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What Are the Best Button-downs for Bigger Busts?

Photo-Illustration: retailer

The button-down is one of those easy-to-throw-on essentials that works just as well underneath a blazer as it does worn open over a bikini. But if you have a bigger bust, those buttons can present a problem — namely, boob gap. There are two kinds of gap — one limits how far you can button up, the other creates an opening between buttons, exposing your bra. Fixing the latter takes more than just a safety pin. That’s all to say that finding the right button-down can be tricky if you have larger breasts as Kate Sokolov, co-founder of clothing company Social Goods, puts it: “The options are usually either way too boxy and oversized or too tight and gaping. No one wants to be swimming in fabric just to be able to wear a button-down.” Since many button-downs nowadays promise a foolproof no-gap fit, it can be hard to tell which ones actually do if you’re a D-cup or higher. So we asked more than a dozen stylish women about their favorites — from ones that offer that classic oversize Oxford shirt look to those that definitely don’t look like your father’s button-downs. (Hint: There’s a lot of Everlane and Universal Standard on our list.) To help, we organized their recommendations by different price points below.

Best button-downs under $50

It’s been a sweltering summer. So it’s not surprising that Sokolov has been fighting off the New York City heat in a linen shirt — this Everlane one to be exact. It’s one of three button-downs in her closet she recommends (more on the other two below) that she can put on with no gaps. It has what she describes as a “perfectly boxy cut” — so it’s loose enough in the bust without covering up her figure entirely. She’s been wearing it with denim cutoffs and white Tevas. And Sokolov won’t be storing the shirt away in the back of her closet anytime soon. “I’m definitely planning to continue wearing it into the fall, especially as we always have those sneaky warm September days,” she explains. In the fall, Sokolov plans on pairing this shirt with the Madewell black skinnies she told us all about in our guide to high-waisted jeans, ballet flats (or mules), and a leather jacket.

“When I order a button-down, it’s always a guessing game of will it fit properly,” says Samantha O’Brochta, a creative producer at a London-based public relations agency. That’s why O’Brochta usually goes for shirts that are much larger, to ensure they’ll fit. She sized up in this pastel-hued Boohoo shirt, “knowing that there would be a better chance the blouse would fit over my bust, which thankfully it did.” The looseness offers better breathing room “without the fear of the buttons gaping,” O’Brochta explains. The flowy fabric on this top helps, too — that way, she can tie the bottom up to make for a tighter fit, one of her tried-and-true-tricks to make an oversized button-down not so oversized.

This is one of the more affordable tops recommended to us by lifestyle blogger Casey Brown. It’s designed to be more oversized and it definitely is, she says. Brown went two sizes down in the top, and “it still fits a bit oversized on me, including in the chest.” But it’s tailored enough, too — the smaller size creates a more fitted look at the waist, “which can be hard to do with oversized tops when you have a big chest.” The button-down has the just-right length to be “tied up or tucked in without pulling elsewhere,” Brown explains. It’s one of the more traditional-looking button-downs, with that more “starchy white” feel, she adds.

Fast-fashion company Shein is a favorite of teens, thanks to its trendy (and not to mention, very affordable) clothes. This blouse from the brand is one that O’Brochta constantly gets compliments on. She describes it as just “oversized enough” so she could get it in her usual size without worrying about boob gap (but for the record, O’Brochta says, “It fits great on my bust”). When she wears it out, she pairs it with light-wash jeans and does the now famous “Tan France–inspired French tuck.”

Best button-downs under $100

This shirt came to Sokolov in the form of a friend, who was an early Everlane enthusiast and recommended it to her. Like the linen shirt from the brand she told us about earlier, this one has a boxier cut that “fits well without being too oversized.” She owns it in black, but you can also find it in olive, French blue, and black-and-white stripes. The silk isn’t the shiny kind — it’s more matte, which Sokolov appreciates for everyday wear. She also mentions that it’s an “added bonus” that the shirt is made from Everlane’s eco-conscious Clean Silk, manufactured with less waste in mind and safer dyes, according to the company.

