It doesn’t get more classic than a white button-down shirt. An ideal option for 100-degree July days, formal job interviews, “creative” job interviews, your ten-day vacation to Crete, your 3 a.m. visit to the bodega — it’s actually harder to think of a place where you can’t wear a white button-down shirt than to name all of the places you can. But like other deceptively simple classics — such as white T-shirts, black T-shirts, and jeans — there are a bunch of options out there. We asked 14 stylish women about their favorites, and they recommend a variety, including short-sleeve linen, oversized Oxford, moisture-wicking, and more styles — a smattering of which come from the men’s (or boys’) section, so we recommend consulting those brands’ size charts to help you find the right fit. Below, the 14 best white button-down shirts for women, according to our stylish panel.
If you want a shirt for all occasions
“As a celebrity stylist, I’ve scoured every inch of the internet, department stores, and boutiques looking for the perfect white button-down to complete my clients’ wardrobes,” says Jasmine Caccamo. All of that diligent research led her to one shirt: the Signature Silk Shirt by Equipment. “Not only is this a must-have, but when you’ve worn yours around town too many times, you’ll always find it in stock,” she says. The shirt has a slim cut — which Caccamo thinks “perfectly flatters the bodice” — looks professional, and has “a touch of chic-ness,” thanks to its silky fabric. We’re also big fans of this shirt, which one Strategist writer owns in four colors.
If you want a shirt to wear to work
Michelle Kennedy — co-founder and CEO of Peanut, a social-network app for new parents — loves Theory’s Macina Luxe shirt. It runs a bit longer, she says, and “looks amazing with baggy jeans or tailored trousers — it makes you look ‘put-together,’ even when you were literally just elbows deep in a game of Paw Patrol.” Kennedy’s favorite style, however, is currently out of stock online — but Theory’s Tenia shirt, which is made of the same blend of cotton, nylon, and spandex as the Macina Luxe, is a close approximation. The stretch in the shirt makes it slightly more fitted, which helps with that whole ‘put-together’ look, and is ideal if you’re layering it under a blazer or tucking it into pants and skirts.
If you want a shirt to go from bed to brunch in
In warmer weather, you might want to throw on a linen white button-down instead of one cut in a heavier fabric. Tahirah Hairston, Teen Vogue’s fashion and beauty features director, says that Lunya’s linen silk resort shirt is her “rescue” for when temperatures rise to “88 degrees but ‘feel like 97 degrees.’ I’ve been wearing the set (which comes with cute little linen shorts) to bed, and then waking up, rolling out of bed, and wearing the shirt for running errands or even to brunch with my mom,” she says. “It’s oversized, with big cuff sleeves, small stripes, and an interesting collar. Most importantly, it looks great wrinkled, you can wash it at home, and, since it’s basically a pajama top, it’s extremely comfy. A win all around.”
If you want a pajama-inspired shirt with short sleeves
If a lighter fabric isn’t cooling enough, you might want to consider a short-sleeved button-down. Sara Jane Emmons, associate manager of brand development at body-hair-care line Fur, recommends this short-sleeve linen number from Everlane that features a pajama-inspired collar. She owns it in blue-and-white stripes and says she wants to add an all-white version to her closet too. “I like that it naturally has a low neckline, and obviously everyone is stanning linen hard-core this summer,” Emmons says. “Everlane can be a little too ‘I’m scared of making fashion choices’ for me, so I’d wear this with pukka shells and some linen pants (I like these ones from Ilana Kohn), and maybe some Birkenstocks with tie-dye socks for the full ‘cool camp counselor/chill cult leader’ vibe.”
If you want a linen shirt with a classic look
For a more traditional-looking linen option, try illustrator Alexandra Citrin-Safadi’s favorite white button-down — a roomy linen-cotton number that she gets from the men’s section at the Gap. It’s one of several men’s — and boys’ — shirts that made this list. “The Gap men’s linen-cotton shirt is my current favorite. I love an oversized cut; I keep a pristine one in my studio (to replace the dirty one I’m always working in) in case I have to suddenly look pulled together,” says Citrin-Safadi.
If you want an Oxford shirt with a classic look
For a similar look in a fabric you can wear year-round, this Everlane style — a slim-fit pick from the men’s section — comes recommended by Biz Lindsay, director of brand marketing and communications at Harry’s. “I borrow from the boys,” she says. “It’s big enough to be slightly oversize and have a drop in the shoulders, but tailored enough to still look neat tucked into jeans,” Lindsay says. “I usually have two or three on rotation in my closet.”
