"Subversive Basics" Are Trending, and They Will Transform Your Wardrobe

·4-min read

"Subversive basics" is a term I recently stumbled upon, and my interest was immediately piqued. I love wardrobe classics but always enjoy making them feel more exciting, and subversive basics do just that—with a few caveats. The term, according to Refinery29, was coined by TikToker and trend hunter Agus Panzoni, who describes them as "basics that rebel up to the point of losing their utility." Think cut-outs, sheer and keyhole features on white vest tops, black roll-necks, and classic cardigans. But I think they can go further than that. Oversized and non-fitted pieces and interesting denim silhouettes can also be considered as more "subversive." And I'd go so far as to say that these pieces are still very useful.

However, after falling down this microtrend rabbit hole, I now spot them everywhere. All over Instagram, some of my favourite stylish women have been doing the subversive-basics trend for a while. Before I show you all the looks I've spotted, it's important to give you some context in terms of this season's collections. From one-shoulder vest tops at Celine to cut-out knitted dresses at Phillip Lim, plenty of designers are looking to up the ante when it comes to giving new life to classic items in 2021. But after delving into the fashion archives, I realised that this isn't new at all. Avant-garde fashion designer Rick Owens has often pushed boundaries when it comes to more interesting basics by using cut-outs and oversized silhouettes. Back in 1994, Chanel had a whole show full of sheer tops and cut-out dresses. So as usual, this isn't exactly a new trend, just one that's been repurposed and given a new name.

If this sounds like something you'd love to try this coming season, keep scrolling to see the trend on the runway, then go on to see how influencers are wearing it. Finally, you can shop an edit of the coolest subversive basics I've seen this season.


Style Notes: The one-shoulder vest, as seen at Celine, is the easiest way to dip your toe into this trend for 2021.

Style Notes: At the opposite end of the spectrum is this bodysuit look from Ottolinger.

Style Notes: This might not be immediately obvious, but I think this fits thanks to Bottega Veneta's oversized silhouette and padded-out hips on the knitted dress.

Style Notes: Another knitted dress, this time it's from Phillip Lim. It's fitted and has subtle cut-outs at the top to provide a talking point.

Style Notes: Chanel's 1994 show featured quivering swathes of sheer chiffon.

Style Notes: Rick Owens's fitted dress slashed right up to the thigh is a great take on the subversive basic.


Style Notes: Major cut-outs feature on this classic LBD, so you don't need to go overboard on accessories or styling to make an impact.

Style Notes: A tiny detail that makes so much impact is this criss-cross cut on these jeans. Pair with a crop blouse or jumper to show this off.

Style Notes: The lack of lapels makes this blazer more interesting, especially when worn with a pair of classic pleated trousers. Opt for complementary colours too.

Style Notes: A knitted dress with a wrap-around middle showcasing a cut-out is the minimalist's way to do this trend.

Style Notes: The detail on the back of this dress is so chic that you'll only need a pair of strappy sandals to go with it.

Style Notes: Ballet pumps with a twist add something more interesting to look at to this all-black outfit.

Style Notes: Is this a vest top with a halterneck or a jumper with huge cut-outs? Either way, I recommend wearing it with a pair of high-waisted black trousers.


& Other Stories Cropped Criss Cross Tie Blouse (£65)

Arket Boxy Tank Top (£19)

Khaite Allegra Bustier-Style Dress (£876)

Jacquemus Valerie Cut-Out Pencil Skirt (£400)

Jacquemus Lucciu Off-Shoulder Top (£293)

Khaite The Normandy Ankle Boots (£1020)

Whistles Ribbed One Sleeve Top (£49)

A.W.A.K.E. Mode Asymmetric Stretch-Cady Top (£345)

Tibi Cutout Alpaca-Blend Bouclé Midi Dress (£420)

Tibi Chalky Cutout Crepe Top (£365)

H&M Wide Crease-Leg Trousers (£25)

H&M Seamless Jumpsuit (£25)

H&M Oversized Jacket (£25)

Rejina Pyo Maya Puff-Sleeve Blouse (£325)

Monki Nani Palazzo Jeans (£40)

The Line by K Gael One-Shoulder Stretch-Cotton Maxi Dress (£140)

Completedworks 14kt Gold-Plated Vermeil Ear Cuff (£135)

Heist The Sheer Vest (£48)

Raey Fold Organic-Cotton Dad Baggy Boyfriend Jeans (£140)

Weekday Dance Long Sleeve Body (£25)

Next up, the biggest autumn/winter 2021 fashion trends to know.

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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