Wardrobe Essential: A Classic White Shirt

A crisp white shirt may not be an “essential” in every woman’s wardrobe, but it certainly is in mine. They come in every shape, style personality, and fabric imaginable. And while they may seem like a rather humble essential, I love the way they add instant polish to your look. Let’s look at a few ways I am wearing the white shirt wardrobe essential and the two new ones I’ve added to my closet. 

White Cotton Shirt


I love a classic white shirt with a great pair of jeans. I couldn’t resist this white button-up shirt covered with little black polka dots. The dots separate it from my solid white shirts, and they’re one of the few patterns I love… so at under $40, it’s a no-brainer for my wardrobe. I prefer my white shirts roomy, so I sized up to a large.


I almost always fold up the sleeves because it helps me look taller. Exposing a bit of wrist and ankle also adds a feminine touch to your look and allows you to showcase your bracelets.

This is such a typical outfit for me most days. A great pair of jeans, comfy shoes, a white shirt, something over my shoulder in case it cools off…in this case, a cashmere pullover, and a crossbody bag.

These Ecco slip-on sneakers are as comfy as can be and have a removable insole so you can adjust for a wider foot or add your own orthotic. With crisp shirts, I like to pop the collar, which frames your face and adds a touch of insouciance attitude. Here’s how I pop my collar and get it to stay up.

More ways to wear a white shirt wardrobe essential 

  • Pair a white cotton shirt with work trousers and a low heel for a polished professional look.
  • Knot it at the waist, and pair it with jeans and sneakers. Here’s one of the ways I tie mine.
  • Layer it under a blazer or leather jacket, à la James Dean, for a casual vibe.
  • Tuck a white linen shirt into a patterned maxi skirt and accessorize with boho jewelry.
  • Pair a white silk shirt with pale wide-leg pants for an elegant monochromatic look.
  • Try one with a metallic or pleated skirt for a glamorous touch.
  • Oversized silhouettes look great over leggings or as a bathing suit cover-up. 
  • Layer classic button-ups one over a dress or as a third layer for arm coverage.

The timeless white shirt offers endless styling possibilities. If your taste runs more to softer blouses, they can be styled similarly. Remember that white comes in warm and cool undertones to flatter all complexions, so don’t feel limited to stark white.

White Performance Shirt

Cotton seems the most common for white shirts, but performance fabrics are also terrific. I shared a few of my favorites in this post.

white shirt wardrobe essential on woman with denim jacket and sneakers

This everlasting tank is actually a sleeveless shirt in a stretch performance fabric that has UPF 50+. It’s a woven fabric that looks polished and feels super comfy. This is a softer white that could be called neutral, not cool. It’s already become a workhorse in my wardrobe because it comes out of the dryer looking brand new. I’m wearing it with the Brooklyn ankle pants I’ll pack for my next overseas trip.

woman wearing baseball cap, perfomance pants, sneakers and white essential shirt in performance fabric

I accessorized this outfit with several of these single pearl necklaces stacked together. I like them on their own, but I tend to layer them in multiples, either around my wrist or neck. Their little magnetic closure makes them so easy to put on and take off. Remember to use the code AWSL at checkout to save 15%.

woman wearing denim jacket over white shirt wardrobe essential

Asking me to choose my favorite white shirt would be like asking me which child I love the most. Impossible! Some make a statement all on their own, and some are simply supporting players I rely on again and again.

Is a white shirt a wardrobe essential for you?






  1. I love that blue on you!

  2. Rosemarie says:

    Hi there

    Just letting you know that at times your pic comes up on the CNN news page (when I goggle CNN).

  3. Omg! You look great in the Paris cap, whole outfit is just perfect!
    I love the look of the shorter jacket with longer shirt. Somehow I just can’t get the proportion right 😞

    1. Give it a try. It’s a nice way to give a hint of a waist with looser long tops

  4. I own two white shirts, both EF. I hardly ever wear them because I am the original stain magnet. I have tried those stain sticks, and they never get the whole stain out. I have to wait to launder the shirt, and then I’m afraid to wear it again.

    1. That’s no fun. I just throw caution to the wind. I hate having clothes I’m afraid to wear.

  5. Your white shirt and jeans simply demonstrates how timeless this classic style is and how easily we could all duplicate it! The minimal use of accessories really appeals to me too. Pop on a colorful cardigan or jean jacket and it’s a quick out the door.
    This is why I follow your blog. Tons of practical ideas and inspiration to get me excited about what’s next for me. This isn’t the time in our lives to become stagnant. Thanks!