If you want a (less-obvious) Oxford shirt with a classic look
Artist Cassi Namoda says the best white-button downs should have a borrowed feel or look to them. Which makes sense considering she originally discovered her favorite, from Apolis, in the closet of her ex-boyfriend (a painter whose white-button-down collection also included styles from Commes de Garçon and Hugo Boss). According to Apolis, “a 90-year-old Honduran tailoring co-op meticulously crafts each shirt from Brazilian-milled Oxford cloth.” Namoda told us her favorite things to pair hers with are Wrangler jeans and Prada boots.
If you want an Oxford shirt you can personalize
“I have a rule that a white shirt should always look like you pinched it from someone else,” says GQ style writer Rachel Tashjian. “Think Carolyn Bessette, or Jennifer Aniston in Vanity Fair talking about Brad Pitt’s missing ‘sensitivity chip.’” Her white button-down of choice is the Lands’ End Boys School Uniform shirt. “It’s just cotton, it’s made to last, it doesn’t have a funky nipped waist,” she says. It features a box pleat in the back that “makes it look a little lounge-lizard tucked in and Kate Hepburn–grouchy-on-set tucked out,” according to Tashjian, who notes these shirts can also be monogrammed. “Bonus points if you get it monogrammed with some mystery nickname — ‘Pucky’ or ‘Picasso’ or ‘Poison.’”
If you want a straight-cut shirt
Writer and editor Erin Schwartz also prefers to shop the boys’ section when it comes to white button-downs. “I’m not a huge fan of the hourglass cut of women’s dress shirts,” she explains. “I really like my Brooks Brothers boys’ cotton shirt, which I got in a size 12 but goes up to a boys’ size 20. It’s a solid, no-nonsense shirt, and it has a nice straight cut — when I wear it, I feel like I’m cosplaying as a private-school field-hockey player.”
If you want a women’s shirt that’s menswear-inspired
“My favorite white button-downs are oversized and drapey and made of cotton or linen,” says Nicole Rice, who runs the Instagram @simplicitycity, which shares vintage fashion photos of timeless styles like white button-down shirts (if you need inspiration for how to wear one, it’s a good place to start). “I am drawn to this style from Toteme for its versatility, crispness, and boxier, boyfriend-style cut. It can look casual untucked with jeans or leggings or formal tucked into a high-waisted, dressier pant. This piece is one I would use all the time no matter what the season.”
If you want a shirt to wear untucked
To get that untucked look at a lower price point, Sarah Tam, chief merchant officer at Rent the Runway, likes MiH Jeans’ take on the style. “It’s a wardrobe essential to pair with all of my statement pieces and RTR Unlimited rentals, no matter what time of year,” Tam says. She calls the shirt “perfection” and says, “It’s the perfect weight for wearing alone or layering underneath knits … I like a shirt with full-length sleeves that can be worn down or rolled up, and this has optional tabs to scrunch up the sleeves for a more casual look. I also love the longer hem, where it can be either tucked in or out and looks perfectly matched with a pair of jeans or a dressier trouser.”
If you want a shirt to wear in the sun
For a looser-fitting, more billowy option that can double as a beach shirt or a dress, COA NYC designer Amanda Lurie suggests a guayabera shirt. “A guayabera is a men’s linen summer shirt that originated in Cuba and has pleats on the front and back,” says Lurie, who has bought many new and secondhand ones over the years. “I like it the best because it’s oversized and breathable, as well as having a decorative element with the pleat details,” she explains. “It’s easy to wear over bathing suits since it’s a men’s shirt. Some I have can even double as a dress.” The shirts are generally worn loose, so if you need help figuring out how oversized or fitted to go, check Cubavera’s size chart.
If you want a collarless shirt
DJ and music curator Gabrielle Kwarteng says she owns “at least a half-dozen” white button-downs, some of which feature “prominent mandarin collars, eccentric buttons, or buttoned cuffs.” But one of her favorites is a “crisp, cropped, collarless” shirt from the Swedish brand Weekday. Unfortunately, that brand isn’t currently available in the U.S., but we found a similarly crisp, collarless option from COS, which you can still wear the same way Kwarteng wears her Weekday shirt: with “practically any of my high-waisted pants” and a leather jacket.
If you want an off-white shirt
Jennifer Mankins, owner of Bird, loves this ethereal-looking off-white blouse as an alternative to more traditional white button-downs. “It has voluminous sleeves and soft gathering at the neck,” Mankins explains. “It looks equally good tucked in or worn loose. It is oversize but drapes beautifully and flows with the movement of the body. I also like that it’s a bit nontraditional in that it is a softer cream instead of a stark white.”
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