The Hunt: Button-Down Shirts


2017 Update: All of these button-down tops are in our Workwear Hall of Fame, and links below have been updated — you may also want to check our most recent discussion of the best women’s dress shirts.

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

Of all The Hunt features we’ve done, I’m kind of surprised that we’ve never done one on the best button-downs for women — a crisp white blouse is a classic for the office.  (All of these shirts come in white, even though I’ve mostly featured colored shirts so you can see the details better.) Now, a few points: yes, yes, most women’s collars do not button down, so these should all properly be called “button front” shirts. But most of these stores call them button-down shirts, and that’s what I’ve always heard, so I’m going to go with “button down.” A second point: a big decision (as far as blouses go) is whether you want one that is non-iron. Personally, my iron is gathering dust because I always buy the non-iron ones for myself — but I have heard (but not researched) that there are some health concerns regarding the chemicals that treat a fabric to make it “non-iron.” So — readers, if you HAVE researched the subject, please weigh in. Finally, a few random tips: a) if you prefer silky button-fronts, check out our Hunt for that one, b) if you’re busty, check out our guide to specialty shops for busty blouses, c) this post is being updated, but you can still check out our original top 10 ways to wear a button-down shirt, and, finally, d) as a laundry tip, I’ve had great success with putting the shirts in the dryer for no more than about 15 minutes and then hanging them up to air dry.  Oh, and I’m on Team White-Camisole-Beneath-White-Shirt–but many others are on Team Nude Camisole; you can check out our discussion here.  Readers — which are your favorite button-down shirts? Do you purchase non-iron shirts? And what are your best tips for laundering (and wearing) a button-down shirt? [Read more…]

Mind the Gap: Some DIY Options for Gaping Blouses

How to Fix Your Gaping Blouses (DIY) || Corporette

2018 Update: We still think this post has a ton of great options for gaping blouses (the comments as well!) — you may also want to check out our most recent round-up of the best women’s dress shirts, as well as our recent roundup of companies making dress shirts for for women with large breasts

Button-down blouses can be great — if they fit you and don’t gape in the bust.  Some companies specialize in creating non-gaping versions for larger-busted women (e.g., Carissa Rose, Rebecca & Drew) but sometimes you just want a DIY fix for a shirt you’ve already got.  Today’s guest poster Kathryn Rubino — one of my personal friends — is a plus-sized fashionable overachieving chick who has some crafty suggestions for fixing the problem. (She also posted a few weeks ago about how to get a great-fitting blazer.) – Kat

We’ve all been there. You’re getting ready for that big interview/meeting/presentation and as you look yourself dead-on in the mirror you are the image of professionalism. As you reach for the straightener to put the finishing touch on your perfectly coiffed hair there it is. It’s your bra. Peeking out from that infuriating gap in your button-down shirt. It almost seems like it is mocking you, “maybe you aren’t as put together as you think you are.” It is maddening. So, how do you deal with this problem? I’ve tried all the work-arounds. The camisole under an unbuttoned button-down. A wrap-style dress shirt. A button-down that is deliberately ruched at the bust. And these are all pretty good solutions, but sometimes I yearn for the simplicity of the classic button down. So this plus size writer test drove three potential solutions to the problem. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but here’s how they worked for me.  (Pictured: Mind the Gap, originally uploaded to Flickr by toastbrot81.) [Read more…]

10 Things to Know About: Wearing Button-Down Shirts

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Someone was telling us recently that they didn’t wear button-down shirts, didn’t even know how to wear ’em. So, here ya go…

1. If you’re going for the crisp cotton look, go for non-iron. Brooks Brothers makes a great fitted non-iron shirt. Thomas Pink (very high end, typically thought of as a man’s store) makes amazing button-down shirts for women, also, with interesting prints and a lovely fit.

2. Collars and jackets: Collars should stay on the inside of the jacket, not splayed open on the outside.

3. If you have a white shirt, try not to put it in the dryer in order to avoid yellowing. Actually, in our experience the iron-free shirts look best when hung dry. (Just pull them taut, a bit, when they’re wet and you’re hanging on the hanger — it always seems to help the fabric figure out where to go.)

4. If you’ve got a French cuff shirt, do not bother with those tiny knots you can buy at places for $10 — you’re wasting your money and time, because they take forever to put in. Instead, make an investment in a good pair of cufflinks — Thomas Pink has great ones; Nordstrom also has some beautiful ones right now.

5. Tucking: If you’re wearing a fitted, button-down shirt (such as the ones from Pink) you can experiment with how it looks untucked. The key is that it can’t be too long — it should hit mid-hip, and no matter what should not be longer than your suit jacket. Silky shirts should always be tucked.

6. If you want a very clean tucked-in look, there are some stores that make leotard-like button-down shirts. See, for example, Victoria’s Secret or Donna Karan.

7. Non-traditional style idea: Wear a short-sleeved button-down shirt beneath a vest or even a t-shirt. (We’ve given up trying to wear anything but silky button-downs beneath full-sleeve sweaters — the static cling gets us every time.)

8. Non-traditional style idea, Part 2: Wear a camisole/tank top underneath the button-down shirt, tuck in the shirt, and only button it up halfway, so people can see the camisole beneath. See Allison Janey in West Wing.

9. Gaping: If your shirt is gaping, this could mean a few things. A) You need a larger size, and should take it to a tailor to get it to fit you the way you want it to. B) You need to wear a camisole beneath it, so when you turn to the side people don’t get a view of your bra. C) You can experiment with Hollywood Tape and so forth to keep it from gaping — we’ve found the camisole is just easier.

10. Beneath the slightly sheer white shirt: Wear a bra that matches your skin tone, and a white camisole, no matter how convinced you are that no one can see through it. We’ve tried the nude camisole, and trust us: white just looks better.

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