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In my ten plus years of writing about fashion, there are a handful of classic pieces that come up again and again – one of which is the white shirt. A crisp button-down is a recognised sartorial staple and has long been considered an integral part of the capsule wardrobe. Ask any fashion editor what the essentials of timeless dressing are and a white shirt is sure to be mentioned.
Its appeal? Quite simply, the simplicity. Clean lines and a fuss-free silhouette: consider it a blank slate on which you can build an outfit all year round. What's more, its minimal aesthetic can easily be tweaked to work with any style; make it preppy with a V-neck, sultry with a tux jacket, girly with florals or casual with jeans and a cashmere jumper. A white shirt is the ultimate transformer. It’s no wonder it was a go-to piece for Coco Chanel, the godmother of enduring fashion.
Images: Everett Collection
For such a style stalwart, the white shirt has contemporary appeal. Although it was thought to have first been introduced into women’s wardrobes during the 18th century, when Marie Antoinette wore a ruffled cotton version, it has been revived and reinterpreted right up to the current season.
This winter, Max Mara, Jil Sander and Erdem gave it a fresh spin by teaming it with bright tailoring, trophy trousers and glamorous evening wear. The latter is a great styling tip to update your festive finery for the new year; try slipping a white shirt under your velvet suit or pairing it with a shimmering knit.
“The white shirt is a blank slate on which you can build an outfit all year round.”
For everyday, take a cue from the Dior catwalk where pristine shirts were worn with wide, dark-wash jeans. Add chunky boots and a parka and you’ve got a brunch-ready weekend outfit. Alternatively, layer a blazer over the top and head into the office.
When it comes to finding the perfect version, always go for cotton. Not only is cotton breathable, it has the right weight to hang well and give that crisp look. At the risk of sounding like your mother, it will also wash beautifully, which is crucial for such a wear-on-repeat piece.
An oversized cut feels modern and is a world away from school shirts and anything you might have once worn waiting tables (on that note, I tend to veer away from wearing a white shirt with black trousers, which looks too much like a uniform). The Pip Relaxed Poplin Shirt has a chic, androgynous look that makes everything you wear with it that bit more effortless, from leather pants to midi skirts.
A white shirt instantly smartens up jeans and trainers for when you want a quick and easy everyday outfit that still looks polished. Add further sharpness with a blazer and introduce a modern sports-luxe twist with a baseball cap. Perfect for dress-down office days or meeting up with friends at the weekend.