It’s all about the shirt, this summer’s most versatile classic investment piece. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to wear it well.
Keep your shirt firmly on this summer. Not just for work, not just for weekends – this season’s shirt is exactly what you need to take you anywhere you want to go.
Heading to a red carpet event or high society bash? Simply take one neat, white, long-sleeve shirt and team with a full maxi prom skirt, in either an oversized floral or botanical print, or a metallic (especially silver). Tucked in looks neatest, so it helps to have a waistband on the skirt that is at least six centimetres (or two and a half inches) deep. But you can also try a white shirt over a strapless- style, full-skirted prom dress, to give it a new lease of life for this summer’s events. Nip it in at the waist with a slim buckle belt. Keep an eye on proportion, so if it’s a midi prom dress, with the hem below the knee, choose a white shirt that is tailored and sits just above the hips. If the dress is full length, then you can try a shirt that’s a little longer. But remember, it’s all about the crispness and the quality of the cotton, so don’t think an old school shirt will do.
Then there’s the big shirt, or rather, the long shirt, because they aren’t all boyfriend-style, meaning long and unfitted (although they can be). But long shirts can also be in a fitted style, which means they follow your contours, which is actually very flattering, not least because of the buttons creating a central vertical line. It’s a style that works well in chiffon fabrics and denim with a bit of stretch.
Long shirts can also be tunic style, as in straight down and slightly A-line, a shape which works well in linen, while straight tunic styles are given movement in silk.
They can be casual with volume, like the boyfriend shirt, or tailored with structured volume, perhaps with a frock coat style peplum back (see Pure Collection, for beautiful shirts in quality cotton, linen and silk, available at John Lewis and online).
Whichever style you choose (and this summer, you may well want to invest in a few shirts, starting with ones in classic white, pale blue and black), long shirts are ideal for pairing with skinny jeans or with leggings. If you haven’t yet discovered Mint Velvet’s ruched ankle leggings, I suggest you take a look – a bargain at £15.
The long shirt is nothing if not versatile. Try one worn open as a jacket over a tee and shorts in linen, cotton or frayed denim, for weekends and holidays, as well as over your swimwear on the beach or at the poolside.
There’s the shirt dress too – very like the long shirt but perhaps slightly longer. Or a lot longer, as in maxi length, which means that they can be a problem when negotiating the stairs or sitting down on office chairs with castors (I speak from experience).
Still, that aside, a floaty chiffon or silk printed shirt dress is the perfect summer capsule wardrobe piece, to throw on over pretty much anything, as a cool cover-up on warm days.
Even the jumpsuit has got in on the shirt act, with the High Street offering lots of button-through, collared all-in-ones, working the look from utility khaki linen to blue denim and sleek, elegant, floral printed numbers. All can be dressed up and down with heels and flats, and slip a blazer over for instant glamour to go.
Blue striped shirts in cotton and linen make a classic investment, whatever length you choose. There’s a great boyfriend style with a dip-back hem in the Archive by Alexa collection at Marks & Spencer. It’s inspired by a 1940s shirt from the M&S Archive at the University of Leeds and can be worn on its own or over jeans, shorts or leggings – it’s well made and costs £35.
Look for your own men’s long shirts in vintage shops and fairs, to wear all summer long with heels, flat sandals or chic chunky boots.