Ansley Morgan, a freelance stylist who focuses on size-inclusive fashion, praises Universal Standard for offering its line in sizes 00 to 40. What makes its button-downs ideal for bigger busts is the hidden snaps between buttons “to ensure that you don’t experience that awkward gape,” according to Morgan. This is one of her favorites (and it’s one that Brown approves of, too). Morgan describes the shirt as having a “fitted silhouette that is flattering and makes the shirt a little more sexy than your average button-down.” She usually tucks it into jeans with the first few buttons undone. The shirt is available in three shades: black, navy, and a dusty lilac that we’re particularly partial to.

Carolyn Thompson, CEO of plus-size designer consignment shop ResellXL, describes herself as a fan of untucked shirts. But as a taller, plus-size person, it’s not always easy to find ones that don’t flare out or have excess fabric around the hip, Thompson says. That’s why she loves J.Jill’s shirts, which tend to hit mid-hip. She calls this shirt both comfortable and practical, with a classic fit that isn’t oversize, like many of the others recommended on our list.

If you’re looking for a statement, then this tunic is sure to be a standout with thigh-high slits on the sides. This pick comes courtesy of Brown, who says she prefers this tunic slightly more than the Universal Standard shirt mentioned above. There are a bunch of buttons on this button-down — both on the front and the sides — but it “buttons without gaping the whole length of the top,” Brown says. It has the look of a classic button-down — and fit, as Brown got her usual Universal Standard size — with a more lightweight looseness that’s easy to move in, especially (and importantly) in the arms and shoulders, she told us. Brown describes the material as so comfortable, you could sleep in the shirt. Plus, it’s a versatile little number to have hanging around. “I have worn it fully tucked into shorts, tied up in the front, tied up in the front and tucked in the back, as a swim coverup, [and] as a dress with a slip under,” Brown says. She does warn that you should pay attention to the Universal Standard’s sizing chart since it doesn’t follow the usual, uh, standards. “Because it’s a brand inclusive of a large size range, some of the sizing you’ll see doesn’t match other stores. I normally wear XL/1X, [but] I bounce between medium and large at US.” And if you’re not into the white, you can also find this button-down in azure and black.

Kristina Zias, a lifestyle blogger, prefaced her pick by saying that this isn’t the typical button-down, but it’s one that she’s obsessed with, wearing it “almost exclusively” for the past two years. It doubles as both a dress and a top that you can tuck in and wear with pants, Zias says. “I love that it’s oversized but also has an attachment to clip the waist in the back, giving it a sexy cool-girl fit.”

Remember how we hinted that Universal Standard was a popular choice among our panel of stylish women? Marcy Guevara-Prete, co-owner of consignment store the Plus Bus Boutique has only praise for the brand, calling it “just the epitome of cool” and appreciates “how they elevate simple pieces for chic elegance.” Among one of her favorites from the company is this shirt. Although she didn’t need to size up, she did for the aesthetic — she prefers shirts slightly oversize for a less, shall we say, buttoned-up look. “I think the classic button-down is updated when oversized and cropped like this,” Guevara-Prete explains. She owns it in black (it also comes in true blue). She’ll usually wear it tucked into a skirt.

Emma Zack of Berriez, a vintage shop that curates clothes for curves, finds most of her secondhand button-downs in the men’s section, looking for ones that are a size XXL and up. That’s because the perfect button-down has proven to be elusive in the past. “I find I have to size up at least three sizes just to ensure that the buttons will close properly over both my chest and bum,” she says. “Oh, and factor armholes into the equation (if you have bigger arms like I do), and it makes finding the perfect button-down ten times harder.” She owns several of these spliced ones from House of Tame, which her boyfriend regularly steals. “Truthfully, it feels like a regular button-down,” she says — meaning it’s meant to be more tailored — but offering a “hint of edge — you feel extra cool when you’re wearing a shirt that’s actually two shirts fused together.” As for how she wears it around, Zack recently wore one “open over a crochet bikini top that has two stars on the nipples, paired with hand-painted flame shorts from my friend Worn Ware. Pretty iconic if I do say so myself.” Her favorite is one that’s half-chambray and half-orange. While the brand is currently sold out of these spliced button-downs, Berriez recently did a collaboration with the brand and still has two available in denim and gold.

