sponsored links:

The Professional White Shirt (That Isn’t a Blouse or a T-Shirt)

2016 Update: I still stand by the below advice on where to look for professional white shirts, but you can also see our latest discussion on the seven kinds of white tops you need for work.

How can you find basic, solid shirts that are just a teensy bit different and easy to care for — particularly in simple colors like black and white? Reader S wonders…

You’ve done lots of reviews about what shirts to wear to work (I love “The Hunt”), but I cannot find anything directly addressing the topic white shirts. What white shirts do people wear to work? I’m not thinking of button-down blouses. I’m talking about white short sleeve or long sleeve pieces that are not too sheer, launder well, look a little more interesting than totally boring. I’d love to see a round up and hear readers’ thoughts. I have one nice one from XCVI, but am looking for a new one and want some ideas.

We actually have done Hunts for white blouses before, but I thought this would be an interesting discussion because I totally know what Reader S is getting at: that basic shirt that isn’t a t-shirt, isn’t a button-down, is just a little bit different, and ends up being a total workhorse in your wardrobe. Honestly, I celebrate whenever I find one (and try to post it if I can!) because I think these really are huge saviors in women’s wardrobes. But: they’re almost impossible to find in an online search. Here’s the best tips that I can give:

– Know the brands that have done “fancy/simple tops” that you’ve liked in the past, and then use an online tool like Shopstyle (type in the brand name, then sort by “tops”) to see the offerings — a quick search on a few brands turned up a lot of possibly great tops, depending on your office and personal style. For example quick searches on some of the brands I’ve had in the past turned up: Alice + Olivia, Ann Taylor, Rafaella, and Design History. Reader S mentions the brand XCVI; that turned up a few quick candidates as well.

1

– If you have a particular store that you love, keep running searches on that store’s website.  For example, if you feel like the buyer at Nordstrom continually hits it out of the park, go to Nordstrom and sort by Women’s Clothing –> Tops –> White and Off White (this link should take you to the results of that search).

– Retreat to very simple basics (the simple t-shirt to wear under suits, for example) and add necklaces, brooches, or scarves to punch it up a bit.

Whatever you do, I highly recommend you stick to white camisoles beneath white tops if there’s any hint of sheerness.

Readers, have you recently bought any black or white blouses that don’t quite fall into the “blouse” or “t-shirt” category?  Do you agree with Reader S and myself that they’re great wardrobe basics?  How do you find them when it’s time to re-stock your wardrobe?

Comments

  1. TO Lawyer :

    I’m afraid I’m not much help on this topic – I have a simple white blouse that is long sleeve which I love (but it’s sheer so I’m not sure if everyone would find it office appropriate – I wear it with a white tank top underneath and think it looks fairly professional) but because I haven’t been able to find something else similar, I’ve stopped wearing it as often because I don’t want to ruin it.

    I love that first Alice and Olivia option though… trying to talk myself out of spending $300 on a blouse now…

  2. would any NYC-based ladies be interested in a clothing swap/sale? I’m finding that the typical clothing swap attracts a more “crunchy” aesthetic, for lack of a better term, but I’m sure a lot of us have great quality workwear (or casualwear) that just doesn’t fit quite right, or isn’t the most flattering, or that we’ve just gotten tired of working into the rotation. I definitely do and it’s hard to part with stuff without getting SOMETHING in exchange for it, but my closet is vomiting!!

    shoot me an email at the username link if you’re interested!

    • eep – edited for stuck in moderation.

      would any NYC-based ladies be interested in a clothing swap/sale? I’m finding that the typical clothing swap attracts a more “crunchy” aesthetic, for lack of a better term, but I’m sure a lot of us have great quality workwear (or casualwear) that just doesn’t fit quite right, or isn’t the most flattering, or that we’ve just gotten tired of working into the rotation. I definitely do and it’s hard to part with stuff without getting SOMETHING in exchange for it, but my closet is vomiting!!

      shoot me an email at the username link if you’re interested!

      • uh, I guess that didn’t quite work, so try [dynamiiiite] at the mail of google.

    • Joan Holloway :

      You may want to look into ClosetDash. It’s a great perpetual clothing swap option that isn’t crunchy.

