There were a number of comments about the white button-down shirt. As someone who owns one, (and has to use the “hollywood tape” to keep it from gaping open), I’d love to see new ways to make it work.
It took me ages to embrace the white shirt as a wardrobe staple. Oh, I bought them just about every season, and wore them grudgingly when I felt conservative or uninspired. But I never DID anything with them. I would just pop mine on with a cute skirt and call it an outfit.
And kittens, the white button-down shirt is a canvas: It begs for adornment and manipulation and retooling. Even a perfectly-fitting button-down that hugs your curves will look uninspired sitting on your top-half all alone. You’d never expect to see a blank canvas hung at the MoMA, and you shouldn’t expect to look awesome in your plain old button-down. You’ve gotta tweak the outfit a little to make that shirt shine.
That doesn’t mean that outfits built around button-downs are difficult to assemble and therefore nasty, evil critters to be avoided at all costs. On the contrary! A few simple pieces quickly gussy up the plainest of white shirts, and many are items that you may already have lurking somewhere in your personal style arsenal.
To illustrate some of my favorite go-to white shirt looks, I’ve thrown in a few photos of myself, but also stolen images from my beloved blogging compatriots. Being an astute bunch, I’m sure you’ll notice that not all shirts in these images are, technically, white. You’ll just have to trust me when I promise you that the looks will translate!
Psyche from Economy of Style shows us that belts both thick and thin will do the trick. This one simple accessory can elevate your button-down-shirt look quickly and easily. I prefer embellished, colorful, or otherwise statement-y belts for this purpose, but Psyche’s thin burgundy belt creates a polished, professional look that is fresh and appealing.
S. from academichic throws on an adorable fitted vest over her button-down for a funky-casual look. Vests are everywhere these days, and I doubt they’ll be disappearing anytime soon, so nab one that works with your figure if you don’t have a flattering model on-hand already.
Fearless Audi of Fashion for Nerds takes it all a little further by belting a gauzy vest OVER her button-down. So that’s three kinds of awesome and counting …
Kimberly of Fab Finds Under $50 sports another layered-belted look, using a contrasting scarf as a belt over her cardi and long white shirt.
Belts, vests, tanks, sweater vests, scarves, cardigans … all wardrobe staples, no? Nothing has been used to create these looks that is unusual, hard to procure, or specific to white-shirt-wearage. You’ll also note that a variety of body types are represented here, an array of personal styles are shown, both skirts and pants have been utilized, and looks both businessy and casual have been showcased. I mean, not that I’m BRAGGING, or anything … just pointing out that the white shirt is, in fact, a versatile little beastie.
Now, depending on how you’re built, the fashion tape that Allison mentioned in her request may be key. Your white shirt should be relatively fitted, with some princess seams to define your waist … but the trade-off there is often gaping around the placket. Different manufacturers have different ideas about how big our boobs should be, and investing in some Hollywood Fashion Tape or No See ‘Ems may be your best hope for a good, non-boob-revealing fit.
You may be looking at all of this and thinking, “OK, so I can’t wear my white shirt on its own, I may need to purchase sticky gizmos to keep it from sneakily revealing my rack to passersby, and I must remain vigilant to prevent myself from slobbing Arby’s Sauce all over it. And THEN I have to wash and starch and iron it to keep it looking fresh? THAT SOUNDS AWESOME SIGN ME UP.”
And you know what? I hear you. For years, I used the white t-shirt as my canvas because I could toss it in the washer, fling it in the dryer, and pull it onto my body with nary a worry. Button-downs take work to maintain and the sloth in me just HATES that. But I’ve noticed that any look utilizing a white button-down as its canvas looks about 16 hillion jillion times more chic and pulled-together the same look with a tee as the canvas. The crisp material and severe lines of a menswear collar create such a classic, elegant platform for accessories, sweaters, skirts, jeans, hats, you-name-it.
White shirts: A pain in the hiney, but frequently worth the hassle.
Top images via J.Crew.