Reader Request: Opaque White Shirts

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I’ve had many, MANY requests flow in through Facebook, comments, and e-mails for help finding opaque white shirts. Some of you are hoping to find button-fronts, others tees, but everyone is frustrated by the dearth of opaque options out there. And I hate to say it – especially since I pride myself on being able to find virtually anything either in person or online – but I, too, struggle to find white shirts that are truly opaque. I’ll occasionally find a knit tee that works fine with just a nude bra, but button-fronts? Forget about it. The Foxcroft shirt shown above is among my most opaque, but even it has a bit of show-through in certain lights.

So I’ll give you my few meagre tips, and open the discussion to everyone in the hope that some of you have found a few brands or styles of white shirts that don’t require work-arounds to wear.

Double-front knit tops

They’re getting rarer, but they do exist – mostly among brands that skew slightly older like Coldwater Creek and J.Jill. Obviously, two layers of cloth – even if that cloth is white – will be more opaque than one. And since show-through is often more of a problem in the front than the back, this style of top can work.

Higher-end and legacy brands

Very few Old Navy or Forever 21 white shirts will be opaque. Bargain brands cut costs across the board to pass along savings to the consumer, and thick, opaque, white fabrics are generally better quality and spendier than thin, translucent, white fabrics. I’m not saying you won’t occasionally find an opaque blouse or tee for a bargain at Target, or that every expensive designer top will be totally opaque. Just that my Foxcroft shirt above is $76 and considerably less revealing than my $20 LOFT clearance rack one. When I thrift, I can tell a Pendelton or Brooks Brothers shirt from a Gap or Express one just by feel; The cloth is thicker, sturdier, and harder to see through. I can’t say as I’ve found any recent styles anywhere that I’d recommend, but I know from experience that older brands, more expensive brands, and brands that cater to mature women are generally less likely to be peddling white shirts that will show the world your bra.

Ribbed knit tees

I prefer ribbed knits because I find them to be less clingy than non-ribbed knits, but they also tend to be a bit sturdier and more opaque. Now, I’m not talking about the wide ribs like you find in tank tops, but instead about the type of knit used to make “baby” style tee shirts. In fact, many of the shirts I’ve bought that fall into this category are called “baby rib” since the ribbing itself is so fine. Zappos has some examples from Alternative Apparel, Splendid, and other brands. I stocked up on baby rib Amber Sun tees from Nordstrom last year, too, and they were fabulously opaque. Some are thin, but ribbed knits are often a bit beefier than smooth knits.

Nude camis

That’s right, three measly points in and we’re already at work-arounds! Since few of my own shirts are opaque enough to wear on their own, I rely on my nude camis to take up the slack. Mine are cheapies from Target, smooth nylon, and they’re not shapewear but just meant to add another layer between bra and world. (Like this one.) My primary show-through issue is my bra, and this type of cami helps create an unbroken torso line beneath my shirt. In my opinion, utilizing this layering system is more sophisticated than layering a plain white tank top beneath a white button-front. Less show-through, more subtle.

Nude bras

Why am I bringing this up? Because several jobs ago, I met a woman in her early 40s who was wearing white bras with her white tops. Until I mentioned how fabulously invisible nude bras were, and how essential they were for days when white tops were worn. Her eyes got about as big around as saucers, friends. So just in case: A bra that is nude to YOUR skin tone will create less show-through than a white, colorful, or printed bra. Hopefully you’ve got one. Or are going to nab one right after work today.

So why exactly are manufacturers content to churn out translucent white shirts year after year? Cost savings, undoubtedly. But just as women everywhere are baffled by the lack of sleeved dresses available to them, we’re all scratching our heads about this one. None of us actively wants white shirts that show everything, and just about every last one of us would be willing to shell out a few extra bucks for options that are truly opaque. Hopefully the market will hear our frustrated cries and make some changes soon.

Until then, anyone have resources to share for opaque white tees, tops, and shirts? Bought any lately that don’t require nude camis or other layers? Especially interested in brands that carry petites, talls, and plus sizes, but any suggestions are totally welcome!

Outfit details here.

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  • Kara

    I’m baffled by sheer shirts (of any color) too! I’ve read so many fashion mag articles with editors cooing over how a certain tee is “perfectly sheer.” What? Most of the women I know are buying shirts specifically NOT to show our underwear. Are you listening, clothing companies?

  • Agoprime

    you look so nice!
    http://www.agoprime.it

  • KimM.

    This issue really gets to me! For the last several years I’ve been on the hunt for an opaque white tee. I can’t find one anywhere and it makes me mad. I’ve decided that “slub cotton knit” is code for cheap and thin and totally see-through. Clothing manufacturers need to listen to their primary customer base and I don’t know of any woman who wants to buy shirts that don’t hide their underwear. I hope that someone reading your article might be able to point us to a resource that can provide quality tees.

  • Sonja

    I own the Sean Top from Laura Byrnes in several colours (I bought them at Pinup Girl Clothing). The fabric is thick and sturdy, and even the white one is opaque, at least with a nude bra, although I must admit that I have not tried it with a white or dark one. Of course this pinup retro style isn’t for everyone, but the other two styles of this brand that they offer in white, the Daryl Top and the Ridley Top, seem to be made of the same material and look a bit more neutral and professional to me. I should also mention that none of these is cheap…

  • Keilexandra

    I have a white buttondown from Brooks Brothers (the factory store)–in petite sizing, even–and it’s opaque enough for me to wear just a nude bra underneath.

  • Lynn Barnes

    1. “Make your own tee-shirts or blouses, and you will have complete control over the fabric you use.” Even I, who make a majority of my own clothing, have to shake my head at this advice. I once spent too much time in my local fabric store, seeking and not finding even one bolt of solid white fabric, in any fiber configuration, of any weight/weave/knit/thickness at all. So, even stitchers are in a quandary here.
    2. A Dutch sewing blogger claims that a red bra will not “show through” a white blouse. I’ve tried it with a few of my blouses, and have had pretty good luck with all but a sheer-ish linen blouse.

  • Leslie Le

    If you’re looking for t-shirts, the Sonoma brand at Kohl’s has v-necks that are very opaque. They’re pretty comfortable too… but I noticed mine have pilled up a bit. They have Misses and Women’s sizes for about $12 a shirt. (Lots of other colors too!)

  • Ginger

    It’s a situation where you get what you pay for. Better shirts, particular the no-iron type, are thicker.
    I prefer white under white shirts to nude. Yes, you can see the straps through the top shirt but if I’m going for white I think it gives a better white.

    By the way, the WSJ reported last week that Coldwater Creek is or is about ready to declare bankruptcy.

  • http://sololisa.com/ Lisa Wong

    I have a white cotton button-down from J. Crew that I can wear a nude bra underneath. Otherwise, my white tops always need a nude cami (Uniqlo makes awesome thin, heat-retaining ones) or white or black, depending on the effect I’m going for.

    The one that frustrates me most is silk blouses as so many fast fashion silks are super transparent. I may have to bite the bullet and buy an Equipment silk blouse one day.

  • http://batman-news.com 33

    I have a Guess? white chiffon long sleeve that’s pretty sheer. I intentionally wear my black bralette under the shirt sometimes. Other times I wear a neon pink loose tank under it. I actually like wearing something contrasting under a white shirt to add visual interest.

  • mmelaprof

    Target double-front tees and dressy tees are often opaque– love the double-layer ones especially.

  • Justine

    Have you tried Everlane’s silk blouses?

  • Lisa

    I do want to recommend Petit Bateau tees. Not inexpensive, not good for larger sizes, but perfect for their narrow target market.

  • Plink

    >None of us actively wants white shirts that show everything

    Well, shit. TIL my shameless, exhibitionist self doesn’t exist.

  • Cynthia Peterson

    Wow. And here I thought it was just me! I have given up on finding wearable white tees/shirts as I am always hot and adding layers like a cami just does not work for me. Every time I read about how a crisp white button down is a wardrobe essential I just shake my head. Thanks for addressing this issue!

  • NeenaJ

    Madewell’s silk blouses are excellent. I bought one on clearance after it fit me so well and then stalked the (virtual) sale rack for more. I’m up to three now.

  • loretta gjeltema

    I purchased a classic white button down at Talbotts recently that was quite substantial. Petite plus too. That’s a rare find.