White Shirt Buying Guide

January 8, 2017

If you've been reading this blog for a while (whether looking at the images or actually reading all the copy) - or if you happen to know me well - then you're probably aware that I'm a self proclaimed addict of buying and wearing white shirts. Tees, blouses, button-ups, off-the-shoulders, sweaters...my collection is both alarming and impressive. I have a few colored tops, and a nice selection in shades of grey and black but the all white, off-white, and mostly white greatly outweigh all others.

I always favored white shirts but tried to fight off my temptation to wear one every day when I was a corporate working girl. No idea why, but I thought that I needed variety. These days I know that I'll wear a white shirt much more often than any other colored shirt (no matter how much I love it) and I gave punishing myself from buying more, more, more whites a few couple years ago. White shirts always make me feel like I'm looking my best and most like myself. They're the canvas for my everyday and or statement-making jewelry, the crisp partner to my battered jeans, the never clashing combo to jackets, blazers, and other layers, and the year-round compliment to my complexion and hair color. I love them. And I frequently get asked about my favorite classics. So today I bring you what I think are eight essential white shirt styles and my favorite in each. I'm not an expert - I'll admit I haven't tried every white tee and top out there an definitely draw a price limits - but I do think this could be helpful for those looking for great basics.


.Button Up: Nothing beats a classic, crisp cotton poplin button up blouse. So iconic – this shirt can go preppy, sexy, slouchy, or polished depending on what you pair it with and the fit you choose. I personally have four button up shirts that I choose between. One is the the Endless Shirt* from J.Crew. Sadly (oh so sadly), this is an older style they offered about three years ago. It’s extra long and I love wearing it untucked with leggings and skinny jeans. From what I can tell, the J.Crew New Perfect Shirt is comparable albeit, not as long. I also love my Barry Shirt by Frank & Eileen. It’s one of those styles that looks best slightly rumpled and not pressed, and the buttons start several inches from the collar which makes it extra feminine. My white Essentials Shirt from “The Shirt” by Rochelle Behrens is one I loved recommending because it has a hidden interior button at the bust – which is awesome for ladies with more of a chest and when you don’t want your bra or any cleavage to show. And lastly, the Cotton Courier Shirt  by Madewell is the ideal boxy, boyfriend button up. It’s not poplin (cotton twill) and doesn’t have the traditional sleeve length (these are short sleeved and cuffed) but it’s awesome.

.Silk Button Up: The silk button up is totally different – at least to me – than the cotton button up. Same cut, very different look and feel…more feminine, more elegant…dry-clean only. I personally think that the washed silk button up blouses by Equipment are hands down the best. They are pricey but the range of colors and styles (signature, slim, short sleeve, etc) along with the buttery texture and details (their collars, pockets, and button placements are perfection) just cannot be beat. I have the Short Sleeve Slim Signature* in white and it’s almost like a cherished possession. Alas, there are other brands that I think do a nice job with silk button ups. Everlane has some lovely options, as does Cuyana and Calypso.

.Short Sleeve Tee: Plain, basic tee are the white shirt basic I get asked for referrals most often. I’m going to state the obvious – my favorite might not be your favorites and vice versa. I happen to prefer a tee that’s on the lighter side – more of a thin, vintage cotton – because I’ve found that they flex between casual and polished outfits most easily and though they have less of a weight compared to a ribbed cotton, they almost look more elevated and cool (at least to me). My absolute fave is a Stateside Royal Pima Tee* (here are some non-white options). No idea where I got mine (I think it was from Cabana in Dallas but honestly can’t be sure) but it’s so soft, has a slim cut that isn’t too tight, and feels like I’ve owned it forever. From what I’ve found, the J.Crew Vintage Cotton Tee and Gap Vintage Wash Tee and very similar in terms of lightness though the J.Crew one has a weathered texture. The other tee I’m obsessed with that doesn’t have a pocket is a cotton-modal blend scoop-neck style by Allude that I found at Kickpleat in Houston.

.Short Sleeve Pocket: Love me some white pocket tees. They’re definitely more casual than those without pockets but if you find ones with a bit of a scoop versus a crew-neck it looks a lot nicer. If you’ve ever heard that T by Alexander Wang makes the best, best t-shirts, I have to tell you that I find this to be true. At least when it comes to their Classic Tee with Pocket*. The rayon material makes it incredibly soft and slouchy and the slightly scooped neck, longer sleeves, and extra long length just add to the perfection. It might be the most you’ll ever pay for a t-shirt but it also might become your favorite. I’ve yet to find a perfect dupe. Personal tip for keeping it in good shape and to avoid getting any holes or snags: wash in cold on delicate and hang-dry.

