I made a brilliant out-and-about outfit today for a client. We decided she could wear it today and not take it off for three weeks and we’d understand why.
I don’t have a photo, but here’s how it went down. She had a pair of ankle-length black pants that we’d just gotten hemmed and I wanted to be sure they were right. “Do you want me to make a new outfit with these pants?” I asked. “Sure,” she said.
She slipped into the pants and I grabbed her shiny black loafers and asked her to put those on. I went to the blouse/shirt section of her closet and grabbed a sleeveless white Theory shirt. I wanted to be sure it had longish tails because I was going to layer a cropped navy and white wide striped crewneck sweater over it and I wanted the tails to hang below the sweater. Then I grabbed a bulky oversized Theory ribbed black cardigan we’d purchased, gosh, was it last fall? The year before? Anyway, the look was partially French and 100% adorable. I think this just may have been the best outfit I created this week in under two minutes.
The key piece that made this outfit look so fresh was that humble white shirt. The collar framed her face. The shirttails sticking out beyond the edge of the sweater made it look je ne sais pas, modern and stylish.
White shirts are miracle workers yet many people fear them.
“But I can’t wear white.”
Some people have been brainwashed into believing they can’t wear white which leaves them missing out on the great styling tool that is the white shirt.
Truth be told, I could have been that person who told you that. If it was early in my career, I was preaching the rules I learned from others. Rules like, “Only wear a shade of white that matches the whites of your eyes.” Or, “Use the color of your teeth to determine your correct shade of white.” In other words, your teeth had to be bright white in order to wear a white shirt. And that was before teeth brightening was even happening. That pretty much ruled white out for everybody!
The great thing about having a long career is that I’ve had a chance to play by the rules but I’m experienced enough to know when to break them and why.
Why I consider white shirts to be perfect for modern women
I’m in the third chapter of my life as are most of my clients and we’re smashing rules and limiting expectations of what women our age are all about. That third chapter includes frisky women from fifty to seventy-five-years old.
More than anything, I do not want women in this chapter to be overlooked. Lots of fashion geared to this market has gotten super relaxed, too relaxed in my opinion. Much of it is oversized and drapey and lacking structure. I think many manufacturers are looking at us and thinking, Well, they’re into comfort. We’ll just give them shapeless clothing with elastic waistbands. They’ll love it.
When there’s a complete lack of structure and things are shapeless, women wearing them lose visibility and I won’t stand for that! What I like about a white shirt is that you can put it with flowy things, build in some structure, create a frame for the face, and bring attention to that marvelous woman over 50. Visibility wins!
You can still wear loose garments. I love the look of a white shirt with a cascading cardigan (like I wore in the very top photo). You get some structure and framing while enjoying soft draping fabric as well. It’s a great balance.
I also love how a white cotton shirt doesn’t cling to the mid-section like a knit T-shirt does. Who loves the idea of non-clinging fabrics besides me?
Endorsing white rumpled shirts
I was all excited last year to get the J.Crew white shirt they advertised as the Perfect White Shirt. It was no-frills which was fine by me.
My thrill for it waned though once I washed it. No matter how much steam I gave it from my Rowenta iron, it never got crisp like it was when I bought it. It seemed silly to have it cleaned and pressed at the dry cleaners. So it hung in my closet for a few weeks looking dejected.
But you know what? About a week after the fires were contained here in Sonoma County, I opened my closet door and was drawn to that J.Crew shirt. The fact that it wouldn’t steam out and lay flat was forgivable. The truth is, life wasn’t crisp and things weren’t in order at that time. I slipped into that rumpled white shirt and I bet I wore it four days in a row.
It was comforting and entertaining. It makes a snapping sound when I’m moving. You know that sound of crisp woven cotton? It’s like a wind chime. I think I clocked extra steps those days on my Fitbit just because I wanted to hear the shirt talk to me!
White shirts give you that perfectly natural space to add a necklace
The point of that story is that a rumpled white shirt has its place as well as the crisp, no-iron ones like the Chico’s one I’m wearing below. There’s a place for both of them!
Another way a white shirt contributes to bringing attention to the face is that it gives you space at the neck to showcase your jewelry.
I pay attention to lines and how the repetition of lines ensures that the eye will be drawn to that space. See how the open collar creates a V-shape? And my heart pendant also creates a V-shape. Those double Vs bring the attention right where I want it: my communication center, i.e. the place where words come from, where smiles show up and giggles flow from the throat.
I love how I can add a white shirt to a super casual pair of jeans and I look sharp, not sloppy. This jeans-white shirt look has been worn by movie stars since the 50s and it just never goes out of style.
So when I reach for a white shirt, it’s because it looks sharp and modern. It has good posture (body). It’s a way to avoid the limp clothing head-to-toe look that can give a message that we’ve lost our edge, aren’t that interested in people, places or things, and have given up a bit.
I don’t meet women who say that with their words. They’re sharp and fascinated and fascinating. That’s how I’d like them to be perceived. If a white shirt or even a white shirt collar peeking out from under a crew neck sweater can send a message of relevance, I’m all for it!
What’s your vote when it comes to white shirts? Yes? No? Maybe? Do share!