Fashion Insiders on Finding Summer Basics That Also Match Personal Style

Forget about a formulaic capsule wardrobe.

A collage of Yolande Macon, Abby Bible, Mecca James-Williams, Pernille Rosenkilde, Joyce Lee on a blue background
(Image credit: Yolande Macon, Abby Bible, Mecca James-Williams, Pernille Rosenkilde, Joyce Lee)

It's a hot take, but the Marie Claire fashion team stands by it: seasonal capsule wardrobes are overrated. The curations of summer basics and "must-buy" essentials you find across the Internet tend to be prescriptive, impersonal, and operate under a one-asethetic-fits-most mentality. And doesn't a universal approach to dressing go against the central ethos of fashion, which is an individual's expression through clothing?

Google "summer capsule wardrobe," and list upon list of luxury leather flip-flops and tank tops with triple-digit price tags pop up. For some shoppers, these items can streamline busy July mornings, but open-toed sandals and a $500 designer tank are not wardrobe building blocks for everyone—sometimes, the $30 option does the trick just fine.

The solution here is to seek out capsule wardrobe alternatives, as Marie Claire's editor-in-chief, Nikki Ogunnaike, often points out in her Self Checkout newsletter. In other words, pieces you'll consistently and reliably reach for because they actually cater to your style—not to the masses. Admittedly, building such a collection requires a little work—it's much easier to add someone's pre-curated edit to your cart—but the end result is a wardrobe that reflects you.

To showcase what a capsule wardrobe looks like when it's oriented around an individual's unique taste, Marie Claire spoke with five fashion tastemakers about the core summer basics they swear by. Each of these women has a distinct fashion POV—some are minimalists with a '90s sensibility, others are known for their eccentric flair, and some fall squarely in the middle. You'll find inspiration a-plenty below, and hopefully, their recommended summer staples spark a few ideas for your own closet.

Mecca James-Williams

Five images of Mecca James-Williams wearing her summer basics on a blue background, including white long sleeve top, blue denim skirt, black feather heels, and a black and silver bag

"For summer, I tend to wear a lot of colors, but shades that are never too loud, in my opinion. I love working in black, navy, creams, and denim into my color moments to balance tone."

(Image credit: Courtesy of Mecca James-Williams)

Mecca James-Williams, a stylist, fashion editor, and creative consultant, describes her personal style as "very vibrant with an elevated play on color theory." But "maximalist" isn't quite right to describe the artist. "With a mixture of modern silhouettes paired with cool seasonal pieces, I would define my wardrobe as being fun with a classic spin." She sees her fashion as emotive and vibe-dependent: "I like my wardrobe to directly showcase how I feel in the moment," James-Williams says, adding her penchant for pairing pieces from "masculine brands, like Bode and Wales Bonner, with feminine pieces from designers like Diotima, Jean Paul Gautier, and Christopher John Rogers."

Denim Skirts

"Right now, I am obsessed with denim skirts; long, short, lots of volume, etc.," James-Williams tells Marie Claire. "They are more elevated than jeans or denim shorts, and while they are super trendy right now, they have a classic feel that [allows them to] be paired with anything." Specifically, she's reaching for "dark denim and white skirts [because] they feel very current."

Comfy Heeled Ballerinas

"I love shopping for shoes every season," says James-Williams, admitting that she has a knack for hunting down the trendiest footwear. "I am currently obsessed with heeled versions of ballet shoes. I typically stay away from flats, so I love that this season has a lot to offer with different heel heights in this particular style."

Vintage T-Shirts

James-Williams will "always be a vintage T-shirt fanatic." She adores them for their versatility. "They are my go-to's for dressing down an elegant skirt or pairing with an easy denim skirt or shorts during the day."

Joyce Lee

Five images of Joyce Lee wearing her summer basics in a collage on a blue background

Accessory designer and creative consultant Joyce Lee relies on simple, tried-and-true outfit formulas throughout the summer.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Joyce Lee)

Pieces that offer easy sophistication are essential for Joyce Lee, a creative consultant who designed footwear and handbags for brands like Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors and, most recently, was Madewell's head of design. "I tend to stick to a variation of a uniform, with a focus on simple, well-made, and effortless pieces. I love accessories and find that a change of shoe, bag, or fun jewelry can elevate or make the outfit feel fresh," says Lee, the author of the fashion Substack, Time Less.

Boxer Shorts

Comfortable and breathable boxer shorts rank high on Lee's list of summer basics. In particular, she highlights pairs made of "crisp white poplin or elevated silk and featuring timeless stripes."

Layering Tank

Lee refers to a neutral tank top as the hero pieces of her summer wardrobe. "I keep stacks of white and black ribbed tanks—they go with everything," she says of the basic's wear-with-anything appeal.

A Fun Bag

Unsurprisingly, a playful handbag is a crucial staple for the accessory designer. "Handbags are where colors, textures, proportions, and shapes come into play," she says. Feel free to expand beyond a standard boxy tote or bucket with crochet weaves, a pop of trendy red, or an origami-style construction.

Pernille Rosenkilde

Five images of Pernille Rosenkilde in her summer basics on a blue background

Pernille Rosenkilde says fine-tuning her outfits comes down to balancing contrasting aesthetics, "like pairing sneakers with feather-decorated pants (I have a thing for feathers)."

