I Tried on 42 Cheap Basics at Nordstrom—I Would Buy These 18 Right Away

We love an editor try-on story here at Who What Wear. Whether our editorial staffers are testing the latest and greatest for spring in our Great Try On series or our editor is trying on J.Crew’s latest hits, we spend almost as much time snapping mirror pics as we do sitting at our computers. We figure it’s a fantastic way to serve you authentic shopping content, and we are happy to fill our camera rolls with research for you, dear reader.

Today’s subject is affordable basics from Nordstrom. I may have taken a little leeway with the term “basic,” as some of these items lean more toward basic with a twist. But rest assured, my picks are all incredibly versatile, and relatively affordable, with all 18 picks under $100. Additionally, this time I thought I’d infuse some real reviews from Nordstrom shoppers to add a second point of view. You’ll see those sprinkled throughout, as well as a new section at the end featuring a small fraction of the items that just didn’t make the cut. I figure knowing which items are less stellar IRL can be just as valuable as picking out the winners. Start scrolling to get to the cream of the basics crop at Nordstrom.

You know when you put on an article of clothing and it a) fits perfectly and is b) comfortable? That’s this top. The silky material is super soft, and the ties hit at just the right place. I think this top could easily pass for $300, and the delicate ties are so pretty. What’s not to love?  I’m wearing a size extra small here and found it is true to size.  P.S. In all the photos, I’m wearing reusable nipple covers, which I’ve come to love way more than a bra. They give me confidence to wear any kind of top without worrying about if my bra is showing, and just happen to be on sale at Nordstrom right now. You’re welcome. 

Wow, this dress is an absolute gem. The top part is a thick ribbed tank material, and the skirt is made from cotton and has a lining which adds nice volume. Most importantly, there are pockets. Pockets! I sleep on navy usually, and this dress just reminded me how lovely it can be—in the same comfort zone as black, but just a bit more lively. I’m wearing an extra small here, which works for me even though my hips are more of a size small, because the skirt is fuller. I’d say it runs true to size. 

“I ordered 3 colors in this dress, and I am glad that I did, because I am thrilled! So adorable and easy to wear. They will be so cute with flats or wedges.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

“Wow I had no idea I could love such a basic dress so much! The fit is so great, length is perfect, cool and comfy, love having pockets.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

Please meet the ideal blazer for spring and summer, made of breezy cotton. I love the very subtle, tonal stripes. It adds dimension and visual interest without making it any less versatile. The lapel shape is perfect, and the tortoise buttons complete the warm weather vibe. 

 A little close up on the stripe. I’m wearing a size small, which felt true to size if slightly oversize. 

So, Reformation has an extremely similar dress for $278, and this Wayf one is a third of the price. Both have removable spaghetti straps and a smocked back, which is ideal for getting the perfect fit. The Reformation version has more layers on the bodice, but for the cost, the Wayf dress is clearly the winner. 

I’m wearing a medium here, which explains why the bodice looks a bit big on me. I’d say it runs true to size.

I’d never tried Naked Wardrobe before and was honestly blown away by the material, which is incredibly thick and stretchy. I love how it hugged my curves and molded to my body. The rich brown color is gorgeous IRL, too. 

I tried on a size large, because they didn’t have any other sizes, and was so surprised when it fit. I would have ordered this in a medium, so a size up from my normal small. I completely agree with Nordstrom’s fit recommendation to order a size up. The only other element to note is a slit in the back would have been helpful, as it does restrict your legs a bit when walking. I assume they kept the leg opening narrower to achieve the hourglass look, but consequently, it’s not a dress you can walk too quickly in. 

“It’s just a cute versatile dress! You can dress it up or down and it fits like a glove molding to every beautiful curve you have! Seriously. Don’t think. Just buy!”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

“I’m in love. This dress keeps everything in place, you have to step into the dress, and it makes me look small. I purchased an XL, I’m 240 pounds, and it’s soft and comfortable. Down by the legs is a little mermaid feel, but it’s a nice dress.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

At $20, this tank is a steal. It’s very soft and on the sheer side. Once again, my reusable nipple covers came in the clutch creating the most seamless, invisible look! Between the thick binding and the cut of the racer front, it totally hits the trend mark. With six color options, you’re spoiled for choice. I’m wearing an extra small, and find it’s true to size, but if you’re between sizes, I would size down. 

“Love this tank. It is a very soft and thinner material, which I like as it doesn’t feel as constricting as other racerback tanks, but still follows your curves.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

“I picked this tank up one day in nude with no real purpose, just seemed like a good basic. I end up wearing it often. The fabric is a thinner, silky feel, thinner than the Splendid tanks. I bring it with me when I travel and it always seems to come in handy.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

If you’re down with a crop top, this is an excellent crop top. The way it’s kind of oversize and draped reminds me of how some of the TikTok girlies tuck their tops under their bra band, but with this top, you can get same effect minus the effort and worry of becoming untucked. I’m also a fan of the slightly strong shoulder (excellent for balancing proportions) and the textured material, which always reads more expensive. I’m wearing a size small, which fit, but could have likely fit in an XS, too.  The trousers are the kind of chic essential everyone should have in their closet. They’re also confusingly comfy, like “Am I wearing pajamas right now?” comfy, and they have an elastic waistband in the back for a comfortable fit. I’m wearing a medium, and think a small would have been perfect. The length is a little long for my almost 5’4” frame, so a trip to the tailor would have to be factored in should I purchase. I was wearing 3” heels, and the pants were about an inch too long on me. 

“These are great pants. Nice material and good fit. I wear a 6-8, and medium was perfect.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

“These pants are wonderful. Bought all 3 colors!”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

If you already own a classic slip skirt, this Topshop version is like a spicy little upgrade. Between the slit and the small cutout with a tie detail, it has all the elements of a great going out skirt. I’m wearing a size 2, which fit fine, but was on the smaller side as far as size 2’s normally go. 

