Fall is in the air, which means it’s time to start trading out the easy, breezy pieces I’ve lived in all summer for things that have a little more weight and reserve. The term “all buttoned up” comes to mind, perhaps because it was so blustery out today. But as I scan my closet and my hands begin to pull out the pieces that have to be put away until next spring, I bypass all of my white shirts—even the ones that are paper-thin cotton and silk. My white shirts are the most important pieces of clothing I own—and white shirts after 50 are wardrobe staples. And while it may be getting cool outside, they’re also perfect for layering all year long.
Think about it: throwing on a pure white shirt alone, or under anything, is the easiest way to bring sophistication and polish to everything from faded jeans or humble khakis to an impeccably tailored bespoke suit or even a dramatic, full-length evening skirt. In fact, I have a crisp, classic white cotton poplin shirt that would not only do justice to every single one of those items, but turn them into smashing, head-turning ensembles.
And that’s the point. There’s so much power in this one simple basic. A good white shirt is the wardrobe equivalent of a blank canvas; it can be anything you want it to be.
That explains why our white shirts—like us as daughters, mothers and grandmothers—wear many hats in our style lexicons. They are our go-to pieces for so many reasons.
The versatility of white shirts after 50
For starters, there’s nothing that doesn’t match a white shirt, from every color or print to every type of skirt or slacks. You can tuck them in or wear them out, all to great effect. And when you add a fabulous belt they get even better. Or make them fitted or semi-sheer and they become sexy and glamorous.
But sexiest of all is when I wear my men’s tailored tuxedo shirt with my husband’s chunky silver cufflinks in its crisply starched French cuffs. Regardless of what I pair it with, the outcome is sensational. Sometimes it’s my long black skirt, and other times it’s my black tuxedo suit. And depending on my mood, I may button the cuffs to look prim and proper, or roll up the sleeves for a more casual look. .
So now you know why I revere my white shirts. .
Of course, you may be thinking to yourself, “that’s great Honey, all I have to do is look at my white shirt and it gets a spot! Or I look washed out in white. Or they wrinkle and I don’t have the time or energy to iron them, and don’t want to spend a fortune sending them to the cleaners. And good white shirts can be very costly. It’s easier to throw on knits that are anything but white!”
Tips for wearing white shirts after 50
But never fear. Here are my tips to address these issues—some straight from the pros; some gleaned by me from trial and error; and one from a close friend who is always in the know.
1. TRY MY FAVORITE EASY-CARE WHITE SHIRT: My favorite all-time crisp white shirt is Brooks Brothers’ No-Iron Fitted White Shirt, introduced to me by my close friend Susan. It’s under $100, and treated to be machine washable and virtually wrinkle- free. But best of all, it comes in many fit options. It’s not the only brand I own, but it’s the one I most recommend as a wardrobe staple.
2. BANISH THE THOUGHT THAT WHITE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE: Yes, white shirts can be severe, or even make you look washed out, but there are ways to circumvent these problems. Brighten your make-up with a great shade of red lipstick; tie on a brightly colored scarf or sweater around your shoulders; and break out those pins and necklaces you always forget to wear.
3. CONSIDER ALL THE OPTIONS: If that fitted white shirt isn’t for you—get creative. There is no one right white shirt. We all have our own personal styles. If yours is romantic, buy a white shirt with ruffles. If you’re more dramatic, look for details that stand out like a drama-rama collar, unique buttons or a short front and a longer back.
Yesterday it was rainy and windy my beautiful Chicago; a perfect day to stay indoors.
But I had to run out. And as I dashed down the street, protected by my black and white umbrella covered with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Montmarte, every woman was dressed in black. But not me! I wore a crisp white shirt under my black trench. I felt fresh and alive in my sparkling fresh starched white shirt, which brings me to one more insight: besides its many style pluses, a white shirt can even lift your spirits on a gloomy day.
How do you incorporate white shirts into your style after 50?