Novelty Basics: Novelty Pieces that Act Like Basics in Your Wardrobe

Novelty Basics When women think about the clothing in their closets they usually divide it into two categories, the basics and the novelties.  The basics are the classic pieces that never really go out of style and the novelties are the items that are trendier, more fleeting in style and are used to add pops to outfits.  Did you know that there is a third category?  It’s called the novelty basic category.

What are novelty basics?

Novelty basics are pieces that look like novelty items but function as basics in the wardrobe, like hybrid pieces (like if a basic married a novelty and they produced a child) that have both the function of a basic but the interest of a novelty.  These are great pieces to own because you get the best of both worlds, you look updated and trendy while getting a lot of mileage, value and use from them.

I coined the phrase novelty basic quite a few years ago while working with a client.  I remember her trying on this really cool blazer.  It had lots of interesting seaming, an a different type of closure and was far from being your basic, run of the mill jacket.  However, despite all the cool bells and whistles it had, we could identify that she could wear this piece a ton of different ways in her wardrobe.  For her, this novelty driven item was a basic, even though it didn’t immediately appear to be one.

How to identify a novelty basic

Novelty basics can come in all forms, from blazers, to blouses, knit tops, pants, and so on.  What makes something a novelty basic is typically that the piece is a play on a basic, meaning that it’s a classic item with a twist, but not so “twisty” that it becomes very singular in use.  Some more examples are denim jackets that have interesting details or shapes, but can still function in place of a classic denim jacket, a white top that has some details and can step in as a basic button down or t-shirt, or a fun black dress that has some cool detailing but where the versatility of how it can be worn remains.

Why you need novelty basics

We all need novelty basics in our wardrobe to stave off wardrobe boredom.  What they enable us to do is keep our wardrobe highly functional while not feeling like we’re wearing the same thing over and over again.  Creating outfits can become very formulaic very quickly if we keep repeating the same look time and time again.  Yet, many of us notice that the formulas we create work, they just need tweaking.  Novelty basics can jump in to change things up without straying too far.

How to use your novelty basics

Using today’s One Item, Five Fashionable Ways post today is a great way to showcase how a novelty item can be treated like a basic.  Below are five looks I created using this white top from Anthropologie, which is a great stand-in for a white button blouse or t-shirt.  As you will see, it’s a novelty that can act like a basic…a novelty basic.

Outfit #1- Under a suit jacket for work

In this first outfit, where a basic white tee or tank would be perfectly acceptable to wear with this jacket from Topshop and skirt from Reiss, this Anthropologie top steps in to add some more punch to the look.  Finishing the outfit is a pair of turquoise Boden sandals, a navy handbag from Furla and turquoise earrings from Stella & Dot.

Outfit #2- With shorts

In this outfit, a basic white t-shirt would be perfectly fine with these olive shorts.  Yet, after a while this can also get really boring.  Here, this Anthropologie top acts like a t-shirt but adds more sizzle to the outfit without losing the basic nature of it.  To finish the look, I added a pair of coral sandals, a sage handbag from Vince Camuto and coral chandelier earrings.

Outfit #3- With printed capris

Here is another outfit where a white tank, basic blouse or t-shirt would work but gets subbed in with this top instead.  You get the ease of a t-shirt and capri pants yet look a bit more polished.  In this outfit a pair of polka dot capris from Boden is styled with the top and the outfit is finished with a pair of navy Cole Haan sandals and a pair of bright green earrings and handbag for additional pop.  As you see in this outfit, this top even works with prints.

Outfit #4- With a mini skirt

Here again this top steps in to replace a basic top that you might grab to wear with this tile print skirt from Topshop.  Same look, only more interesting.  This outfit is finished with a Stella & Dot statement necklace, a pair of blush Modcloth ballerina flats and a pink handbag from Cole Haan.

Outfit #5- Under a cardigan

It’s so easy for me to get stuck in the t-shirt under a cardigan rut.  It’s just super easy and can get really boring when I repeat the same effortless outfit over and over.  Instead of abandoning this great, easy look that you too may wear, try using a novelty basic, like this top, instead of a simple t-shirt.  Again, same look, different result.  Here I styled an easy Michael Stars cardigan over the top and paired it with a pair of boyfriend jeans.  To finish the outfit I added a pair of tan heeled sandals and long pendant necklace from Anthropologie, and a gold handbag from MICHAEL Michael Kors.  By the way, a gold handbag would definitely fall into the novelty basic category.

So there you have it, a novelty item stepping in as a basic proving that you can get just as much mileage from exciting pieces that have a basic nature to them.

  • Amanda

    It really does look so much better to have a textured shirt vs a plain one. Yet another great set of tips! Thanks! PS–Totally thought about you this weekend, I picked up a pair of white capris and they have nude-colored pocket bags! Wow!

    • Wow, big wow!!! Finally someone is using common sense! I am glad you found the tips helpful, thanks!!

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  • I love novelty basics – I’d never thought of the term for them, but that’s always what I look for ‘cos I hate buying just plain basics. I really like clothes to have a touch of something interesting about them.

    • Thanks!! Yea, if you can get a novelty that has the mileage of a basic you’re totally winning!!!!