Classics are classics for a reason, and perhaps none is so universally beloved for its clean, crisp profile as the white shirt.
But this piece wasn’t always the every-wardrobe staple it is today. As recently as the late 19th century, per Vogue Italia, the white shirt was an indicator of wealth and social status (laundering was a luxury in the eras before in-home plumbing and dry cleaners on every corner). Over the years, however, the style has seen considerable evolution. In the mid-20th century, actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Audrey Hepburn based their iconic, feminine looks on the tailored piece. Eventually, the style morphed into one steeped in androgyny or masculine attitude.
Today, the white shirt is a confluence of all of these factors—elegance, comfort, crisp tailoring, and polish—with a lingering je ne sais quoi that has the sartorially inclined returning to its cuffed arms again and again.
So, we reached out to two of our favorite style influencers and brand ambassadors, Jennifer Connolly of and Cynthia Hattersley of , to help us get to the bottom of the question: “Wherefore the white shirt?” Discover their expert insights into the indispensable white shirt below.
It’s a foundational piece.
Or to speak more generally: “It is the backbone of any wardrobe,” says Hattersley.
Its crisp, clean lines go with just about everything—jeans, black leggings, or wide-leg pants—but the white shirt also makes an exceptional layering piece.
The Artist’s Smock Shirt has streamlined tailoring, with a fuller fit around the body and an extended hemline that pairs beautifully with the bold shape of our Leyton Vest.
But the white shirt can also be a wardrobe star—meaning it’s exceptionally versatile.
“It can be the perfect blank slate, but it can also take center stage. It coordinates with most things and always looks polished,” says Connolly.
Because of its elemental profile and easy hue, it’s the ideal piece for translating daytime style into nighttime refinement, say our ambassadors—all it takes are artful adornments and the right accessories.
“[I like the] Artist’s Smock Shirt with black skinny pants for day, with simple jewelry or a neck scarf and smoking slippers, and for night, dressy ballet flats and rhinestone jewelry,” says Hattersley.
“I think a white shirt for the over-fifty crowd bounces light upwards [to flatter the face and eyes],” says Hattersley.
Beyond that, the shirt’s tailored lines often create figure-skimming shapes in substantial fabrics that are timeless, polished, and easily elegant. Which projects, as Hattersley says, “one word: confidence.”
It can convey different personalities with a variety of creative details.
While the words “white shirt” may conjure images of a very specific silhouette, we are intrigued by pieces that update the beloved style with artful elements.
Mona Thalheimer’s Lennox Cinched Shirt, from our Winter 2018 Collection, immediately captivated our ambassadors with its compelling structure.
“The unique wrist detail and waist-cinching detail were a big draw for me,” says Connolly.
Elastic, gathered embellishments revive the traditional button cuff, while the waist can be pulled close for a figure-enhancing silhouette with the ties knotted into feminine bows. Conversely, the shape can be made fuller for added comfort and an edgier, boxy fit.
Ultimately, the allure of the white shirt isn’t driven by one factor, but a host of them. And Connolly puts it best: “I adore white shirts of all kinds. Classic or not so classic, they are workhorses in my wardrobe.”
To see more great white shirts and shop our Winter 2018 Collection, visit artfulhome.com.