There really aren’t many quick fix, reasonably priced buys that can add class and long-lasting style to your closet while not breaking the bank but a beautiful, crisp, white shirt is one of them.
A version of the white shirt in linen with pleated sleeves has been found from as far back as a first century Egyptian tomb. Fast forward a few hundred years and Georgian dandy Beau Brummell was famous (and much written about) for his collection of fancy white shirts. However the garment really came into its own and the mainstream in the 1930s when the term ‘white collar worker’ came into usage in the US as a way of differentiating between manual workers and the fast-growing managerial classes who didn’t need to hide stains and marks on their workwear.
Hollywood too was quick to pick up on the potential of this simple but classic piece of clothing as a way of highlighting feminine beauty. Famed actresses such as the two Hepburns – Katharine and Audrey, both took to modelling plain white men’s shirts tied at the waist to emphasize a slim figure (as had fashion designer Coco Chanel). They also astutely realized that the sheer simplicity of the garment draws the eye up to concentrate on the wearer’s face and brightens the complexion.
Anna Wintour followed this wisdom in 1992. For the 100th Anniversary of Vogue, she chose a now legendary cover where Naomi, Cindy, Christy et al all wore the same Gap shirt. There could be no greater testament to the power of this humble piece of clothing to enhance the appearance of the wearer.
Currently there’s an enormous range to choose from. Follow these few styling tips and you’ll find one in the right cut and fabric to suit you.
1) The white shirt is versatile enough to be dressed up or down and is the perfect neutral base to try out some interesting accessories. Why not follow a current trend and invest in a bright, outsize, statement necklace?
2) A fitted style is the most slimming but to truly give the illusion of shedding a few pounds, try white on white vertical stripes.
3) If you have a slightly fuller figure, avoid too much detail on the top of the shirt such as ruffles but choose a style with side ruching that can help hide a flabby stomach.
4) Finally and very importantly, do check how see-through your shirt will be and find appropriate underwear. A white bra will actually be far more noticeable underneath than a flesh-coloured shade.
BANANA REPUBLIC: White Silk Utility Blouse
GAP: Stripe Dobby Shirt
ANTHROPOLOGIE: Selected Femme Katya Blouse