Button-down woven shirts weren’t popular in the comments on the knits vs. wovens post a few days ago. Lack of comfort, tricky fit, severe look and overly formal appearance were the complaints. But I’m sticking up for the item today because there are many ways you can make the right one work in your wardrobe.

YLF forum member Julia was the inspiration for today’s post. She gave an old yellow striped button-down shirt new life by layering it with fun items and combining key accessories. The lesson is that we shouldn’t think of a button-down shirt as a wow-top that stands alone (unless it’s an Anne Fontaine). Instead, think of it as a vehicle that enables other items to shine.

Button–downs are great when layered under waistcoats and knitwear, belted in at the waist or peeping out from under tailored jackets. I like to tuck them into pencil skirts, pop the collar and scrunch up the sleeves. I also like to wear them un-tucked over skinny jeans with heels and a statement necklace. I’ve just purchased a grey and white baby pinstripe button-down shirt with exaggerated white French cuffs and collar. I can’t wait to belt it under my biker jacket with pearls.

Go beyond the conventional, strict, masculine button-down shirt. The right shirt can look soft, pretty and delicate if the cut, colour and fabrication is just so. My wardrobe wouldn’t function without fabulous black, white and cream button-downs. They aren’t a wardrobe must, but they can add style and spunk to your look if you’re creative with your outfits. They are also a great way to bridge the gap between different items. I encourage you to give them a second chance

Solid Kelly Shirt Striped Annette Blouse

J. Crew usually does a wonderful job of integrating an assortment of basic button-downs into their collection.