Morgan is also a fan of this shirt from J.Crew for a denim-on-denim Canadian tuxedo moment (and she pairs it with jeans in a similar wash to get that look). She describes it as oversized — it features the brand’s updated relaxed fit, which is designed to be longer with a much less tailored silhouette. For a more laid-back outfit, she wears it with bike shorts (a more dressed-up version of Princess Diana’s sweatshirt-and-cycling-shorts combo). Again, she points out that the brand, much like Universal Standard, has an extensive size range up to a size 24. “J.Crew is known for its classic styles and when it comes to button-downs, they do not disappoint,” Morgan says.

This shirt is one of brand strategist and blogger Rachel Richardson’s recent discoveries. Richardson says that J.Crew has been a favorite of hers for classic pieces that come in extended sizes. She describes the fit of this shirt as having just the right amount of extra room while still hitting the right length — a rare combination as oversized pieces can occasionally overwhelm those with shorter torsos or legs, as we’ve been repeatedly told by several stylish women. It caught her eye mostly because it just seemed comfortable and a worthy alternative to a regular button-down (this one is made of an airy gauze). Richardson has been wearing it around both with tied ends to make it more cropped or with a loose tuck on one side of the shirt. It comes in colors like weathered rose and white, too.

Alex Mill is a favorite of Strategist writer Chloe Anello, who says that her top pet peeve when it comes to women’s button-downs comes down to tailoring. “They’re too slim or too short and too tight.” That’s why Anello used to buy men’s button-downs — but Alex Mill “does a really great job.” These are two of the ones she owns. Out of the two, Anello thinks the Keeper is the best for larger busts since you don’t have to size up, describing the Bobby Shirt as slim-fitting and recommends sizing up in it. She was initially worried that the pockets on the Keeper would “​​enhance my chest size, but it’s actually really flattering.” The buttons are also placed in the right spot so “there’s a little more room in between them compared to other button-downs, which I think minimizes the gapping,” Anello mentions. And if you need another stamp of approval: Her mom owns it, too.


While talking to me for this story, Zias realized that she’s done away with many of her button-downs since they just didn’t have the right fit. But this Everlane shirt is one of the staples she’s kept in her closet. Zias appreciates the boxiness of this top, though that might not be for everyone. “I wouldn’t say it’s the most ‘flattering’ shirt — I wear it mostly unbuttoned with a crop top under or tied around my shoulders, waist, or half-tucked with jeans,” she says. It comes in four shades, including a pretty pale pink and a deep blue, both of which look super sophisticated. But you’ll want to be quick — many sizes of this shirt are selling out and not expected to restock until December (you can add yourself to a wait list to be notified when your size and shade comes back in stock).

Another button-down she’s actually kept hanging around, Zias describes this shirt as loose while still having some shape to show off your figure. The shorter sleeves are also perfect for Los Angeles, where she lives, and she calls the denim “extremely comfortable.”

Cynthia Vincent, founder of label Baacal (which carries clothes for sizes 10 to 22), fell in love with what she thought was a vintage Brooks Brothers shirt in a thrift store. It turns out that it was actually this shirt all along — which she found out “on a whim” when she decided to search online for other options from the brand. “I just duplicated the style and size of the original one I found in the thrift shop.” Vincent likes to buy men’s shirts, but they often don’t fit in the hips. This one did — with an oversize fit. “This was years ago and it’s still my go-to,” Vincent explains. But she warns to make sure to check the hip measurements on the brand’s fit guide to ensure the shirt’s buttons reach all the way down to the hem.

Best button-downs under $200

Sokolov describes her style as much less formal, so she’s not a stickler for the standard white button-down. But Sokolov fell for this shirt after seeing it in an Instagram ad, calling it a “classic without being too stuffy.” She instantly liked it after actually trying it on for her sister, Lisa (the two founded their label together), and said a very rare, “Oh, this is great!” out loud once she put it on. “It’s definitely oversized — I sized down — and feels more breathable and casual than a suiting shirt since it’s 100 percent cotton,” Sokolov says. Plus, she mentions that it’s easy to dress up or down, depending on the day’s mood. There’s also a striped version of the shirt in shades like “Mac N Cheese” and “Aperitif.”

