‘Shirting’ the Issue

I have been covering fashion for decades, and it’s fair to say I’ve seen my share of designs and fashion shows. But it never ceases to amaze me how it’s often the simplest of things, that are ultimately, the best and most satisfying. (On second thought, that really does not come as any surprise at all). Case in point: the ‘humble’ cotton button down shirt. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. They are easy to wear, effortlessly cool, flattering on everyone (regardless of age or size), and versatile. You can primly button them up or keep them seductively unbuttoned to reveal a bit of lace lingerie or skin. You can tuck them in, leave the shirttails out (do a little of both), or tie at the midriff. You can keep the sleeves down, with the cuffs open and loose, or roll (or push) them up. They can be worn as simply, minimally and straightforward as possible, or used as a foil for great accessories. They are fabulous under an impeccably tailored jacket, but can easily stand alone. They can be edgy or classic, casual or formal, are completely season less, and unisex (you can borrow them from your husband or significant other, and visa versa LOL).

Guest leaving Ralph Lauren proves the ageless appeal
of a crisp button down shirt

Because I love to add that boy meets girl, tomboy element to my dress, my cache of crisp cotton button down shirts have always formed an important part of my wardrobe.  They are what got me through the sticky months of summer (where they substituted for a lightweight jacket), and most recently, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. And I was not alone. It was hard not to notice that the shirt (whether printed or plaid, in menswear ticking stripes, blue oxford cloth, faded or dark denim, or white), was the common denominator in the uniform like ensembles worn by many of the best dressed show attendees. (That, and all manner of athletic footwear and sneakers, which is a another story and yes, a big one).

Keeper Chambray shirt

And naturally, this did not escape the always observant Bill Cunningham, who literally sees it all. As it turns out, days before his “On the Street” (“On their Sleeves”) column that appeared on Sunday, (which was all about shirt dressing in all its forms, as captured during Fashion Week), I began writing a blog about the great white shirt, my hands down favorite. FYI, coincidentally, I was included in his pictorial, wearing my trusty J.Crew chambray shirt – see red marked image in column ($78, www.jcrew.com) – the same one worn by J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons, who was also pictured. (They don’t call it the Keeper Chambray Shirt for nothing, and it’s wisely available year round).

Michael Kors white shirt with exaggerated cuff and black skirt
(photo Style.com)

In any event, there are certain things that cannot be improved upon from my point of view, such as the combination of a crisp white shirt and a black skirt or pant (regardless of the length, shape, or silhouette either takes). Many women simply overlook this as an option but really, you cannot go wrong (its fail proof), and it’s dramatic simplicity will undoubtedly always stand out in a room filled with women in their fancy printed frocks, tweed skirt suits, pantsuits, little black dresses, embroidered gowns, etc. Which explains why, when the white shirt with exaggerated cuffs and black ballet length skirt came out at Michael Kors (it was the second from last outfit out on the runway, in a collection that featured a variety of elements, including floral prints and classic Breton stripes ), I really took note.

Ralph Rucci in his white shirt and black pants
(photo Style.com)

In fact, this combination can be considered the perfect non fashion victim ‘uniform’, which is why many designers have adopted it themselves. Marc Jacobs, who endorsed uniforms for his spring 2015 show, took his bow in a white shirt, black pants, and white sneakers (rather than a multi pocketed army green fatigue jacket, like the ones he proposed); Carolina Herrera, opted for her signature crisp white shirt and knee length black skirt at the end of her flower inspired collection; and Ralph Rucci looked cool as a cucumber in his perfect white shirt and perfectly tailored black trousers, after his wonderful showroom presentation.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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