Solid white button-down (or button-through) shirts haven’t been popular on YLF or with my clients. Back when they were a wardrobe essential for my style, I was one of the few people I knew who wore them. For many they felt corporate, overly dressy, stiff, uncomfortable, too classic, and generally unattractive. Fits gaped at the bust, or were boxy and tent-y around the midsection. Some didn’t like collars, while others felt awful in white. And some simply disliked the wear and laundry aspects of keeping a white shirt clean and pristine.
Many years later, and I’m wondering if feelings about white collared shirts have changed, because the way we wear them has changed. Fabrics are softer, more casual, and some are wrinkle-free. White button-down shirts don’t need to be tailored, uncomfortable and stiff. If you wear them fluidly, they are forgiving and comfy. They can be layered in ways to create an interesting, finished, and crisp effect.
You can wear a white shirt without layers and make a statement. Or you can layer them under pullovers, cardigans, jackets, coats, vests, gilets, dungarees, sheath dresses, bra tops, capes, bustiers, ponchos and wraps. You can also wear them over a lace camisole, turtleneck, tank top, or striped tee. You can button them all the way through, or leave the collar open. You can pop the collar or leave it down. White button-downs are excellent colour contrast vehicles.
Here are some layered visual examples across casual and dressier looks.
I’m a button-down shirt person. I have worn them my whole life in cotton, linen, or cotton blends, and across a range of fits, silhouettes and lengths. I enjoy their roomy and boxy fit. I love their crisp, dressy, polished effect, and find them easy to fit. I wear them very fluidly, casually, semi-tucked, fully tucked, or untucked with casual bottoms or a skirt. I frequently scrunch the sleeves and pop the collar if it’s open. If the collar is buttoned through to the top, I wear the collar down. Button-down shirts are my ‘T-shirts’, and integral to my style.
For a while I preferred button-downs in patterns, and especially in some type of blue and white stripe. But I’m back to wearing solid white versions and those with self-colour white embroideries.
This is my current assortment. The first style is crisp and stiffer than the other two, which are soft and roomier.
I wear them UNlayered on a hot day because the silhouettes lend themselves best to wearing them that way. That said, I also like to layer them under lightweight jackets, or wear them with my pants suit. I like to pop a white camisole underneath to make the white look richer and brighter. I’d like to layer more creatively with a solid white button-down this year and will therefore get a very simple long-sleeved style in a fluid fit to do that with.
I used to frequently layer with my white shirts when I wore black and white outfits a decade ago. I’m not into black these days, having switched to dark blue. But layering with a white button-down shirt appeals to me so I’m going for it. I’m looking at Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren and Boden for the crisp wardrobe essential.
Over to you. How do you feel about layering with white button-down shirts these days?