My only qualm is some of the seams don’t lay super flat, as you can see on the left side of the photo along my hip. But at this price point, I expect some compromise in the fit. I also think it reads slightly more champagne in person and as shown in my pictures, compared to the more silver look in the model photos. 

“This skirt is so light and simple, yet provides flattery in all the right places. It is cut at least 1 if not 2 sizes small. My normal size 0 barely came up to my thighs. The stone is more of a cream FYI. Definitely worth a try.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

At first glance, this may seem like a normal tank top, but three things make it a stand-out pick: The curved hem is so cool (the brand Line by K has curved hems, and they’re always ahead of trends). The curved hem is also flattering, in my opinion, because it highlights the waist and looks way better untucked than a regular straight hem. Lastly, the exposed seam details and oversize neck and armhole binding add visual interest. Trust me, she is a winner! I’m wearing a size small here and could have gone for an extra small if I wanted a super-snug fit. 

“I bought the dark blue, and it fit in my wardrobe perfectly, so I wanted more colors. However optic white is misnamed on Nordstrom’s website. It’s a white/beige/yellow. It’s a frequent color in Free People’s clothes, which I appreciate for their use of cotton. Other colors were also just not my taste. The navy blue one will be on frequent rotation this summer.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

Affordable jeans often have a tell that gives them away as less expensive than their designer cousins, but I strangely could not find the flaw in these! Wash: excellent. Length: excellent for my 5’4” frame. Butt: nice, which can be hard to find in a relaxed jean. Material: 100% cotton. Overall, no notes!

I took a 27 in these, and normally I am a 26, so I agree with Nordstrom’s note to size up. 

Is this called a belfie?

This top is from Free People, and isn’t available at Nordstrom, but thought I’d share in case anyone was interested. I swear it has sculpting abilities. With the wide neck that doesn’t work with regular bra straps, this top is another example where the reusable nipple covers are a godsend. 

This model image distorts the color of the jeans, in my opinion. My photos or the video of these jeans on Nordstrom’s site are more accurate. 

Shout out to my on-sale Zara shoes that I just had to buy after spotting them in my colleague Eliza’s story on affordable items that look like luxury.

Why is it that most miniskirts are cut super slim to the body? Don’t they know it’s already a big deal to free the knee when us millenials have been in midis for the better part of a decade?! But it turns out I simply hadn’t tried an A-line mini, until I came across this under-$50 number at Nordstrom. The slightly roomier, more forgiving cut just feels easier to me. I also think the bow from the wrap is a darling detail. I am wearing a small, which felt true to size.

Am I the only one who finds shorts to be a tricky clothing category? My old denim cut-offs have been on a hiatus that might just become permanent, and I find bermuda shorts can be hard to pull off without a heel, at my height anyway. This slightly sporty pair somehow sidesteps all of my shorts woes. IRL, the material feels like it has a touch of nylon, hence the Prada vibes, but also is more satin-y than straight nylon, which lends an air of polish. I also like that they’re a slightly richer green IRL than the more olive look on the model. 

I found they run true to size. How cute are they with the curved hem tank? 

After trying on mostly formfitting clothing, this looser fit dress felt like a big exhale. It’s also lined so you don’t have to worry about it being see through. For those who want a little more coverage, I think this summer dress checks all the boxes.

It’s a small detail, but I like the slit at the cuff of the sleeve. You can also see the textured pattern of the fabric on this closer-up shot. I’m wearing a size small, which definitely gave me a more flowy fit. 

This dress is sweet in front and has a little spice in the back. It reminds me of the (much more expensive) brand Sir the Label.

I’m wearing an XXS here, because that was all they had left in store, but I think an XS or small would have fit better as my skin was a bit pinched. I’d say it runs true to size. 

A dress that’s over 50% off, has full stock, and amazing reviews? It exists, and I found it! As someone who has worked on designing clothes before, I know that a long row of covered buttons like this dress has is a rather costly detail to include, so you know you’re getting great value, especially since it’s on sale. If you’re looking for a summery LBD update, I think this is your dress.

I took a small and found it is true to size. 

“The most amazing dress, perfect for any occasion. Dress it down with a baby tee and you’ve got a sweet 90’s vibe:) Fit seems very true to size.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

I’m usually not a big prints girl, but give me a textured fabric any day of the week. The ruffle hem and twist detail at the bust make this tank a great, visually-interesting option for summer in the office. Add a pair of trousers and you’re set. 

“Popcorn is a lovely fabric. As usual with this brand, cropped is not too cropped. Will be a very comfortable, interesting top to wear with jeans and linen pants.”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

“These are going to be my go-to tops for the spring/summer! They are so cute and flattering, and the v-neck is just low enough where my bra doesn’t show, and it’s not revealing (I’m a 32c). I got it in white as well. I can’t wait to wear them!”—Nordstrom Reviewer 

Just when I said I wasn’t a prints girl, this amazing pattern is making me eat my words. The blurred floral print and pretty ruched bust detail makes this dress feel like it could be from the much-beloved designer brand, Brock Collection (rip!).

They only had an XL left in store, so there’s a lot of extra fabric in the back, but I’d trust that Nordstrom calls it true to size.

This linen apron dress is perfectly sweet, but I think the other picks above stood out more. 

I do love the back detail, though, and that it’s customizable for fit. 

While this dress is a gorgeous color and I love the elegant drape of the neckline, I couldn’t manage to get a picture where it wasn’t clinging to my body in ways I didn’t love. 

Next up, check out more under-$100 new Nordstrom arrivals.

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