    1. I agree!! I want to stay current and vital.

  6. In theory, I love white shirts. I own several. However, I put them on and take them off. I think it’s because I’m tall — I end up looking like a large, rectangular white box. But, idea! Since you like wearing a cardi draped over your shoulders, I recently noticed Eileen Fisher showed this done asymmetrically, and I really liked that look. A white shirt with an asymmetric layer might break up my box-like height and add some interest. Going off to try!

    1. I’m off to try that look too!! Thanks for the inspiration, Bette.

  7. You look adorable in your first baseball hat! I have a friend that nearly always has on a baseball hat with her ponytail through the hole in the back. She is very sporty for 76. I usually wear my crisp white shirt over a tee with jeans. Can’t wait for cooler weather and fall clothes! Happy Tuesday!

    1. Thanks..if only I could grow a pony tail. Happy Tuesday!

  8. I must say, you look fantastic in the “Baseball Cap”….do you pull the front and sides of your hair up somehow to get the look you have styled?

    1. I put most of it behind my ears and just a little hair in front so I don’t look like I have no hair 🙂

  9. Kathleen Ayers says:

    Yes, white shirts of all types are a staple for my wardrobe. The only problem is that some of them are a bit too sheer for me, so I end up wearing a camisole underneath. Not practical in warm weather. Are there particular manufacturers out there who make the shirts not so sheer?

    1. Talbots and Chico’s are very opaque.

  10. Good Morning Jennifer, great article! I love a good white shirt…the polka dot from Loft has already been ordered, I do have several white shirts and this will be a great addition to my closet..there were some great basic t’s on sale, so I added a few to the bag….have a great week!!

    1. You’ll love this shirt Nancy. I’ve already worn it twice and have only owned it for just over a week.

  11. I love a classic, crisp white shirt and always have at least one in my wardrobe. I now only buy the non wrinkle type. Once I retired from work, I retired my iron too. 😉

    1. LOL, I understand retiring your iron. Smart lady.

  12. I always love a white shirt but I think it’s hard d to find the right fit for me. I’m always looking. Tying at the waist is a great option. I think I’m more into a good white tee or three quarter length tee. Those are more of a staple for me.

    1. A great tee is invaluable to me too.

  13. Hi Jennifer, I love the white shirt with the polka dots! How long is the large on you? I’m looking for a white shirt that would cover my backside that I can wear with leggings. Also, what shirt is the one that you have on pictured with a jean jacket? Thank you!

    1. I don’t think it would be quite live enough for leggings, at least on me. Look for ones labeled tunic or oversized. Talbots makes a great one right now here

  14. White shirts look great on you!
    I like to wear white shirts too. I’ve found some really great Eileen Fisher KNIT white shirts that I adore. I have the long sleeve in cotton knit and short sleeve in tencel. Both are very comfortable and have lasted well (hang dry). They are not always available but it’s worth keeping en eye out for if you like the look but want maximum comfort.

    1. I have seen them and wish I’d bought one. Knit anything is so comfy. I’ll keep an eye out for them again.

  15. I’ve worn white shirts since the mid 70’s. In fact, I remember the first one I bought at a boutique in Yorkville (Toronto) and how stylish I felt. I have two white linen shirts I wore a lot this summer – one from BR and the other from Zara. Most of the cotton ones I own have an interesting detail – like oversized cuffs or asymmetric hemline. For me, they definitely are an essential.

    1. I always have my eye out for those with interesting details.

      1. Love my chicos no-iron white shirts . And thanks for the tying at waist how to tutorial! I learn so many style tips from you and like you my tastes are casual and classic …. As retired life doesnt require work clothes much … thanks for all your blogs and i love my city lights lipstick!

  16. Love my three white shirts but all in different sizes- I’m 5 ft 3 and small so I noticed one is an XS regular, one is Small regular and one is petite Small. 💕 who knew? They all look fairly good tho one is clearly too long so I typically tie that one in front over a tank.

    1. I often buy things for the fit, and ignore what’s on the tag.

  17. I love the polished look of a white shirt (or a nice white tshirt) – with jeans, trousers, etc. Your polka dot shirt is a great variation on that theme. However, I do not look good in white even though cool colors (muted or dusty rather than clear) are best on me. It is very hard to find an alternative that has that classic look. Sigh.

  18. Sheila in South Carolina says:

    What a great post, so many good items and useful ideas of “how to wear” included. The sleeveless shirt underneath a denim jacket or sweater is great. The first baseball cap you chose is perfect! You’ve really jump started my morning, Jennifer!

    1. Yay! Happy Tuesday Sheila

      1. Sheila in South Carolina says:

        Best post ever, and you’ve had some fine ones for sure, Jennifer!

      2. I’m so glad you like this, Sheila.

      3. Nancy Choat says:

        Here’s to the white shirt! It’s like the LBD……..an essential in every woman’s wardrobe!

      4. I agree, Nancy!

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