As a fashion editor, I try a lot of clothes. I’m constantly testing pieces from both big brands and up-and-coming ones alike to figure out what’s really worth recommending. And amongst a mile-high pile of clothes I’m giving the old college try, you have to be pretty good to stand out.
The perk of getting to test out so many pieces is that with time, what’s good has become more obvious to me. (The downfall? My constant anxiety that my building’s mail room employees think I’m a shopping addict). More often than not, pieces tend to fall in-between; into a pile of “good, but not memorable” clothes. But one thing I’ve learned is that pieces don’t have to have a high price tag to be amazing.
Some of my all-time favorite and most-worn pieces hardly cost more than a few lattes (in this economy, two or three lattes, realistically). These five wardrobe essentials run under $50, and fall into my must-have category.
I have so many T-shirts in my closet you could cover the entire square footage of my apartment with them. I’m under no illusion that any T-shirt will last forever, but I’m still always on the hunt for ones that I won’t have to replace anytime soon. I love a tee that’s fitted so I can layer it seamlessly (and I love the look of a tighter tee on its own with loose jeans). This baby tee is cropped but not too cropped, which I love because I can tuck it into all of my jeans so it isn’t bunched, but it also doesn’t show any mid-drift. It’s also that perfect amount of thick that isn’t bulky, but doesn’t make your bra underneath obvious.
The best part? It’s $25.
I get it: $50 for a cashmere sweater sounds too good to be true. But I have worn this sweater for months and can honestly tell you it feels no different than $400 cashmere sweaters I own. It comes in 15 colors, is super soft, and costs as much as the itchy, polyester one you’re going to get from a fast-fashion brand.
For our editor’s full review on Quince’s $50 cashmere, click here.
Last year, I tested TikTok’s most viral Lululemon dupes, and while I was truly wowed by every one, this tank really stands out to me. I have it in six colors, and no matter what workout I’m doing—running, pilates, Solidcore—this is the one tank I reach for first. I’m a 34C, and it’s supportive enough on its own that I don’t need to wear a bra with it. It’s so flattering, comes in 20 amazing colors, and looks like it costs three times the price. I’d buy this again 100 times over.
I have been shouting this bra’s wonders from the rooftops for years now. I have it in three colors and truly cannot describe how much it means to me. This smoothing, wire-free, adjustable-strap bra is literally the perfect combination of supportive and comfortable. I cannot feel it when it’s on and if I’m working from home or bopping around on the weekend, this is what I have on. If I’m not wearing something super tight, I’ll even wear it to the office. It feels like the most comfortable bralette you could imagine, but with double the support.
Like tees, I have a truly ridiculous amount of jeans, all ranging from $30 to over $200. The truth? I’ve had some of my $30 ones for years and reach for them just as much as the expensive ones. My trick with buying less expensive jeans is to look for ones that are made of 100% cotton. While it means they’re a bit more rigid (and that they shouldn’t go in the dryer), it also means that they won’t stretch throughout the day—which is usually the problem when it comes to inexpensive denim. I’ve had this pair for years and always come back to them.