Zipped, ruffled or deconstructed, the button-down white shirt is a girl’s summer uniform
A classic that is never out of fashion, the button-down shirt, in white or blue, comes in a riot of shapes and styles. Pair it with cropped jeans, wide-legged trousers or a super oversized pant
Just in case you haven’t received the memo, the humble button-down shirt is set to be the must-have item this summer. While this isn’t exactly groundbreaking news – it has always been a staple in women’s wardrobes thanks to its versatility and ability to compliment any style – this season it’s evolved from a modest essential into a full-blown fashion statement.
“The focus on the classic button-down comes off the back of the normcore mood that swept through the collections, so it makes sense that designers went back to wardrobe staples and reworked them into something new and interesting,” says Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-porter.com.
“A button-down shirt in crisp white cotton or pale blue pinstripe can become the hardest working item in your wardrobe and I don’t think it is ever out of fashion. This season, however, designers looked to reinvent this wardrobe staple with a focus on sleeving and volume which felt fresh and modern,” adds Natalie Kingham, buying director of Matchesfashion.com.
Indeed, the shirting options presented for spring, both in the pre- and catwalk collections, couldn’t be further from the conservative styles spotted at the office. The shirt has undergone an epic makeover as designers experiment with construction and fit while minimising or exaggerating proportions.
One style that appeared in many collections, including talked-about label Jacquemus, is the ubiquitous off-the-shoulder silhouette. It’s all about showing some skin, as evidenced in Emilio Pucci’s one-shoulder style and Zac Posen’s shirts with collar askew collar.
Other designers moved further down the body and focused on the arms. At Celine, Phoebe Philo’s shirts come cropped with voluminous sleeves shaped like tulips. Ellery’s off-the-shoulder style features dramatic ruffled sleeves that are part costume drama, part modern. Phillip Lim’s come with extended cuffs and ties around the wrist.
“The oversized cuff is trending in a big way, as well as anything with a split, open back,” says Aiken.
Another favourite silhouette is the shirt dress, which has become a summer essential ever since Raf Simons debuted his at Dior a few seasons ago.
Details such as fabric, embellishments and ruffles also play a vital role in taking these shirts from boring to fabulous. Gucci’s colourful, vintage inspired bow-neck shirts are part romantic, part quirky. Tome’s is worn unbuttoned down to the navel and features oversized ruffles down one side. Sacai designer Chitose Abe updated her button-down shirts with pleated backs and layers of mesh over her now signature paisley print.
Vetements updated their white shirt with a camisole overlay made from a contrasting black and white pinstriped fabric.
While white is the order of the day, light blue has also proved popular. Christopher Kane’s bright blue version came with rubber pockets and cuffs. Even denim made an appearance at Stella McCartney.
While many of the bigger brands included a version of the shirt in their collections, others based their entire line around the trend. British label Palmer//Harding specialises in innovating the classic shirt with various directional styles updated with gathers, contrasting big fronts, oversized cuffs and step hems at the back. New York label Monse’s debut collection for spring includes pinstriped versions with sliced sleeves while another was reworked into chic minidresses with the sleeves tied across the chest.
Also topping wish lists is British designer J.W. Anderson’s six-piece shirting capsule collection for Net-a-porter, which includes new shapes such as off the shoulder tops, shirts with a built-in bodice, and corsets.
If the above doesn’t meet your budget, head to high street label COS, where shirts are their core product this season and come in various permutations. Also worth checking out is Hong Kong brand PI’A, which includes the best-selling Camden, a one-shoulder short-sleeve shirt with a deconstructed asymmetric shape and split back.
Once you have purchased your new shirt, it’s all about presenting it in a modern and fresh way. Naturally some of the more “edgy” pieces won’t be as easy to integrate into your wardrobe as a basic button-up, so it’s best to pair it with simple basics such as jeans or trainers.
“These statement-making shirts will be the focal point of your outfit so pair with some cropped high-waisted jeans and golden goose trainers or some floor-sweeping wide leg trousers from Osman, The Row or Chloe and pair of platform sandals from Aquazurra,” advises Kingham.
Proportions are also key to balancing the look, according to Aiken.
“Teaming a reworked shirt with a super oversized pant and flat feels like my uniform at the moment. Layering is also key, adding a bandeau over a shirt or polo neck underneath is an instant update. Take it away from any corporate connotations – I love playing with contrasting masculine stripes, or teaming a stripe style with a checked one,” she says.
For those who prefer not to spend money on spring’s fancy versions, there are plenty of ways to update basic styles that you already own. For example, many street-style stars have been spotted wearing their shirts back to front for a cool, androgynous look.
“Your white shirt look can be as simple as a just ironed or creased shirt. Alternatively, you can take the sleeves and tie it across your chest to turn it like a tube top to go with the drop shoulder trend for this spring/summer – it is sexy, creative and fun.”
“Or wear your white shirt with your favourite simple jeans, or basic blazer for an androgynous look,” suggests Kelly Wong, general merchandise manager – women’s wear at Lane Crawford.