This buttery-yellow, silky shirt is another recommendation from Guevara-Prete. She mentions that this shirt is true to size and on the more traditional side, as it “definitely skims your curves.” This shirt is from the site’s own eponymous label — but you’ll find labels like Mara Hoffman and Ganni on the site, too. Guevara-Prete points out that 11 Honoré’s design director Danielle Williams-Eke is plus-size herself, which is “imperative when creating fashion for plus-size people. No one understands the fat body the way a fat person does.”

Photo: Harry Bohm

Zack estimates that 90 percent of the button-downs in her wardrobe are vintage or thrifted. One of the rare (and more recent) exceptions is this shirt from Osei-Duro. She heard about the brand from her “fabulous” photographer friend, who let her try on one of the shirts that she was gifted. “I tried it on and loved the fit, so I placed an order of my own,” Zack says. She went by the size chart — which put her at the brand’s size 3 — and mentions that it’s meant to fit oversize. No gaping in sight, which was a “shocker,” according to Zack. When she puts the shirt on, Zack feels like “a sexy artist or something along those lines.” With the warmer weather, she’s been wearing it open with a bralette and high-waisted shorts.

“I have always thought of button-downs as something to be worn in a more formal setting and not something I would wear on a regular basis,” Morgan told us. But this Tradlands top “redefined what a button-down is in my closet.” Morgan describes this button-down as both cool and effortless thanks to its oversize shape (with a longer back and shorter front) — it’s this silhouette that makes it “big-bust friendly,” according to her. She got it in her usual size for that oversize fit, but still describes it as “structured and doesn’t look sloppy” whether worn out or tucked in. It comes in four shades, including emerald and this meringue.

Brown was given this shirt as a gift from the brand several years ago and it quickly became a go-to. It fits her as a minidress — but she’s extra cautious about what she’ll be doing when wearing it since it’s short. But she recommends sizing down if you’re planning on wearing it with pants. “If you want it for the versatility of dress and top, true to size.” Plus, she points out that it has pockets, which few of us can really resist. This shirt was recommended by Sydney Scott, a freelance content writer, too. Scott was also sent it as a gift from the company several months ago and has been wearing it ever since. When shopping for button-downs, she says that she wants a shirt that’s “drapey and loose in all the right places, but not boxy,” an issue that she runs into more often than not, like the other ladies we talked to. That’s why Scott loves this shirt, for being just a touch oversize “in the best way” and not pulling in any of her “trouble areas.” She wore it out the same day she received it in the mail.

This writer (me) has to give a shout-out to this shirt that converted me into a button-down believer. I haven’t had much luck in the past with button-downs, but couldn’t help but buy this one because of its delicate beading. I was really hesitant since it has a more boxy fit on the model, but it turns out this one carefully follows my curves, complementing my hourglass shape. Fortunately, it buttons up all the way as well — I got my usual size and there’s no puckering at the bust at all. It’s one of the shirts I reach for when I want to feel at my best that day. I originally bought it in orange, but the new white version is currently sitting in my cart.

Okay, so this one is slightly over $200 — by $14, to be exact — but it comes highly praised by Guevara-Prete. Compared to the 11 Honoré shirt she recommended, it has a more oversize fit with a cut that’s “very contemporary and cool, which can often be tough to find in plus.” Guevara-Prete went so far as to call this button-down “a dream” when you put it on. She gushed about the brand, calling out founder Cynthia Vincent’s “ability to work with a curvy figure and yet provide such edgy and on-trend silhouettes.” Guevara-Prete usually looks out for overstock, last-season, or sample pieces from the brand at her own boutique. Of course, it’s a favorite of Vincent as well, who told us she designed the shirt to have the “borrowed from the boys” feel with “the details of a great men’s shirt, but fit for a woman.”

[Editor’s note: This shirt is only available for preorder right now.] 

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What Are the Best Button-downs for Bigger Busts?