.V-Neck Tee: Of course, v-neck t-shirts are in a category all their own. I love my white v-neck tees year round but find them especially great for layering under cardigans this time of year (the dip in neckline always seems to look less constricting than a crew-neck). I’ll be honest and say I’m still searching for what I think is the best white v-neck…but for now, the Whisper Cotton V-Neck Pocket Tee* from Madewell is my go-to. It’s on the thinner side (which, again, I happen to favor),  has a nice hem length (long enough to wear tucked or un-tucked), the v is lower but not too low, and the pocket is the perfect size. I ordered a size up on mine and I think that might be what has me feeling “like” and not “love” for it. And I don’t know why I’m throwing this out there, but Old Navy made some “vintage” tees a year or so ago and I have worn the v-neck style in white and grey to the point of wearing them out. They’re no longer available which is a total shame because they were like a nicer version of the Haynes v-necks I bought in packs from Walmart and wore 24/7 in college. Clearly I need to keep looking for a favorite – consider this my formal request for y’all to throw out your favorite styles of v-neck tees!

.Long Sleeve Tee: I don’t wear my long sleeve white t-shirts as much as the short sleeve because I find myself pushing up the sleeves too often and then I think the sleeves get all stretched and weird. But I do wear them…especially when it’s cold but I don’t want to layer. I recently got the Perfect Fit Long Sleeve Tee* from J.Crew in both white and black specifically to wear tucked into skirts and with my high-waisted flared jeans. I wanted something with a slim fit and very basic construction and they fit the bill perfectly. I’ve also found good white long sleeved tees from American Apparel (recently got this bodysuit in white from there and really like it under blazers and high-waisted midi skirts!). And, my T by Alexander Wang Classic Long Sleeve Tee with Pocket is a long-time fave though the rayon material tends to get saggy and stretched in the elbows.

.Lace Tank: A nice white silk tank (or camisole) is something every lady should own. I was on the fence about including this style on the list because I worried it strayed from “classic basic” into “blouse” territory but I have been wearing my Cami NYC  tanks so much this season that I felt like I needed to throw it in. I love, love wearing my lacy and silk white Sweetheart* cami year-round by itself but it’s really come in handy as a layering piece under certain tops and sweaters. I’m adding the Racer style in white to my closet asap so I have another option when I need it!

.Embroidered: Another style I was hesitant to include but decided to go for because I couldn’t help myself…embellished and embroidered white tops are some of the most versatile and beloved in my closet. Most all of the ones I favor are Mi Golondrina. As a girl who loves basics, having shirt with white on white embroidery and detailing is a great way for me to add texture and interest while still sticking to my comfort zone. My all-white Mi Golondrina pieces (a three-quarter sleeve version of this,* thisthis, this, this, this and a few others not on the site) are treasures and  I find them so easy to wear regularly! (Should note that I have many colorful Mi Golondrina styles, too – I just happen to obsess over the all white)

*Shirt pictured in the post images

  1. Love this post! i just purged about 50% of my closet (side effects of watching the ‘minimalism’ documentary on netflix) but i tell ya, almost every white top, dress, and tee stayed in my closet. i’m such an addict as well & reach for them 9/10 times. this was just what i needed (and didn’t need haha!)

    1. Laura! You’re the second person who has mentioned “Minimalism” to me! Going to watch it tonight…I’m sure my type-A heart will love it 😉 xx – M

  2. Yaaaas! I used to feel bad about buying white shirts everytime i bought anything, but seriously they are the best! totally agree- i feel like myself in them. i’m always on the lookout for a white v=neck that isn’t sheer at all or with too=low of a v…seems impossible to find :/ (at least, under $30ish)

    1. Hi Breanna Marie! I may have answered your question with my reply to Scarlett…but Oxy-clean spray and powder is my best friend for spotless whites. I’m not immune to slips and stains but I think because I wear whites so often I’m pretty conscious about keeping them clean. If you’re on the klutzy side, try buying whites with a lower price tag (Old Navy is my fave for these) till you get used to wearing the hue! xx – M

  3. Thank you for sharing all your fave white/off-white shirts! I tend to gravitate heavily toward white tops as well! 🙂


    1. Hi Scarlett! I’m super lucky in that I don’t get underarm stains, but I rely on oxy-clean (regular and max force) spray for spot cleaning and almost always use a cup of oxy-clean powder along with my normal Tide free & Gentle detergent when I wash my whites. I also never (ever, ever) mix colors or darks with my whites when I wash! Hang drying my favorite shirts also helps keep them looking like-new (drying with heat can eventually lead to piling and stretching – especially in non-poplin shirts). I hope that helps! xx – M

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