  3. Meg Murry :

    There are lots of pretty shirts here, but for me there is no such thing as a professional white shirt, because as soon as I put on a white shirt dirt & stains just leap onto it. Actually, that’s probably true for all of my shirts, but white shirts tend to stain most obviously and wash out least

  4. I personally think a skin-color cami is better underneath white.

  5. Business, Not Law :

    I just picked this up last night at Macy’s in red (for Go Red for Women event this Friday) and black since it fit so well and felt like such a great basic. Also, for $21 I couldn’t resist. They had several other colors in store (dark grey, bright pink and a few others that I can’t remember)

    http://www1.macys.com/shop/product/inc-international-concepts-top-short-sleeve-ruched-tee?ID=777694&CategoryID=255&swatchColor=Deep%20Black#fn=SLEEVE_LENGTH%3DShort Sleeve%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D278%26ruleId%3D65%26slotId%3D6

  6. Vince! Lots of pretty options. I got a silk, white Vince blouse at Barneys when I was desperate for an interview blouse and it is beautiful. Also looks gorgeous for a dressy Sunday event (with a skirt) or with jeans. Much more than I normally spend, but has been worth it.

  7. I bought this one two and a half years ago (maybe after reading about it here), and I LOVE it – but it’s not really “white” anymore, sadly: http://www.shopbop.com/ariadne-top-theory/vp/v=1/845524441869786.htm

  8. I actually like Banana Republic for this. I have one that fits the bill, except it’s sleeveless. I don’t mind that, though, because I don’t take off my blazer.

  9. Of the online window shopping done, nothing sticks out in my mind currently aside from this top from Express in Ivory or Coconut Milk:
    http://www.express.com/contrast-fabric-short-sleeve-easy-top-45661-721/control/page/14/show/3/index.pro#jsLink
    I have it in two other colors and it does launder well. It’s long, so you’d have to tuck it in.

    Imo, Express is good for one good, unique work top a year. My other go to white blouse happens to be a ruffle front blouse from Express (per this sold listing on eBay http://i.ebayimg.com/t/NWOT-EXPRESS-BLACK-GATHERED-NECK-RUFFLE-FRONT-TOP-sz-S-/00/s/MTAyNFg3Njg=/$T2eC16JHJGIE9nnWpiv1BQeMpVvGwg~~60_57.JPG ). It fits well, it’s very flattering and feminine, yet I don’t feel like I’m wearing the Jerry Seinfeld puffy shirt.

    So, just keep your eyes open.

    This option from The Limited is alright, though I don’t like the elastic hem:
    http://www.thelimited.com/Henley-Popover-Top/4223850,default,pd.html?dwvar_4223850_colorCode=71&start=40&ppid=c40&cgid=new-womens-tops

    Similar to Express:
    http://www.thelimited.com/Basic-Layering-Shell/4223825,default,pd.html?dwvar_4223825_colorCode=71&start=77&ppid=c77&cgid=womens-tops

    • Side note – I kind of hate elastic hems on shirts. I’m frequently tempted to take them to a tailor and ask them to hack it off.

      • I hate elastic hems too, but they can work for some body types and possibly look good tucked in. But yes, I do avoid them.

  10. Classiques Entier often has good finds in this category. I have found that the quality is good and the silks hold up well when laundered on “delicates”.

  11. momentsofabsurdity :

    This shirt is fantastic – short sleeves so you can remove your cardi/blazer, flattering lines, really comfy, not that expensive especially if you wait for the $60 off $150 coupons at Express and stock up.

    http://www.express.com/contrast-fabric-short-sleeve-easy-top-45661-721/control/page/15/show/3/index.pro#jsLink

    • Can I ask if you have that shirt? Is it as fabulous in person?

      • Yes – I have 2 (after reading a recommendation for it on this site a few months ago.) Love them.

  12. I find that you can get some pretty reasonably priced white basics at Boden USA.

  13. I am so psyched that someone asked this question because this is the kind of question I have all the time but don’t know how to word or feel stupid asking. My requirements include machine washable because I am lazy and I prefer if I don’t have to wear a camisole under it. When I find a shirt like that, I frequently buy multiples. I saw some cute drapey shirts from Ann Taylor recently – as soon as they went on sale, I bought them in all of the colors offered (unfortunately, just ivory and black). I also like the Charley sweater on J. Crew Factory (http://factory.jcrew.com/womens-clothing/sweaters/merino/PRDOVR~97247/97247.jsp) – it’s light without being too flimsy and it’s a nice cut. Lately I’ve been interested in this top and line from Target (http://www.target.com/p/merona-women-s-slimming-options-v-neck-crossover-top-assorted-colors/-/A-14204528).

  14. boatbride :

    Macy’s “every day value” has several sleeveless white tops with interesting neckline details by Calvin Klein.

  15. I too vote Vince. It’s one of my all time favorite brands because their clothes are that perfect balance of work appropriate yet modern (aka there are lots of options for white shirts that are not basic button downs!). I also think a lot of their tops transition well from work to a night out. I just ordered a flowy Vince white silk top from I plan to wear with fitted pants (at work) or skinny jeans and tailored blazers. Other good options are theory, helmut lang (although I think their prices are outrageous), DVF, and Banana.

work fashion blog press mentions