How to Wear the Great White Shirt

Mar 27, 2008Updated 7 months ago

The great white shirt has become the new little black dress in terms of longevity and versatility. Always a wardrobe staple, this year a new trend in detailing and embellishments has made this basic of wardrobe warriors far more fashion-forward than ever before.

White shirts used to suggest business-wear, but the classic look was turned on its head several years ago when Sharon Stone famously wore a white Gap shirt with a voluminous satin skirt to the Oscars.

According to's article of 12 February 2008," A crisp white shirt is a Fashion Classic". "While white shirts always have been a crucial part of a woman's wardrobe, the infusion of stretch has rocketed them even higher on the list of go-to items."

"A white shirt has a much neater look if it has stretch," says Dixie Lee Davis, director of Saks' Fifth Avenue Club. "And it stays neat and smooth from morning till night."

Classic or Trend-Setter?

In 2008 women's white shirts are part of this season's white color trend, taking on an identity of their own, not just for work wear but as a statement shirt of high fashion for evening and casual.

There are classic styles with traditional collars and cuffs, masculine looks with oversized mannish shirts, and statement shirts with ruffles, bows, ribbons, and lace, perfect for evenings. Just like the LBD, this shirt can take you from business to bar in one simple step.

Michael Herz, head of design for Aquascutum, likens a white shirt to "a blank fashion canvas you can do anything you like with.” Therefore, with so many variations to choose from, you can create your own style by teaming it with some great accessories and outfits.

What to Wear with a Great White Shirt

The Classic Look

  • Classic styles look great with pencil skirts and well cut black pants. Make sure your shirt is fitted and not too wide if you want to tuck it in; otherwise you’ll look more like a hot air balloon.
  • If you are wearing wide legged or fluid pants then choose a tailored top. If your shirt is floaty or a smock-type, then go for a fitted skirt or slim-cut pants.
  • Traditional collars can be tastefully accessorized with a antique brooch or for a preppy look, add a cluster of badges.

The Masculine Look

  • Further embrace the mannish look with a sleek tailored waistcoat, tuxedo pants or boyfriend jeans.
  • Dress up a masculine style shirt with jeweled or sparkly cufflinks. Austin Reed, Massimo Dutti. Oversized shirts can be cinched in at the waist to create a more shapely silhouette.

Statement Shirts

  • Let the shirt speak for itself by teaming it with classic jeans, or for evening, simple, well cut black pants or elegant skirt.Go mad with some fashion forward accessories by adding some statement shoes and a great bag.
  • Shirts with ruffles, pleats and pussy bows require hardly any jewelry as the detailing should do the talking. However, a ribbon tie is perfect around a pleated or ruffled neckline.

Shop for Your Shape

White shirts look flattering when the white is kept crisp and clean, but white does add width to your frame and can make your body appear slightly larger. For this reason it is important to choose a style and cut that flatters your shape.

A wrap-over shirt is kind to most figures. If you have a l arge stomach or hips, then choose one that ends slightly below, and not on, the waist. Corset styles are also having a fashion moment and are perfect for drawing in a large waist. Ruching at the sides works well in minimizing a large stomach.

Big-busted women should choose a neckline that flatters the bust rather than accentuates it, such as a square or sweetheart neckline or a V-neck. An Empire-line style that is fitted underneath the bust will flatter an ample chest. Ensure you have no unsightly gaps, with pulling around the bust.

Older women can still get away with the continuation of last year's fashionable smock styles, but try and go for one with a longer sleeve and that is well-fitted under the bust, rather than making you look as if you re expecting.

Wear the Right Underwear

Skintone bras are an absolute must under a sheer white shirt, rather than white, which is likely to show through the weave. Nude colors are invisible as they match your skintone. Avoid black bras under a white shirt at all costs, a major fashion faux pas! It might be advisable to check how see through the shirt actually is before buying it!

The Timeless Shirt

No longer a male domain, this season, the timeless traditional white shirt is getting the feminine treatment. It is probably even more versatile than the little black dress, and by investing wisely, and with good care and maintenance, your great white shirt will see you through to next year and beyond.