"A classic white t-shirt is a foundation piece of any wardrobe, because it easily transitions from casual to more dressy by swapping in a pencil skirt or tailored pant with your denim. Again, look for fabric choices. Like the perfect tank, we use a gorgeous heavyweight silk crepe, giving it a beautiful, fluid drape, but it isn’t so delicate that you can’t wear it week after week."

3. The Robe Coat

"Fall is all about finding the perfect shell jacket to throw over anything. Really nice wools are usually beautifully finished and pressed which can give a slight shine to the fabric. We think that if a coat is finished with an intricate lining, it’s taken the extra step for the wearer. You have to look for drape, and soft, premium Italian wool can help with that. This is a piece you can wear three days a week, three seasons out of the year, three years from now."

4. The Skinny Jean

"Two things that really set apart a premium jean from a subpar jean is the fabric and the fit. These two elements go hand in hand.  You want to make sure that when you put a jean on in the morning it looks the exact same when you take it off at the end of the day.  The Skinny in Jac's Jean is made out of premium denim that has a 5-component makeup. It has about 30% stretch and the recovery is incredibly superior - like a rubber band, ensuring the fit will maintain its shape throughout wear. Premium denim is built to last longer and wear better than cheaper qualities and is definitely a worthwhile investment."

5. The White Poplin

"The perfect white poplin shirt is all about finding the right proportion – oversized but not bulky.  I would always size up or buy men’s white shirts, but the shoulders, armholes, and sleeves would be massive.  Look for a nice long shirttail hem that covers your bum, but a small, delicate collar and slim sleeves.  We’d also recommend a popover instead of a button-through, which provides a clean, easy fit."

6. The Rumpled Blazer

"You can spot a great blazer when it has a strong tailored shoulder and fits slimly through the body.  Look for an unconstructed shape and clean lines. No closures or trims are important. Precision in both instantly elongates and slims the body. Also, look for a material that looks good with wrinkles. AYR’s Rumpled Blazer is made of rumpled British linen, so it doesn’t matter if you pack it in a suitcase or wear it all day for a week straight – it’s super low-maintenance."

7. The Chambray Shirt 

"The grown-up chambray shirt doesn’t fit like your boyfriend’s. We took a new direction, with fabric that looks like chambray but falls like silk. The Clean Shirt is unbelievably soft Indigo Tencel that drapes like a silk blouse. Super-clean details elevate the basic to evolved classic."

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