The Return of the White Tank & The Case for Less Basics

This classic comeback got me thinking about "wardrobe basics." Do we really need them? Can they be sustainable? How should they be styled?

You have too many basics. 

But it’s not your fault. The “you can never have enough good white tanks” or the “if you love it, you should buy it in every color” mantras probably caused you to stockpile sad slub tees from the Gap.

Now don’t get me wrong, these big-box retailers can often produce better basics than indie or even luxury brands because of their quality control standards, factory relationships, and experience in the niche. 

Where they go wrong, however, is producing too much. And where we go wrong is buying into the myth that basics are a luxury—that if we own v-necks in 15 colorways, it’s somehow better than having one nice top. I’m not saying you should put all your tees and tanks out to pasture. But I want you to look at how you approach and use basics. 

The Tale of Two White Tanks

Let’s take the return of the white tank, for example. How many do you own? 

I used to have one for every day of the week. Maybe more. Until I got fed up with maintaining them. The pit stains, the sink bleaching, the constant hunt for the cheapest option because I’d ruin them in a month (spin hamster wheel, spin). I knew better than most about the implications of fast fashion, but white tanks were my handicap. 

Then one day, I dropped them like a toxic ex. I made new rules. I stopped wearing white tanks to exercise, kept two good ones in stretch and cotton, and started wearing “real clothes” instead. It turned out I didn’t need all the tanks I’d been hoarding. And, worse, I realized I was using them as a crutch and creating pretty dull outfits.

Today, I have one black, one white, and sometimes one tan piece in basic categories. I’m choosier about my fabrics too, opting for Tencel instead of poly and 100% cotton instead of a blend when I can. 

So why does having fewer basics work? Because personal style is more about how you wear and layer unique items and less about how many color options you have. Think about it: when’s the last time you got complimented on a v-neck? 

Just stick to the basics…when it comes to your basics. Find the minimum number of pieces you need and spend more time hunting for interesting patterns, cuts, or dare I say TAILORED pieces to give your wardrobe more dimension. 

And, alas, if you do find yourself in need of an essential white tank, or you want to explore this summer trend more sustainably, I’ve served up two fit ideas with pieces from some of my favorite sustainable brands. Click the images to shop the styles.

Go hip with a 97% organic cotton crew tank from Reformation. Click to shop.


Or go classic with a GOTS and Fair Trade Certified tank from Pact. Click to shop.

Like my taste? The Peahen now offers styling services too. Virtual mood boards, with hand-picked sustainable fashion finds like these, are half off until June 21 with code ‘SpringFling.‘ (discount applied after purchase).

Check out my shopping page for more ideas.

How are you styling your white tank for spring?


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