(Image credit: Pernille Rosenkilde)

"My boyfriend describes my style as kindergartener-meets-an-old lady—and it’s not far from the truth," says Pernille Rosenkilde, the clothing designer behind Per and the Zoo and a Copenhagen-based fashion influencer. "For me getting dressed is all about having fun. I love colors and funny details, like feathers, ruffles, and prints, but I also like something that keeps the look balanced," she shares.

Big Skirts

"A big fluffy skirt with a lot of width is always fun," raves Rosenkilde. The voluminous bottom gives her ample room to play with her top half, with one of her go-to combinations being a vintage T-shirt teamed with a roomy quilted maxi skirt. "You look effortless while still sporting an interesting silhouette," she says of the pairing.

Easy PJs

"I’m always here for pajamas, no matter if they're made from vintage embroidered fabrics, a crisp Tekla, or see-through lace, " says the Scandinavian fashion influencer. "They're always comfortable, easy to wear, and you can add a lot of fun accessories and styling elements that take it out of the bedroom"—a floral choker necklace or chunky wedge sandal, for instance.

Mini Skirts

Again, balance is crucial for Rosenkilde's style—she loves short skirts in the summer just as much as an oversized maxi style. Her favorites include "a gold leather version from Arket that I love to pair with a white T-shirt and my pink Prada mini with the long 'tail' that's perfect with a tank top."

Abby Bible

Five images of Abby Bible in her summer basics, like denim, athleisure sets, and dresse

While Abby Bible's style depends on her mood of the day, the through-line is that her outfits "always remain eclectic and colorful."

(Image credit: Abby Bible)

Abby Bible, a fashion influencer with a 200,000 (and growing!) following on TikTok, doesn't have one concise term to describe her style. Rather, she sees it as a constant evolution. "Fashion is limitless and so important to experiment with, so I don’t corner myself into only one aesthetic. Every day, I get to wake up and decide who I want to be that day. Do I want to be super chic, sporty with a hint of feminine, or grunge?" she says.

Specifically for summer, Bible prioritizes comfortable, confidence-boosting pieces that take the fuss out of getting dressed on muggy mornings. "A clear theme is easy, breezy, beautiful pieces for the summer life, a time that's too enjoyable to worry about my outfit or the pressure of having the 'perfect' body when it's hot outside. Fill your summer wardrobe with no-brainer items that keep you comfortable, cool, and confident so you can focus on enjoying life," she says.

Linen Pants

"Linen pants are an essential for summer," Bible says. "There are just a million ways to style them. With a button down or blouse they’re perfect as a summer work outfit, but with a scarf top, they’re also perfect for your Euro summer."

Exercise Dresses

"When it's boiling hot outside, and I just need to make it to the corner store without passing out, I love an exercise dress," enthuses Bible. "The built-in shorts and feminine silhouette make it incredibly versatile: I can easily throw one on and know I'll be comfortable while still being able to dress it up. I specifically love the ones from Girlfriend Collective and Old Navy," she mentions.

Breezy and Baggy Pieces

Given the steamy weather, Bible recommends breathable fabrics and baggy silhouettes that offer ventilation. "In the summer, the last thing you want is something constricting or clinging to your body," she points out. As for where the influencer shops? "Free People has incredible oversized flowy pieces that can work for a wide range of sizes, and year-over-year Anthropologie has amazing pieces that make me excited for summer fashion."

Yolande Macon

Five images of Yolande Macon in her summer basic outfits

Color, color, and more color!

(Image credit: Courtesy of Yolande Macon)

"Classic with a twist" is how fashion and lifestyle content creator Yolande Macon defines her personal approach to fashion. Typically, that involves Macon experimenting with her outfit like an artist would with their paints and canvases. "I love playing with funky prints, proportions, dimensions, silhouettes," she tells Marie Claire.

Cut-Off Shorts

A standard summer basic but one worth mentioning all the same: Marcon will be consistently wearing denim shorts throughout the 2024 season. But her reasoning is more pop culture-informed than a strategy to help her withstand the heat. "I'm in my Coyote Ugly era, so my summer will be full of bikers tees and cut off shorts. My millennial soul needs some nostalgia!"

Asymmetrical Skirts

"I’ve been obsessing over asymmetrical skirts lately," Macon shares, crediting the unexpected design detail for giving her summer style an eye-catching edge. Since the bottoms do most of her outfit's heavy lifting, she keeps the top half relatively pared back and "wears them with a simple tank." But when the "dramatic" mood strikes to level up the look, she slips a midi over denim trousers in a masterclass example of the skirt-over-pants trend.

Playful Prints

Two words: “funky prints." Macon relies on groovy patterns—think rainbow tie-dye, abstract florals, and kaleidoscopic checks—to carry her throughout the season and boost her mood throughout.

Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma is the fashion features editor at Marie Claire, where she writes deep-dive trend reports, zeitgeisty fashion featurettes on what style tastemakers are wearing, long-form profiles on emerging designers and the names to know, and human interest vignette-style round-ups. Previously, she was Marie Claire's style editor, where she wrote shopping e-commerce guides and seasonal trend reports, assisted with the market for fashion photo shoots, and assigned and edited fashion celebrity news.

Emma also wrote for The Zoe Report, Editorialist, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Mission Magazine. She studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University Lincoln Center and launched her own magazine, Childs Play Magazine, in 2015 as a creative pastime. When she's not waxing poetic about niche fashion topics, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage, reading literary fiction on her Kindle, and baking banana bread in her tiny NYC kitchen.