Every good wardrobe starts with a crisp white shirt.
Collared, cuffed or buttoned, you couldn’t find another piece of clothing that would suit both men and women, or occasions both casual and formal. Maybe that’s why Rei Kawakubo refers to it as the garment she wished she’d invented, or why Karl Lagerfeld called it “the basis of everything.”
Like a blank canvas, the white shirt promises a multitude of possibilities. It has been endlessly reinterpreted on the runway, whether with unexpected collars (wide ones were popular at the Spring/Summer 2020 shows), voluminous sleeves, oversized silhouettes or details like ruffles, straps and cut-outs. Regardless, its essence remains the same: It’s an unassuming piece of clothing that lends an air of sophistication to its wearer.
And there are so many ways to wear it. In the past, businessmen wore it tucked under suits, while suffragettes did so with sweeping skirts. Today, you could do either, or pair it with trendy leather pants like Kendall Jenner, or timeless denim jeans a la Bella Hadid. You could also dress up the humble shirt with a piece of body jewellery or, if you have Rihanna’s bravado, dress it down with a belt, a pair of heels, and little else.
Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong with the white shirts we’ve curated below.
Jacquemus ‘La Chemise Bahia’ shirt
Trust Jacquemus to turn a classic piece of clothing into fun, flirty statement. This shirt, made with airy cotton poplin, features an open pointed collar, a plunging neckline and a ready-made waist tie on the front. You don’t have to do anything more to jazz up the shirt — just pair it with straight jeans and strappy sandals.
Bite Studios oversized crinkled shirt
If you’re looking for a shirt that’s low-maintenance, this is it. It’s made with organic cotton that’s already crinkled, giving the pared-back button-down shirt an interesting texture. It’s perfect for lazy days; just give it a French tuck into a pair of wide leg pants and style it with a pendant necklace for a dressier look.
Comme des Garçons cut-out sleeve shirt
She didn’t get to invent the white shirt, so Rei Kawakubo has reinvented it instead. Her version comes with cut-out sleeves, gathered and fastened at the sides with a tie. The Comme des Garçons piece would look best unbuttoned and layered as an overshirt, paired with high-waisted shorts.
Aaizél tie-detailed twill shirt
In this iteration, the white shirt becomes a different kind of office wear staple — one that reminds people you have a social life. It’s in the relaxed, open collar, the voluminous sleeves and that soft, twill fabric. This is a day-to-night piece: you can head out for drinks after work in the same shirt without looking like a boring pen-pusher.
Ambush tie-detailed shirt
Talk about subversive. Ambush’s take on the classic piece features crossed straps on the front not unlike a leather harness. And, just like a harness, they stylishly accentuate your waist. To underscore the shirt’s edgy look, complete your outfit with a pair of leather pants.
Sara Battaglia bustier cotton poplin shirt
Tackle two trends with one shirt. This piece features a bustier-style stitching, so it looks like you’re wearing a corset without actually going through the trouble. Adding to its Victorian-inspired look are those Juliet sleeves, puffed with an air of elegance. To keep from looking stuffy and sombre, complete your outfit with a vibrant, patterned skirt.
Acne Studios oversized satin-jacquard shirt
Acne Studios took the liberty of playing not just with silhouette (check out those long, wide sleeves and the oversized fit) but with fabric as well. This one’s made with floral jacquard satin with an alluring sheen. It’s a great option for date night. Just take a page out of Rihanna’s style playbook and pair it with a belt (preferably wide) and some square-toe heels.
PALMER//HARDING asymmetric cotton-blend shirt
Here’s a breezy option made for the summer (or, at least, the permanent one in Singapore). Featuring short sleeves, a waist tie and an asymmetric hem, the shirt would be great for day out at the beach. It goes best with a pair of shorts and slides.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore